Happy World Friendship Day 2021

A big warm hug to you all on happy World Friendship Day or International Day of Friendship as it’s also known. This is a day with its roots back in the 1930s when Hallmark declared 2nd August as a day to celebrate friendship but cynicism of this as a money-making scheme (surely not?!) meant it faded into obscurity in the USA… for a little while.

Friendships fascinate me and are always a key feature in my stories as there is so much scope to explore the many variations and complexities.

If you love reading about new friendships, you might like to try All You Need is Love, The Secret to Happiness or Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

If friends to lovers stories are your thing, then Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes should appeal.

If you prefer enemies to lovers, try Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café or New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow.

Perhaps you enjoy friendships between family members. Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes also fits the bill here and Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow.

Or maybe friends who aren’t family but feel just like it – Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop.

Do you enjoy inter-generational friendships? I explore these in Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow.

How about friendships that change over time and circumstance? Try New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (best read in that order).

To all my friends new and old, near and far, some of whom I haven’t seen for years and some I only know virtually, wishing you a Happy World Friendship Day.

Happy new book friendships.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Did I manage to write a book in a fortnight?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts. One was about how I was struggling to get going with writing the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series because of the fear that it wouldn’t live up to the high bar set by the third book – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. The other celebrated my first year anniversary as a full-time author, sharing that it hadn’t been what I expected as I hadn’t managed to get into a routine – unless you can call extreme procrastination a routine – and I still had no work:life balance.

In an attempt to combat this and get book 4 in the series written, I wondered whether I could learn from the process that one of my fellow-Boldwood authors, Shari Low, adopts of writing intensively for 1-2 weeks. I recognised that what works for one author won’t necessarily work for another but it was worth trying something different to try to get out of the rut I’d got into.

w/c 21st June looked reasonably clear in my diary so I wrote, “I’m going to come off social media for the week and see what happens if I try to blitz the book. Even if I could write half of it in a week, I’d be thrilled.”

I added the last bit in because, realistically, I knew I’d never manage to write a book in one week. This was not a belief that I’d fail; simply reality that the only way to do that would be to barely sleep. And I don’t function if I haven’t had some sleep.

I finished the post by writing, “I love the idea of an intensive fortnight to write a book”, very much seeing a fortnight as possible, by which I mean fourteen days, writing on evenings and weekends. And by writing a book, I do mean a first draft with time beyond that to edit and polish the MS (manuscript).

So I’m here to report back on that.

Is it possible to write a (first draft of a) book in a fortnight? Yes. Definitely.

Did I achieve it? No.

Let’s look at what I’ve learned because, although the book isn’t finished, it was still a valuable exercise. 

Learning 1: You should do all your research before you start writing

To write a book in a fortnight, you need to do all your research prior to starting the book blitz so that you have no research distractions.

Potential problem: I’m a pantser which means I don’t plot. I have a basic idea of what the story is about and then the characters take it in the direction they want. This therefore means I don’t always know what I need to research up-front because I don’t know where the story is going to go.

My reality: Book 3 in the series ended on a cliff hanger so book 4 was going to pick up from that. How I dealt with that cliff hanger required significant research and I’d already done that although I hadn’t managed to find all the answers I needed. However, a new character emerged as I wrote which took the book down an unexpected plotline which also required significant research. I had to pause to do that because, without checking out the facts around that scenario, I’d have been wasting my time writing.

That was a big thing and I absolutely did need to do the research, but it wasn’t the only time I got distracted…

I mentioned that one of my main characters was affectionately referred to as Snow White when she was younger because she has raven hair, pale skin, rosy cheeks and big blue eyes. And that got me wondering: Does [the Disney version of] Snow White have blue eyes? It’s sadly the sort of thing a pernickety reader will spot and comment on in a negative review. It’s also the sort of thing I wouldn’t remember to check later as I’d assume I already had done. Cue a Google search as to whether Snow White has blue eyes. She doesn’t. They’re brown. Just as well I checked.

And while I was searching on Snow White images, it made sense to add one to my Pinterest board where I keep inspiration for my books. Saved me doing it later.

Next, I wanted Samantha (the owner of the rescue centre) to have an unusual hedgehog admission so I needed to do some research. In theory, I could have just put ‘RESEARCH SCENARIO’ in my MS and skipped that chapter, but that seemed unnecessary when five to ten minutes of research could have that chapter covered.

Only it wasn’t five to ten minutes of research. It was over an hour, going down a rabbit hole about a rare but fascinating injury. I’m not going to say what it is as that would give spoilers, but I’m pleased with it and I’m glad I did the research. But it stopped me from getting the words down.

Learning 2: This is easier with a series … or is it?

Before I set off on my book blitz experiment, I was convinced it would easier to do this with a book in a series because I already knew the characters and the setting so I wasn’t having to create all of that from scratch.

My reality: I don’t think it actually made much of a difference. Yes, I knew the setting and some of the characters but I didn’t know the new ones who appeared. I’m not sure it made much difference in the end. And, because I didn’t know the new characters, I had to search for images of them. Pinterest called and I answered. More time away from writing. 

Learning 3: You have to completely shut down social media

Social media is one of the biggest distractions an author can have – whether that’s aimlessly scrolling as a procrastination method like I described in my earlier post, or actively engaging with authors or readers on social media. It may be enjoyable and some would suggest it’s essential, but it’s time away from the MS. And, when you’re trying to write a book in a fortnight, it’s a distraction you can’t afford to have.

Potential problem: I realised I’d committed weeks ago to an interview with a book blogger which was scheduled for day 1. My next book, Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop, had also gone up on NetGalley so reviews could start coming in. There were a couple of Facebook Lives for fellow-Boldwood authors that I wanted to support and I was actually going to be hosting one for my good friend, Jo Bartlett, to support the publication of her second Boldwood release: A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife. This would fall into week 2 and Jo and I needed some time to plan the subjects we’d discuss.

My reality: It is very hard to stay off social media completely. I needed to watch out for that interview on day 1 and share it. And, of course, sharing something on social media means temptation was right in front of me and I had a quick check of my notifications. And then I checked to see whether there were any NetGalley reviews in yet for Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop. There weren’t. And, as I’d paused, I might as well check chart positions… See how easy it is to get distracted and back to the old ‘routine’?

Social media has to be shut down completely and I’m not sure how realistic that is when a lot of what we do involves engaging with book bloggers and readers, and supporting other authors.

