The one where you could join my one-month course about writing in a coastal or country setting

Something a little bit different for the blog today…

  • Are you an aspiring writer?
  • Are you a writer who is looking to change the type of setting you use in your books?
  • Do you currently write in coastal or country settings but would like more guidance?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then you might be interested in joining my one-month course all about writing a novel or a series in a coastal or country setting … something I might have a smidge of experience in doing myself!

I ran this course for the first time last year through the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) who run an RNA Learning programme. I loved running it, using my skills again from my former life as a trainer and coach, and the feedback was so good that I was thrilled to be invited back again this year.

Do I have to be a member of the RNA to take part?

No, anyone can take part. As you might expect, the cost is more for non-members but this is still way, way, way less than what you might expect to pay elsewhere. It’s £75 for members and £150 for non-members.

Do I need to be a romance writer?

No. I write contemporary women’s fiction under the overall umbrella of ‘romance’ so I will be drawing on my experience of this genre when giving examples. However, the learnings are transferrable across all genres. I have also drawn on the experiences of other author friends and not all of them are romance authors.

When is it?

The course runs across the duration of March 2023. Delegates will be given access to an online learning portal on the morning of 1st March and access will disappear late evening on 31st March. The portal can only be accessed during March but delegates will be able to download materials to refer to beyond that time.

How is the course structured?

The big emphasis is on flexible learning so it’s ideal for anyone who works and/or has family responsibilities. I’ve divided the learning into four units:

  1. Before you start
  2. Building your setting
  3. The characters in your setting
  4. Your plot and what happens next?

Each week will be a mixture of:

  • Pre-recorded training sessions (1-2 hours of input per subject)
  • Some exercises for you to do at home
  • Feedback given on those exercises, should you choose to share them in the portal (very much encouraged in order to get feedback but not mandatory if you prefer not to)
  • A 1-hour Zoom meeting (held on Monday evenings) which will be recorded for those unable to attend

Because the emphasis is on flexibility, you can choose when you watch the materials and undertake the exercises. The first week will be available when you enter the portal and all weeks will be available by the mid-month point. The reason I don’t upload everything right from the start is that I do want to encourage delegates to take some time to do the exercises rather than race through everything at once without doing any exercises or taking the time to reflect on the learnings.

If you can’t make Monday evenings for the Zooms, please don’t be put off. It would be impossible to find a day that suits everyone which is why they’re recorded and available for catching up. They’re an opportunity to ask questions about the materials and exercises as well as asking me any general questions about writing. If I can help, I will! I have some small bitesize presentations that I can run too. If anyone has questions they’d want to pose in the Zoom but aren’t able to attend, they can ask them in the portal and I’ll answer them in the Zoom.

What have previous delegates said about this course?

I was blown away with the phenomenal feedback last year and here are a few of the feedback comments received:

  • “Jessica went above and beyond in her content and I am extremely grateful for all the hard work she must have put in”
  • “It exceeded my expectations”
  • “Jessica has given me so much knowledge about the writing process that I feel in a much better position now to develop my novel”
  • “Jessica’s feedback was excellent and inspiring”
  • “All the learning materials were very helpful giving many different insights into various aspects of writing a novel or series in a coastal or country setting. The breadth and range of the coverage was brilliant and the exercises really made me think about how to develop and write my novel. Jessica’s feedback on the exercises was given quickly so that Icould make the most of it and her feedback was knowledgable, kind, constructive and thoughtful. In a nutshell the learning materials and Jessica’s feedback and her response to questions was really excellent”
  • “The discussion forums were great -it was daunting at first to put your work up but it was a great confidence builder”
  • “The weekly training sessions – prerecorded ones – were very easy to take info from and put it into the homework. The homework was a gamechanger – if we were not challenged to put what we learnt into action, I would not of got as much out of the course”
  • “Jessica is a gem. She was helpful, encouraging and lifted my confidence”
  • “Best tutor I’ve ever experienced”
  • “Jessica’s willingness to share her own experiences,good and bad,made it more realistic than making it look like ‘this is easy, everybody can do it'”
  • “On the 1st of March I Started this course with no clue about writing and where to begin – I now have a plan of a novel with a setting, specicic setting, characters, plot and possible material for a series. I am as proud as punch”

I’m interested! What do I do now?

There’s some really helpful information about the RNA Learning Workshops on their website here.

You can specifically click in for more about my course here. You can also book your space through Eventbrite from this page.

If this isn’t for you but you know somebody who might be interested, please do pass them the details. Thank you.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I look back on 2022

It’s Christmas Eve! We’ve been up to Whitby for a wander around this morning. I predicted quiet, hubby predicted packed and I was right although it was getting busier as we left at about 1pm. Perhaps everyone had been braving the food shopping this morning and had ventured out for a wander this afternoon. Look at that gorgeous blue sky! I’d wrapped up warmly in a blanket scarf and my new coat, affectionately nicknamed ‘the duvet’ because it is quilted and just like wearing a duvet. It’s just from Sainsbury’s but it’s probably the warmest, most gorgeous coat I’ve ever owned. Anyway, it was welcome in the shadows but I was a tad on the warm side in the sun.

How adorable is that whale in the bottom photo? It’s made out of recycled plastic bottles and is for depositing your plastic drinks bottles. He looks very happy.

This is my last post of the year and I’m going to have a little look back over some of the extra special moments across 2022. If you’re a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll have had some insight into this already with a special Merry Christmas newsletter this morning. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up here.

