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.
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.
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.
Today has been a big news day. Enormously big news! So let’s crack on.
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
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 Caféis still only 99p for all eBook formats so there’s still the opportunity to grab yourself a bargain (or free in Kindle Unlimited).
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.
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.
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 Lifewas clearly stunned to win which was so touching to see and I wish her – and all the others – every success with their writing careers.
Yesterday was the publication day for All You Need Is Love and, I have to say, all I felt was love all day. How amazing are the reading and writing community?
It was my busiest publication day yet with so many lovely comments on social media to read and respond to and lots of activities going on so Ive just got a quick round up, a few links and some photos…
There were biscuits…
My fabulous publisher, Boldwood Books, always send a wonderful publication day gift and this time it was biscuits with book covers and congratulations messages on them. They didn’t last long! I was under strict instructions from my daughter to save her one of the book cover ones and I had a text from her on the bus to school this morning saying she’d been in such a rush, she forgot to pick it up to take it to school. She has been warned I might have the munchies later!
There was cake…
It was hubby’s birthday yesterday so we had birthday cake too. Mmmm. I completely forgot to take a photo of that, though.
There were books…
My paperbacks arrived. I always look forward to the books coming as it’s such an amazing moment to see them, stroke them and, yes, sniff them. But I’d particularly been excited about the arrival of All You Needs Is Love because of those gorgeous sunset colours and it didn’t disappoint at all. So vibrant! My daughter has announced it’s her favourite cover and it might just be mine too as those colours are simply stunning.
The gorgeous wooden campervan (Thor the campervan in the story) has been well admired. I bought him from my favourite shop in Scarborough: White Beach Designs. The lovely owner, Andie, has a Facebook page if anyone is interested in one (they come in different colours). I do highly recommend the shop for gorgeous handmade jewellery, wooden gifts, pebble art and so much more. You can find the Facebook page here.
There was a party…
Last month I was invited to join a lovely Facebook group called ‘Heidi Swain and Friends’ which is run by Sue and Fiona as a readers’ group/book club for fans of Heidi Swain’s gorgeous books and authors who may also appeal to Heidi’s readers. Heidi very kindly supported Sue and Fiona’s suggestion to host a publication day party for me and they ran a day full of fun questions and quizzes relating to All You Need Is Love. It was fabulous seeing all the interaction from readers and joining in myself. A huge thank you to Heidi, Sue and Fiona. If you’d like to join the group, you can do so here.
I also have a readers’ group of my own on Facebook for discussion about anything related to my books and settings. Thank you to everyone who was so supportive on there and for all the kind messages coming through from those who have already read this book or plan to. If you haven’t already joined Redland’s Readers, you can do so here.
There was a blog tour
My blog tour kicked off yesterday with three lovely reviews. There’ll be 36 stops over 12 days and, as usual, I’ll share a round-up at the end. An enormous thank you to all those who have signed up and those who share their posts. It makes such a difference to get these early reviews and spread the word. Thank you also to those who have read this book under its previous incarnation as Bear With Me for sharing the love for this story.
There were blog posts
I guested on the Boldwood Books blog talking about my own teddy bear shop which inspired part of the story. You can find that post here.
I also guested on the RNA’s blog (Romantic Novelists’ Association) talking about my inspiration for the story and a bit more about my writing. Thank you to Catherine Lawless and the RNA for hosting me. You can find that post here.
There was music
I pulled together a Spotify playlist of songs which link to/inspire All You Need Is Love. You can find that here. They’re roughly presented in the order of relevance to the story so, if you’ve read the book, you can probably guess which part they may relate to. As you’d expect, not all the lyrics are a perfect match but the general vibe is there. Thank you to my editor, Nia, for pulling this together for me. I hope you enjoy listening to it.
There was a video
I created a publication day video about what to expect and explained the difference between plush bears, collectible bears and artist bears (with gorgeous bears to help me) which you can find here.
And the day finished with a Facebook Live
My amazing editor Nia Beynon hosted an ‘in conversation’ on Facebook for an hour and we had some fabulous questions. I also did a reading from All You Need Is Love. Thank you to everyone who joined us live or who has listened to it since. You can catch up with the video here.