Learning 4: You need to step away from the emails too

Emails can also be a big distraction. I dread to think how many times a day I click on them to see if anyone has been in touch. I think it’s still a hang up from the days when email was a new thing and it was so thrilling to have mail, as Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks so beautifully capture in the gorgeous romcom You’ve Got Mail. 

My reality: Sometimes an email will arrive that requires prompt action and this happened to me on day 3. My editor got in touch to say that Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow was on a one-day 99p Prime Day deal with Amazon which they hadn’t been notified about and could I share far and wide. I’d have missed that if I hadn’t checked my emails (although, bless her, she texted me too knowing I was on my book blitz and might not check them).

It was understandably panic stations and, while my publisher centrally worked on a newsletter to share this deal with subscribers (it covered 7 x Boldwood Books), I offered to knock together a quick Canva (a design package for creating social media posts) and post it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You know that phrase – more haste, less speed? This was a classic case of that. I tried to do it really quickly and, as it was a one-day thing, I wanted to put the date on it to avoid any misleading readers who might see the post tomorrow or the day after. Which would have been fine if I hadn’t got the date wrong!

It’s the book’s fault. I always follow a calendar and it’s 2020 in my MS (although in a Covid-free world) so I put 2020 on the Canva and posted it on Twitter and was mid-post on Insta when I realised my error. I’d already sent them to Boldwood so I needed to delete my Twitter post and re-do the Canvas but Canva crashed on me and I was all fingers and thumbs and, well, something that should have taken ten minutes took about forty all told.

Then I needed to keep an eye on my chart position – a tantalisingly close to the Top 100 #106 just before bedtime – and respond to anyone who’d commented on my posts. And then I responded to other social media comments while I was there.

Learning 5: You need to lock yourself away from family

If you’re going to write a book in a fortnight, you need to work some very long hours and you can only do this if you’re not being distracted by other members of your household. Explaining to them that you’re on an intensive writing period and cannot be disturbed unless the house has been picked up by a tornado and is en route to Kansas, someone has been impaled on the door in a freak nail gun accident, or anything else serious like that is not likely to work.

Potential problem: The family (hubby and 14-year-old daughter) had been warned. The family tend not to listen. No matter how many times I ask only to be disturbed if it’s urgent, the family disturb me. No matter how much I explain that a 1-minute interruption can set me back 15 minutes in my thought process, the family disturb me. No matter how clearly I emphasise that two weeks of intensive work mean I will have lots of time free to devote to the family afterwards, the family disturb me.

My reality: On day 3, my daughter texted from school at 9.03am to tell me several of her form class had been called out and sent home to isolate after positive Covid cases had been reported (there’d been several sent home the previous two days). Ten minutes later, I had a text to say there were only four students in her first lesson and their regular teacher wasn’t there. Fifteen minutes later, she was pulled out the class. Five minutes after that, the whole year group were sent home.

It’s life isn’t it? It was unexpected and I couldn’t plan for it but the text exchange put me off my stride. Hubby went to collect her and we had an update on the situation when she got home, a letter from school to read, then another letter saying she needed to go back on Friday for a PCR test and a consent form to sign. Then we later realised that all family members had to have a PCR test too so we needed to book a walk-in session for the three of us on the Thursday which meant that, after a hugely-disrupted Wednesday, I’d be out for about an hour on Thursday to get tested so day 4 would also be disrupted.

We were all negative but it meant that my daughter was home and isolating for most of my blitz which wasn’t going to be easy.

I did try shutting my door at one point and it didn’t sit comfortably with me. I only ever do that when I’m doing a Zoom and don’t want to disturb the family or have them disturb me. Cutting them off completely – especially when they knew it was because I was sick to death of the constant interrupting – felt mean and rude and I don’t want to be an author if I have to lock myself away from my family to do so. I therefore think this is probably much easier to do if you’re in a single-person household and/or you don’t have children living at home. Or pets. The dog is constantly padding in and out too!

Learning 6: It’s hard to find a free week and impossible to find a free fortnight

I deliberately chose w/c 21st June because I had lots of things happening w/c 14th June and knew I’d have too many distractions to get much word count down that week. I knew I couldn’t write on day 1 evening as I’d had a meal with a couple of family members planned in for several weeks and I wasn’t going to cancel but, other than that, the week was looking fairly good. Week 2 wasn’t so clear in the diary. I knew I was hosting Jo’s publication day Zoom and needed some time to plan it, and I was going away for the weekend at the end of it so my fortnight would only be twelve days rather than fourteen.

My reality: My lovely editor and I had a Zoom catch-up booked in for 9am on day 5 of week 1. She’d offered to have it the next week knowing I was on my book blitz but there were a few things I wanted to discuss and, as I would still on a blitz the following week, I was keen for it to go ahead. I was at my desk for 7.15am which was impressive for me and decided to jot down all the questions I wanted to ask, figuring that wouldn’t take too long and I’d have time to write before the Zoom. An hour later and 4 sides of A4…

The Zoom was excellent. I always feel so inspired after a catch-up but it was a long one (my fault due to the aforementioned gazillion questions) and we came off the call at 11.15! Eek! The morning had almost gone and, while I should have cracked on with the MS, old habits crept in and I was back on social media figuring I’d get into the writing in earnest after lunch. Hmmm.

Learning 7: If you find yourself slipping, don’t chuck in the towel

I’ve cited many challenges I’ve faced and copious distractions but not talked about how this impacted on my word count yet so let’s look at that. I had already written a bit back in early June before I decided on this experiment: 8,162 words. My stories typically come in at about 100k words.

My reality: By the end of the ‘normal working week’ of week 1 i.e. Monday-Friday, I’d written 28,049 words (made up of 7,113 / 5,908 / 5,406 / 6,542 / 3,170 in order across the five days) which took my overall total to 36,211. Not great. A third of a book, though. 

The word count wasn’t massively impressive on any of these days because every single day had a distraction (some unexpected) where I lost a morning, afternoon or evening. I can’t recall the exact figure now but my best ever day a few books back was about 8k. I had hoped for about 8-10k each day during this experiment.

You can see that, other than the Thursday, the word count dipped as the week wore on and this was partly to do with me chucking in the towel. Each distraction/disruption/problem that took me away from my word count goals set the Pixies of Disbelief chattering away in my ear telling me this had been a stupid idea and I was not only going to fail but I was also going to humiliate myself because I’d declared my plan on social media and several people were following my post, curious as to whether it would work. I’d been determined it would but that determination waned and waned and I stopped trying. I chucked in the towel instead of re-grouping. Grr! Damn you, Pixies of Disbelief!