I’m going to do my reflection mainly in photo format.

NEW BOOKS

In 2022, I’ve had four brand new releases out and completed the six-book Hedgehog Hollow series…

THE WORKS

Three of my books have gone into The Works, bringing the total up to eight books going into branches of The Works and online. What an honour! A huge thank you to the staff in all branches of The Works who are always exceptionally friendly and in particular the manager Jamie and the staff at the Scarborough branch who love me going in to sign copies.

It’s always a thrill to see my books when out and about. This year, I’ve spotted them in other branches of The Works, Irton Garden Centre near Scarborough, the Helmsley Bookshop, Beverley Bookshop, Barter Books in Hawes, Good Reads Discount Bookshop in Whitby, Slightly Foxed in Berwick-Upon-Tweed and the Scarborough and York branches of Waterstones (not all shown here).

AWARDS AND MILESTONES

I was thrilled have Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café shortlisted as a finalist in the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Romantic Novel of the Year Christmas/Festive category. I went down to the Awards ceremony in London in March and, although I didn’t win, it was a fabulous event.

In the summer, I celebrated a sales milestone of 750,000 units sold since joining Boldwood Books – a number I never thought I’d have a hope of reaching.

Also in the summer, Boldwood Books celebrated their third birthday and I hit the third anniversary of my debut release – The Secret to Happiness.

There’ve been some amazing milestones with reviews/ratings, all of my books currently having at least 1,500 reviews/ratings on Amazon alone, including the most recent release. Several of my audiobooks have stormed the Top 20 of the Audible chart but my absolute highlight was this month when Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop made it to #4 in the overall Audible chart.

I didn’t think that could be topped but, this week, I discovered that the Hedgehog Hollow series is in Audible’s Top 20 of the best trending series of 2022 and Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow is in the Romantic Comedy Top 20 too. Wow! I was not expecting that and the company those hedgehogs are keeping is phenomenal. I can’t get over those big names we’re alongside!

If you want to check out the full listing, you can find it here.

FOREIGN TRANSLATIONS

Two of my books – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – have been translated into Swedish through Lavender Lit. The third one – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – has also been acquired by them and will be out in spring 2023. I’m hoping they’ll take the final three too but they hadn’t been written at the time the deal was made.

It’s lovely seeing foreign translations and I adore the covers from Lavender Lit. I love the way they have kept the colours and themes of the English versions but put their own spin on them.

I also had an offer from Serbia to take two Hedgehog Hollow books which was really exciting, but I had to decline it because the offer was actually for book one and six and, although each book is a complete story, the characters are consistent and there are themes that build across the series. I didn’t feel right agreeing to a deal where book six wouldn’t make sense read after book one. Hopefully 2023 will bring other offers.

EVENTS

I trained on a one-month workshop in March through RNA Learning which I loved and for which I had incredible feedback and was invited back again for 2023.

Boldwood held their first face-to-face party in May which was a lovely event and I attended the RNA’s summer conference which I really enjoyed.

Stockton Libraries invited me to speak at Norton Library and it was wonderful to have such a big audience. I had been looking forward to speaking at the Richmond Walking & Book Festival too – my very first festival – but my slot clashed with our Queen’s funeral so had to be cancelled. Fingers crossed for next year.

I’ve had lots of get togethers with my bestie, talented author Sharon Booth who I’m thrilled to say has secured a publishing deal with Storm Publishing with a new series out through them starting next year, and with author Eliza J Scott.

Sharon and I both met up with Lizzie Lamb when she was on holiday in the area, I met four of the amazing five admins of The Friendly Book Community on Facebook when they came to Whitsborough Bay (aka Scarborough) for a weekend, and Sharon and I had a few days in York with our writing friend Jackie Ladbury. I do love spending time with book people as there’s never a shortage of things to talk about!

I spoke at a meeting of the Scarborough Soroptimists and spent some time with my friends at Wolds Hedgehog rescue – the real Hedgehog Hollow – with an amazing chance to feed a hoglet. I also went on a needlefelting workshop to make a robin in honour of the Hedgehog Hollow series (if you know, you know).

AND PERSONALLY…

I celebrated turning fifty in May. I don’t feel anywhere near my age, although my creaking knees do!

As a family, we’ve had a few holidays, making up for the pandemic years. We spent Easter in the Lake District which was partly a research trip as I’m, setting a new series in the Lakes next year. We had a week in Hawes in Northumberland in August, deferred from February half term when the hubby and I both came down with Covid. And we had a week in Lanzarote over the October half term break which was our first trip abroad since the start of the pandemic. It was lovely to be away again.

It’s been a busy old year but a lovely one too.

If you’re thinking it all sounds very rosy, there have been some tough moments too. I’ve had Covid twice – although thankfully not too seriously – and the downside of the first time was missing a gig and a holiday. My mum was poorly earlier this year which was a worrying time. I’ve struggled with some deadlines and suffered with conjunctivitis on a couple of occasions, making deadlines even harder. There’ve been other challenges too but I’d rather end the year focusing on all the positives and hope you can too for your 2022 as, even in the darkest years, there’ll always be chinks of light.

Wishing you and yours an amazing Christmas. I hope the final week of the year brings you happiness, hope and positivity. Thank you to all the readers/ listeners/ authors/ bloggers/ friends and family members who have championed my work this year and the amazing Team Boldwood. Your support means the world to me and gives me the motivation to keep doing what I’m doing, especially in those dark moments where I think I lack the talent/am incapable of writing another book.

