Happy New Year and a warm welcome to 2021

Has 2020 gone? Can someone triple check?

If you read my 2020 round-up post yesterday, you’ll know that I’ve had mixed feelings about saying goodbye to 2020. For me, it was the most wonderful and astonishing year so far in my writing career. I fulfilled long-held dreams and achieved so many goals, including some that weren’t even on my writing bucket list because I never, ever expected to achieve them. 

But, for so many other reasons, 2020 was pants wasn’t it?

Anyway, it’s behind us now. Welcome to 2021 and a new colour for the blog (previously pale blue). This year sees the start of my first full year as a full-time author and I have plans.

Brand New Releases

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – the second book in my Hedgehog Hollow series – is out on Thursday 7th January and is available on Kindle here. Advanced reviews are mainly positive so hopefully the blog tour will go well. 

I’ll try to ignore the two reviewers who were “very disappointed” with it and left feedback that I shouldn’t have extended this into a series, particularly the one who said she’d loved my previous books but “this one was cringeworthy and had nothing to add, just padding”. Ouch! Thankfully there were plenty who loved it and can’t wait for the third instalment. Phew!

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – book 3 – is out on 4th May and will be up for pre-order as soon as the cover is ready.

Ooh, is that the first time you’ve heard that title mentioned? Fabulous isn’t it? I’ve been a little vague about the name until now, tending to refer to it as ‘book 3’. We were going to call it Life Begins at Hedgehog Hollow which you may have heard me mention in interviews. It felt like a good title for the end of a series. However, book 3 is no longer the end so it wasn’t as appropriate. 

My editor, Nia, came up with ‘Family Secrets’ and I absolutely love it. It’s possible that ‘Life Begins’ will be used for book 4, or we may come up with something else. It won’t be out until January 2022 so there’s still time to decide.

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is written and I’m working on my edits now but I won’t write book 4 until later this year.

Re-releases

The final two books in my back-catalogue acquired by Boldwood as part of my original publishing deal will come out this year:

All You Need Is Love is available for pre-order now (click here) and will be out on 11th March. This was previously available under the title Bear With Me. The original version was only ever available as a Kindle eBook and was taken down from sale just before Christmas. I wrote a blog post about what the changes involve which you can find here.

Charlee and the Chocolate Shop will be re-released in August. I haven’t had edits through for this story yet but I don’t anticipate any major changes. It could be that additional chapters are added in, like with my other two Christmas stories, but the fundamental story and main characters won’t change. I don’t know whether there’ll be a new title or not but watch this space for as and when I have news.

My Writing Plans

I’ll have my edits finished on Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow within a week and may or may not have a second round of edits before it goes through the copy editing and proofreading processes.

Then I get cracking on a brand new book, which I’m really excited about, especially as it’s a return to Whitsborough Bay. This will be my first release from my second Boldwood publishing deal and will be my Christmas release (out in September 2021).

Although it’s a brand new book for readers, it’s not completely new to me. I’ll be returning to a story I started but abandoned three years ago. I wanted to release a Christmas novella in 2017. I had the idea, the setting, the main character and even did a stack of research. As soon as I started writing it and my male main character arrived on the scene, I realised it was definitely not a novella. It needed to be a dual perspective full-length novel so I parked it after 10k words. I absolutely love the story and it has been nudging at me all that time so I can’t wait to return to it.

After that, I’ll be back to Hedgehog Hollow for the fourth (and final???) instalment.

I had originally talked with my editor about a new series for 2022 – which I’d start writing this year – but I’ve thrown a spanner in the works with my fourth Hedgehog Hollow book so I’m not sure whether I’ll still be starting work on that new series this year (for a spring 2022 release) or working on some of my standalone ideas with a view to the series being out in 2023 instead. 

I also want to return to The Chocolate Pot at some point soon. It’s been lovely seeing reviews and comments on social media hoping for a follow-up. I have mixed opinions on exactly how I want this to work. For those asking about Zoe, who appears at the end of Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café, we will find out what happens to her. I have big plans for her which will ultimately impact on another business in Castle Street. I haven’t decided yet how I want that to work and whether that business will come into play in the Starry Skies follow-up or as a third book further down the line. Hmm. Decisions decisions!