The weekend added another 8,044 words (2,901 on Sat and 5,143 on Sun) to the word count bringing me up to a total of 44,255. Nearly halfway. But I could have hit 60k or even 70k quite easily.

Learning 8: A fortnight is a long time to sustain intensity

This is related to learning point 7 as it is to some extent about not chucking in the towel too early but it’s also about sustaining the intensity because two weeks is a long time to solidly write without doing anything else. Is that good for you/the books/your family? Who knows because I didn’t actually manage it!

My reality: As I moved into week 2, I’d already failed in my mind. I still had more than half the book to write and I had a more distracted week ahead of me. I was going to lose the two days at the end because I was away, I was going to lose another day because I needed to do a final proofread on book 13, and I had Jo’s Facebook Live planned in.

As it happens, I also lost the Friday I was travelling. I needed to pack and I was out of the habit of packing having not been anywhere for what feels like an eternity so it took me ages. I needed to work out the directions to the hotel from the station, make sure I had all my paperwork, write a blog post to celebrate one year since the Hedgehog Hollow series was published and it all meant I didn’t write a single word of my MS that day.

My word count for week 2 was only 7,204 across 3 days. Eek! As you can see, I’d thrown in the towel and did not manage to sustain that intensity at all. But I had passed the 50k halfway mark.

Why do I still think that a book can be written in a fortnight?

I’ve talked about all the things that got in my way yet I still believe that a book can be written in a fortnight. Why?

  • Because I could have written 50k words in week 1 very easily and probably reached 60k or even 70k as mentioned. 50k only requires an average of a little over 7k words a day. I exceeded that once and came close on other occasions and I have done similar (or greater) word count loads of times before
  • Because it gets quicker to write a book as the book progresses. You know your characters and the story builds momentum. The second half (for me) is always much quicker to write than the first
  • Because I stopped believing in myself each time I had a disruption instead of working harder (or smarter)

But I do believe that, to achieve this, you do have to completely shut off from everything and that’s a huge sacrifice to make, even for a fortnight.

Do I want to attempt to write a book in a fortnight again?

No. The main reason for this little experiment was never about writing a book in a fortnight but about trying to break the rut I’d got into of constantly being distracted by social media/emails. I’ve learned that it’s not realistic to cut them out of my life but I can make them part of my routine instead.

I’ve also learned that I can write on a morning. I used to struggle with this and would often start my day on social media, only settling down to properly write on an afternoon and evening. This is because, when I had a demanding day job, an evening was the only time I could write. This little experiment has changed this.

I’ve re-discovered my love for just writing and not editing along the way. I’ve always used a ‘threads to follow’ word document during the editing process to note down threads I need to weave into the story later in the book which I’d forgotten to continue in my first draft. During my experiment, I used this as a note of threads I need to go back to, enabling me to continue writing, instead of going back and adding in the required detail at that point. For example, I mentioned a new character who appeared. As the story has progressed, they’ve become a lot more important than I could have anticipated at the start and I need to change several of the earlier chapters to make their relationship with my main character more significant. Pre-experiment, I’d have gone back and amended these but I now have a note of them and will change them later. This is so much better for keeping the flow going.

So where do I go from here? 

My aim is still to finish the first this book way ahead of schedule but I am going to do this differently by having a routine. The plan is as follows:

  • Desk by 8.30am, quick check on emails/reviews/chart positions
  • Working on MS by 9am at the latest (earlier if there’s nothing to respond to on emails)
  • Writing without editing until lunchtime
  • 30-minute break for lunch with check on Facebook/Twitter/Insta
  • Write until teatime providing the words are flowing. If not, stop and move away from the desk to do some reading; something I so rarely get a chance to do
  • Another social media check after tea
  • Rest of evening free
  • Only write on weekends if approaching a deadline or we have no family plans due to bad weather

I reckon I’ll probably write more words in these five days than I do in seven full days at the moment. It gives me a routine which I knew I was lacking and a work:life balance which was non-existent.

I just need to avoid those Procrastination Pixies who will be determined to scupper my plans, the devious little blighters!

If you’ve managed to read all the way to the end of my epic post, well done you! I hope you found it helpful. Please do comment if you’ve learned anything or if you have suggestions. I’d love to hear from you.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The hedgehogs pass a 6,000 milestone but I’m feeling the fear for book 4

Less than a week ago, I reported that the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – had passed a whopping 1,500 reviews/ratings milestone over on Amazon. It’s gone a bit beyond that now:

Book 3

A little while before that I’d reported that book 1 – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – had passed 2,000. It has also exceeded that since:

Book 1

The hedgehogs have been waiting for book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – to meet another milestone so they could have a big party and celebrate milestones for all three.

And yesterday book 2 reached it, passing the 2,500 mark. Woo hoo! Go hedgehogs go!

Book 2

New Arrivals only came out in January so that milestone has been reached in a little over five months but Family Secrets was only published six weeks ago today and is already storming towards the 2,000 mark.

I’d been surprised when New Arrivals gathered more reviews than Finding Love as I’d have thought that readers would have read the series in order and, as there’s an inevitability that some readers won’t love it, the numbers of reviews would dip with each book. However, with the rate that Family Secrets is gathering reviews, I don’t think it will be long before it has the most.

I do read all my reviews and I know that several readers say they loved book 2 or book 3 and will go back to read the one(s) they missed so that could account for some disparity. Or perhaps a reader who reads two or three back to back only leaves a review for the latest? I guess I’ll never get to the bottom of it.

What’s interesting is that for my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series, book 1 – Making Wishes at Bay View – has the most reviews/ratings but book 4 – Coming Home to Seashell Cottage – isn’t far behind … but that both supports and contradicts my theory above!

There was a time with the Hedgehog Hollow series when it seemed that the love for the hedgehogs got stronger with each book. While Family Secrets is still storming ahead with a whopping 83% 5-star ratings/reviews, the other two are pretty much equal. Both of them have an accidental 1-star rating where the review talks about how much the reader has loved it, one for HH1 even saying ‘one of my favourite books of late’ but the reader has managed to click on the 1-star instead of the 5-star rating which is a shame.

There are some cutting reviews for all three books, especially the 1-star for HH1 entitled ‘total waste of time’ but I do find it easier to cope with those these days. It certainly helps looking at all the hedgehog love. I remind myself it’s just one person’s opinion and you can’t please all the people all of the time. And I also remind myself that negative comments say more about the reviewer and perhaps what’s going on in their life at that time than they do about me.

