Reflections on July

I should really have posted this yesterday but I’d hit my fill of storage on WordPress and couldn’t add any more images. I didn’t have the brain power to tackle that yesterday so, this morning, I’ve upgraded and can post my look back although I apologise as this means three posts in one day as there has been so much happening today with Boldwood’s 2nd birthday to celebrate and Yorkshire Day too!

I have no idea where July has gone. Do I say that about every month? It really has zoomed by so here’s what’s been happening:

Another slow month of reading for me – not because the books I’ve chosen are slow but because I’m a slow reader and still struggling for time.

The only book I’ve read in full is Life’s What You Make It by Sian O’Gorman who’s a fellow Boldwood author. It’s set in a small coastal village near Dublin and is a lovely story of starting over and finding home. I very much recommend it.

The munchkin and I continued with our viewing of Castle and are now halfway through season five. We don’t fit in many episodes at a time but we’re still loving it, and hubby and I watch The Rookie each week, also starring Nathan Fillion (star of Castle). Season three has just finished and ended on a cracking cliffhanger.

I forgot to mention in my June review that I had watched Virgin River as I’d heard so many good things about it and decided to give it a try. I’d therefore not long finished it before season three appeared. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous two seasons. What I’d enjoyed previously was that there was a balance of laughter and tears but this season seemed to be more about the tears. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good cry, but the balance didn’t seem to be there and there seemed to be lots of rushed decisions the characters made with massive consequences. I assume there’s a season 4 as it ended on a cliffhanger but I can’t decide whether I’m going to tune in or not. Jury’s still out on that one.

We’ve continued our eduction of the munchkin in films we’ve loved in the past and, after watching Armageddon last month, we decided to keep the disaster movie theme going and planned to watch The Day After Tomorrow. Unfortunately, we had a huge DVD clear-out last year and gave hundreds of them to charity as we didn’t have the space, and we think The Day After Tomorrow must have been one of them. It wasn’t on streaming and we weren’t going to pay to rent something we’d previously owned so we went for the dramatic but not quite as good 2012 instead. I remember watching that at the time and thinking 2012 seemed so far away! The munchkin loved it.

Hubby and I watched a film he’d seen a couple of times before and thought I’d love, partly because it’s really good and partly because Chris Hemsworth is in it! It’s called Heart of the Sea and is about the story that inspired Herman Melville to write Moby Dick. He was right. It was really good. Do watch it if you have a chance.

Finally, we’ve just started watching A Discovery of Witches. We’re three episodes in and enjoying it so far. I have a feeling I heard someone say it’s slowish to start but really takes off from about episode 4.

I’ve been busy working on A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow, the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series. I started the month having got to roughy the 50k words point and have finished the month at just shy of 93k words so I’m very close to the end. It will probably be about 110k words and then I’ll remove a few thousand in the editing process. I can’t wait to get to the end and start editing. It’s very lumpy at the moment but I’m confident I can smooth it out and then my editor will work her magic and suggest even more brilliant changes.

I celebrated one year of Hedgehog Hollow at the start of the month, 2nd July 2020 being the day the first book in the series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was published.

All You Need is Love went into Prime Reading. I thought this was just in the UK but it’s globally so do look for it if you’re in Prime overseas. It also went into a one-week sale on Audible and entered the Top 100 which is the first time any of my audiobooks have done that so that was a lovely moment.

We did the cover reveal for Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café and it’s always so lovely getting such positive responses to how pretty a cover is. It’s now available on NetGalley for bloggers/reviewers and I’ve had 100% 5-star feedback in so far. That’s only nine reviews but it’s still 100%. I know the bubble will burst at some point but I’ll enjoy it for now!

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop has also been doing exceptionally well on NetGalley. With 80 reviews so far, there weren’t any 1 or 2 stars and only 1 x 3-star, with by far the most being 5-star reviews. Yay! Then yesterday a 2.5 star and another 3 star came in. Boo! Oh well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time and I’m delighted to have pleased a very large number!

I took part in a ‘Northern Lasses’ Book & Tonic Banter Facebook Live which was great fun. My fellow-panelists were Jane Lovering and Sheila Riley. You can catch up on that here. I also interviewed Jo Bartlett and chatted about how we met and our books on an ‘in conversation’ here.

I was thinking I’d barely left the house in July but a flick through my diary tells me I’m a big fat liar! The month started with a trip to Leeds to see Six The Musical, and a whole weekend away with the munchkin. I loved the show but didn’t particularly enjoy the weekend away although it was nice to spend some time with my daughter, of course.

I met my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth in Beverley (East Yorkshire) for lunch and an afternoon of chat about all things writing. The hours go by in the click of a finger.

I attended the RNA’s conference, albeit virtually. There were some really great talks, all of which I took something from which is great.

The munchkin made her promise at Rangers down on Scarborough seafront and, while she was doing that, hubby and I grabbed some chips and took the dog for a walk. It was the midst of the heatwave but pleasantly cool on the evening by the coast.

August is shaping up to be a busy month with two publication days, a month of birthday celebrations for Boldwood and a couple of other exciting developments. Watch this space! Wishing you a fabulous August.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on June

It’s the final day of June so time to look back over the past month under my usual headings…

I started the month reading an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin which I’d been asked by her publisher if I’d like to read. Many years ago, I read several of Rebecca’s books while on holiday and had really enjoyed them but then I got out of the habit of reading and didn’t read any more (not that that stopped me adding a few to my Kindle!) I do enjoy a new beginnings story and this is one of those with a beautiful setting and some interesting characters. You can find the blurb and pre-order the book here.

I then moved to Cornwall (not physically!) to catch up with the Cornish Midwife series penned by my good friend, Jo Bartlett, who is now also with the same publisher as me: Boldwood Books. I had already read the first book in the series The Cornish Midwife before Jo joined Boldwood but, like my backlist, it had some edits before being released as a Boldwood publication. I could see from the blurb that a particular plot point had changed so I did a speedy read through it to immerse myself back into the story and see the changes before moving on to book 2.

A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife is out tomorrow and I should finish reading it tonight. Both books are fabulous – full of warmth, a gorgeous setting and fabulous characters. You can find them on Jo’s author page on Amazon here although they’re also available in a stack of other formats/from other retailers.

If anyone has read any of Jo’s books or is interested in finding out more, I’m in conversation with Jo on the Book and Tonic Facebook page tomorrow night (1st July) at 6pm GMT celebrating publication day and talking all things writing so hope you can join us.

You can find the Book and Tonic Facebook page here and, if you can’t join in on the day, you will be able to catch up from that page afterwards.

Another month with very little viewing. The munchkin and I are still working through Castle and we’re now up to season 5. Still loving it.

Last weekend we had a family film night and watched Armageddon. It’s the first time the munchkin (age 14) has seen it and she loved it, although it made her cry. I remember seeing it at the cinema. Such a good film. I’m thinking we maybe need to introduce her to some other disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

I’ve been very busy with writing in June. Right at the start of the month, I returned my second round of edits on my next brand new book, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café. My editor loved the changes and it has since been through the copy edits and proofreading stage. I’ve done the final read-through so that book is now parked from my end and I’ll look forward to an official cover reveal next month.

Around those editing stages, I’ve been working on the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow book: A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow. I had a bit of a slow start with it because I was struggling to get some answers for some of my research and I had a bit of a panic because the third book, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, has had such phenomenal feedback and I was feeling the pressure of the bar being set very high. I wrote a blog post about it here.

I found I was procrastinating loads – something I’ve been aware of for the past year since becoming a full-time author – so I decided I would try to break the bad habits I’d fallen into and see if I could blitz a book in a fortnight. I wrote a blog post about it here initially wondering if it was possible to write a book in a week if everything else was ignored. I didn’t think it would be feasible to do that but figured it would be good to even manage to write half a book in a week and maybe get to the end within a fortnight. As for whether I’ve managed that, I’ll let you know next week when the fortnight is up so watch this space!

My big celebration this month was reaching one year as a full-time author on 8th June. Earning enough money from writing to be able to leave the day job was always my goal so it’s been wonderful being able to live the dream for a year. My heartfelt thanks to all the amazing readers who have made that happen.

We had a cover reveal for my final backlist book – Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop – and I had lots of positive comments about the gorgeous cover. It’s out on 3rd August and you can pre-order it here. It should be £1.99 but it’s only £1.59 on Amazon just now so, if you haven’t read the original version (Charlee and the Chocolate Shop), you might want to grab a bargain now.

I’m not a fan of clothes shopping, not helped by being overweight and there being very few shops where I can find clothes. However, every so often, I have to submit to letting the munchkin drag me round Primark. In the half-term holiday at the start of this month, we had a day out to Monks Cross which is a small retail park (with a Primark) just outside York, an hour’s drive from us. We made a day of it and grabbed some lunch while we were there. While I can’t say I loved the shopping, it felt like a small step towards some sort of normality.

The next day, we went over to my parents’ house for a BBQ with my family. I have two brothers who are both married with two girls each and we hadn’t seen any of them since Christmas 2019 so it was lovely to see everyone again and a relief that the weather was good so we could get together outside.