Big festive hugs to you all
Jessica xx 

The one where I talk about the RNA’s conference

In my last blog post, I said I was heading off to the RNA’s conference and would report back ‘next week’. That should have been last week and I’ve just realised that, although I shared some photos on Facebook, I never did a blog post so here I am catching up.

The conference was at Harper Adams University which is for agricultural studies near Telford, Shropshire. It’s a small campus and ideal for an event such as this as there’s not too far to walk between the accommodation and lecture rooms. We were staying in the student halls and ours was the one covered in ivy on the right.

It was my fourth conference and by far my favourite, mainly because I felt much better about myself as a writer than I had the previous three times. I knew what to expect format-wise and I’d finally learned to the pressure off myself by not booking onto an event for every slot on the timetable, allowing some breathing and thinking space.

There were four out of the ten of us from my writing support group, The Write Romantics, in attendance, and there were quite a few Boldwood authors, some of whom I hadn’t met before so it was lovely to be able to say hello to them.

Write Romantics – Me, Jackie Ladbury & Sharon Booth (joined by Rachael Thomas on the bottom right)

I also had a chance to catch up with some of the delegates from my March workshop. I’d been really looking forward to sitting down and having a proper chat to them all, finding out how their writing journeys had been since the workshop, but the timetable just didn’t allow it. I’d been invited to join them at lunchtime on Saturday but my pre-lunch session ran over slightly and, by the time I made it to the back of the food queue, there weren’t many spaces left in the dining room and I knew there was no way they could save me a seat at their table. I could also see that several of them had already eaten so it just didn’t happen.

I did get the opportunity to speak to several of the group, albeit briefly in some cases, but I swear time goes into a vortex and I left thinking about so many people I’d spotted but just didn’t get a chance to say hello to properly.

On the Sunday morning, we had about twenty minutes before a session started and I looked around the coffee room but realised I’d hit a wall and was probably incapable of having a coherent conversation. Doing a job where I spend most of my time completely on my own, it can be intense and overwhelming being surrounded by people. My since apologies, therefore, to anyone I didn’t get a chance to talk to.

I did get to talk to my idol, Jill Mansell, though! We’ve spoken several times on social media and met before and it’s ridiculous that I get shy about these things but I do. I actually find it hard to approach anyone already in a conversation so add in one of my writing heroes and that escalates. My Boldwood buddy took a photo of me with Jill in the background and then took me over for a proper hello which was very special.

I met loads of other amazing authors across the weekend but took a distinct lack of photos so I’ll leave the blog post here. Thank you to everyone involved in the organising, who ran sessions, or who chatted to me. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I’m off to the RNA’s Conference and I’m in a very different place to last time

I’m off to the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) Conference tomorrow. I attended a couple of virtual ones during the pandemic but the last time I went to one in real life was four years ago when it was held in Leeds and look who I met! 


They say don’t meet your heroes but not in this case as Jill Mansell was just as lovely as her books. I, however, was a gibbering fan-girly wreck and was actually shaking at the photo opp! I couldn’t believe it when I spotted her nearby and was far too nervous to approach her myself, despite a couple of glasses of wine inside me, so I asked the RNA Chair if she could introduce us!

I fell in love with romance books after reading one of Jill’s. I’d never read anything in this genre and a friend loaned me Millie’s Fling on holiday and I loved how fun and romantic it was and how it left me with the warm and fuzzies. I devoured all her books after that and, for the past twelve years or so, have annually purchased her new release on hardback and have a Jill shelf in my office.

I’m really looking forward to the conference this year for several reasons:

  • Being my fourth conference, I know what to expect. It’s actually at the same place as my second one so I’m even familiar with the venue
  • I’ve been an RNA member for a decade and know so many more people now so (hopefully) won’t have that startled rabbit situation. Or hopefully not!
  • I’ve taken a much more relaxed approach to which sessions I’ll attend. In previous years, I’ve chosen something for every time slot which can make for an exhausting experience. This year, I’ve allowed myself some downtime
  • I’ll have a chance to meet several Boldwood authors who I’ve never met in person which will be lovely
  • I’ll get to meet several of the participants from the RNA Learning workshop I ran in March and I’m really excited to hear how their writing has progressed since then
  • I won’t be having any publisher 1:1 appointments (more on this shortly)
  • I feel very differently about my writing

Let me explain those last couple of points…

Four years ago at that 2017 conference, I was in a dark place with my writing. I was a struggling indie selling a handful of books a week and fearing I might have to give up writing as I couldn’t keep investing all the time (alongside a demanding FT day job) with no pay-off. 

A valuable part of the conference programme is the feedback slots available with industry professionals (editors and agents). I managed to secure four of these – all with editors – where I pitched a brand new manuscript called Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye.

My manuscript wasn’t complete which actually resulted in Editor D reprimanding, saying it was very unprofessional of me. Ouch! I understood what she was saying as you would never submit to a publisher when an MS is incomplete but the annual timing of the conference means that this may sometimes be the case and it’s not a requirement of the sessions to have a complete MS. Also, the humiliation to be told off by someone half my age! I felt like I was back at school!

Anyway, despite the telling off, all four editors wanted to see the full MS which gave me a massive dilemma because Editors A and B wanted it to be a light-hearted romcom and Editors C and D wanted a deeper more emotional women’s fiction story. With the MS being unfinished, I faced a decision around what direction to take it in because whichever I chose was going to rule two of them out.