With so many gorgeous reviews/ratings and so much excitement about the fourth book in the series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – my biggest concern right now is not a handful of negative comments. It’s whether book 4 can measure up to the high bar set by the previous books, particularly Family Secrets. I’m meant to be writing it at the moment and I’ll admit to procrastinating massively on getting going because of THE FEAR! What if it isn’t good enough? What if there’s this huge build-up to the cliffhanger reveal and all the excitement about the release (and a long wait) and readers are disappointed?

I have this 2-star review for Family Secrets: I couldn’t be bothered to finish this. The first two books in this series were fine, but the author is now trying to stretch the theme too far – rather boring. Ouch! 96% of readers disagree so I’m not unduly concerned about these comments but what I fear is these sorts of comments for book 4 onwards. I completely disagree with them. I am not stretching a theme too far. There is a setting and there are stories to tell and I have lots of great stories in mind … but what if the unexpected twists and turns of Family Secrets was the peak and it’s downhill from there? Argh!

One of my favourite films is A Cinderella Story. From 2004 and starring Hilary Duff, it’s a modern-day reimagining of the Cinderella story as you can probably guess from the title and it’s fabulous. The main character is called Sam and her dad used to run a sports-themed diner. When he died, Sam’s ‘wicked stepmother’ took it over and refurbished. She redecorated it pink and made the staff wear roller boots. Near the climax in the film, a door slams and something falls off the wall revealing the baseball-themed quote Sam’s dad had up there: Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”. I love that!

This quote is in my mind as I approach writing book 4 and I’m pushing aside that 2-star review. It’s partly the reason why I have decided to do a really intensive blitz of the book next week as I’ve been spending too much time thinking and worrying and not getting the words down on the paper. I do have a great story to tell. It’s different from book 3’s story but all the stories are different otherwise I would accept the ‘rather boring’ accusation. I also have an amazing editor who will help knock it into shape so we’re bringing out a great book that doesn’t disappoint the hedgehog fans.

Tell you what, if writing a book was as simple as having an idea and getting it down on the page, my job would be so easy. It’s the thinking and worrying that causes the problems. But I absolutely love what I do and, although I could do without THE FEAR, I would choose it with the fear rather than not do it at all. Which brings us to another quote: Feel the fear and do it anyway!

I have the rest of the week to get organised and do the research I need to do to enable me to get my head down for next Monday and write. No way am I expecting to write a full book in a week but I’m certainly going to give it a good go!

Hope you have a fabulous week and thank you for all the amazing love and support for this series. I really appreciate all the lovely reviews, the comments on social media, the recommendations, and the direct messages I’ve had from so many lovely readers. They’re such a boost.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

My first year as a full-time author. Not quite as expected…

An old friend and I exchanged news on Messenger this week and she asked if I was still writing full-time. I replied last night that I was and it had been about a year. And then it struck me that it had been pretty much exactly a year and I might even have missed the anniversary. I had. So this is a bit of a belated post!

Tuesday – 8th June – was the one-year anniversary of me being a full-time author. What an amazing year it has been for my career as an author with so many wonderful goals achieved, but it has also been the most peculiar of years thanks to a global pandemic changing everyone’s lives.

This isn’t a blog post about goals achieved or about the strange world in which we live. Instead, it’s about how I’ve found writing full-time…

I thought I’d start this post by sharing an amazing cartoon my husband drew for me to represent frustrating days in my previous role as a distance learning HR Tutor. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job … most of the time. I don’t think there are many jobs that don’t have a few niggles but the ones in mine had become more frequent and increasingly challenging so the steam coming out the ears had become a regular thing!

So how has the first year been as a full-time author? Not quite what I expected. I say this not because I’m not ‘living the dream’ by doing exactly what I want to do, but because my approach to the freedom to write full-time hasn’t been what I expected and I find myself unexpectedly working more hours than I’ve ever worked.

I used to be able to write a book in 2-3 months squeezing my writing time into evenings and weekends around my demanding more-than-full-time day job. I ran evening webinars so I didn’t even have every evening free to write. I therefore assumed that, with full days available, I would get so much more writing done and at a quicker pace.

Wrong!

I have mastered the art of procrastination. I continually break from what I’m doing to:

  • Check my emails
  • Scroll through my social media feeds
  • Check my chart positions
  • See whether I have new reviews

The last two points are fair enough when it’s publication day or there’s a promotion on but it isn’t necessary several times every day outside that.

I don’t need to repeatedly check my emails and the scrolling through social media feeds is completely unnecessary, especially when the way I do it is so ineffective. I frequently find myself scrolling aimlessly, not resetting Facebook to ‘most recent’ so I am seeing posts I’ve already seen and I’m not interacting with any of them.

I dread to think how many hours I waste each day doing this. Yes, we are talking hours!

Linked to the above, I have absolutely no routine. I plonk myself down at my desk on a morning and am usually still there past 10pm. Argh! That’s not good.

When I had very little time to write, I used to just crack on with it. One hour to write? Okay, let’s do this!

Not so much now. With the whole day and week spread out before me, I don’t use it effectively. I spend ages staring into space. Sometimes I’m thinking about a plot point or piece of dialogue. Most of the time, I’m not. 

I get distracted doing little bits of research when I would previously have put ‘CHECK THIS’ in the middle of my manuscript (MS) and come back to it later to avoid disrupting my flow.

I used to use the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) approach of just getting the words on the page and editing them later but I’ve started editing as I go again or spending ages trying to think of the perfect words to use instead of getting the intention down on the page and perfecting the words later.

I think having so much time spread before me is the problem. At the back of my mind, I knew this could be an issue as a very good friend of mine had become a full-time author a couple of years earlier and she experienced the same issue. When you have very little time, you’re very focused with it. When you have loads of time, you waste it.

I need to be so much more focused with my writing time.

As you can probably guess from what I’ve said about how many hours I spend at my desk, I don’t have one of these. I can’t remember the last time I did.

Last summer, I wrote a week-long series of blog posts about imposter syndrome and it was quite a revelation for me pinpointing what had triggered mine. It went back to my early twenties and continued throughout my working life where I was bullied in the workplace and overlooked for promotion on several occasions.

