A visit from North Yorkshire to North Yorkshire

The hubby and I have just returned from a lovely few days away and we never even left our home county of North Yorkshire. It’s such a huge area that, if you live at the edges, you can travel over two hours and still be in the same county! The reason for a few days away was that our daughter is having a summer break staying with my parents and hubby suggested that, instead of dropping her off and driving back home, we could make a mini-break of it. We even arranged for Ella, our sprocker spaniel, to go to hubby’s parents’ for a couple of days so we’d have no restrictions on where we could go.

We were hoping to stay in Richmond which is where I had my teddy bear shop many years ago and hubby searched for a nice hotel or B&B figuring we could have a couple of drinks and a meal in the town on the evening. No chance. Even though we decided on this about six or maybe even eight weeks ago, we’d left it far too late and the only rooms available were extortionate prices like £500 for two nights. Eek! So we ended up at the Premier Inn in nearby Catterick Garrison which is on a retail park close to the army barracks. Yep. Not exactly a romantic location but at least it was a chance to get away and you can always rely on a Premier Inn.

We dropped the munchkin off at lunchtime on Wednesday and headed to the market town of Leyburn. It was heaving and it took a few circuits before we finally found somewhere to park but we had a delicious meal in the beer garden of The Bolton Arms at the top of town, watching the world go by, followed by a wander around the gift shops. It was a shame to see one of my favourite shops had closed down. I wondered if that was as a result of lockdown or from before. I do remember my mum mentioning it to me but can’t for the life of me remember how recently we had that conversation. The concept of time seems very fluid at the moment! A couple of other shops were closed. A notice on one said this was due to a funeral and we didn’t wander down to the other as we could clearly see it was in darkness. Maybe for the same reason? I do like to treat myself to a little something while away and I found this gorgeous Steiff hoglet called Joggi in another gift shop, although hubby bought me a Steiff hedgehog for Christmas who is also called Joggi. I wondered if that meant anything in German but Google translate says not. I have, however, discovered that a hedgehog in German is called an ‘igel’ and a hoglet (baby hedgehog) is a ‘babyigel’. Awww!

We moved onto Masham from there but caught it just as the final market stalls were packing away. I remembered there being several nice gift shops last time we visited and could only see one this time. There were still Covid restrictions on social distancing and a queue to get in so we wandered round intending to return … and forgot!

Checking in at the Premier Inn a little later, we were advised that there was no TV reception in the room thanks to the recent fire at the Bilsdale mast TV transmitter affecting TVs in the Yorkshire Dales, northern parts of North Yorkshire and Teesside. Hubby had intentionally left all tech behind and kicked himself for this as it meant we couldn’t relax in front of the TV but we weren’t in a location with lovely pubs to walk to and we didn’t really fancy driving anywhere after so much driving already that day. So we sat in the hotel room watching old episodes of Gogglebox on his phone. We so know how to party!

On Thursday, we went into Richmond. It wasn’t forecast to rain but it rained while we visited Richmond Castle, although not too heavily or for too long and we were prepared with waterproofs. Please therefore forgive the very dull-looking photos!

As I said earlier, I used to have a teddy bear shop in Richmond on the top corner of Finkle Street. This has been the Lucy Pittaway Gallery for several years now and I absolutely adore Lucy’s artwork. If you haven’t discovered it before, do check out her website here. I already have more of her amazing prints than we have space for but there’s always room for another notebook in the collection! I had to pose outside – just like I’d done when it was my shop – and also take a photo of one of her gorgeous hedgehog prints in the window. Lucy’s prints are the inspiration behind one of the storylines in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe.

We had a wander round some more of the shops and I loved spotting this sign on the back of a car down a side street and this wall art on the side of a building.

There’s a fabulous circular walk from The Station – the former train station which is converted into a cinema, cafe, arts/gifts centre – via Easby Abbey so we set off on that walk on the afternoon. We hadn’t gone very far when I recognised a group of people heading towards us. My cousin, her husband, younger son and their dog were coming to the end of the circular walk, having completed the loop the other way to us. How spooky is that? They don’t live in Richmond. It’s about 40 mins away for them so what an amazing coincidence and lovely to catch up with them.

We continued on our walk and I put my new FitBit to the test, racking up nearly 22k steps across the day which isn’t too shabby as a starting point. It’s not going to be happy with me today as, back home, I’m lucky if I’ll manage 500! Ssh, don’t tell it! And as it’s on my desk and not my wrist, it won’t even register any of them!