The munchkin started going to Rangers last month (for Guides once they’ve turned 14) and decided she wanted to do her Young Leader’s qualification. She’s also started her Duke of Edinburgh through school and needs to do a volunteering unit as part of that. She figured she could combine the two and arranged to help out at a Rainbow unit (age 5-6) in a village on the other side of Scarborough to us called Scalby. As it’s a bit of a drive across town and Rainbows is only on for an hour, hubby and I decided we might as well drop her off and go for a wander with the dog. I’d never really explored this village before and it was lovely to look around, fantasising about being able to afford a property there (no chance!)

After her second session, we pushed the boat out and went for a meal afterwards, although it was a bit nippy in the beer garden for my liking. The joys of outdoor eating in the UK!

The jaunts didn’t end there. I attended a talk as part of the Books by the Beach Festival in Scarborough. It was Rowan Coleman talking about her writing of The Brontë Mysteries as Bella Ellis after which I took the munchkin down to South Bay for an ice cream although it was heaving down there (bit too scary for me). I went on a retreat run by Rowan a few weeks ago and we arranged to meet up on the evening for a meal.

I went to Beverley and spent an afternoon with my bestie and fellow-author Sharon Booth. Four and a half hours whizzed by over food and chat and it was time to go home all too soon. Sharon and I used to meet up roughly fortnightly and we managed to squeeze in a September get-together between lockdowns but it was so good to see her again face to face. If you haven’t checked out Sharon’s amazing books, you can find them here.

I also had a hair cut and colour this month. I had decided to go grey and had my hair lightened last time to make it less obvious, leaving the roots grey, but I decided I didn’t like it and wasn’t ready, so I’m back to fully coloured and feel so much better for it!

I had a meal out with my mother in law and one of Mark’s sisters and that was the end of my planned outings. Then we had an unplanned and not so pleasant one. The munchkin texted last week to say she was being sent home to self-isolate and could we collect her. Students in her year had been sent home in groups over the previous few days due to a high number of Covid cases and she was in the third batch. Then the whole year was sent home. Then the whole school closed! As she was in one of the groups specifically asked to isolate, we were instructed that we all had to have PCR tests. Thankfully we all tested negative. Hubby and I are double-jabbed so we hoped we would be, but it was a relief that the munchkin hadn’t picked anything up. She does lateral flow tests every couple of days too.

So, other than the last unexpected trip out, it has been a busy month and it has been so lovely to be able to talk about going out after months of having very little to write in this section. I do feel a little on edge when in crowds but I’m more worried about the munchkin than I am about me now. She says they’re going to get vaccinated at school in September but I’d love it if it could roll forwards. The new variants that keep appearing are a concern.

Hope you had a great June and wishing you a fabulous July.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on May

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!

Hope your May was kind to you. Welcome June…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on April

It’s the last day of the month and time to reflect on what’s happened in April…

I’ve had another month of not reading much as I’ve been deep in my editing cave (more on that later) but I have read an early copy of the first book in a new series from Nicola May. Nicola has had some phenomenal success, topping the Kindle chart for what seemed forever a couple of years back – an impressive feat anyway but extra impressive for an indie author. Her paperbacks now have a publishing deal and I was asked if I’d read Welcome to Ferry Lane Market. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it will be out in the summer so watch out for that. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon here.

I’ve also just started beta reading the final book in the four-strong Kearton Bay series, The Whole of the Moon, by super talented author (and bestie) Sharon Booth. It’s out at the end of May and it’s so fabulous to be back among old friends. You can pre-order it on Amazon here although I’d definitely recommend the full series. And all the rest of Sharon’s books for that matter!

The fabulous Line of Duty continues to grip hubby and me on a Sunday evening although last week’s episode was a little confusing as it felt like there was a plot hole. Hopefully it will all become clear in Sunday’s final episode. Will we discover who ‘H’ is? I would so love to think so but I’m pretty sure I’ve read that there’s another series to come so I suspect we might not.

I love watching The Hit List with the lovely Marvin and Rochelle Humes on a Saturday teatime. It’s a fun format so, even if you’re not into music, it’s worth watching. I love Rochelle’s facial reactions and how she clings onto Marvin in the final round when the contestants panic, their minds go blank, and the money starts slipping away from them.

Speaking of fun formats, I have a new viewing pleasure for a Saturday evening: I Can See Your Voice on BBC hosted by Paddy McGuinness with a celeb panel helping a pair of contestants deduce who from a line-up of six can sing and who can’t. Over a few rounds, they gradually eliminate 1-2 ‘singers’ and at that point we discover whether their sleuthing was accurate and they’ve eliminated someone who’s tone-deaf. When they get down to the final ‘singer’, the contestants win £10k if that person can sing but the ‘singer’ wins £10k if they are tone-deaf and have fooled everyone. I’d seen trailers and dismissed it as something I wouldn’t be interested in but then caught a clip on Gogglebox which looked great fun. We laughed so much on Saturday night when the final singer turned out to be completely off-key and the singer on the celeb panel – Ronan Keating that night – had to duet with her. If you haven’t already checked it out, I highly recommend it. Great family fun!

Finally, we managed a film this month but I’m still undecided about it. I saw it trailered a lot when it came out in 2018 and it had me intrigued, especially as it’s based on a true story: Welcome to Marwen. It stars Steve Carrell as aspiring artist Mark Hogancamp who was horrifically assaulted by a group of 5 men and left for dead. Brain damaged from the attack, he has no memory of his previous life and can no longer draw so he turns to photography, constructing a miniature WWII village called Marwen and creating stories using Barbie-like dolls. A lot of the film is played out by the dolls whose experiences, albeit in the WWII backdrop, mirror what Hogancamp is going through. Why did I struggle? Probably because so much of it was with the dolls. I wanted to know more about Hogancamp himself and what happened to his attackers when the case went to court but there seemed to be gaps. I’m probably missing the point and I’m sure others would feel that everything that needed to be told was told by the dolls but it just didn’t quite work for me personally.

It has been a crazy-busy month with writing. The edits came through for the final book in my backlist to be re-released: Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. I haven’t read this since it went up for publication in 2017 but it has had great reviews. My editor commented on how much my writing style has changed over the years and I was surprised at that as this was the 6th book I’d written and I thought my style had changed much earlier. When I re-read it, I had a bit of a shock! I’ll write a separate post with more detail about this but I wasn’t happy with the book. The story was still great but the way I told it needed work so it took me about six times as long to edit as it would have done if I’d just made the editorial tweaks here and there. I feel much happier with it so it was time well spent.

I also finished writing book 13 and it has been a huge struggle. Again, I’ll cover this in more detail in a future blog post but I knew something wasn’t quite right with it and had my suspicions as to what that might be. When the edits came back a week ago, those suspicions were confirmed. I had effectively tried to cover two stories in one book and, as a result, hadn’t given enough attention to either. The exciting news is this means a sequel which is already partially written but the challenging part for me is stripping one plot line out and stitching the story back together. Lots of hard work and re-thinking but it will be worth it in the end. My editor, Nia, is phenomenal. She is so insightful about what needs work but also so supportive and encouraging.

I’ve had some exciting events to celebrate in April:

AUSTRALIAN GOLD BOX – Seven of my books were in a special gold box deal on Amazon Australia where they are offered for the equivalent of 99p (or thereabouts) for a 24-hour period only. All but one of the books reached the Top 100 with one of them – The Secret to Happiness – peaking at #10 which was amazing. The only book that didn’t make it into the Top 100 wasn’t far outside and it was Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes. Given the time of year, I wasn’t at all surprised it wasn’t storming the charts!

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE – There was a BookBub promotion in the UK, Australia and Canada which saw Top 100 in Canada and Top 50 for Australia although it peaked at #127 in the UK. As this book had previously been out as Bear With Me, I wasn’t sure if it would climb so high so I was really pleased with these positions.

We think that the timing of Easter Sunday for this promotion and the Gold Box one may have had an effect on sales as I know of lots of people who were off social media and making it family time so, instead of seeing that as a negative, I prefer to think of it as even more impressive how high the books got considering it was Easter Sunday and there were so many other distractions.

SIGNED PAPERBACKS – I started selling signed copies of my paperback and had a really positive response with quite a few readers wanting the entire back catalogue which was lovely. I still have loads of paperbacks as I haven’t pushed it since so do DM me on any social media format if you’re interested.

REVIEWS MILESTONES – Making Wishes at Bay View and The Secret to Happiness both passed 1,000 reviews this month, meaning six of my books have now done so. The love for the hedgehogs is strong with both Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow passing 1,500 and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes passing a whopping 2,000 milestone! Can’t believe how many reviews/ratings my stories have been gathering. Thank you so much to everyone who has shared the book love. It means the world to me xx

Restrictions have lifted and we met up with my parents at Thorp Perrow arboretum at the start of this month for a lovely (but very cold) wander around. I hadn’t seen them since October half term so it was brilliant to catch up in person although weird not hugging. Don’t like that 😦

Piano lessons have resumed face to face but I’m going to return to Zoom lessons from next week. I struggle for time to practice around writing and, to allow for traffic and roadworks getting across town to my lesson, I end up losing about 45-50 mins travelling. My daughter’s learning piano and she does this in a group lesson (although there are only 2 in her group). I think it’s important she has the face-to-face interaction but I don’t need it. I can already play (badly) and am rekindling the skill after a 30-year gap without touching the piano. I’m also playing for fun rather than exams so it’s a different set-up. My travel time can be devoted to practice instead and, as my piano teacher has to be at the opposite end of the room to me due to distancing, there is no benefit in us being in the same room.