We all know when we’re good at something or not (even though it’s very British to downplay our abilities) so I’m going to be very non-British and bold and declare that I was excellent at my job but I wasn’t good at playing the game. I didn’t network with the ‘right’ people. I didn’t ‘big myself up’ at work. I didn’t get involved in work politics. I didn’t stamp on others to get to where I wanted to be. I always hoped to progress on my own merits instead of because of who I knew. That strategy didn’t work! I therefore developed a workaholic approach, putting in way more effort and hours than were required in order to prove myself. And that approach became part of me and has never quite left me.

I find it very difficult to relax. I don’t like not being busy. I’m always doing something work-related and this isn’t good. This has exacerbated during the pandemic. Stuck at home? Might as well work then. So I did. Yet, as already stated, it hasn’t been time spent constructively.

Looking back, I have achieved a lot. In the year I’ve been a full-time author, I have:

  • Written three full-length novels, one of which required a complete re-write in edits
  • Completely re-written one of my backlist books as I wasn’t happy with the way it was written
  • Undertaken a full edit on another of my backlist

But I could have done more and … here’s the rub … in fewer hours if I hadn’t procrastinated, if I’d found a routine, and if I’d given myself a work life balance.

I think that the latter is one of the reasons why I procrastinate and don’t have a routine and it’s a vicious circle. I’m shattered because I don’t have any downtime so, when I do sit down at my desk, I can’t concentrate for long so I write a few hundred words and then get distracted. The words come more slowly because I’m tired but that means I need to sit at my desk longer to get the book written which means no work life balance which means I’m shattered so I procrastinate…

What can I do?

Only I can make the change. My husband challenged whether I should write fewer than four books a year to give me more time, but four books a year is absolutely do-able. The problem is that I don’t use the time effectively so it’s not the volume of work I need to change; it’s how I work.

I was fascinated by listening to a Facebook Live last week from fellow-Boldwood author Shari Low on the publication day of her latest novel, One Summer Sunrise. Shari talked about how quickly she writes her books and I was fascinated by it. She pretty much shuts herself off for a week or two and blitzes it. She doesn’t look at social media or go out. It’s a very intensive period with very long hours but the book gets written. Wow!

I wondered if she might put a huge amount of planning into it so that she knows exactly what she’s going to write but she’s a pantser, like me, just getting on with writing the idea she has. So this could work for me. If she’d planned first, that would be no good. I’m definitely not a planner with my writing.

I have started writing the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – and it’s going very slowly. This is partly because I have to do some research first and I’m struggling to find the detail I need so that’s holding me up, but it’s also because I’m procrastinating and because I have no routine. Next week isn’t a good week to try Shari’s approach as I am meeting up with my writing bestie, I have a hair appointment, and I have a cover reveal at the end of the week so need to be on social media. However, w/c 21st June is relatively clear in the diary so I’m going to come off social media for the week and see what happens if I try to blitz the book. Even if I could write half of it in a week, I’d be thrilled.

Every author is different and what works for one isn’t going to work for another but they say that the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I’ve been doing the same thing for the past year and it’s not effective so it’s time to experiment with something a little different. I’ll let you know how I get on.

I hope this approach does work for me as I love the idea of an intensive fortnight to write a book and then time to do other things and be with my family outside of that. Of course, the process of writing the book doesn’t stop at that fortnight. There are still two rounds of edits, copy edits and proofreading stages but I think something radical is needed to stop me from working all these crazy hours.

Wish me luck!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy Women’s (also read by men) Fiction Day 2021

Today is Women’s Fiction Day, a day set up two years ago by USA-based WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association) “to celebrate the authors, stories, readers, bookstores, and fans of the women’s fiction genre.” You can read more about them here.

When a reader sent me a lovely message earlier today wishing me Happy Women’s Fiction Day and thanking me for my stories, I was touched and delighted and nearly penned a blog post immediately to celebrate the day.

But then I didn’t.

And I wondered why I’d paused. I realised it was the label ‘women’s fiction’ that had stopped me.

I’m not the sort of person who gets precious about labels because I know I work in an industry that is rife with them. Two decades ago before I ever entertained the idea of being an author, I used the term ‘chick-lit’ for what I read. When I became an author many years later, there was a definite move away from this and many authors felt it was a derogatory term. I can see why but I’ve never felt upset by it, although it’s not a term I tend to use these days, much preferring ‘romcom’.

I sometimes say I write romance or contemporary romance. I more often use a tagline – stories of love, friendship, family and community – but I’ve never applied the term ‘women’s fiction’ to my work and I think that’s because I struggle with the suggestion that the stories I tell are only suitable for women. Because they’re not.

Before anyone shouts at their computer, I know that the term doesn’t mean that but, to me, it implies it.

I love how the WFWA describe women’s fiction and they have this amazing visual on their website. They also make the point that women’s fiction may or may not have a romance :

This is definitely what I write. Although there is always a romance in my books, it doesn’t always take centre stage. Even when the romance is a major plot point, the driver of the story is more about the journey the protagonist is going on and their emotional growth.

Despite reading – and agreeing with – all the above, I still struggle with using the term ‘women’s fiction’. I am certain that women make up the largest percentage of my readership and my social media following, reviews, and membership of my Facebook Readers Group would back this up, but I know for a fact that I have male readers. Some message me, some engage on social media and others make it clear they’re male in their reviews and I love that.

We don’t have a genre called men’s fiction so why do we have women’s fiction? What else would we call it though, especially if it doesn’t include a romance? Contemporary fiction is far too broad as anything set in modern times would fall into that. I don’t know what the answer is.

So I think I’ll create a new label for the purpose of this post called ‘Women’s fiction (also read by men)’ and leave it there for the moment.

To all the authors of this wonderful genre and all those who love to read it, sending my love and thanks.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Hedgehogs on the move

Last week I attended a webinar run through the Hedgehog Friendly Campuses at The University of Sheffield and Nottingham Trent University in conjunction with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

There were two presentations from students studying at Nottingham Trent and both were fascinating but I wanted to share a few points I picked up from the first one delivered by Lauren Moore.

Lauren’s studies were focusing on hedgehogs on roads, exploring the challenges they face and potential solutions to this. This involved monitoring movement of hedgehogs and also looking at where hedgehogs regrettably lost their lives on the roads.