While confusing, this was a very happy dilemma to have, especially for someone feeling so down about their writing. My biggest takeaway was that four editors wanted the full MS. Surely one of them would want to take me on.

They didn’t.

Editor A asked me to submit one of my indie books in the meantime. As she wanted the romcom approach, I sent her a lighter story (what is now Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop) and a more emotional story (what is now All You Need is Love). The rejection was positive but still a rejection: you write well with a lovely style. However, I’m afraid I don’t think any of these are quite right for our list at this time. I would be happy to take a look at a new idea in due course though should you wish to submit to us again.

I decided not to submit to Editor B. She’d been the least enthusiastic, I couldn’t see us working together and she wanted a romcom which, by this point, I knew wasn’t what I wanted to write and, in finishing the story, I’d stuck to my gut feel that I wanted to write more emotional stories.

I was really proud of my finished MS and had high hopes for Editors C and D who’d wanted the emotional story.

From Editor C: …think you have an interesting premise. However, after careful consideration, we don’t feel that Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye is quite right for us. Your writing is great, and there is huge warmth and emotion in your narrative. All of the women’s stories are hugely poignant, but because there were three of them, it felt at times like there wasn’t quite enough space for each story, including the tragic events before the book begins, to be fully explored. The women’s fiction market is so tricky at the moment, and what we tend to be looking for at the moment are in-depth emotional stories with a tight scope, or high-concept stories that can be pitched in a single line. I’m afraid that Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

As rejections go, it was a positive one and I tried to hang onto the lovely comments about my writing which is always hard when it’s ultimately a no. I was encouraged to submit other stories so I sent the original version of All You Need is Love to them too and had another rejection: Again, there is a lovely warmth to your writing and the situations your characters find themselves in are incredibly sympathetic, but I’m afraid that this isn’t one for [us]… As you know, the women’s fiction market is so difficult at the moment, and I don’t think that we could reach a bigger audience for you than you have managed yourself. Again what is missing for me is that specific, focused concept that we could use to hook readers in with a single line. For me there were again quite a lot of characters introduced in the early chapters and I felt this did make it difficult to keep track of them all and to work out whose stories were the main focus of the book.

While I was asked to think of them again for future books, it was clear to me that I didn’t write what they wanted so I couldn’t bring myself to court further rejection and closed that door.

Which just left Editor D. Despite her telling me off, I had a feeling that she was going to be the one. She wasn’t: It was such a pleasure to meet you at the RNA conference in July and I’ve looked forward to reading your submission. I absolutely loved diving back into the world you’ve conjured here and the changes you made to the manuscript have really improved the pace and tension which is great. There was a clear improvement from the MS I read back in July. Sadly though, as the story went on I struggled to empathise with the characters as much as I wanted to. Rather than being invested in their journeys I felt they lacked the necessary depth and layers, I wanted to see more of their emotions and feelings on the page. In such a competitive book market we have to ensure we feel passionate about the book and characters and sadly I just couldn’t find myself getting lost in Alison or Karen’s story as I couldn’t connect with them. In terms of next step I recommend looking at how you can weave more depth into the characters, offering readers different layers to uncover from them all. 

This floored me. The feedback I’d received from readers of other books suggested that getting lost in the characters’ stories was a strength of mine and that I could write emotion well. Obviously this was just one person’s opinion but, in my dark place, this told me that the things I thought were positives weren’t. And it broke me. I wasn’t invited to submit anything else either. Door closed.

By early December 2018, a couple more submissions I’d made of Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye came back as rejections and I felt so lost. The voices of doubt in my mind were having a field day:

  • You can’t write
  • No wonder you’ve barely sold any indie books
  • All those thousands of hours were a right waste of time
  • It’s time to give up and accept it’s never going to happen for you
  • You’re fooling yourself that you have talent

And so it went on. Just when I was feeling at my absolute lowest, Amazon rank-stripped me. An automated email accused me of engaging in dodgy activities to manipulate sales or pages read on my bestselling book (what is now New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms) in the USA. It was absurd. In the timeframe this wrongdoing was alleged to have taken place, I’d sold one eBook in that market and had the equivalent of one eBook read on Kindle Unlimited. If I was going to manipulate sales, surely logic would say I’d have sold more than two books!

Rank-stripping means that the book disappears. It has no ranking so it has no visibility. The only way a reader can find the book is by specifically searching on the title. Ironic, really, that the book at the time was called Searching for Steven and the only way he could be found was by literally searching for him! And not just in the USA where I was accused of naughtiness. This was all markets!

Naturally, I protested and asked for more clarity on what I was meant to have done. Cue an automated response telling me that no more information would be given and accusing me of still engaging in said untoward activity and that if I didn’t stop it, all my books would be removed from the site! What?!

So I protested, which just triggered another auto-response. There were four bot responses in total, each more threatening than the one before.

My Christmas was ruined that year. I was barely selling anything anyway but this pretty much took everything from me and left the fear that I’d be removed from sale completely. I’d been wondering if I needed to give up and it seemed Amazon agreed too and were potentially going to make it happen, whether I wanted it or not.

It took two months for them to reinstate the book. No apology. No explanation. Two weeks later, the exact same thing happened to the same book. Argh!

In January 2019, I saw an advert for a new publisher called Boldwood Books opening for submissions on 1st February and I felt drawn to them. One more try. And if it was a no, it might just be the time to throw in the towel.

Reader, they said yes.