On the way back from my first face-to-face lesson, I passed a local garden centre called Dean’s Garden Centre and decided to nip in to see if I could get some artificial spring flowers for my Insta posts. I managed that but was also surprised and delighted to spot Making Wishes at Bay View in there alongside some other Boldwood authors! When The Works stock our books, the print-run includes a number that are sold to another book distributor who sends them mainly to the USA and Canada. However, they can also be distributed around the UK and will appear in retailers with small selections of books such as post offices, garden centres, local supermarkets and so on. I feel I may also need to check out our other local garden centre soon in case there are any in there!

Other than that, I haven’t ventured out at all. I started to paint the fence a couple of weekends ago and managed 5 out of the 11 panels but I’ve been in my editing cave since then so it will be end mid-May before I manage the rest. Quite pleased with the result so far, though. Ella wasn’t impressed. She spent the time trying to eat a plant pot instead!

I have a busy May coming up. It’s my birthday tomorrow and publication day of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow on Tuesday which is exciting (but nerve-wracking as it’s always scary awaiting the verdict!) I’m also getting my hair cut for the first time since December 2019 on Tuesday. Yay!

I have until the middle of May to finish the huge edit on book 13 and then I’m back to Hedgehog Hollow to write book 4 in the series; my 14th book in total.

Hope April has treated you well and, if it hasn’t, that May is kind to you.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on March

I wrote a really long post reflecting on February. This one will be a much shorter one as I’ve been hibernating in my writing and editing cave, but here’s an overview of the month just ended.

I haven’t read much this month. In fact, I’ve only finished one book but it was a fabulous one. It was Summer Kisses at Mermaids Point by Sarah Bennett – an uplifting story of family, community and falling in love, but with some depth … and not just the depths into which the mysterious mermaid plunges. You can find my Goodreads review here.

I haven’t watched much either and no films at all.

I’d been quite excited about the BBC drama Bloodlands last month but reported that husband hadn’t been particularly impressed with the second episode after a promising first one. It went downhill for the next one too but we decided to watch all four hoping it would all come together in an impressive series of twists. I’m sure some viewers will have loved it but the bit we found most interesting was how, in one of the final scenes, there was snow in the hills and then there wasn’t. Twitter was all over this and it seemed the Twitterrati were more impressed by this than the show too. Oh dear.

Line of Duty returned to our screens a couple of weeks ago and the first episode was a disappointing confusion of acronyms and oddness but last week’s episode was really good so we’ve forgiven that and hope it’s a return to top form.

The munchkin and I have made it to the end of season 2 of Castle. I hadn’t realised I’d watched quite so many episodes previously and I’ve definitely seen all of season 1 and 2 before although couldn’t always remember the storyline. The munchkin is hooked.

I’ve written a LOT of words this month and was able to type ‘the end’ on book 13 a couple of days ago which is always a fabulous moment. I took a day off and then went straight into my editing cave where I’ve been for the past couple of days. Just one more day needed to get to the end of the edit then it’s off to my editor for her verdict.

I’ve had such a battle with this story but I’ll do a separate blog post at a later date as to why. I really love the story now but it’s much longer than it should be and I’m struggling to find anywhere to cull it so I’m going to have to leave that to my editor’s expertise.

There have been a few celebrations in March:

  • The munchkin returned to school, albeit only for 3 weeks before breaking up for Easter. It was great for her to get back among friends
  • Husband’s birthday and dog’s 5th birthday
  • Publication of All You Need Is Love. This is my 10th book to be released by Boldwood Books and is the penultimate one from my back catalogue, previously known as Bear With Me. The blog tour went really well
  • All You Need Is Love has reached the Top 300 in the Kindle UK chart with the highest position so far being #258. With it having been previously released, I wasn’t expecting to get quite so high so I’m thrilled with that. It’s on offer at the moment if you haven’t already read it so do grab a bargain!
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow went on a BookBub promotion in the USA and reached #71
  • A book birthday for the final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series: Coming Home to Seashell Cottage
  • A lovely surprise today with 7 titles showing #1 Best Seller tags in Kindle UK and Kindle Australia, as well as 4 in Canada and the USA. It’s always a special moment to see several books displaying them

I haven’t been anywhere! I think I’ve only left the house once this month to go on a walk with the husband and dog but I’ve been so snowed under writing, I haven’t had a chance to go anywhere else so nothing exciting to report and no photos to share this month.

So that’s my March round-up and, as you can see, it’s mainly been head-down writing, writing, writing. I’m going to have a busy April with a few exciting promotions coming up, the submission of book 13 and the edits on that back from my editor, and the edits due on Charlee and the Chocolate Shop which is my final backlist book to get the Boldwood treatment.

Hope you’ve had a lovely March and wishing you all the best for a fabulous April.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on February

It’s a new month so I thought I’d have a look back over February. I confess that I’ve also just signed up to a free trial of Canva Pro so it’s a good excuse to create a few more graphics!

I’ve read some great books this month and have managed to read more than I usually do as I’ve been making a concerted effort to try to read a bit each night before bed. They’re all 5-star reads for me and you can click onto my Goodreads review if you want to know more:

Dreaming Under an Island Skye by Lisa Hobman – Goodreads review here
The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas – Goodreads review here
The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse by Katie Ginger (available for pre-order) – Goodreads review here
The Juggle by Emma Murray – Goodreads review here

I’ve also read a fabulous novella called The Other Half by my good friend Sharon Booth. This was available exclusively to newsletter subscribers and introduced us to the families who will be the focus of a new series she’s bringing out later this year. You can find out more about subscribing and getting your free copy of the novella here.

I’ve just started Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage by Samantha Tonge and I’m only three chapters in but I’m gripped by it already so very excited to see where that goes.

I don’t watch a huge amount of TV but hubby and I do try to get a film night in occasionally. At the start of this month we watched The Help which I’ve been meaning to watch for years. By sheer coincidence, it was the third film in a row we’d seen featuring people of colour during the last century (the others being Hidden Figures and Green Book – both brilliant) and the segregation broke my heart.

On my parents’ recommendation, we watched a Netflix film called The Fundamentals of Caring. Knowing Paul Rudd was in it, I was sold on it already but it’s a fabulous film and highly recommended. Funny, poignant and just lovely.

We also watched The Dig on Netflix which we both loved. It was slow and gentle yet somehow completely mesmerising.

Last weekend we watched To Olivia which is a Sky Original about Roald Dahl’s family. Jim Broadbent and Keeley Hawes were amazing as the main characters and it was a really good film but I think I went into it with expectations that it would feel a bit like the brilliant Miss Potter with elements of magic among the darker moments. There were a few but not quite enough for me personally to make it feel like an uplifting film. As I say, I thought it was really good but it was very sad.

That’s a lot of films so I think I might have dipped into January there!

On TV, we’ve started watching Bloodlands which is a BBC1 drama starring James Nesbitt. The first part was brilliant. The second part last night was a little confusing and hubby isn’t so sure but I’m really enjoying the twists and turns of it.

I adore Dancing on Ice and have watched every single series since it started but, my goodness, has this series been plagued with injury and illness. They’ve had to skip a week as they lost so many celebrities early on but have still lost another since then. The poor producers must be tearing their hair out as they probably expected some Covid challenges but not so many injuries. It’s good but I think all the drop-outs have massively impacted on the contestants as I think some have left who might not have done otherwise.

And, finally, the addition of Star to Disney Plus means that I have been able to introduce the munchkin to the brilliant Castle. This US series stars the gorgeous Nathan Fillion as a crime author who shadows detective Kate Beckett who provides the inspiration for the lead character in his new series of books. It’s clever and funny but I had previously only watched a couple of seasons. We thought the munchkin (now 14) might like it and it may stop her binge-watching Pretty Little Liars for the third time. She loves it but isn’t impressed that she can’t binge it and needs to wait for me to have time to watch. We’re going to be working our way through that over the next few months. If you’ve never tried Castle, I highly recommend it.

I’m working on a brand new Christmas novel which will be out on 31st August. It’s a story I originally started writing four years ago to be my first ever Christmas novella but I realised that it was a longer story than that so I parked it. I thought it would be easy returning to something with 10k words already written. It wasn’t. I’ve actually found it my hardest book to write so far. Eek!

Last week I had a catch-up phone call with my editor and we discussed why I was struggling. Part of it is that what I’d written is four years old. My writing has developed since then and I don’t remember where some of the ideas I’d planted were going. But the biggest challenge is that, because it’s several years old, I have been thinking about this book for a long time and have therefore developed so much of the plot in my head. And that goes against my natural style. I am a pantser. I know my main characters really well, I know the premise of the story and I know how it’s going to end but I let the story unfold as I go. I really love seeing where the characters take me but, with this book, I haven’t had quite the same freedom and I’ve found it stifling.

Having said that, now that I’ve worked out why I was struggling, I’m finding it easier and am now up to 45k words. I have five weeks to double that and knock it into shape but I’m really good with deadlines (she says writing a blog post instead of getting on with it) so I’m confident it’ll all come together at the eleventh hour.

It’s been an exciting month with a few amazing achievements for my books:

  • It was a book birthday for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove which were both released on 20th February last year and continue to do me proud with sales and reviews
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was accepted for Prime Reading and, just yesterday, got to its highest ever UK Kindle chart position of #31. I’d seen it previously at #34 and have a screenshot of that but it was lovely to see on Author Central (a tracker that shows authors their historic chart positions) that it rose a little higher. It also hit #8 in the Prime Reading chart
  • New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow was on a BookBub promotion which peaked at #77 in the UK Kindle chart making it my fifth book to crack the UK Top 100. Woo hoo!
  • Finding Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow entered the Top 400 at #383 and it’s not even out until 4th May so this is based on pre-orders alone. Woo hoo! It was also trending on Kobo as one of the most popular pre-orders. That’s some pretty big names the hedgehogs are partying beside! And it has already eclipsed my own personal record for pre-orders set by New Arrivals with two months still to go. Thank you so much to everyone who has pre-ordered it. I’m so very grateful

I’ve been out and about this month more than I have been for the past few months…

I had my first dental check-up in eighteen months which was a combined appointment with the munchkin. I’ve been suffering from vertigo since mid-January and, although it’s really mild, I didn’t want to risk driving so hubby drove us. Our dental practice is right by Sainsbury’s so hubby did the weekly shop while we had our appointment. When he returned to the car, it had a flat battery and Green Flag would be at least two hours so we needed to get a local garage out to jumpstart us then fit a new battery. Glad hubby was with me as I’m more than capable of sorting that out but prefer to leave car-related stuff to him.

I also left the house to get my first Covid vaccination. I’m not in the age group but I have underlying health conditions. I was so impressed with the efficiency of the set-up of the whole thing. I’m relieved to have had my first jab but will feel more relaxed when hubby’s had his. I’ve heard about the side effects some friends have had and count myself very fortunate that mine were very limited. About an hour or so afterwards, I felt very fluey for about half an hour – sweats, shivers, headachy – but it soon went. My arm ached and felt heavy and I struggled to sleep that night but it was fine by the end of the next day.

I’ve also been out for a couple of walks to stop me being welded to the office chair. We’re lucky that we have the coast right on our doorstep but what used to be a quiet coastal walk where you’d only see the occasional dog-walker has become a phenomenally popular walk and extremely people-y. And many of those people seem to struggle with the concept of social distancing despite having a road rather than a path to walk along (the road was blocked off for vehicles years ago). Being in a higher-risk group (but not one high enough to self-isolate), it puts me on edge which is why I barely leave the house.

As the Government guidelines permit travel within the local area and of a short distance to find an open space, we went to the south part of South Bay in Scarborough yesterday (usually not too people-y as there aren’t many amenities at that end) and to a forest just outside Scarborough the Sunday before. There was quite a difference in temperature between the two weekends, as you can see by me being bundled up in my hat and scarf in the forest!

Wishing you a fabulous start to March and another step closer to being able to meet with friends and family again. Right, really must get some more of this novel written…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where 2020 has been quite extraordinary – and surprisingly full of highs

So, it’s finally arrived. The end of 2020. The year many people have wanted to “do one” for a long time.

It’s probably not a bold statement to say that it’s the strangest year that most of us will ever have experienced and, pretty please, can it be the last time we do?

But while this may be a completely bonkers surreal year that many will want to push to the back of their minds filed under ‘grim’, 2020 has been an amazing year for me professionally, seeing so many dreams come true. So, while there are many reasons why I want to send 2020 to the naughty step, I want to high-five it too.

This is a rundown, quarter by quarter, of what 2020 has looked like for me personally and professionally, presented in order of occurrence. When I originally wrote it, it was nearly a novel in itself so I have massively cut it down to highs and lows. Even so, it’s still long as so much has happened professionally this year. I honestly don’t know if anyone other than my mum or hubby will read it all but thank you if you do! xx

JANUARY to MARCH 2020

Happy New Year and the start of a new decade. How exciting! I eagerly anticipated the year ahead with a whopping seven Boldwood releases made up of six of my back catalogue and one new novel, and I hoped this would be the year I could leave my day job as an HR Tutor and write full-time.

Little did we know that reports of a flu-like illness in China were going to change our lives beyond all recognition.

HIGHS

  • Release of the entire re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series:
    • Making Wishes at Bay View (14th Jan)
    • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (20th Feb)
    • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (20th Feb)
    • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (12th Mar)
  • Seaside Blooms broke into the UK Kindle Top 1,000 on 19th March and kept climbing
  • Making Wishes at Bay View was selected as Apple’s free book of the week (9th – 15th March) propelling it to the top of the free Apple Books chart
  • A massive knock-on effect on the rest of the series with a #3 for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #24 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. They all made it into the Top 5 on the Romance category occupying positions #2, #3 and #5 at one point
  • Celebrating hubby’s 50th birthday with a meal with his parents just before going into a national lockdown
  • Normality for almost three months, regularly meeting up with Sharon Booth (great friend and super talented author) and attending the RNA’s Beverley Chapter meeting

LOWS

  • Saying goodbye in January to our beloved cat, Felix. After nearly 14 years with us, I was – and still am – heartbroken to have lost him
  • The munchkin, age 13, experienced a scary bullying incident on the bus home from school, so serious we needed to involve the police who classified it as an assault
  • Lockdown. I don’t think I need to expand on that! Although munchkin’s grumbles at being made to do the Joe Wicks PE session every weekday morning provided us with great amusement!

APRIL to JUNE 2020

This quarter started with a second month of panic-buying where household staples like toilet roll, pasta, cans of soup and flour were like gold dust. Hand sanitiser, paracetamol and disinfectant were also in short supply.

Zoom – something I personally had never even heard of until this year – became a life-saver for keeping in touch, as did social media (although you had to be careful not to be sucked down the rabbit hole of scary statistics and conspiracy theories!)

I’m going to swap it around for this month and start with the lows because they directly led to the highs in this quarter.  I will just remind you that these are presented in order of occurrence rather than severity.

LOWS

  • An unprecedented increase in work volumes as students took advantage of lockdown to race through their assignments. Enrolments of new students soared through the roof and, whilst financially amazing, the stress levels in trying to keep up were extraordinary. All without support or thanks from our manager

  • I couldn’t face celebrating my birthday and chose to largely ignore it 
  • My older brother turned 50 and couldn’t have the celebrations planned with his friends or family – a common story for so many this year
  • Cancellation of two theatre trips – a day trip to Leeds to see Sister Act and a weekend away to see Six
  • Family holiday to Portugal over May half-term cancelled
  • The unexpected and sudden loss of our brother-in-law, aged only 50. RIP, Richard, with love xx

HIGHS

  • Resigning from the day job and becoming a full-time writer from 8th June. It had always been my dream to be able to earn enough to be able to write full-time and it had finally happened. The increased income would give me a give me a buffer while my writing royalties (hopefully) increased from my new releases
  • Apple asked if they could repeat the UK promotion in the USA. Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #16 in the free chart and the series sold well on the back of this
  • Amazon selected New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms for a Prime deal. It was already inside the Top 100 by then but it peaked at #14 on 17th May thanks to being in Prime
  • People were turning to books for escapism, comfort and boredom relief. Uplifting stories of love and friendship – exactly what I write – fit the bill perfectly and this was reflected in my sales
  • Receiving messages from readers who’d binge read my Boldwood releases and the rest of my indie back catalogue and wanted to thank me for giving them such an uplift and welcome escape. Wow! I certainly hadn’t been expecting that
  • During the summer, Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #144, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove to #145 and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage to #165. I’d never experienced chart positions like this. I’d barely hoped to dream of them and kept waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me it was a dream
  • How proud the munchkin made us. She moaned about Joe Wicks but not about studying and, with only a few nudges to ask her teachers for more work when she’d run out, she showed amazing maturity, never once moaning about being in lockdown and missing her friends

JULY to SEPTEMBER 2020

Restrictions had lifted in the UK but I pretty much remained a hermit. It’s not so much that I was afraid to go out but more that there seemed no point taking the risk. Being substantially overweight I am in a higher risk category and, with so many holiday-makers flocking to the coast, I felt my local town and beach were no-go areas. I managed a few local walks with the dog, hubby and munchkin – and even did an evening walk along the main seafront before the holidays hit – but that was about it. And my bottom has just expanded and expanded as a result!

HIGHS

  • The first book in a series set in a hedgehog rescue centre – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was released on 2ndJuly. I was a little bit nervous about it as it was a new setting for me but the hedgehogs captured the hearts of readers
  • An impressive number of pre-orders meant an astonishing UK Kindle chart position of #291 on publication day, peaking at #86 in mid-August. My second Top 100 book. Yay! It made it to #40 in Canada and #11 in Australia
  • The Secret to Happiness appeared in branches of The Works. I chatted to the staff and took photos but I never thought to ask if they’d like me to sign copies. Muppet. Missed opportunity!
  • Boldwood celebrated one year since their first release. What an amazing first year of trading they’d had. We were invited to a summer moment on Zoom to celebrate which was pretty special
  • Release of the re-edited Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes (13th Aug). Initially it was free and reached #8 in the free UK Kindle chart, #43 in Australia, #20 in Canada and #15 in the USA
  • Release of the re-edited Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. An impressive number of pre-orders saw an amazing release day chart position of #204
  • Met my parents outdoors on a couple of occasions
  • Sharon and I also managed one meeting but not for as long as usual. It was brilliant to be able to meet in person but the time went far too quickly
  • The munchkin returned to school and started three years of study towards her GCSEs. One of the bus bullies apologised (I think lockdown gave her plenty of thinking time), a truce has been reached and there’ve thankfully been no further incidents
  • Hubby and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a mid-week visit to Thorp Perrow Arboretum. It was a gorgeous day and there were very few people around so it was the perfect place to go. And, being only a short drive away from my parents, we stopped off at theirs for a socially distanced cuppa before coming home
  • The Works stocked another book – Making Wishes at Bay View – and this time I signed them. Proud author moment!
  • I was astonished and thrilled to be offered another contract with Boldwood for a whopping 12 brand new books. I nearly fell off my chair! The first book in that contract will be a brand new Christmas story in September 2021. Before that, there’ll be four more books released in January, March, May and August to see out the original contract: books 2 and 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series (January/May) and the remaining two in my back catalogue (March/August)

LOWS

  • After only a week back at school, unable to see properly with her mask on, the munchkin tripped over a raised drain cover, went splat, landed awkwardly and broke her arm. Cue scary dash up to school and a trip to A&E to get a pot put on
  • She later fell down the stairs at school, also struggling to see properly in her mask, and made a right mess of both of her shins, scraping the skin off and badly bruising them both. The good news was she didn’t break her arm again!
  • The increased attention on me and my books massively exacerbated my imposter syndrome and I struggled to feel worthy of the amazing things happening to me. Writing a week-long series of posts about what this meant and how it manifested itself did me the world of good and I have been able to continue to make great inroads in quietening my ‘you’re not good enough’ demons since then, although I don’t think they’ll ever completely disappear and I’ve still had the occasional moment

OCTOBER to DECEMBER 2020

Now with the country in tiers, each tier dictating a specific set of rules, it seemed there was no end in sight. Another lockdown. Then came a ray of hope: a vaccination had been approved and would be rolled out imminently. Hurrah!

As Christmas approached, with a new strain of the virus spreading at an alarming rate, Christmas plans changed for many.

HIGHS

  • All ten books sported an orange Amazon #1 Best Seller tag at the same time. TEN! Wow! What a special moment that was! (13th Oct)
  • A socially distanced Hallowe’en BBQ at my parents’ house. A BBQ in late October in this country was certainly a first but a big brolly kept the rain off and the patio heater worked its magic!
  • The Works wanted another of my books and squeezed in an order of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. I managed to see it in my local branch – and sign the copies as well as another batch of Making Wishes at Bay View – before going into the second lockdown
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – no longer available for free – became my third book to get inside the Top 100, reaching #93 on 1st November. It only stayed inside the Top 100 for two days but that doesn’t matter. It still made it which, considering how many thousands of free copies it shifted, I wasn’t expecting
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café broke the Top 100 too, peaking at #24 in the UK, #11 in Canada and an astonishing #3 in Australia. Woo hoo! With the exception of one day, it stuck around in the Top 100 right until Christmas Eve. I was a bit gutted it didn’t stay in the Top 100 for Christmas but over a month in the Top 100 wasn’t too shabby!
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes achieved 1,000 reviews/ratings. At the start of the year, none of my books had more than 100 reviews. Today, it has hit 1,600. Still can’t quite believe it! (16th Nov)
  • The Secret to Happiness went on a BookBub deal – the only of my books to have done this – and it got to #32 in the USA in mid-November. That market is enormous and I certainly never expected that!
  • Guest speaker slots on a Facebook Live with Kim The Bookworm and with Exeter Libraries
  • Part of a Boldwood Christmas books panel on My VLF (My Virtual Literature Festival) which was great fun
  • Interviewed by a reader, Liz Clifton, about confidence and motivation
  • Guest on Julie Morris’s blog – A Little Bookish Problem – twice
  • The Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series continued to perform well and, in mid-December, all of them passed 500 reviews/ratings on Amazon

LOWS

  • Cancellation of my graduation ceremony after achieving my Masters in Creative Writing through Open University in late 2019
  • Cancellation of our October half-term holiday to Lancaster (to give us access to Blackpool and the Lake District) as Lancaster was in tier 3 so we (in tier 2 at the time) couldn’t travel there
  • Not able to see my side of the family over Christmas or my husband’s sisters
  • The tragic news that my second cousin died just before Christmas. Aged only 42, my heart is broken for his mum (my cousin) and her family and for another lovely man taken far too soon. RIP, Gary, with love xx


AND TO CLOSE…

Whether you’ve read the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities or not, you probably know the beginning: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” And that pretty much sums up my 2020.

For the best of times, I have achieved my dream of writing full-time, I am fortunate enough to work with the most incredible publisher with a wonderful team who support and respect all their authors as well as making us all feel equally important. Through Boldwood, I’ve had four books inside the Kindle UK Top 100 and Apple Top 100 this year, a Top 3 in Australia and Top 40 in the USA. All of my books have sported bestseller tags at the same time. Every book Boldwood has released has passed 500 reviews/ratings with one exceeding 1,600 and another marching towards 1,000. Quite honestly, it has been phenomenal.

But for the worst of times, I’ve lost my brother in law, a second cousin, and our gorgeous cat, and my daughter was assaulted. The disappointment of birthdays, holidays, theatre trips, weekends away and a graduation ceremony all cancelled pales into insignificance when faced with such loss and sadness.

I haven’t seen my brothers or their families since last Christmas although we did a regular family Zoom across the first lockdown. Hubby and I have never had much of a social life – we’re home bunnies and only have a few friends in the area – but we do miss being able to meet up with the small number of people we know and, as writing tends to be a lonely business, I’ve really missed my fortnightly meet-ups with Sharon.

I send my love and best wishes to my family affected by loss, and to anyone else for whom this year has been particularly tough whether that be through illness, bereavement, employment (or lack of it), finances, loneliness or any of the many other challenges that may have been faced.

My eternal gratitude goes to Boldwood Books and, in particular my editor, Nia, for making my dreams come true and being such a joy to work with. And thanks to my fellow Boldwood authors for all the support you’ve given and any reviews/promotions of my work.

Thank you to all the book bloggers/reviewers who’ve been so kind this year and to Rachel Gilbey for organising my blog tours.

I can’t thank enough all the amazing readers who’ve bought, borrowed, downloaded, and/or streamed any or all of my books. Thank you for choosing to take a journey to Whitsborough Bay and/or Hedgehog Hollow and for all the lovely messages on social media. You give me the encouragement to keep making stuff up!

To Sharon and my fellow-Write Romantic family, you’re my writing rocks and I couldn’t imagine how I’d have navigated my way through the troubled world of publishing without you all. It’s been lovely having such good virtual friends supporting each other in this difficult year. And to the Beverley chapter, I’ve loved our catch-ups.

Thank you to new writing friends I’ve made this year – Sam Tonge, Vicky Walters, Kim Nash and many others who’ve supported or promoted my work and whose books I’ve enjoyed reading. I hope we can meet in person next year.

And finally, to my biggest fan – my mum – my amazing husband and our wonderful daughter, thank you for all your excitement and encouragement. It really does keep me going. I know my dad is also super proud so thank you daddy bear too.

For anyone out there with a dream, chase it. Because dreams really do come true and I’m living, breathing proof of that.

When I finish writing a book, I love typing ‘The End’. Despite all the amazing things that have happened for me this year, I am relieved to stamp ‘The End’ on 2020 and look ahead to exciting writing achievements and some sort of normality in 2021.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I look back on an unusual May

I always think there’s something extra special about the start of a month being on a Monday – fresh week, fresh month, fresh start. Lovely.

And as we step into June, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on May because it’s been an unusual month with a few disappointments but, oh my goodness, what a delicious set of delights. Which is perhaps a little odd considering the whole of May was spent in a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Definitely not me celebrating my birthday                                               Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

 

DISAPPOINTMENT – I hate to start on a negative but the month started with a disappointment. I’m a May Day baby and I really didn’t respond well to a lockdown birthday and had a little strop about it which actually surprised me as I don’t really both much with my birthday. I tend not to work, I love gifts, and I like to go out for a meal with my husband and daughter to acknowledge the day. The fact that we couldn’t go out made me unhappy and my reaction was to ignore my birthday rather than have a half-hearted non-event. I made a ‘no gifts’ rule and sort of regretted that when the day arrived …. although I then broke it by ordering myself a stunning Lucy Pittaway print for my office. I can’t put it up yet because I can’t get it framed but it will make my heart sing when I can. And, actually, I might have ordered two. Well, there was 25% off and it would have been rude not to!

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 22.17.16DELIGHT – I worked in the day job on my birthday but I took the following week off – a much needed break after working some extremely long hours since the start of March. When I returned to the work as a home-based HR Tutor, it was to a big delight because I handed in my notice. I really enjoy my day job but to write full-time is a dream come true and, whilst I will not be matching the income from the day job, I will be doing what I love and finally have a work:life balance; something I haven’t had for well over five years. Six days and counting…

DISAPPOINTMENT – There’ve been a couple more disappointments. Like so many people, there were plans in place which had to be cancelled in May – a shopping and theatre trip to Leeds to see Sister Act with the munchkin and a family half-term holiday in Portugal.

IMG_7561DELIGHT – I’ve missed my fortnightly meet-ups with my very good friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth, but we had a lovely virtual catch-up this month and it was so good to see her/speak to her. Last week, I also caught up with a really good friend who I met when I was on TSB’s graduate programme in the mid-90s. We haven’t seen each other since I had my daughter (who will be 14 in December) so it was great to see/speak to her online too although that’s a lot of years to try and catch up on! One of the things that has come out of lockdown for a lot of people is reacquainting with old friends and that’s definitely a delight.

 

DELIGHT – I’ve received lots more delights this month with readers getting in touch with me. I’ve had tweets, emails and messages on Facebook from readers thanking me for writing my books which they say have seen them through lockdown. Every single time I receive a message like that, it humbles and astonishes me. I’m so grateful that (a) my stories have helped provide escapism during these challenging times and (b) that they’ve thought highly enough of them to take the time to find me and contact me. How lovely is that? Thank you to everyone who has made contact in May or prior to that. It really is so kind and thoughtful of you.

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Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

DELIGHT – And the month of May finished on an absolute delight. One of the things that many readers have been saying is that they’ve binge-read my entire back catalogue. My fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have re-released five of my books (two shorter ones were packaged together as one to make it a four-book series release) and I’ve signed a contract with them for my remaining four but, for now, those four are out there as indie releases. I can therefore log into the author information on Kindle and see how many eBooks have sold each day and how many pages have been read.

Prior to the re-release of the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, I had a steady but not impressive number of pages read and eBooks sold. Nothing to make me particularly visible in the charts. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to make me feel I could ever do this full-time. But the re-release, the promotion on these books and the lockdown scenario have steadily boosted sales and pages read of all of my books. This morning, my Kindle stats told me that I had well over 1million pages read during May from readers borrowing my four indie books on Kindle Unlimited (Bear With Me and my three Christmas books). Eek! I have never come close to that before. I had a look back at the same month from last year and we’re talking just shy of 197k pages and that was for nine books, not four! And even if I just go back one month and look at April, pages read were 443k so they have more than doubled in one month and increased nearly six-fold in a year. Wow!

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For years, I’ve felt invisible. I’ve felt I was failing. I always believed in my ability to write but I just couldn’t seem to make an impact. And now it’s happened. I cannot thank my publishers, Boldwood, enough for helping get my name out there and to all the readers who have bought or borrowed my Boldwood and my indie releases. Because of you all, I will be a full-time author this time next week. If I didn’t have writer’s bottom, I’d be doing a happy dance round my office right now! I hope to make you proud with more time to write and therefore more uplifting stories to read.

I know that June is going to bring a couple more cancellation disappointments but hope it brings another box of delights too. Hope it also brings delights your way.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I look back over the past decade

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I’ve had a really hectic Christmas and feel as though I blinked and missed it.

Going away on holiday before Christmas was a first for us and, in some ways, it meant a longer run-up to Christmas because I needed to get my presents bought and wrapped so much earlier than normal. I was looking forward to a few days to relax and get into the Christmas spirit before the big day itself but the reality was that I had to retreat into my editing cave and lock the door. Other than a short break on Monday afternoon (23rd) to see Last Christmas at the cinema (amazing by the way) – which I’d probably not have done if I hadn’t pre-booked the tickets before our holiday – I was in my editing cave until early evening on Christmas Eve when I forced myself to stop working. I was then back to it on Boxing Day and finally finished what I needed to do late that evening. I’ve been fortunate enough, whether employed or self-employee, never to have had to work on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day so this was a bit of a shock to the system for me! It therefore meant I didn’t have the immediate build-up I normally have which is why I feel I blinked and missed Christmas.

There was no time to draw breath as we had family gatherings on the next couple of days so yesterday (Sunday), I announced I was going to lie in then stay in my PJs all day and watch films. So that’s what I did. Well, maybe not quite all day because I had a few things to do on the morning, but I popped on some ‘loungewear’ and slobbed in front of the TV to watch Fisherman’s Friends (loved it), The Princess Switch (loved it although I’d already watched it when wrapping gifts last month so this was more for munchkin than me) and Avengers: Endgame (loved it although struggled a bit to remember what had happened in previous films). And I wrote a blog post about the past year which I’ve just completely scrapped because I decided it was more boring than a boring thing that’s really tediously mind-numbingly boring whilst wearing its most boring clothes and visiting Boringville. Yes, it really was that bad.

So my alternative post today is more about reflecting on the past decade instead where I went from an aspiring writer to becoming an international best-selling author. Eek!

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Image by Gaby Stein from Pixabay

At the start of this decade, I was working for a very well-known food manufacturer with a strong presence in York (think chocolate, coffee, cereal, water and pet food) in a job that I absolutely adored. I was responsible for designing and running development centres for factory-based staff who had the potential to become shift managers or engineering managers but needed to work on a few areas. It was one of those dream roles where it really is a round peg perfectly fitting in a round hole.

P1050480We were living in Scarborough town centre but had made the decision that we wanted to move out to a village and our house was on the market. I started helping out at a local Brownie pack in May and took over as Brown Owl in the September when the existing Brown Owl retired; something I’d always wanted to do, having gone through Brownies, Guides and Rangers myself.

My daughter was three and time for writing was very sparse although I had made a good start on my debut novel, Searching for Steven. Well, when I say good start, I mean there were lots of words. Not particularly good words and not in the right order but there were words which is significantly more progress than a blank page!

Then something really exciting happened. I’d made an 11th hour submission of a short story to a competition run by English Heritage for stories set at or inspired by Whitby Abbey. The top fifty would be selected and placed in an anthology from which profits would be ploughed back into the Abbey. It wasn’t as polished as it could have been but I was thrilled to have been selected as one of the top fifty. Woo hoo! Somebody thought I could write. It certainly spurred me on.

 

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Image by Gaby Stein from Pixabay

Remember that dream job I mentioned? It was taken away from me. A massive HR restructure gave it to someone completely inexperienced in training, coaching and development and left me ‘at risk’. I was devastated. We’d just accepted an offer on our house the day before I got the news and I was kept in the dark for one week, not knowing whether I had a job or not, and therefore not knowing if we’d be able to move. When the call finally came through, I was told that I did still have a job … back in the recruitment team where I’d started life at the company two years previously. The existing team had all lost their jobs and I was going to provide consistency for the new team being recruited.

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Image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

The reality of this change was that I ended up doing my original job (because my replacement lacked the knowledge or experience to do it), my recruitment job, the graduate recruitment role (because the person doing that had left during the restructure too and I had expertise in this) and the Head of recruitment role. All for no extra money, or course. The further reality was that I couldn’t do any of the roles well because, let’s face it, who can do four full-time roles at the same time? On top of this, I was no longer home-based but, because the house sale had gone ahead and we’d moved out to a village, I now had a pig of a commute. I spent 4.25 hours commuting each day by a mixture of bus and train. I worked solidly during that commute and until 11pm each night because that was the only way I could even attempt to keep fire-fighting my many roles.

Needless to say, no writing got done in 2011. I’d been gutted that my application to join the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) hadn’t arrived on time to secure me a place that year but, with hindsight, it was a blessing because there was no way I’d have been able to finish my manuscript for submission with the hours I was working.

My daughter started school in September and I managed to secure a couple of days off work so that I could take her on her first two days and be there when she finished. When I dropped her off on that first day, I burst into tears when I walked across the playground, realising that I was missing out on everything about her growing up with the stupid commute and the demands on my time from work. I returned to work the following week with my resignation letter.

 

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Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

P1050686At the start of 2012, I tried again with the RNA’s NWS. They’d changed the system so that you could apply via email instead of post and I secured my place that way. Yay! What this meant was that I needed to crack on with writing because I had a deadline of August to get my MS submitted. I work well when I have a deadline, though.

I’d started a home-based role conducting telephone interviews and, whilst this did see me working evenings and weekends, I did manage to find some time to write and got a draft of Searching for Steven submitted. The feedback was really positive and the key improvement needed was to make it shorter as it was at least 30k words over at nearly 130k words.

I turned 40 in May this year. I’d like to say that I had some huge life-changing epiphany but there was nothing so exciting. It was just another birthday and a milestone like that didn’t really bother me.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The life-change that didn’t happen when I turned 40 actually happened in 2013 when I joined a bootcamp. Three mornings a week, I rose at 5.15am (plus a Saturday slightly Beach Hutslater) to go down to the seafront in Scarborough and work out for an hour. It was an amazing time, full of laughter and friendship, and I blogged about my journey towards losing half my body weight.

Searching for Steven went back through the NWS with a 30k cull – but various changes had added a different 30k words back in – so I knew I was going to get similar feedback to the first year. I did. But it was extremely helpful and insightful, helping me shape him to send out into the world of publishing the following year.

I attended the RNA’s conference for the first time and pitched Searching for Steven to a couple of digital first imprints who both loved it. One cited it as one of her favourite reads and both were sure they would be interested in publishing it and I should definitely submit the full MS. Naively I thought I was in there and, as soon as it was ready, I started sending it off to agents and publishers – including those two – and the waiting game commenced. And I waited… and waited… and waited.

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Six of the Write Romantics

Writer Jo Bartlett and I formed the Write Romantics, a group of ten writers who were all on the NWS and who had aspirations of becoming published. We started blogging together and soon developed quite a following.

Career-wise, 2013 was a bit of a disaster. Although repetitive, I’d enjoyed my telephone interviewing role but some significant changes were made to the work expected of us (more detail in the reports) but the pay rate per call actually decreased. Double the work for less money? Not exactly fair. I took a fixed term contract to do a coaching role at my local technical college but it turned out not to be a ‘real’ job and had been more about having someone in situ to avoid them losing some funding. I was made redundant after only five months into a two-year role and I couldn’t find another role without returning to commuting to York or perhaps even Leeds which I really didn’t want to do. I ended up securing a seasonal job in a garden centre on minimum wage just to have some money coming in. I actually really loved that role. Christmas at a garden centre? What isn’t to love?

 

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

At the end of the previous year, I started a training and development role at the Scarborough factory of an international food manufacturer (think frozen food, particularly chips or other potato-based products). In the summer, a request for flexible working was agreed meaning I worked my full-time hours across a Tuesday to Friday, giving me a Monday free. Monday was Brownies night so meant I could prepare for my meeting but the main bonus was a day to write. Luxury. There were niggles with the job but the day devoted to writing meant they weren’t that significant.

dont-panic-1067044_1920I finished Getting Over Gary (the second book in my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series) and submitted that to the NWS for critique. In the meantime, Searching for Steven rejections were coming in thick and fast. The two publishers who I’d met at the 2013 conference took forever to get back to me and actually had to be chased by the RNA as I wasn’t the only one waiting to hear. After a whopping 9 months, both said no. Oh. I was so sure one of them would take it from the reaction at the conference, although I’d become less sure as the months plodded past.

By this point, I had 23 rejections (or no response whatsoever) and, although some of them had been very positive, I was fed up. I hadn’t necessarily expected Searching for Steven to find a home so the rejections weren’t too upsetting; it was more the time and effort that was soul-destroying. Everyone wanted something different and, at that point in time, a lot of them wanted it via paper format so it was very expensive too. I had a couple more publishers to hear from and had decided to go indie if it was a no from them. But both said yes and I had a very happy dilemma on my hands.

I actually verbally accepted one but they were so slow in getting a contract drawn up that the other came through before I’d signed anything. I was also starting to get doubts about them as it seemed that, after saying they wouldn’t change much, they wanted to change loads, particularly removing the friendship focus and keeping the stories pure romance. The friendship thread was very important to me and was what made the series so it was actually very fortunate that So Vain Books made an offer and I went with them instead, signing my contract in September 2014.

 

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On the day that Searching for Steven was published (3rd June 2015), my husband gave me a set of three canvasses. One had the front cover of Steven, one had the cover of a novella called Raving About Rhys that my publisher released in May as an introduction to the series, and the third had this quote on it:

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

3rd June 2015

The day life changed for Jessica Redland

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It made me cry. It is still above my desk and I draw inspiration from it when I doubt myself as a writer. I am a writer.

Jessica Redland - Searching for Steven - Front Cover LOW RESI had a launch party for Searching for Steven but it didn’t quite go as planned. The printers messed up and I actually had no paperbacks to sell. A launch party without a book to launch? I forgot to cut the cake and it was an unexpectedly hot day with no air con in the venue so everyone was melting. So I drunk lots of wine!

Just when my writing career was taking off and I could finally say “I’m a published author”, my HR career was about to take another nosedive. The company had gone through a major restructure and we were assured that, because HR was already streamlined, there would be no HR redundancies. Only they needed to trim a bit further and my job went. I was fortunate to walk straight into a role for a local recruitment agency but it was a real low point for me. The company and the people were great. I was not great at the job. Naively we’d all thought that my recruitment skills would translate well into the role but the reality is that a recruitment agency is a sales role; not a recruitment role. Me and sales? Very square peg and very round hole. I knew my days were numbered there.

I stopped going to bootcamp because I was couldn’t fit it in around my working hours and the three stone I’d lost (nowhere near my goal at that point) started to pile back on.

 

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Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

I’d worked at a local factory some years earlier and the engineering manager had rated me highly. When he realised I was working for the agency, he was keen to put a number of vacancies my way. It was worth a lot of money to the recruitment agency so I’d managed to cling on by my fingertips at the back end of 2015. 2016 arrived, the vacancies had all been filled, and I wasn’t bringing in much income so they let me go. They were right to do so because I was completely and utterly crap at the role, but this was the first time I’d ever been let go rather than made redundant and it was awful.

Fortunately I’d been working part time for a distance learning company for several years as an internal verifier and they were rapidly expanding. I’d already put out some feelers about working for them as a tutor too and this got escalated. I still have that role today, based from home, dealing with queries and marking assignments for students studying their HR professional qualification. I travelled a lot, running weekend workshops in London and Birmingham, which was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends based in both cities who I hadn’t seen in ages.

IMG_1404With hubby and I both home-based, we made the decision to get a dog; something hubby had always wanted. Ella the Sprocker Spaniel joined our family, much to Felix the cat’s disgust!

Getting Over Gary and Dreaming About Daran were released in March and August respectively, concluding my series. And also concluding my time with So Vain Books. Things hadn’t worked out for them as hoped and I secured back my rights before the company ceased trading. Feeling very despondent, I decided to lick my wounds as an indie writer and see how that went before thinking about submitting again.

 

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Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Searching for Steven (New Cover Design 3)As an indie writer, I released Bear With Me, a standalone novel but still set in Whitsborough Bay like all my others. I was very proud of it but it didn’t soar. In fact, none of my books were setting the charts alight but I was working so many hours that I had no time available to invest in marketing and promotion so I had to just keep ticking along.

A lot of work travel meant a lot of time on trains and in hotel rooms to write and I managed to pen two Christmas books. I’d only planned to write one – Charlee and the Chocolate Shop – but I mentioned a shop called Carly’s Cupcakes in that book and suddenly had a vision for who Carly was and what her story was. It was begging to be written. So in October 2017, I released twoChristmas books and they sold far better than anything else I’d written … although still not quite as well as I’d have hoped.

I made a big decision in the summer to start studying towards a Masters in Creative Writing through Open University. I’d never thought I’d study again but I liked the thought of taking the next academic level in a subject I loved. If I was going to study, a sacrifice had to be made and the only one I could make was leaving Brownies. After 7.5 years with the pack, I stepped off my perch in December.

 

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Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

I was surprised to discover that a Christmas book is not just for Christmas. Charlee and Carly continued to sell in January, February, March … and all year round. It seemed that Christmas books were winners so I wrote another two for release ahead of Christmas 2018: Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe and Callie’s Christmas Wish, the latter being a follow-on to my novella Raving About Rhys.

Word was out, though: Christmas books sell. Everyone seemed to be writing them and neither book did as well as the two the previous year. And then Amazon sent me to Amazon Jail. They claimed I was engaging in activities to manipulate the sales and downloads of Searching for Steven. I wasn’t. I’m not clever enough or technical enough to even begin to know how to do this. So Steven was stripped of his rankings in all markets meaning he couldn’t be found in any searches unless someone specifically looked for that title. Sales practically disappeared.

loser-3096213_1920Earlier in the year, I attended the RNA’s conference again. It wasn’t yet finished but I pitched a book called Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye which told the story of several women who needed to say goodbye to someone or something in their lives but were struggling to find the strength to do so. It explored whether meeting each other via a bootcamp could give them the encouragement to let go. The setting was inspired by my bootcamp experiences and I was very proud of this piece of work. I pitched to four publishers who all enthused about it but two wanted it to go down a cosy romcom route and two wanted me to keep the contemporary women’s fiction I’d moved towards in my writing. They were particularly passionate about it finding a home with them. Only, when I finished it and submitted to them, they didn’t want it.

The rejections floored me and, with low sales across all my books, I began seriously questioning whether I could write or whether it was worth the heartache. Yet being a writer is who I am. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t tell my stories. The sales figures may not have screamed success but the reviews did and I’d regularly pick myself up looking at them.

In a home-based role, the weight continued to pile on and my despondence about my writing didn’t help me in doing anything about it. The long hours I worked between the day job, my Masters, and trying to write didn’t help either.

 

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Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I started the year still languishing in Amazon jail. They finally released me in February and put me straight back in less than two weeks later, starting the hideous episode all over again.

A couple more rejections for my latest novel came through. Whilst acknowledging that I was a good writer with a great location for my books, they either didn’t “get” the bootcamp setting or didn’t think the book had enough of a “hook”. This floored me again and, on top of the Amazon jail situation, I wasn’t in a happy place with my writing in early 2019 and was flooded with doubts about my future as an author.

Screenshot 2019-06-18 at 09.41.35But things were about to change in a big way. On 1st February, a new publisher called Boldwood Books opened for business and they sounded different. Reading their website, Boldwood sounded like the perfect home for me. I just had to hope that they “got” the setting and thought it had a sufficient “hook”. Fortunately they did and, on 20th March, I received a whopping nine-book-deal from Boldwood for four brand new books and five from my back-catalogue. Woo hoo! It couldn’t have come at a better time.

Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye got a new identity as The Secret to Happiness and was launched on 3rd September. It came out in all formats (eBook, audio, large print and paperback) globally from day one; something very unique to Boldwood as part of their “publishing reimagined” offer.

thumbnailThe Secret to Happiness had performed well during its first month out but a Bookbub promotion in Canada and Australia in October saw me become an international bestseller with the amazing positions of number 9 and number 20 respectively in the overall Kindle charts in those countries. I still can’t quite believe I’m both a top 10 bestseller and an international bestseller. Eek! Some major promotions in the UK also saw the book achieve its highest UK chart position within the top 600 which was very exciting too.

More good news was on the way. After two years of studying, I passed my MA in Creative Writing with distinction which I couldn’t be more thrilled about. I worked so hard to achieve that grade but creative writing can be very subjective so I wasn’t sure I was going to quite get there in the end.

The Write Romantics still exist and the group have gone from being ten unpublished writers to ten published writers, whether that be traditionally, indie or through a hybrid approach. We no longer blog together as we simply don’t have the time with our individual social media activities to manage, but the support of the group is invaluable. Whenever one of us are experiencing a high or low, whether in writing or in life in general, there’s someone there to give a virtual hug of sympathy or congratulations. I’ve met every member at least twice and am very fortunate in having forged a very strong friendship with the fabulously talented Sharon Booth who I meet a couple of times a month to catch-up on all things writerly, and eat cake. Perfect!

 

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Image by Susan Cipriano from Pixabay

As for 2020 and beyond… 

I have a whopping six books coming out with Boldwood Books next year. That might sound excessive but five of them are from my back-catalogue. The ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series that started my writing journey has been re-edited, re-packaged and re-titled. The novella has been combined with the follow-up Christmas short novel to make one book, turning this into a four-book series. Making Wishes at Bay View will be out on 14th January, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove will be released on 20th February and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage will come out on 17th March.

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July 2nd will be the publication day for my next brand-new Boldwood release, which doesn’t have a title at the moment. Then Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe will be re-released on 1st October. This was my Christmas novel last year and I have added several new chapters to extend the story. I needed to keep it under 70k at the time because I’d submitted it for a competition where it couldn’t exceed that amount but, whilst the reader wasn’t left hanging, there was an aspect of the story I could have explored more and this has been my opportunity to do so.

My July release is part one of a new series and the second part will be out on 7th January 2021. I’ve only written one chapter so far so need to get cracking on that one very soon!

It’s still my dream to be able to write full-time one day. Maybe 2020 will be the year it happens. Got to dream big!

 

Wishing you all the best for a wonderful start to the new year and new decade. See you on the other side.

Jessica xx

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Image by Samad Khakpour from Pixabay

 

 

The one where I look back at July

The end of July has been and gone, signalling that we’re halfway through the year already. Eek! That means we’re on the slope towards Christmas now, which is a bit scary.

So how was my July? Busy. Very busy.

thumbnail-4On 19th July, I was excited to reveal the cover for my new book, The Secret to Happiness, as part of me being Boldwood’s Author of the Day. The novel will be released on 3rd September but is available for pre-order on Kindle, for the bargain price of £1, right here. For any bloggers/reviewers, it’s also available on NetGalley.

Speaking of NetGalley, I went from excitement to disappointment a few days later when my first NetGalley review came through and it wasn’t good. With only a 2-star rating, the feedback was a little strange as the reviewer said she’d really enjoyed the main character’s story but, because it wasn’t the light summer read she was hoping for, she rated it a 2. I won’t even begin to try and understand the logic behind that. Yes, the cover is summery but the blurb doesn’t suggest light and fluffy. I know I have to be prepared for bad reviews but, because it was the first, this one really upset me. Thankfully the second one, a few days later, was 5-star and stated: “I loved this book … Overall brilliant writing, loved the plot, characters were well developed…” Phew!

Blue LogoMy good friend, author Sharon Booth, came through to Scarborough for a day and we loitered with intent in a couple of different coffee shops, having a good old writerly chat, which is always a fabulous way to while away the hours. We came to a difficult decision, though, to cease being ‘The Yorkshire Rose Writers’. Last year, we joined forces under this brand as we both live in Yorkshire, write about Yorkshire, and love Yorkshire. We thought this would be a great way to promote Sharon to my readers and vice versa, as well as have a stronger online presence. We put a huge time commitment in to blog, tweet, insta (is that a word?) and update content on the Facebook page, especially Sharon who is much better at these things than me, but we found it didn’t engage with any new readers as hoped. We also decided that, whilst we love Yorkshire, this is not our brand; our brand is us as individuals and as friends together. We therefore have a new idea that is in early stages of development but will be a little different. The blog has been deactivated and the social media activities have ceased with accounts deactivating shortly. It was short and sweet but these things are always worth a try. We’d probably have continued on Facebook but the imminent changes from pages to groups make us lose the will to live when it comes to that format so bye bye to The Yorkshire Rose Writers and thank you to those who did support our little venture.

During July, I completed a round of edits on book 11 and that’s now with my beta readers for comment. Early indications are good with one of them saying she’s struggling to put it down. I’m not sure whether Boldwood will take this one or not but it was about two thirds complete at the time I signed my publishing deal so there was no point in not finishing it.

My plan was to make some progress with book 12 and 13 but that hasn’t quite happened because I had my penultimate Masters submission due which took more time than I’d anticipated. It was a commentary about the process behind the final submission and the learnings we’ve had so far and I’ve struggled to score highly on these so far. I’ve just had the score through, though, and have achieved a distinction with 90% which is a relief. This puts my Year 2 work at 88% which is a distinction overall (distinction is 85% and above) so I’m thrilled about that. However, to come out with a distinction as my final grade, I have to score 85% or more on the final submission. I’ve done well on my fiction pieces so far, typically scoring in the 90s, but this is a much bigger piece. Fingers crossed.

IMG_6650Outside of writing, I had a short break in The Lake District with hubby, daughter and Ella, our Sprocker Spaniel. It didn’t go as planned. I managed to break my tooth about an hour into the journey eating a toffee. Oops! Thankfully it doesn’t hurt as it was a crown that I’ve snapped off a couple of times before … also by eating toffees. You’d think I’d have learned by now! I don’t think the dentist will be able to rebuild it again this time so I’ll see what he suggests next week.

The broken tooth was probably a bad omen for things to come. Our journey was horrendous. What would normally take about four hours took six including a patch of stationary traffic. We took a detour to get around that but then missed our planned lunch stop and ended up having lunch at teatime instead. The cottage wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for and it was in the middle of nowhere which we hadn’t expected either. Then the weather was poor, with torrential rain one day and storms forecast for our final day. We decided to come home a day early to sleep on a comfortable bed and to go out around home where the weather wasn’t expected to be so bad.

So, on Tuesday we visited a place called Ravenscar on the coast between Scarborough IMG_6732and Robin Hood’s Bay to see the seals. A year or two ago, we did attempt to see the seals but took the wrong path and still ended up on a cliff top with no way down to the beach, so we did the sensible thing and asked this time. The seals were sooooo adorable. The walk is very steep, though, and the journey back up was certainly hard work. I swear I’d shed about two stone in sweat but the scales laughed at me and told me otherwise!

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I went to the cinema just before our mini-break to see ‘Yesterday’. I’d seen the trailer on Facebook some time back and was really keen to see it, although I hadn’t realised at the time that it was a Richard Curtis film. We don’t have a decent cinema in Scarborough but the theatre does show some films so the munchkin so I went to see it there and thoroughly enjoyed it. You do need to suspend a bit of disbelief here and there and just take it for what it is which is a sweet, funny story with lots of Beatles songs.

My final bit of news is that the munchkin got her ears pierced last week (she’s 12) so that they have time to heal over the summer break. I’ve had mine done since I was 13 but I’ve always fancied having the top of my ear – my helix – pierced so I booked in for me to have that done at the same time. Ouch! My goodness, does that hurt! I’ve tried taking a photo but it’s just a stud and it barely shows so I will wait until the 12-week healing period has passed and I can put a pretty earring in it instead.

That’s my round-up of July. I’ve decided that my round-up posts are too long so I’m going to try to blog more frequently but with much shorter posts. Hmm. We’ll see how that goes. Still, the intention of the round-ups was to get me into blogging more regularly again and it has achieved that.

Wishing you a fabulous August.

Jessica xx