I thought I’d share a few points that stood out to me about movement of hedgehogs. I was already aware that they covered a lot of ground in a night and that males covered more ground than females, but picked up a few more snippets from this session:

  • More male hedgehogs are killed on our roads because they travel further looking for food but also looking for mates in mating season (April/May)
  • In autumn, more female hedgehogs tend to be killed on roads than males because they are having to forage further to look for food and warm nesting materials after having their litter of autumn juveniles
  • July is sadly a high time of year for roadkill as juveniles leave their mums and fend for themselves, frequently crossing roads
  • As you’d probably expect, there are more deaths on quieter/regional roads because there are far more hedgehogs living in those more rural areas
  • 10pm-1am are the times when most hedgehog movement takes place
  • There’s a big problem with isolation caused by all the ongoing building of new houses. This places more and more roads across the green areas where hedgehogs roam reducing their geography. They get isolated within these areas resulting in a reduction in the genetic diversity in that area which is not good

This all seems very doom and gloom and the reduction in habitat is one of the primary causes of reduction in hedgehog numbers.

What can we do to help?

The big thing the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) advocate is getting involved in their amazing Hedgehog Street initiative. You can find information about this on their website here.

There’s loads of great information on the website but one thing they’re eager to get the public involved in is the building of the Hedgehog Map. Whether you see a hedgehog in your garden or your neighbourhood or whether you find one that has been killed, they would like to hear from you.

Building up a map of where there are active hedgehogs and where the main danger spots are can massively help in initiatives around their survival.

You can also become a member of BHPS for a small annual sum (or lifetime membership) and there’s a form on their website found here.

If you’re based in the UK, maybe this bank holiday weekend you could check to see whether hedgehogs can pass between your house and your neighbours’ or perhaps even create a feeding station in your garden. I’ve got a quick reminder of what to feed them below. And remember they need fresh water but not milk as they’re lactose intolerant and it can make them very ill and even kill them.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Wishing you a happy notebook day!

Did you know it’s notebook day today – 20th May 2021? Nope, me neither, but a lovely reader/reviewer, Sue, posted on social media about it. Thanks, Sue.

Like so many authors, I’m a bit stationery obsessed. Let’s face it, you don’t need to be an author to have that obsession at all and I’ve been a huge fan of all things stationery-related from a very young age. I get excited looking at a packet of felt-tip pens/highlighters/Sharpies/Stabilo fine points laid out in in a stunning colour transition format. Oh my goodness, I’ve gone to my happy place just thinking about it!

My absolute favourite of favourites is notebooks so I’m thrilled to discover there is a day to celebrate them. Apparently this year is the sixth annual special day. How have I missed this?

So, in celebration of notebook day 2021, I thought I’d share some photos of my collection. It is a hideously dark day and bucketing it down where I am so I apologise if the photos are a little more dull than I might have liked. Hope the fabulousness is still clear.

I’ve written a few bits to bring the collection to life but I completely understand if you just want to scroll through the pics and gaze at their loveliness!

Let’s start by seeing the collection… or the largest part of it. I used to have these on my bookshelves but they were taking up such a huge amount of space that I put them in a crate. The ones leaning at the front all live in the crate but I needed to take them out to get the full effect. If I’ve counted correctly, there are 45 living there!

I use a notebook for each book I’m working on. I develop mind maps for each of my characters which capture details about their appearance, job, family, age, motivations and so on. I add in information about the timeline/critical dates, work through problems, and scribble down research.

They’re mainly A5 sized as that sits nicely in a plastic wallet for each book along various other documents I create as part of my process and I don’t need more space than that for the information I include.

Many have been gifts but most have been ones I’ve bought for myself because there’s something on the front cover which is relevant for a future project or simply because they were gorgeous. And, of course, there are bargains I have picked up in a sale and couldn’t resist at the reduced rate!

I absolutely adore hand-stitched journals. Paperchase carry a stunning range of these and they’re gorgeous for gifts (to myself!!!) Aren’t these just stunning? There isn’t a Paperchase in Scarborough so I have to wait until I visit York to explore. I can, of course, order them online, but I do like to stroke the books with texture.

I’ve been attracted to other notebooks simply because they’re beautiful. I am not a huge fan of ‘boring insides’ i.e. pages that are just white lined or plain paper. I like colour and/or an image. So much more inspiring. The ones in my crate that do have a ‘boring’ inside tend to be the ones I keep rejecting (sorry notebooks).

The ‘Agenda’ one was a Sainsbury’s one. From time to time, they carry lovely ranges of stationery. Not sure about the middle one – maybe Paperchase – and the flowery one is Cath Kidston and the pages are coloured and flowery. Gorgeous.

The one below is a bit bigger than my usual size but isn’t it so pretty? I know it’s only stripes but there’s something about that colour combination that is so beautiful. I bought it in TK Maxx. I’ll be honest. Not my favourite shop for clothes – I don’t have the patience to rummage – but I love the home section and particularly love their stationery. Every so often, I’ll find something gorgeous.

I love the journal-style notebooks. I think these may all have been gifts. The central one definitely was; a gorgeous gift from the hubby. I love the old-fashioned feel from he soft leather and the strap. Mmmm.

Some of my notepads are bought for the cute factor. These ones, for example, are for stroking. I bought the bear for myself and the other two were for my daughter but she never used them and put them on a clear-out pile … so I snaffled them! The fluffy ears may not be the most practical when it comes to writing on the left-sided page but awwww, soooo cute!

I think the ones with ears might have been Clintons and the panda is Paperchase.

I have an eclectic mix of other cute ones. The bottom left two in the picture below were also snaffled from the daughter’s clear-out pile (I think I might have been guilty in attempting to pass on my notebook obsession over Christmases past!)

I don’t know where the top left one is from but it’s a Hallmark one so I’m thinking maybe Clintons too, and Boofle is a Clinton’s bundle of loveliness. Hadn’t realised quite how much Clintons stationery I have! I salute you, Clintons!

The top right one is a range from a Dutch company called Paperclip International which I used to stock when I had my teddy bear shop in 2003-05. I stocked a good range of Paperclip cards, love and friendship postcards (used to sell a stack of those), keyrings and stationery items, and they were really popular. The main characters were the bear and his friend a giraffe although the greetings cards and postcards included a range of other animals such as sheep and pigs. I’ve just looked on their website as I can’t remember what the little bear was called, but they don’t make the range anymore and I got bored after ten minutes of Googling and finding pictures of paperclips instead of the company.

The bottom right is another Clintons one from a collection called Herbie and Friends they had in a few years back. I loved that collection so much but I’m not sure it really took off as I managed to pick up a lot of items on sale the following year, including a soft polar bear (and a bear in the same range for the munchkin), a bag, and several stationery items.