Writing-Related Plans, Hopes & Dreams

I’m hoping to set up a reader’s group on my Facebook page but want to think some more about how I best do this in a way that engages with my readers who are keen to know more about Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow without me taking too much focus away from novel-writing. It’s a delicate balance.

I’m also working on some writing tips and plan to share these on my blog and You Tube simultaneously. To ensure regularity of posts, I want to have most of these prepared pre-launch so I’ve written the first few blog posts this week.

Other hopes and dreams include:

  • At least one more book in The Works. I have been spoilt by having three in the space of six months last year so I’m kind of hoping for more than one
  • Appearing on the Books by the Beach Festival programme (Scarborough’s literary festival in June). I keep pestering the poor organiser and hoping!
  • A UK Kindle Top 10. Not hopeful of this one but you’ve got to have dreams!
  • Foreign rights for any of my books
  • A film or TV deal. Come on, Netflix! Christmas on Castle Street? Hedgehog Hollow? Gorgeous!!!!
  • Not letting imposter syndrome spoil my enjoyment of achieving my dream to become a full-time author
  • Not letting negative reviews upset me. I thankfully don’t get many but those I do get can knock me back for days and I shouldn’t let them
  • Getting more of a work:life balance and accepting I don’t need to work evenings and weekends
  • Reading more and not feeling guilty if I spend a day reading instead of writing

And other hopes and dreams…

Personally, I’m looking forward to a return to some form of normality and being able to see friends and family again. Roll on vaccination time!

I have developed a very bad case of lockdown-lard-arse which I absolutely must address. I start every New Year saying I’m going to lose weight and get fit to the point where it has become a standing joke because I know I have no intention of putting in the effort. A distinct lack of movement in 2020 alongside some understandable comfort eating has definitely exacerbated an already large problem. I’m not a vain person and my size doesn’t bother me that much because I’m used to it, but the potential impact on my health does bother me and 2020 was scary, knowing that my food demons had made me more susceptible to the virus. I turn 50 next year and I don’t want to be fifty and fat.

I have tickets booked for a number of gigs at our local outdoor concert venue – Scarborough Outdoor Theatre – across the summer and hope all will go ahead. Our tickets for Six at Leeds Grand Theatre were rescheduled for July so hopefully that will go ahead too but Sister Act has been completely cancelled. I’m just praying our poor theatres will have survived a horrendous year for many of The Arts. Still can’t get my head around why it was okay to fill aeroplanes but not theatres when restrictions were lifted in the summer but let’s not go there!

What are your plans for 2021? Hope it treats you more kindly than 2020 has.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I wish my followers a Happy Christmas

Let’s face it, Christmas 2020 isn’t going to pan out the way any of us had planned (or re-planned) so saying “Happy Christmas” does feel a little strange, but I do absolutely wish it for everyone and hope you can still enjoy the day with family and/or friends, even if that means in smaller numbers or virtually.

A meme has been doing the rounds on social media this week showing soldiers in trenches on Christmas Day 1914. It’s a sobering image and, in my opinion, a valuable reminder that it may have been a really tough year compared to what we are used to but we do have so much to be thankful for…

And, scary news about virus mutations rapidly spreading aside, let’s look forward to next year with vaccinations and hopefully some sort of return to normality (albeit a new normality) so I also wish you a Happy New Year and THANK YOU so much for making so many writing dreams come true this year by choosing my stories and writing such gorgeous reviews…

Sending much love and strength to those who have lost someone this year (Covid-related or otherwise), have lost their job, had financial struggles, been lonely, been ill or any number of challenges faced during the strangest of years.

And sending particular best wishes to my own family who have lost three loved ones this year, two of whom were taken far too young and one as recently as Saturday. RIP to my brother-in-law Richard, my cousin Gary and my brother-in-law’s mother Mary. My thoughts with their families as they come to terms with their tragic losses. As I light my candles on Christmas Day, I’ll be thinking of you all.

Big hugs and positive Christmas wishes

Jessica xx