The walk was lovely, through trees, alongside the river and past Easby Abbey which is an English Heritage site with free access. We did the walk once before several years ago when we were camping in the area with hubby’s sisters but I don’t think we must have explored much of the abbey as I definitely didn’t remember it being quite so big.

Back to my 22k steps, I haven’t walked anything resembling that far since pre-lockdown and had actually only left the house on a dozen or so occasions since March 2020 so being out and about for me was a pretty big thing and it completely wiped me out being in the fresh air for a full day. It was so good to be out, though.

Even though we’d have loved a relax in front of the TV that evening, resting our feet after the walk, the mast problem prevented that. We returned to the retail park, grabbed a quick drink in one of the chain pubs there, then I had a relaxing bath before going out to the cinema 2 minutes’ walk from the hotel to see The Last Letter From Your Lover. Hubby hadn’t been too keen as it looked more like my sort of film from the trailer but he enjoyed it and I loved it. I’ve read a few of JoJo Moyes’s books but not that particular one. An added bonus was that we had the cinema – Empire Cinemas – completely to ourselves and could upgrade to recliner chairs which were amazing. I say upgrade but it was only £3.99 each in the first place so £5.99 each seemed a very reasonable price.

On Sunday morning, I met a friend for a hot chocolate in The Station while hubby went for a walk with his camera and then we headed to Fountain’s Abbey. We knew it would be busy but we must have timed it horrendously wrong by arriving around lunchtime. The queue for the cafe stretched across the courtyard in one direction and the queue for tickets to get in stretched the entire width in the other direction. So we left. I know, I know, that’s super impatient but we just couldn’t face standing for maybe an hour queuing after a long walk the day before.

Newby Hall isn’t too far away so we drove there instead and the thankfully wasn’t a queue to get in although it was pretty expensive to get in. It’s a lovely place, the gardens are gorgeous, and there’s loads for kids to do but be warned that the child entry fee is not a lot less than the adult fee (the family of 4 in front of us paid a whopping £62 to get in) and there are additional fees required for the train and boat trips once inside. And you’re going to buy food, drinks, ice creams too. Definitely somewhere you need to spend a full day to get your money’s worth.

I had the most delicious warm scones with jam clotted cream for my lunch although we had to move tables twice, eventually retreating indoors, as the wasps were out and after the jam! Ooh, I hate them so much.

I’d been hoping that The Bear House might have had some new displays – perhaps a project someone might have undertaken during lockdown – but they were the same as when we visited a couple of years ago. Disappointingly, quite a few bears had fallen over at some point, especially in the picnic scene. There’s meant to be a bear on a wooden swing but the wooden plank had slipped out and the bear had tumbled into the others so it looked a little unloved in there, poor bears.

I had to take a picture of Barbara Cartland’s bear. The plaque accompanying him states: “This very special German bear was given to Barbara Cartland, the romance novelist, in 1904 when she was three years old. When Dame Barbara gave him to Gyles Brandreth [whose enormous collection of bears is partly housed in The Bear House] she explained that she had adorned him with the fabulous jewels, and named him The Prince of Love’ because she had discovered that he believed himself to be an Indian Prince”. How fabulous is that?

The traffic was grim all the way home – one of the challenges of heading to the coast (albeit back home for us) among holiday-makers coming for the weekend or the week – and it took us about 2.5 hours to get back from Newby Hall. For context, this is a 60 mile journey! Eek! So we were pretty shattered by the time we got back.

Despite quite a few hitches to our plans, it was lovely to be away, especially when I finished writing A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow the day before I left so it came after a big milestone. My mind definitely needed the rest! It was good for me to be out and about and doing some exercise after pretty much hibernating for the past 18 months. Already looking forward to my next trip.

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


		

The hedgehogs have just done something unexpected

I like to keep an eye on my reviews. It’s lovely to read kind comments and I like to celebrate milestones like reaching 500 or 1,000 reviews although I still remain astonished that my books have received those sorts of volumes.

This evening, something unexpected happened with the hedgehogs. I’d seen the potential for it happening over the past couple of weeks but wondered if it really would. And it has.

The first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – has been really popular and has gathered an amazing number of reviews/ratings (nearly 1,400 now). It was released in July last year. The second book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – has blown me away. Released in January this year, it had already received a whopping 1,000 reviews/ratings on its 2-month anniversary.

And now that second set of hedgehogs have done something else unexpected by overtaking the first set of hedgehogs with their number of reviews.

I’d wondered if this might happen because New Arrivals seemed to be gathering reviews so much quicker than Finding Love. This evening, I noticed there were only 2 reviews in it…

Then only 1…

And then New Arrivals edged ahead!

I hadn’t expected the second book in the series to sell quicker and have more reviews than the first and this certainly isn’t my experience with the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series where book 1, Making Wishes at Bay View, has the most reviews/ratings out of the four. But the hedgehogs have achieved it.

I find myself wondering why this is the case. It’s doesn’t appear be because readers love New Arrivals more than Finding Love because they both have a 4.7 rating average and the percentage difference is negligible. All I can think is that more readers have dipped in at book 2 and the ‘story so far’ recap at the start has given them sufficient detail about the back story that they haven’t felt the need to go back to the start.

If you can think of another reason why this might have happened, I’d love to hear it!

Well done hedgehogs! If anyone hasn’t yet checked out the series, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is still in Prime Reading and both books are 99p but that price won’t last.

Despite the recap in book 2, I do urge readers to start at the beginning as the actions/reactions of the characters in book 2 make so much more sense after meeting them in book 1. Book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – is out on 4th May and available for pre-order now and I definitely wouldn’t recommend that readers dive straight in with that book because they miss out on so much if they do.

Thank you to everyone who has bought/borrowed these books and shared the love. Another month and they should be both past 1,500 reviews. Eek!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where Christmas was different but hubby excelled himself

How was Christmas? Quieter than usual? Virtual hugs rather than face to face ones? Perhaps you were planning to go away and couldn’t. Or maybe it was your first Christmas without a loved one or a family pet. Sending love if it was.

It was our first Christmas without our beloved cat, Felix, who we lost in January. His absence was certainly felt over Christmas dinner when he’d normally have been up on his hind legs against my chair demanding turkey. I’ve rounded up a few pictures of him at previous Christmases. He wasn’t impressed with his Christmas hat and ended up wearing it as a beard! He loved to lie under the tree or with the Christmas bears. Bottom right is hunting out Christmas dinner with his sister and partner-in-crime, Pixie, who crossed the rainbow bridge several years earlier.

Aside from a Felix-shaped hole, our actual Christmas Day was no different (other than being the first year the munchkin didn’t believe in Santa – sob!) as it’s usually just the three of us first thing then a visit from hubby’s parents who live in the next village either from lunchtime (they’d normally rotate round their three children) or from late afternoon. This year, they were in our Christmas bubble, joined us for a lunchtime Christmas dinner and stayed into the evening.

What was significantly different for us this year was not seeing anyone else either side of the big day. We would normally see hubby’s sisters at some point around New Year – often a full family get together at one of their houses where the munchkin loves to see her four big boy cousins (all in their mid-late twenties now) – but we can’t do that. And we’d normally see my side of the family twice and we couldn’t do that either. They’re not too far away but they aren’t local like hubby’s family.

I have two brothers and they’re both married with two girls each so we’d typically drive across to the nearest town to my parents about a week before Christmas and the men would go on a pub crawl while my mum, my sisters-in-law and the five girls (this year aged 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15) would have a lovely lunch then a wander round the shops. The second get together would be between Christmas and New Year (would have been Sunday just gone this year) where we all meet up at my parents’ house for gift exchanges and food.

As we couldn’t meet in person, we planned a family Zoom on Sunday instead. Only it didn’t work. None of us could dial into the meeting my younger brother had set up so he sent a new invite and, for some strange reason, my parents and two brothers could get in but we couldn’t. We tried everything including the usual switching off and on again but to no avail.

Christmas shopping was very different this year. I’d normally explore the high street and local shops in my hometown of Scarborough and also have a trip to York to visit the Christmas market and the lovely independent shops there but, like so many others, we had to mostly shop online.

Hubby is exceptionally hard to buy for. There’s never anything he wants so I usually end up getting him socks (yawn), a chocolate orange (yummy but dull) and a couple of photography books including Landscape Photographer of the Year (inspiring for him but not very inspired seeing as he gets it every year). We usually agree that we’ll go away for a weekend as a gift instead but that’s not something any of us can plan right now.

When I was ordering things for the munchkin, I added in a few bits I might like and passed them to him to wrap, although this is something I’ve done for several years now as he claims I’m hard to buy for when there are so many things I love: jewellery, books, hedgehogs, bears, owls, stationery, lighthouses, chocolate etc. etc. etc. However, he surpassed himself this year. He visited NotOnTheHighStreet and Etsy and bought me some really fabulous gifts. The boy done well!

Hedgehogs might have been a bit of a theme! I got a gorgeous pin brooch which I’ll add to my bag or purse, a small plush hog for my desk, some socks, a fab T-shirt and a diary.

I also got 3 new charms for my Troll Beads bracelet. A friend started the collection at the launch party of my debut novel with a leather bracelet and a book charm. I’ve since upgraded to a silver bracelet and bought a charm for each part of my writing journey and to represent each of my books.

I’d previously acquired suitable charms for all my books except the Hedgehog Hollow series and, although Troll Beads did have a hedgehog charm at one point, it had been discontinued in something like 2002 so I’d given up on ever having one unless they issued a new design.

I ordered myself a starfish charm (relevant to my 2021 Christmas book) and a lighthouse one (relevant to several of my stories and possibly a future book and acquired just in time as it has been discontinued too) but he came up trumps by finding a hedgehog charm. It’s not a Troll Bead but it does fit my bracelet perfectly.

One of the promises I made to myself and my family when I started writing full-time was that I’d finally get a work:life balance. Trying to fit writing around a full-time demanding day job made that impossible. It hasn’t quite worked out as planned, though. It has been difficult to break the habit of working evenings and weekends after doing this for well over a decade, particularly in a year when going out and about isn’t practical so I might as well stay at my desk and work.

I also feel guilty when I’m not working which is ridiculous but I know I’m not the only author who feels that way. We can put such immense pressure on ourselves sometimes.

Anyway, one of the things I want to get back into is drawing. It’s not a great talent of mine and I definitely can’t draw from imagination – absolutely need to copy something – but I quite enjoy it and I’d like to give it a go again. I used to enjoy drawing but haven’t actually picked up my sketch pad since I started college in 1988! So I choose some art paper, charcoal and chalk pencils and pastel pencils myself but hubby surprised me with a gorgeous lighthouse cross stitch kit; cross stitch being something I used to love doing before I had the munchkin. I also treated myself to a hedgehog one earlier in the year so I’m going to be busy! Just need to make some time to do it.

Another gift I chose for myself was a miniature Charlie Bear. Our local garden centre stocks them and the munchkin and I visited their fabulous Christmas display after school one day in early December (when it was pretty much empty). I always look at the Charlie Bear display. I have a few large Charlie Bears but I prefer the limited edition collectible ones. On the display were what looked like classic books with miniature bears sat on them. Each book was hollowed out and the bear stored inside.

This is the ‘Plush Hug Book Collection’ and I’ve since learned that they came out in 2019 and there are six in the collection. The garden centre had three on display. All the bears were gorgeous so it was a case of selecting the most appropriate book as the words on each were different. The green one featuring the panda is a ‘Guide to Snuggleability’ – awww – but what absolutely sold it to me was the caption on the back: All the best bears read books. Could there be a more perfect choice for an author who’s also an arctophile (collector/lover of teddy bears) with a book in her collection set partly in a teddy bear shop?

I’d chosen a heart-shaped necklace myself from one of my favourite shops in Scarborough – White Beach Designs – and a heart-shaped beaded clutch in the Accessorise sale that I plan to use the next time I can go to an RNA event (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but hubby surprised me with this gorgeous keyring. Aww. Isn’t he just the best? We met in July 2003 when I was 31 and he was 33. “If I had my life to live over again, I would find you sooner so that I could love you longer”

Another surprise gift was ‘baby Yoda’ aka ‘The Child’ aka – look away if you haven’t seen the most recent episodes of Season 2 of The Mandalorian where his true name is revealed – Grogu. He’s a plush version and he is absolutely adorable. I just need a Baby Groot now and my life will be complete!

And my final amazingly thoughtful surprise gift was this gorgeous scrapbook for my newspaper clippings. Isn’t it just divine in it’s purple-ness; my favourite colour?

So the hubby definitely did well and I have been thoroughly spoilt this year with some amazing gifts from him and the munchkin. Feeling a bit embarrassed about the socks and chocolate orange now! 😉

How was Christmas for you? Hope it went okay.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where you can win a chance to name a hedgehog in my next book

This week, Boldwood Books announced a fabulous competition we’re running on social media.

What’s the prize?

  • A chance to name a hedgehog in the second book in my Hedgehog Hollow series
  • The paperback of the second book in the series in which you’ve named the hedgehog
  • A gorgeous Wrendale Designs hedgehog bookmark – ‘Awakening’

Hedgehog Hollow Competition Twitter

How do you win?

  • Follow Book & Tonic on Facebook and/or @BoldwoodBooks on Twitter and share/retweet the competition post. On Twitter, this is the pinned post at the time of writing
  • Sign up to my newsletter by 30th August 2020. You can do this following this link: http://bit.ly/JessicaRedlandNewsletter
  • Anyone already signed up to my newsletter will also be included in the draw
  • A winner will randomly be drawn and announced on 31st August and that person will then be asked to name a hedgehog and will win the goodies

 

Screenshot 2020-08-19 at 10.36.07What if I win?

Boldwood Books will ask you for your chosen hedgehog name. It might be that you want to name him/her after yourself, a friend or family member. It might be that you choose the name of a family pet. Or you might get creative.

There are a few suggestions we won’t be able to accept:

  • Any swear words/racism/sexism or anything along those lines that is inappropriate
  • A hedgehog name that is already used in the first book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – but there are only six names used: Spike, Spikette, Sonic, Mrs Tiggywinkle, Mr Snuffles and Quilly
  • A name that matches any of the characters in the first or second book as it would be confusing to have a person and a hedgehog with the same name!

I’m editing this book at the moment and have a part of the story saved where I will slot in the name of the chosen hedgehog so I can’t wait to hear what’s picked.

We have a name for the second (and third) book but they’re being kept under wraps for the moment. The cover for book 2 should be revealed next month but the editing process will be ongoing so the book won’t actually be ready for print for some time yet but a copy will be put aside with your name on it (and your hedgehog’s name in it!) as soon as it is.

You can read the full T&Cs here: https://www.boldwoodbooks.com/competition-terms-conditions/

Good luck!

Big hugs

Jessica xx

 

 

The one where it was my first week as a full-time author and it still hasn’t sunk in

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When you get the one thing you’ve worked so hard towards and dreamed of for years, how long does it take to actually sink in?

Last Sunday (7th June 2020), I assessed my final assignment, responded to my final student query, submitted my invoice and put on a permanent out of office. That was it. Done. I was no longer an HR tutor; the home-based role I’ve had for just over five years.

IMG_8346I didn’t set any major writing goals for my first week as a full-time author because I had a feeling that, the moment I took my foot off the pedal, the fatigue of a demanding work schedule would catch up with me. For the past five years, I’ve worked more than full-time hours in the day job, have written eight books, have created several works-in-progress (probably the equivalent of another full-length novel-and-a-half) and have obtained a Masters in Creative Writing. For more than half of that time, I was also the Brown Owl for a 24-strong Brownie Pack. Eek! I feel exhausted just thinking about it! With so much going on, sleep was a frequent struggle.

As suspected, it did catch up with me this week and I have felt phenomenally tired every single day. I probably should have just taken two days off and slobbed in front of the TV but I was keen to get some word count under my belt on the WIP. It’s been slow-going, though. Not because I’m struggling with the WIP but because I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I gave up and had a lie on the bed with the dog on Monday afternoon. Three hours later… Oops! Still, I obviously needed it.

IMG_8354Today – Saturday –  is the first day I feel slightly less fatigued although I think the lie-in until 10.15 a.m. massively helped. I haven’t slept in like that in years!

The big difference for me this week has been a determination not to work every evening like I normally would and I have to admit that it has been strange. Very strange. I’m so used to watching some TV while eating my tea, then getting up as soon as the programme finishes and returning to work for the evening. In fact, I’m so used to it that, up until Wednesday, my body was actually twitching with that familiar routine and it has been so lovely not to have to get to my feet and retreat to my computer.

I do want to form a routine over the next couple of weeks where my time writing is focused, I finally have the opportunity to work through my enormous TBR pile, and I have some family time too but I think I natural routine will probably evolve once the tiredness subsides.

I’ve had lots of lovely surprises arriving in the post this week too. Flowers, cake and Prosecco, cards, a teddy bear with a special wooden necklace celebrating my new career, a Lucy Pittaway mug and notepad, some Cath Kidston hand creams (with hedgehogs on them) and a gift voucher. I really wasn’t expecting anything. And then hubby disappeared late this morning and returned with an amazing cake in the shape of my next release, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, which looked too good to cut into but, hey, it’s cake and cake does not survive for long when I’m around with a fork in hand! Thank you so much to Mark and Ashleigh, Sharon, Helen, Jo, Liz, Carol, Wendy and Mum and Dad for your amazing generosity xx

I also treated myself to a cross stitch – something I haven’t done in years but used to love doing to relax – and a new sign for my wall. Feeling very spoilt right now!

Despite everything, it still hasn’t sunk in that it’s finally happened. The thing I’ve been dreaming/wishing/hoping/longing for has come true. I keep expecting to have to do the day job. Maybe next week it will start to feel real…

Wishing everyone a relaxing weekend and a great week ahead.

Big hugs

Jessica xx