Some notebooks were chosen for nostalgic reasons. I have a feeling the Mickey Mouse and Moomin ones were Sainsbury’s. Holly Hobbie was Clintons. I’m not such a fan of the Mickey Mouse one (sorry Mickey) as, up close, the image looks a tiny bit blurred and that messes with my eyes! I think I might have had an impulsive sale purchase there but I love the other two.

I adore Winnie the Pooh. As a child, I really wasn’t familiar with the work of A A Milne but I fell in love with the characters as an older teen and adult. I stocked traditional characters in my shop and a big range of traditional and colourful Pooh stationery. The notebooks below were not from my shop, though.

I absolutely love Eeyore’s smile on the bottom right one and the phrase: “Some days just don’t let you stay grumpy”. Awww. I have a feeling the top two were Sainsbury’s.

I was a Brown Owl for 7.5 years between 2010-2017 and absolutely loved running a Brownie Pack. Owls were therefore an obvious theme for notepads. A couple were gifts from the Brownies but most were gifts from me to me. I absolutely love the special middle one which was given to me when I stepped down from my perch from a pair of lovely sisters who came to my pack. Isn’t that the most adorable?

The top right one is a Lucy Pittaway design. If anyone has read the acknowledgements in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café, you’ll know that Lucy’s amazing artwork inspired part of that story.

Hedgehogs, of course, do feature. The bottom right one is another gorgeous Lucy Pittaway from a friend of mine, the top right is from my mum from The Works which she sent me during the first lockdown and felt particularly appropriate.

The big one is my work in progress notebook for the Hedgehog Hollow series. It’s from the Wrendale Designs range which I adore. I started writing Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow using an A5 notebook from the same range but, when I realised I had my series on my hands, I super-sized with an A4 one.

I’m also drawn to notebooks with phrases or sayings on them. I have some lovely ones from TK Maxx saying things like “if you want to write…write” but they’re in small lettering on the cover and it didn’t come out very well on camera.

I love the phrase on the pink one (another TK Maxx one). It felt so applicable to my journey to becoming an author. Ask a group of authors what phrase they often hear when they tell someone they’re an author and I can guarantee most will say this: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! None of us had time. Not one iota. But we were the girl (or boy) who decided to go for it. We had a dream and it would never come true if we didn’t do something about it so we created time and went for it.

The purple notepad is one of my absolute favourites for three reasons:

  1. It’s purple
  2. The quote – it’s amazing
  3. What the notepad represents

In 2002-03, I made a major change to my life. I’d ended a bad relationship in 2002 and our house was on the market. A friend gave me a gift voucher for a telephone clairvoyant. Not my thing really but I was at a career crossroads, wondering whether to leave a well-paid job to move back to the north and open a teddy bear shop or to stay put and buy a house on my own in Reading. So I made the call which changed my life. The clairvoyant told me I was going to move home and set up the shop and, not long after doing that, I’d meet the man of my dreams who’d be called Steven.

Is this sounding a little bit familiar? If you’ve read New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, you’ll recognise this as the premise for the story. I didn’t find Steven when I set up the shop but, from that clairvoyant call, I did find the premise for my debut novel. When I opened Bear’s Pad in 2003, that’s when I started to write. Having the shop also provided the inspiration for All You Need is Love which is partially set in a specialist teddy bear shop.

In New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, the main character Sarah comes across lots of different Stevens when she takes over her auntie’s florist’s and that was all inspired by my real life experiences when opening Bear’s Pad. You know that red notebook with the little yellow bear from earlier? The rep for Paperclip was called Stephen. I’d made enquiries with the company to stock their products and someone rang me to say a rep was in the area and did I want him to call round. I had such a shock when she gave me his name! Cue me rushing around in a panic because I had no make-up on, my hair was a mess and I was in casual clothes as I’d been cleaning and painting!

Anyway, I said the purple notebook was particularly special for what it represents. When I was getting ready to leave Reading and move home, a good friend of mine came to stay with me and she presented me with the notebook with best wishes for the new chapter of my life. She knew my premise for my debut book and the quote (which I’ve put in a bigger picture below) couldn’t be more appropriate. And I did become what I imagined!

I have a drawer full of small A6-sized notebooks and another drawer full of even smaller ones (not shown) and usually pop one of those in my handbag when I’m out and about as you never know when inspiration might hit. Yes, I know I can use the Notes app on my phone but a phone isn’t stationery and doesn’t get me excited!

And I have another drawer of A4 notebooks. I have future plans for a series set on a farm so I bought the highland cow in anticipation of that. It’s from the same series as the hedgehog one – Wrendale Designs – and I love it lots.

I’ve a bit of an obsession with desk jotters too. Spot the Herbie and Friends one, picked up in the sale…

And, finally, I have a drawer full of unicorn ones as I have a plan for a future project involving them but goodness knows whether I’ll ever find the time to write it. Still, the stationery is ready for if and when I do!

So on notebook day, I think we can safely say I have a notebook obsession! I’m trying to be good. When I’m writing a new book, I do try to select one from the collection rather then buy a new one but it’s hard when they’re not quite right! Some of the ones in the collection have specifically been bought for future projects although I did recently purchase one for a future project, went to put it in the crate, and realised I already had two with that particular theme on them. Oops!

Are you a notebook fan? Do you have a crazy large collection like me? What draws you to them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

A fabulous fortnight for the hedgehogs and a heartfelt thank you for your kindness

Two weeks ago today, it was publication day for the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – and I am so in awe of how much readers have taken the hedgehogs to their hearts and wanted to convey my heartfelt thanks.

When I had the idea to set a book in a hedgehog rescue centre, I was only thinking of writing a standalone book but, as is often the case when I’m writing, the setting and the characters burst into life and had so much more to offer than one story. And the hedgehogs had me too. The more I learned about them, the more I wanted to write about them. Just gorgeous. (Photo credit for top photo: Sarah Howell).

It’s quite scary not only committing to writing a sequel but to working on it before knowing whether readers like the first book. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was released on 2nd July 2020 and, at that point, all of my books had been set in the fictional seaside town of Whitsborough Bay. I was worried that readers might not like the change of setting and not want to take a trip to Hedgehog Hollow. It never even entered my head that a whole new group of lovely readers might be attracted because of the mention of hedgehogs and would discover my writing through this series instead.

I’d almost finished writing New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow when the first book in the series was released and it was such a huge relief that readers responded really positively.