And the book that lacked emotion, lacked depth, had no concept, had too many characters with whom there was no connection became my first release through Boldwood Books in September 2019 under the new title The Secret to Happiness. It has sold more than 70,000 copies across all formats, has been an international Top 10 bestseller and, at the time of writing, has over 3,600 reviews on Amazon alone, 93% of them positive.

For any aspiring authors out there, please do take some learnings from my experiences:

  • Keep believing in yourself and keep going. While I felt like giving up on so many occasions, I knew I never could. If, like me, stories burn inside you, then keep writing them
  • You need a lot of patience. Getting traditionally published is about landing the right MS on the right person’s desk at the right time. That’s a lot of stars to align and it doesn’t happen that often … but it can. Hang on in there. If you’re going down the indie route, you still need patience as there’s a lot you need to learn and do to get your book visible and it will take time
  • Reading is subjective and what one editor passes on, another may love. What is one reader’s scathing 1-star review is another’s favourite book

And on that note, I’ll share with you a 1-star review I’ve just spotted for The Secret to Happiness. An Amazon user in March this year declared that it was “written for children… predictable and long and drawn out. Utterly disappointed” The same reviewer gave a 5-star review to a pair of flat shoelaces! 

And my latest for the same book is oozing with meanness: “Oh dear… Drivel. Embarrassingly bad dialogue. Tedious plot and poorly constructed characters. I had the unfortunate experience of the audiobook which added a further eye-rolling level of dreariness”.Honestly, is there any need to be so nasty? So the book wasn’t for her but this audiobook is actually free on Audible Plus so I can pretty much guarantee she has listened to it because it was free so it’s not like she’s even spent any money on it. A 5-star review from her has gone to some fabric dye. Classic.

But that’s fine because that’s their opinion and a huge number of readers disagree. So do my publishers. And so do I!

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and, even though I was devastated at the rejections from Editors C and D, I’m so grateful that it was a no from them because I couldn’t imagine being in a happier place than Boldwood Books. It’s my home.

I’m off to do my packing for the conference now. Hubby has been to fill the car with fuel and has returned with some emergency biscuits. I need to get them off my desk and into my suitcase as the temptation to break into them is already strong!

I’ll report back next week on how it went.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it’s publication day for Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow

Almost exactly two years since the first book in the series was published (Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow on 2nd July 2020), we return to the hedgehog rescue centre for the fifth instalment with Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow.

I am so touched by how much love there is for this series. The first four books combined have already sold more than 200,000 copies across all formats. Thank you so much to everyone who has made this possible.

Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow is out today in all formats. Publication days are exciting but also a little nerve-wracking, awaiting the verdict. The early reviews have been very encouraging so I hope it will continue that way.

Boldwood Books through Rachel’s Random Resources have organised a blog tour so thank you to the amazing bloggers/reviewers who are participating. The first two reviews in have been gorgeous 5-star ones which have helped allay some of the nerves.

My publication biscuits from Boldwood Books made by Enchanting Bakes have arrived and look delicious and my husband bought me the most gorgeous publication day plant. I love flowers and plants but I’m not very good with them. This one looks pretty hardy so fingers crossed it will last! My mum and dad also gave me the most adorable publication day card. It’s by a North Yorkshire-based artist called Bree Merryn who specialises in wildlife drawings. You can find her website here and she has some stunning hedgehog prints and cushions. Just search ‘hedgehog’ and you’ll feel very happy!

So how am I spending publication day? I’m in the Beverley chapter of the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) and we meet on the last Tuesday evening of the month so it’s our meeting tonight. As Beverley is an hour away from me, I like to make the most of the trip out so meet my bestie Sharon Booth for lunch and we are always amazed how six-and-a-half hours can whizz by before we need to head to our meeting. I only saw Sharon yesterday when we met up with another amazing author, Eliza J Scott, but we’ll still have loads to talk about.

Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow on eBook, audio, paperback or has ordered a signed paperback from me. I’ll be anxiously checking my chart position across the day. I was very excited to see it at #7 in the overall AppleBooks chart first thing and #1 in the Fiction and Literature category.

It’s Top 250 (not that that’s a thing!) in the Audible chart already and just outside the Top 500 on Kindle but will hopefully make it into the Top 100 before the end of the day based on pre-orders and first day sales. Keep scampering, little hedgehogs!

Tomorrow, Fiona and Sue over on Heidi Swain & Friends – A Facebook Book Club are kindly hosting a publication day party for me. This is a lovely book group so if you’re a fan of Heidi Swain’s wonderful stories and books like those, do consider joining the group. They’re also hosting a Facebook Live with me on Monday 4th July at 7pm. You can join that event here although it’s possible you may need to be a member of the group first. Not 100% sure on that one.

I’m off to eat my publication day biscuits now. Nom nom nom.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Samantha has a secret. Returning home from her dream honeymoon to the normality of running her beloved Hedgehog Hollow rescue centre, she’s ready for the next chapter of her life with Josh. Or is she? Samantha is hiding something which could forever change the dreams they shared and bring their happy ever after crashing to the ground.

Lauren has given up on love. Twenty-six years ago the love of her life, Shaun, left her a note and was never seen again. Two painful divorces later she still can’t face opening up to anyone. But little does Lauren know that the closure she’s dreamt of for all these years may be closer than she thinks, and perhaps the only way to let new love in is to forgive and forget.

Samantha and Lauren will need the love and support from the Hedgehog Hollow family more than ever. After all, some dreams are worth chasing…

Top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland welcomes you back to glorious Hedgehog Hollow where love, family and friendship conquer all.

The one where I went to the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Awards

I was thrilled to be announced as a finalist for the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association’s) Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café was one of five finalists in the Christmas/Festive category.

On Monday night, it was the Awards ceremony down in London. I decided to make a trip of it and stay over an extra night on the Sunday to catch up with a friend from university who lives there so it was lovely to see him and it meant I didn’t need to worry about delayed trains and cancellations on the Monday.

Monday was a packed day. I had breakfast with author Rowan Coleman who I’d travelled down with, went for a walk down to the river, had lunch with my editor, then got ready for the ceremony. The weather was a bit grey on my walk but I took a couple of pics of my shortlisted book with nearby sights Tower Bridge and The Tower of London. It’s not easy to hold a book and hold a phone!

All the finalists – five in each of the categories – gathered for a photo shoot before the ceremony. There were only three of us there from my category so the photo shows (L-R) me, Sheila Norton (Winter at Cliff’s End Cottage) and Jenny Bayliss (The Winter of Second Chances).

They were both really lovely and we posed for another unofficial photo together…

I was feeling quite nervous at this point. I didn’t think I had any chance of winning but the last time I attended an Awards ceremony was about 20 years ago when I was up for a business award so this isn’t an every day thing at all.

The reason I didn’t think I would win was nothing to do with me thinking the book wasn’t good enough or anything like that. It was purely down to it being an extremely emotional story which might not have been quite what the readers wanted for that category.

When the photos were done, I joined my publishers, Boldwood Books, down in the bar.

Some of the Boldwood Team and authors

After a quick catch up and photo op, we made our way into the function room for the ceremony.

It was beautifully laid out and we were fortunate enough to be on one of the front tables. The Boldwood team, authors and guests had two tables as there were three of us up for awards – Portia MacIntosh with Life’s a Beach in the Jane Wenham-Jones Romantic Comedy category and Shari Low with One Summer Sunrise in the Contemporary category.

Because I hadn’t expected to win, I hadn’t prepared a speech or even thought about what I was going to say. When the first Award was presented and the winner gave a short speech, I had a sudden panic. What if I did win? What would I say? For one very brief moment, I thought it could be possible and I should have been more prepared.

But I didn’t need to worry about a speech because I didn’t win. Congratulations to Sheila Norton who won in my category.

My category was the first of the ones in which Boldwood was represented so I was hoping one of the other Boldwood authors would bring home the win. One of our authors, Anne-Marie Brear was also up for an award as an indie (entered pre-Boldwood) in the Romantic Saga category with A Distant Horizon so we were rooting for her too but it wasn’t our night. None of us won our categories.

Enormous congratulations to all the winners and all the finalists. You can read the RNA’s article containing all the category winners here.

I have a certificate and a beautiful brochure to commemorate a special evening and would like to say thank you to everyone who congratulated me on being a finalist, wished me luck and said kind words about this book. I really appreciate all the gorgeous comments.

It was lovely to be able to spend time with my publisher, some of the other Boldwood authors, and to catch up with some other authors and it was certainly an honour to be a finalist.

Thank you so much to everyone in the RNA for organising and hosting a wonderful evening.

The following morning, the sky was bright blue so I couldn’t resist another walk down by the river to get some nicer photos so here’s a little selection of my pics from Tuesday morning in a very sunny London.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one with two audiobooks in the Audible UK £3 sale and a double book birthday

Hi there and happy Sunday to you! Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend.

I’m on the penultimate day of writing my 5th Hedgehog Hollow book – Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – ahead of submission to my editor so am only briefly emerging from the story to bring you the exciting news of two audiobooks in the Audible UK £3 sale this week.

The first title included is book 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – is included. Book 1 – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – is free with AudioPlus anyway and book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – has previously been in the £3 sale.

The second title is Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, currently a finalist in the RNA’s Christmas/Festive Romantic Novel of the Year.

Even though I’m frantically writing to meet my deadline, I know I’ll find it impossible to resist checking the Audible chart. All the other audiobooks I’ve had in the £3 offer have made it into the Top 100 which is very exciting.

Don’t forget the offer only lasts one week. There’s a helpful countdown on Audible’s sale page…

If you’re an eBook reader instead, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is still on a 99p offer on all eBook formats.

I’m also celebrating a double book birthday today.

Books 2 and 3 in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – were re-issued through Boldwood Books two years ago today on 20th February 2020.

The re-launch of this series in quick succession across a 2-month period heralded a big change for my writing and, after years of struggling, I finally started to sell more than a handful of books each week. A few months later, I was able to realise my dream of writing full time.

Birthday book New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is still on a Kindle Monthly Deal for 99p in the UK and an equivalent price in Australia.

Coinciding with its birthday celebration, I’m thrilled to have had the news this week that New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms has passed an amazing sales milestone of 50,000 units so far with Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove only 7,000 units behind so hopefully that will reach the 50k mark very soon too.

Thank you, as ever, to anyone who has bought/borrowed/downloaded any of my books and, to the Audible UK subscribers, I hope you enjoy these two audiobooks on offer. If you’ve already listened to them, do please spread the word to any friends/family members who might be interested.

Happy listening!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where it is an enormous big news day – loads to tell you

Today has been a big news day. Enormously big news! So let’s crack on.

AWARD NOMINATION

A few weeks ago, I was in bed reading when a text came through shortly before 10pm from my fabulous editor, Nia, saying “You need to check your email!” So I did and it was to the amazing news that Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café had been shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Novel of the Year Awards in the Christmas / Festive Romance category.

You know the phrase 3rd time lucky? Well this was 3rd time lucky for me with Boldwood Books but actually 7th time lucky overall as I’d submitted four of my indie titles before joining Boldwood. Keeping the faith pays off!

I’m thrilled that fellow Boldwood authors Shari Low and Portia MacIntosh have also been shortlisted in the contemporary and romantic comedy categories respectively. I believe this is a second time for each of them since joining Boldwood so fingers crossed for the win.

Also, congratulations to AnneMarie Brear. AnneMarie is a Boldwood author but only joined us recently and she’s therefore shortlisted for one of her indie titles (as these are all for books released during 2021).

And of course congratulations to all the finalists. You can read the full announcement and list here.

Finalists are asked to keep the news under wraps until the big announcement so I’m delighted it is now out in the open. I’ve had so many amazing comments on social media and really appreciate all the support.

The Awards ceremony is in London on 7th March so I’m looking forward to a trip down to the capital and, because I’m going that far, I’ve arranged to meet with a good friend from my university days on the Sunday evening. Last time I saw him, I was down in London for an RNA event and Boldwood had just launched so we have a lot to catch up on!

Which brings me to my next piece of news…

BOLDWOOD BOOKS’ 3RD ANNIVERSARY

Boldwood are celebrating 3 years today since their initial launch. I remember sitting up until midnight on 31st January 2019 so that I could send my manuscript – The Secret to Happiness – in as soon as February arrived. Then I panicked that they might not actually receive submissions until the working day officially started so I sent it again!

I was thrilled to be invited in late March that year to be one of their first twenty authors and it’s been the most phenomenal three years so far. Here’s to the next three!

To celebrate their astonishing growth to about 70 authors, nearly 6m sales, hundreds of bestsellers and thousands of amazing reviews, they’re running a competition to win a Kindle. This is over on their Book and Tonic Facebook page or you can find it on Twitter by following @BoldwoodBooks

The T&Cs are here. Good luck!

Wishing Amanda, Nia, Claire, Megan, Caroline, Sarah, Emily, Tara and Laura and all the amazing authors at Boldwood a very happy 3rd anniversary.

And for my final piece of big news today, I return to the RNA…

RNA LEARNING COURSE LAUNCHED

I’m excited to announce that I’m going to be running an RNA Learning Course across March all about how to write a novel or series set in a country or coastal setting because, well, that’s what I know quite a bit about!

Before I became a full-time author, I worked in HR and specialised in recruitment and training. I’ve therefore run training workshops, designed materials and even trained trainers for nearly three decades so was delighted at the opportunity to put some of those skills into use again.

This course runs flexibly online where students can access materials from 1st March up until midnight on 31st March and therefore work at their own pace within that month. There will be specific times within that where I will provide live input and support.

The session will suit anyone who is writing or thinking about writing in these settings and the great news is you don’t have to be a member of the RNA member to participate, although the price is more for non-members.

To find out more, please click here. This is also where you can sign-up if you think it’s for you.

I’m really looking forward to running this course and sharing my knowledge and experiences as well as those of other authors who write in these settings who have kindly shared their thoughts with me.

My February is going to be jam-packed as I need to pull together the training materials, finish writing Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow which is currently only one-third written, and I have a gig and a holiday this month too. Who needs sleep?

By the way, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is still only 99p for all eBook formats so there’s still the opportunity to grab yourself a bargain (or free in Kindle Unlimited).

Wishing you a fabulous February.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is going on a blog tour

Although Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop (previously independently released as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop) was published by Boldwood Books on 3rd August, we decided that the height of summer probably wasn’t the ideal timing for a blog tour of a Christmas book so we held back.

With the arrival of the colder weather, the darker nights creeping in, and the shops stocking their Christmas goodies, the blog tour starts today (12th October 2021) and runs until 27th October.

Across sixteen days, there’ll be a whopping 48 stops (3 a day). Looking at the schedule, it’s lovely to see so many regulars – really flattering as it means they love my books enough to keep coming back for more – but also a delight to see some newbies. Hopefully they’ll love Charlee’s story and become converts!

A huge thank you to Boldwood Books for enabling the tour, to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for organising it, and the wonderful 48 bloggers/reviewers taking part.

And, on the subject of Rachel, congratulations to her for being a finalist in the Media Star of the Year category in the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) 2021 Industry Awards. You can read the RNA’s announcement here.

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is book 1 in the Christmas at Castle Street series. Books 2 and 3 – Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café were released last year.

All three books are complete standalone stories but books 2 and 3 are closely connected as the two businesses are next-door to each other and the two business owners, Carly and Tara, are good friends. They follow on chronologically and there are therefore a couple of spoilers for Carly’s story if reading Starry Skies first although plenty of readers have read them the other way round and still loved them.

Although Christmas Wishes is the first book in the series, it can be read before or after the others. The heroine – Charlee Chambers – and her shop do appear in the other two but there aren’t any spoilers for her story.

Big chocolatey hugs
Jessica xx

Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop

Sometimes you just need a little Christmas magic to make your wishes come true…

When master chocolatier, Charlee, takes the leap to move to the picturesque seaside town of Whitsborough Bay, she is determined to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps and set up a chocolate shop.

Luckily, she finds the perfect location for Charlee’s Chocolates on beautiful Castle Street… Now she just has to refurbish it in time for Christmas!

With a useless boyfriend and countless DIY disasters, Charlee doesn’t know if she’ll make it in time. With no ‘traditional’ family to support her, she feels lost in her new surroundings and the secrets of the past are weighing her down.

But the warmth and festive spirit of the Whitsborough Bay community will surprise her, and when plumber, Matt, comes to the rescue, it might be that all of Charlee’s dreams could come true this Christmas, and she could learn what family really means…

Escape to Castle Street for the perfect uplifting, festive read from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.

Wild boys, cream scones and lots of hedgehogs

Happy Monday!

Having spent most of the past 18 months hibernating, I’m recovering this morning from a packed weekend. On Friday night, I went to my first live music gig since the pandemic started. Duran Duran were playing at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre (OAT) and I got hold of tickets to go with my husband’s twin sisters at the back end of last year hoping that everything would have calmed down.

At the start of this year, it was looking less and less likely that we’d get to see the gig or any of the other 4 I had tickets for. Three of them got postponed until 2022 but Duran Duran and Olly Murs were put back to later in the summer season this year. Unfortunately, I had to get my money back on the Olly Murs one as the postponed date clashed with our holiday in the Lake District but I could make the Duran Duran date.

We went out for tea and pink prosecco first and it felt so good to put some make-up on, do my hair and be out out!

Duran Duran still have it after 40 years in the business. It’s the second time I’ve seen them, the first being about 15 or 16 years ago in Manchester shortly after hubby and I met. They played a great set with one new (but good) track and a couple I wasn’t so familiar with among so many favourites. An encore of Save a Prayer, Wild Boys and Rio was just fabulous.

I was then up early on Saturday to get ready for a trip to York for the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) York Tea. I’d been to the previous three although the event took a break last year.

I usually go with my bestie, fellow author Sharon Booth, but Sharon was unable to join us this year and it was strange being there without my partner in crime. I usually travel by train and arrange to meet up with another writing friend for tea and cake beforehand but, this time, hubby drove us in so he and the munchkin could have a walk round the city walls. Somehow she turned this into a trip to Primark and various other clothes shops instead!

We had a little wander round York first as traffic had been surprisingly good so we had some spare time. York Minster was looking mighty fine in the sunshine.

The venue is the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in York is a gorgeous venue and it was the third time the York Tea has been held there. Although the event has always been held at the same time of year, the weather has massively varied. That first year it was really cold and the fire was blazing. This year there was bright sunshine and I had to shed my cardigan while wishing I’d brought a fan with me!

To make the event as safe as possible, there were reduced numbers and it was a condition of attendance to have been double-vaccinated, making the decision to attend a little easier.

Three fellow Boldwood authors were there and it was so lovely to meet them face to face: L-R Sheila Riley and Lizzie Lane, both of whom write historicals, me, and Lynda Stacey who writes romantic suspense/psych thrillers.

Lynda and I had been chatting on social media beforehand and were stunned to discover we’ve been to the York Tea at the same time on several occasions (Lynda used to actually organise it!) and another much smaller writing event yet we’ve never actually met so it was fabulous to finally meet in person.

There were eight of us round our table. I sat next to my lovely friend Joy Wood who has written a few different genres but whose latest books are psych thrillers and had the amazing Milly Johnson on the other side! I managed a photo with Joy but stupidly never thought to get a photo with Milly. In fact, I was pretty rubbish at thinking to take photos of people or food. I think I’m out of practice being in a room with people and it just didn’t occur to me until right at the end.

The food, by the way, was delicious although the scones did elicit the usual pronunciation debate, whether jam or cream should go on first, and the merits of adding butter. I am sconn, yes to butter, jam before cream. And I am so right about this!!!!!

Lynda was on my table too with Daisy James (romcoms) who I’ve met at several other events and love to chat to, as well as Chrissie Bradshaw (historicals and romcoms) but I sadly didn’t get an opportunity to properly talk to Chrissie as we were on opposite sides of the table.

I had the pleasure of meeting lovely local author Eliza J Scott, an indie author with gorgeous books set on the North Yorkshire Moors and had some serious outfit envy of this gorgeous skirt worn by Jane Lacey-Crane (women’s fiction)). Check out all these books! Isn’t that just the prettiest skirt ever?

It was great to catch up in person with several members of the Beverley RNA Chapter – L-R Sylvia Broady (historical), Jenni Fletcher (Mills & Boon Historical), Rhoda Baxter/Jeevani Charika (romcom/women’s fiction) and me. Pre-Covid, we used to meet monthly but have been having online meetings instead. Hopefully we’ll return to face to face in the New Year. (Photo credit to John Jackson).

I apologise for not name-checking everyone I spoke to and there were so many more people I’d have loved to chat to including Jenni Keer who I met in the ladies right the start of the event and who was such a delight, but time was not on our side. Hopefully another time!

Hubby and munchkin met me afterwards and we headed home for a takeaway and the start of the new season of Strictly Come Dancing. Fabulous to have that back on our screens again. I think there are going to be some wonderful pairings there and the standard is going to be extremely high.

After an evening and a day off socialising, it was back to my desk yesterday and I am pleased to report that the first round of edits on A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow are now complete and back with my editor. I’m catching up on a day of admin today before diving into Summer Nights at The Starfish Café tomorrow.

Thank you to John Jackson, Jean Fullerton and everyone involved in organising The York Tea. Huge congratulations to all the former NWS members (New Writers’ Scheme) who were nominated for the Joan Hessayon Award which was part of the event. The winner, Caroline Day with Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life was clearly stunned to win which was so touching to see and I wish her – and all the others – every success with their writing careers.

Big hugs
Jessica xx