So, as you can see, an extremely busy but lovely day. Thank you to everyone who made it so special and particularly my amazing husband and daughter, Mark and Ashleigh, without whose support I wouldn’t be doing what I do today.
If you’re interested in reading to All You Need Is Love, it’s available as an eBook for Apple, Kindle and Kobo, and in print format as a paperback, hardback and large print. For those who like to listen, it’s available as an audio download or physical copy and will appear on streaming services soon.
Big hugs Jessica xx
All You Need Is Love
When you’ve loved and lost, how do you find the strength to let love in again?
Jemma thinks she’s found the love of her life. Scott is everything she ever dreamed of and she can’t wait to begin the next stage of their life together. But just as she is heading for her happy ever after, a shock revelation shatters Jemma’s life as she knows it. Left to pick up the pieces, Jemma’s friends and family rally round to help her find the courage to move on.
Sam think he has his future all worked out. A thriving career, lovely home and an amazing fiancée. But when tragedy strikes, he finds himself alone, far from everyone he cares about. Did he do the right thing by running away and trying to rebuild the tatters of his life alone?
This is the story of Jemma and Sam. Two lost souls, desperately trying to find closure and happiness. When a chance meeting brings them together a friendship is formed, but the guards are up.
Will it finally be their turn for a happy ever after? Or will the secrets from their pasts prevent them from moving on?
Escape to Whitsborough Bay for an emotional, uplifting story of love and friendship from top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland.
This book was previously published as Bear With Me.
Today is the publication day for my latest Boldwood release, All You Need Is Love. Publication days are always special but this one is extra special. It’s my husband’s birthday, it’s my sprocker spaniel Ella’s fifth birthday (happy birthday my lovelies xx) AND this is my tenth book to be released through Boldwood Books. Ten! Eek!
I first thought about writing a book a long time ago – back in 2002 – when a manager at work told me my business reports read like stories and I should write a book. Great idea but what would I write about? Then something happened to me that gave me the premise for my debut novel and I started writing it the following year.
Back then, I never thought about the next stage. Getting the book published wasn’t something I was aiming towards. The goal was simply to get to the end, to write a book. Could I even do that? Could I construct an interesting page-turning story with engaging characters?
It took me a decade to finish the book due to a combination of big life events – wedding, baby, house moves and job changes – but I kept chipping away. I started to think beyond finishing, especially as the idea for one book had developed into a trilogy.
After two critiques through the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme, my debut novel was ready to seek a publishing deal. For most authors, the road to publication is a bumpy one paved with rejections and disappointments and my experience is no exception. Ten months and twenty-three rejections later, I was seriously thinking about going indie when two very different offers came along: an established US-based digital only publisher v a new UK-based publisher who’d publish in ebook and paperback. I chose the latter.
My debut novel and a prequel novella were released in May and June 2015. My amazing husband surprised me on publication day with a set of canvases: one of each of the book covers and a third with the release date on it and this quote from the author Mark Twain:
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
The quote made me cry. We both knew that I’d found my purpose in life and, having secured a publishing deal, I was now on my way…
But it didn’t work out. The company failed to make an impact in the publishing world and ceased trading shortly after my final book was released. I was devastated. With my rights back, I re-released the trilogy and prequel novella independently. They tanked.
I thought things might change when I released a brand new book the following year but they didn’t and, for the next few years, I struggled. I was working long hours in a full-time job, I led a Brownie Pack, and I had a family. Finding time to write was a massive challenge. Finding time to explore how to be a successful indie author was an impossibility.
I released another four books – all Christmas ones – and enjoyed some success with them but, mostly, it was days of zero sales and low chart positions. My reviews were great. Those who discovered my books seemed to love them but not enough readers were discovering them so, in summer 2018, I decided that it was time to try to secure a publisher again.
First time around, I had no idea if I had something a publisher might want and saw it as a process: Rejection? Okay, that’s a shame, but who’s next on the list? Second time around, each rejection floored me. A brand new novel provisionally titled Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye received five rejections. I also tried one of my back catalogue, Bear With Me, which gathered three passes. It was really hard to focus on the positive feedback when phrases like “Not suitable for our list”, “Not ‘hooky’ enough to stand out” and “Didn’t quite hit the mark for me” kept leaping out at me.
As 2018 drew to a close, I’d never felt so low about my writing and questioned whether it was time to give up. What was the point in spending months writing a book when hardly anybody was reading it and no publishers wanted it? But the reality was that writing was part of me. I was bursting with ideas. I had stories to tell. It was the only thing I wanted to do. I kept looking at that Mark Twain quote and believing that, one day, it would happen. One day my manuscript would land on the right desk at the right time and my world would change.
And it did.
I spotted an advert for the newly-formed Boldwood Books who’d be opening for submissions in February 2019 and knew I’d found my perfect home. I just hoped they agreed. Thankfully they did and I was offered a whopping 9-book publishing deal for four new books and five from my back catalogue. Another couple of contract addendums added in the remaining three previously-published books.
The book that secured my deal with Boldwood was the five times rejected Wish I could Tell You Goodbye. It was released in September 2019 under the title of The Secret to Happiness and has since sold nearly 50,000 copies and been in The Works. And the rejected Bear With Me is now re-edited and reissued as All You Need Is Love out today.
I’m writing my thirteenth book at the moment; the first for a new 12-book contract with Boldwood. If somebody had told me when I was writing my first novel that I’d be a full-time author releasing my tenth book through the most incredible publisher while writing my thirteenth, I’d never have believed them. When I went through my second submission round and devasted by the rejections, I wouldn’t have done either.
So today as I celebrate my tenth Boldwood release, I am so grateful to my husband and daughter for the canvas that hangs above my desk and reminds me each day of my purpose in life and for their constant encouragement. I’m so grateful for the rejections I had along the way because they brought me to my perfect home with Boldwood Books. And I’m so grateful to all the readers who’ve bought or borrowed my books and audios, particularly those who send me messages or write gorgeous reviews telling me how much they love my books. My tenth book is called All You Need Is Love and it’s a message that applies to authors. We need the love from readers to keep going through the tough times, the love of a publisher who believes in us, and family and friends who support us every step of the way.
If you have a dream, don’t give up on it. Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart, they might actually be coming together. It might not happen for you immediately … but it could happen down the line. It did for me.
Last Monday, I started a weekly #MondayMotivation blog post about what inspires me in my office and here’s the second post in the series.
In the UK, it’s evening now but the late posting is not because I’d forgotten (although with my sieve for a brain, that was very likely). I’ve actually been on a book deadline so needed to prioritise getting the manuscript for my second book in the Hedgehog Hollow series to my editor. Which I’ve now done. Eek! The anxious wait for the verdict starts now.
So, onto my wall and today’s choices is…
I picked up the picture in a gorgeous independent gift shop in Derby in November 2017. I’d love to give the shop a plug but remember that thing I said just now about having a sieve for a brain????
I’m part of a writing collective of ten authors called The Write Romantics who were all members of the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) when we met virtually. Seven years later and we’re all either independently published, traditionally published or hybrid with well over 100 books between us. We’re spread around the country so meeting up is a challenge but, a few years ago, half of us managed to coordinate diaries for a weekend away. None of us were familiar with Derby but it seemed like a pretty central point to meet.
Being a huge fan of bears, the image immediately drew me in but the words were what made me buy the picture. BE BRAVE. Because, as authors, there are so many points in our writing journey when bravery is needed:
When we first ask someone – a friend or family member – to read our manuscript (MS) and prepare to receive their honest verdict … which may not be the positive response we’d have hoped for
When we submit our MS to a publisher or agent … which may result in rejection
When it’s publication day … and our book may fail to make an impact on the charts
When a negative review comes in … and we have to keep telling ourselves it’s only one person’s opinion/it’s not personal when it really feels like the world hates our work and it’s very personal
When we speak at an event … and hope someone turns up!
When we finish our next book … and worry it may not be as well received as the one before
And a whole lot more
At the time of our Derby meet-up, I was particularly trying to be brave about writing. I’d been indie for about a year after my original publisher ceased trading and it wasn’t going particularly well. Battling self doubt about my ability to make it as an author thanks to poor sales and weak chart positions, the bear spoke to me. Loudly. Yet gently.
The picture hangs above my desk and I look at it several times a day and draw strength from it. Be brave. Keep being brave. And sometimes that bravery will pay off and great things can happen. They did for me.
Boldwood Books posted this meme on their Facebook site yesterday and it could not have been more appropriate for me because, yesterday, I grabbed my opportunity to build the tomorrow I want. Yesterday, I resigned from my day job!
I’ve always needed to fit writing around a full-time day job which has not been easy. Over the years, I’ve held some very demanding roles where I’ve barely written because extremely long hours and/or business travel has prevented it. And it didn’t really matter at first because, when I was writing my debut novel, it felt a more like a hobby. Could I learn how to write a book? Could I get to the end? Would it be readable? I never actually thought beyond that but, once I’d joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and received positive feedback from readers on the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS), I began to imagine that there could be something beyond a finished manuscript loitering on my computer.
And there was.
Five years ago, I became a home-based HR Tutor.
Five years ago, my first book was published.
Five years ago, it was no longer a hobby.
Five years ago, I dreamed that I would one day be able to write full-time.
And five years later, it’s happening. Or at least it will be when I’ve served my four weeks’ notice.
And then I’m going to lie on a chaise while a scantily-clad Adonis drops grapes into my mouth while dictating my amazing new novels to a harassed secretary. Oh, wait, have I stolen a Little Britain sketch there?
What I’ll actually be doing is writing but I’ll be able to do it every day. And I’ll be able to do it during the day instead of late on evenings or across weekends like I’ve had to since I started writing. Which means I may actually have some time to spend with my immediate (household) family, extended family (post lockdown) and actually find time to exercise the lard off my rather enormous writer’s bottom!
I am so very grateful to the brilliant Boldwood Books and particularly my editor, Nia. Without my publishing deal with them, my dream would have remained just a dream. Their passion and enthusiasm has taken me from ticking over in the charts with a small number of sales each week to being an international bestseller who has sold 30,000 books (eBook, paperback or audio) through them since my first release in September last year. Wow!
I can’t help but smile at the words ‘international bestseller’ because, in my mind, that conjures up the likes of J K Rowling, Dan Brown, Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Stephen King (picking from a mix of genres here). It’s not me! However, you are officially classed as a ‘bestseller’ if you get into the Top 100 on the Amazon charts and I’ve managed that:
The Secret to Happiness – #9 in Canada
The Secret to Happiness – #20 in Australia
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – #20 in the UK
Leaving my day job is scary. I’m walking away from a decent monthly income. I’m leaving behind a career choice I made when I was eighteen (a loooong time ago!) My income from writing will be a small fraction of what I earn normally but that drop in income will be worth it for the joy of being able to spend time every day ‘making stuff up’ and finally getting a work:life balance.
To anyone with a dream like mine, keep holding onto it. It might not come to fruition quickly or easily. I’ve certainly had my fair share of rejection, disappointment, self-doubt, and more disappointment along the way. About eighteen months ago, I felt so down about things that I even wondered whether to give up completely. But I couldn’t not write. It’s part of who I am and I’d be lost without it. So I took a deep breath, tried not to cry too much about the many days with zero sales and the low chart positions despite the great reviews and keep believing that, one day, it would happen to me.
And it has.
Roll on Friday 5th June – my very last day. Each webinar run, each assignment marked, and each query answered will take me a step closer to living my dream.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and believed in me along the way, especially my amazing husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, who have always accepted that I have two full-time jobs and not a lot of time.
Thanks to my mum – my biggest supporter who tells everyone she meets about her daughter, the author.
Thanks to all those who have ever beta read my work (in alphabetical order) – Clare, Liz, Debbie, Jo, Mum, Nicola, Sharon, Sue and Susan with an extra huge shout-out to Sharon who has been my shoulder to cry on, my champion and an inspiration. Can’t wait to meet up and eat (lots of) cake when we’re through the other side. Yes, I know that defeats the bottom-reducing plan but needs must!
And, of course, a huge thanks to so many amazing bloggers and readers, some of whom have been around since the start, through my indie years, and are still with me now and others who’ve just recently discovered my work and have been so lovely and supportive.
Every single one of you have made my dream come true and I can’t thank you enough.
If you want to read my uplifting stories of love and friendship set on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast, or find out more:
My books are available on Amazon, AppleBooks, Kobo in eBook, paperback and audio formats. You can find my Amazon page here.
On Tuesday this week, I announced the thrilling news that I’d secured a 9-book publishing deal with Boldwood. I’m so excited about this but it wasn’t that long ago when I could have given up…
Warning: long post coming up but I wanted to share it for any writers who might be struggling, to show that it is worth waiting.
Towards the end of 2018 and moving into the start of 2019, I have to admit that I was feeling pretty low about my writing. For ‘pretty low’, read ‘big, fat failure’. Serious thoughts of giving up on this writing malarkey swirled around my mind frequently and I even hit the point where I struggled to find the motivation to put fingers to keyboard. Not good.
What happened? I had rejections. But I’d had rejections before and had never felt like this so what had changed?
If I look back to 2013 when I sent my debut novel, Searching for Steven, out into the world with the objective of making friends with publishers and agents, I didn’t have any major expectations. I hoped, of course, that I would secure a publishing deal but I really didn’t have a clue whether Steven was good enough or not. He was my first book-baby and I was very proud of him, I’d had some superb feedback from beta readers and a couple of really positive critiques from the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, but this was publishers and agents. Would they feel the same?
Quite a lot of them didn’t. Between September 2013 and June 2014, 12 agencies and 11 publishers said no. Actually, not all of them even took the time to say that. I’d expected to be hurt by the rejections but, instead, I viewed it as a process. Rejection? Ok, fine, knock them off the list. Who’s next?
And then I got bored.
It was taking so long to hear back and I had a book sat there ready for release with a sequel nearly written and a third in the pipeline. Why not get them out there myself? I was waiting to hear from three more publishers and, if they all said no, I was going to indie publish. Guess what? Two of them said yes! It would appear that publishing deals are like men or buses…
Having two publishing offers on the table was a very happy dilemma. I could have gone for an eBook-only deal with an established USA-based publisher or with a new UK-based publisher producing eBooks and paperbacks. Oh my goodness! A paperback? What author doesn’t long to hold their book-baby in their arms and sniff it? So I chose the UK-based one.
My publisher had great plans and lots of contacts in the publishing world. They were going to do well, weren’t they? Sadly, no. Between May 2015 and August 2016, a prequel novella was released through them, followed by the trilogy. Steven’s launch came with enthusiasm, passion and marketing support. The others were left to fend for themselves. Things clearly weren’t going well for my publisher and, after an email exchange following Daran’srelease, the owner admitted that it hadn’t worked out and they would ultimately cease trading. I secured my rights back and, across late 2016 and early 2017, my husband designed new covers and we re-released them.
Being an indie author brought many positives, mainly around decision-making, but it also brought many negatives. My biggest challenge was that writing wasn’t – and still isn’t – my main job. I still have a day job and writing has always had to fit around that. To be a successful indie author, I needed to spend a lot more time promoting my work and that simply wasn’t time I had; or at least it wasn’t if I wanted to work on new material too.
Over the next couple of years, sales of the series and a new release, Bear With Me, trickled along but I had many days of zero-sales which are very disheartening. In Christmas 2017, I released two Christmas books and was quite astonished at how well they sold. I now have four Christmas books (although one of them is a sequel to Raving About Rhys) and, despite being mid-June as I write this, they’re still selling. It seems Christmas is popular all year round!
When I say my Christmas books were selling well, we’re not talking huge numbers. We’re not talking the sort of income that could match my day job and allow me to write full-time. We’re not talking impressive chart positions. When I started this journey, I’d have been happy for any sales, but now I wanted more and I realised that the only way I was going to be able to find a wider readership was to secure a publishing deal again. The thing was, I’d already been burnt. Could I risk lightning striking twice?
At the RNA’s July conference last year, I pitched my work-in-progress, Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye, to four publishers. All were very enthusiastic and wanted to see the full MS when it was ready, but there was a mixed opinion as to where they saw the book going. Two of them wanted me to move down a more cosy romcom route with it and the other two wanted me to have a more emotionally-driven story which was what I’d intended. One of the publishers who wanted cosy asked me to send her one of my finished books so she could get a feel for my world and my writing. It wasn’t for them. I decided not to submit to the other publisher who also wanted cosy. This wasn’t a difficult decision because the two who wanted emotional were so enthusiastic, one of them appearing absolutely convinced it would be a fit. It wasn’t. They both rejected the final MS. And I didn’t take that news well.
When Steven received his rejections a few years back, I never shed a tear, but I cried bucket-loads each time Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was rejected. Why? I think it’s because it felt more personal this time. When I tried to secure a publishing deal for Steven, I honestly didn’t know if he was good enough. With Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye, I knew I had a great story. My beta reader feedback was that it was the best thing I’d ever written and that was very much at the forefront of my mind. If Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was my best work and these publishers didn’t think it was good enough, where did that leave me? Had I been kidding myself for all this time that I could actually write?
Having a support group around you is so key as an author: writing friends who understand the highs and lows as well as friends and family who aren’t connected at all and can be completely objective. My wonderful writing friend, Sharon Booth and my writing family, The Write Romantics, were there for me to encourage me to keep going. Outside of writing, my husband, Mark, and my mum have been so supportive too. They believed in me and I just needed to get that self-belief back.
Realistically, I was never really going to give up because I have stories to tell and I can’t not write them. It’s part of me. It’s who I am. So maybe that’s another reason why rejections were harder. When I wrote Searching for Steven, it was simply something I fancied having a go at. I had no thoughts of ever publishing him. I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever even finish him. Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye was my tenth book, though, and I’d very much defined myself as a writer several books back. It felt like the publishers weren’t rejecting the book; they were rejecting me.
Objectively looking at it, there were so many positives in their comments. Every single rejection – and I received five in total for this MS and 3 rejections from the same group of publishers for one of my back-catalogue books – talked about how good my writing was, how warm my voice was, and how much they loved the setting. It’s just that the book wasn’t for them. I needed to hang onto that positive feedback and accept that the story might not speak to every editor who read it. But it would speak to someone…
I’ve always been a great believer in things happening for a reason. Those rejections, although hard, were because the right publisher for me hadn’t opened for business yet.
In January this year, I spotted an advert on Facebook for a new publisher called Boldwood who’d be open for submissions on 1st February. I’d already been stung by joining a brand new publisher but I checked out Boldwood’s website anyway, just in case. Words and phrases like “publishing reimagined” and “developing authors’ careers” and “working in partnership” leapt out at me. The credentials of the team were impressive too. They’d had proven success elsewhere; something my previous publisher had lacked.
I sat up till midnight so that I could be the first to submit to Boldwood as soon as 1st February arrived. Then I panicked later in the day when I saw a Twitter announcement from them saying they were now open for submissions. What if my midnight submission hadn’t made it because their inbox wasn’t open for business? So I submitted again.
On Friday 15thMarch, I received the email I had longed to receive: Many thanks for submitting to us – I really enjoyed Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye. What a gorgeous read! … Are you free next week at all for a phone call?
Eek! Of course I was. We scheduled a phone call for the following Wednesday so I had a nerve-wracking few days. Surely it had to be a publishing deal if they wanted to speak to me, but what would it look like?
I never in my wildest dreams imagined the offer I received: a 5-book publishing deal but they were interested in my back catalogue too so would come back with a proposal on that. A few days later, I had the full 9-book publishing deal, with potential plans to take on the whole back catalogue depending on how things went. Oh. My. God!
So, to any writers out there who are struggling with rejections, hang on in there. Things happen for a reason and perhaps that publisher wasn’t right for you. Perhaps no publisher is right and the indie route is for you? Perhaps a hybrid approach? An agent? There are so many options available to writers these days that it might take a while to find what’s best for you and it might take several false starts, but keep believing in yourself and your writing.
Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye will be released on Tuesday 3rd September under a brand new title: The Secret to Happiness.I’m honoured to be part of the team of authors at Boldwood and look forward to developing my career with them as they continue to reimagine publishing. I have a feeling it’s going to be a wonderful partnership.
What’s that saying? The best things come to those who waited. Well, I waited, and good things came!
There’s no cover image finalised just yet, but you can pre-order The Secret to Happiness on eBook here.