But when New Arrivals was released in January this year, the fear set in again. Would readers love book 2 as much as book 1? I was particularly nervous about this because my confidence had been knocked by two particularly negative reviews from readers who’d received an advanced reader copy (ARC). I have always been open and honest about the writing process and the highs and lows I’ve experienced along the way so I shared this negative feedback in my acknowledgements at the back of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow:

“…The first few reviews were gorgeous, but then two came in together that stopped me in my tracks. Both reviewers declared that it had been a big mistake turning the first book into a series and one called book two ‘cringeworthy’ with ‘nothing to add, just padding’ before concluding that she was ‘very disappointed’. Wow! How was I supposed to continue writing a third book when I’d read something like that? The answer is, I couldn’t. I was creatively paralysed for days. I’d pitched the idea to my editor for a fourth book by that point but was now questioning whether I should even finish writing the third one. Yes, I’ll admit it, those reviews made me cry.”

I always read the acknowledgements but I’m conscious I do this with my author head on, curious about the journey the author has been on, where they got their idea (if they share that detail) and getting to know them a bit better. I have often wondered whether readers look at them.

Some certainly do because I have received so many gorgeous messages from readers and have read reviews which specifically address what I put in my acknowledgements. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness, asking me to never let the negativity get to me as those readers love my work and don’t ever want me to stop writing! I appreciate all of the lovely comments I’ve received so very much. In a world where you can be anything… be kind. And those readers absolutely have been and it has been so touching.

While I know and understand that there will always be readers who don’t like what I write – we all like different things after all – I suffer quite badly from imposter syndrome and comments like this really play to my insecurities. I continue to work hard on this and, with every kind message and review, I’m finding it easy to mute the voice that says, ‘You have no right to be here, your recent success is a fluke, you’re not good enough, and you’ve just been found out!’ Gosh, I hate that voice!

Me when Imposter Syndrome attacks!

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow went up as an ARC earlier this year and, funnily enough, the same two reviewers I’d referred to in my acknowledgements came back for more, despite having hated book two. They both gave me a 4-star rating this time although they still choose to have a dig about book 2: ‘I love all of this author’s work. Wasn’t a fan of book 2 in this series but this book certainly makes up for it. Absolutely gripping!’ and ‘I will literally read anything by this author. Book 2 of this series was a bit of a let down and after the first couple of chapters of this book I wasn’t holding out much hope. BUT things then began to come good and I suddenly found it was 1am and I really needed to sleep but couldn’t until it was finished!’ Perhaps a bit of a backhanded compliment, praising book 3 while still criticising book 2 but I’ll take it and keep focusing on the lovely parts!

I did get some negative ARCs from readers who struggled to get into the story but they mainly seemed to be from those who hadn’t read the first two books. The blurb did make it clear it was the third book in a series and readers would have a richer reading experience starting at the beginning so I wasn’t too concerned by those.

Overall, I didn’t get as positive a reaction from the book 3 ARCs as I’d received for the first two books so I approached publication day for Family Secrets with some trepidation once more. Especially as I knew how much one of the main characters, Chloe, was not a fan favourite.

I have, however, been blown away by the response since release date.

Not only did this book gather the most pre-orders I’ve had on any other book – something which helped place me in a chart in industry specialist publication, The Bookseller (see above), for the first time ever – but the hedgehogs and I have received more than 800 reviews/ratings in just two weeks. With 83% of those at 5-star and a 4.8 star average, it is also my joint-best reviews score on Amazon (tied with Charlee and the Chocolate Shop whose reviews have been transferred onto the fresh version coming out in August under the new title of Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop). Absolutely thrilled with this!

At this rate of reviews, I think we could well be at 1,000 within a month of release but… ssshhh… I didn’t say that as I don’t want to jinx it!

Speaking of milestones, New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow has passed a massive 2,000 reviews/ratings milestone recently and the hedgehogs are holding big celebrations. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow just needs 130 at the time of writing to hit that milestone too.

As well as the lovely comments about the story and my writing that I see in reviews, something that absolutely makes my day is when a reader comments on what they’ve learned about helping hedgehogs. I’ve had readers going out and checking their gardens to make sure they’re accessible for hogs, setting up feeding stations, leaving out food and water, and even volunteering at a local rescue centre on the back of reading my books. Wow! How amazing and humbling is that?

Since publication day, the third instalment of Hedgehog Hollow has held fast in the Kindle Top 100 to which is absolutely amazing so thank you to everyone who pre-ordered or and downloaded across the past fortnight.

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is now finally out on Audible as of today so thank you to all those who have been patiently waiting for that. Woo hoo!

It also appears to be properly available as a paperback via Amazon although it’s showing a UK price of £9.99. The RRP is £8.99 which is showing on the Waterstones website and you can ask at any good book shop and they’ll be able to order it in for £8.99. Or if you want a signed copy, get in touch with me via DM on any of my social media platforms. It’s £12.99 including UK p&p for any one book but I’m offering signed copies of the series so far for £35 including UK p&p.

Thank you again for all the hedgehog love. Have an amazing week.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx


		

Some hedgehog-tastic dos and don’ts as Hedgehog Week ends

I posted some true and false graphics about hedgehogs earlier and promised a dos and don’ts post would follow. I then got completely distracted by the number of reviews on Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow followed by a takeaway and a night in front of the TV and forgot to do the second post. Oops!

So, a bit later than planned, here we go. We can all make a difference around our homes without spending much to help increase the hedgehog population and stop them being vulnerable to extinction…

Hope you find these helpful. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Some hedgehog-tastic facts as Hedgehog Awareness Week ends

It’s the last day of Hedgehog Awareness Week or #hedgehogweek in the UK today and what a special week it has been!

There’ve been some fabulous videos and competitions over on the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s Facebook Page and readers have been in touch telling me about guest appearances from patrons/experts/rescue volunteers on a variety of TV programmes from their local news to The One Show to Good Morning Britain!

For me personally, this week has seen the released of the third instalment of the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – and I’ve been thrilled at the speed of the reviews coming in as readers join their old friends for more love, friendship, family, drama and, of course, hedgehog gorgeousness.

When the first book in the series came out, I pulled together some true or false statements about hedgehogs so I’m sharing these here again now for anyone who might have missed the original post or who’d like a refresher. I also have some dos and don’ts I’ll share later today.

Hope you enjoyed the hedgehog facts and that you perhaps learned something new.

Have a fabulous day and I’ll return later with some dos and don’ts.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx