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

Reflections on June

It’s the final day of June so time to look back over the past month under my usual headings…

I started the month reading an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin which I’d been asked by her publisher if I’d like to read. Many years ago, I read several of Rebecca’s books while on holiday and had really enjoyed them but then I got out of the habit of reading and didn’t read any more (not that that stopped me adding a few to my Kindle!) I do enjoy a new beginnings story and this is one of those with a beautiful setting and some interesting characters. You can find the blurb and pre-order the book here.

I then moved to Cornwall (not physically!) to catch up with the Cornish Midwife series penned by my good friend, Jo Bartlett, who is now also with the same publisher as me: Boldwood Books. I had already read the first book in the series The Cornish Midwife before Jo joined Boldwood but, like my backlist, it had some edits before being released as a Boldwood publication. I could see from the blurb that a particular plot point had changed so I did a speedy read through it to immerse myself back into the story and see the changes before moving on to book 2.

A Summer Wedding for the Cornish Midwife is out tomorrow and I should finish reading it tonight. Both books are fabulous – full of warmth, a gorgeous setting and fabulous characters. You can find them on Jo’s author page on Amazon here although they’re also available in a stack of other formats/from other retailers.

If anyone has read any of Jo’s books or is interested in finding out more, I’m in conversation with Jo on the Book and Tonic Facebook page tomorrow night (1st July) at 6pm GMT celebrating publication day and talking all things writing so hope you can join us.

You can find the Book and Tonic Facebook page here and, if you can’t join in on the day, you will be able to catch up from that page afterwards.

Another month with very little viewing. The munchkin and I are still working through Castle and we’re now up to season 5. Still loving it.

Last weekend we had a family film night and watched Armageddon. It’s the first time the munchkin (age 14) has seen it and she loved it, although it made her cry. I remember seeing it at the cinema. Such a good film. I’m thinking we maybe need to introduce her to some other disaster movies like 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

I’ve been very busy with writing in June. Right at the start of the month, I returned my second round of edits on my next brand new book, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café. My editor loved the changes and it has since been through the copy edits and proofreading stage. I’ve done the final read-through so that book is now parked from my end and I’ll look forward to an official cover reveal next month.

Around those editing stages, I’ve been working on the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow book: A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow. I had a bit of a slow start with it because I was struggling to get some answers for some of my research and I had a bit of a panic because the third book, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, has had such phenomenal feedback and I was feeling the pressure of the bar being set very high. I wrote a blog post about it here.

I found I was procrastinating loads – something I’ve been aware of for the past year since becoming a full-time author – so I decided I would try to break the bad habits I’d fallen into and see if I could blitz a book in a fortnight. I wrote a blog post about it here initially wondering if it was possible to write a book in a week if everything else was ignored. I didn’t think it would be feasible to do that but figured it would be good to even manage to write half a book in a week and maybe get to the end within a fortnight. As for whether I’ve managed that, I’ll let you know next week when the fortnight is up so watch this space!

My big celebration this month was reaching one year as a full-time author on 8th June. Earning enough money from writing to be able to leave the day job was always my goal so it’s been wonderful being able to live the dream for a year. My heartfelt thanks to all the amazing readers who have made that happen.

We had a cover reveal for my final backlist book – Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop – and I had lots of positive comments about the gorgeous cover. It’s out on 3rd August and you can pre-order it here. It should be £1.99 but it’s only £1.59 on Amazon just now so, if you haven’t read the original version (Charlee and the Chocolate Shop), you might want to grab a bargain now.

I’m not a fan of clothes shopping, not helped by being overweight and there being very few shops where I can find clothes. However, every so often, I have to submit to letting the munchkin drag me round Primark. In the half-term holiday at the start of this month, we had a day out to Monks Cross which is a small retail park (with a Primark) just outside York, an hour’s drive from us. We made a day of it and grabbed some lunch while we were there. While I can’t say I loved the shopping, it felt like a small step towards some sort of normality.

The next day, we went over to my parents’ house for a BBQ with my family. I have two brothers who are both married with two girls each and we hadn’t seen any of them since Christmas 2019 so it was lovely to see everyone again and a relief that the weather was good so we could get together outside.

The munchkin started going to Rangers last month (for Guides once they’ve turned 14) and decided she wanted to do her Young Leader’s qualification. She’s also started her Duke of Edinburgh through school and needs to do a volunteering unit as part of that. She figured she could combine the two and arranged to help out at a Rainbow unit (age 5-6) in a village on the other side of Scarborough to us called Scalby. As it’s a bit of a drive across town and Rainbows is only on for an hour, hubby and I decided we might as well drop her off and go for a wander with the dog. I’d never really explored this village before and it was lovely to look around, fantasising about being able to afford a property there (no chance!)

After her second session, we pushed the boat out and went for a meal afterwards, although it was a bit nippy in the beer garden for my liking. The joys of outdoor eating in the UK!

The jaunts didn’t end there. I attended a talk as part of the Books by the Beach Festival in Scarborough. It was Rowan Coleman talking about her writing of The Brontë Mysteries as Bella Ellis after which I took the munchkin down to South Bay for an ice cream although it was heaving down there (bit too scary for me). I went on a retreat run by Rowan a few weeks ago and we arranged to meet up on the evening for a meal.

I went to Beverley and spent an afternoon with my bestie and fellow-author Sharon Booth. Four and a half hours whizzed by over food and chat and it was time to go home all too soon. Sharon and I used to meet up roughly fortnightly and we managed to squeeze in a September get-together between lockdowns but it was so good to see her again face to face. If you haven’t checked out Sharon’s amazing books, you can find them here.

I also had a hair cut and colour this month. I had decided to go grey and had my hair lightened last time to make it less obvious, leaving the roots grey, but I decided I didn’t like it and wasn’t ready, so I’m back to fully coloured and feel so much better for it!

I had a meal out with my mother in law and one of Mark’s sisters and that was the end of my planned outings. Then we had an unplanned and not so pleasant one. The munchkin texted last week to say she was being sent home to self-isolate and could we collect her. Students in her year had been sent home in groups over the previous few days due to a high number of Covid cases and she was in the third batch. Then the whole year was sent home. Then the whole school closed! As she was in one of the groups specifically asked to isolate, we were instructed that we all had to have PCR tests. Thankfully we all tested negative. Hubby and I are double-jabbed so we hoped we would be, but it was a relief that the munchkin hadn’t picked anything up. She does lateral flow tests every couple of days too.

So, other than the last unexpected trip out, it has been a busy month and it has been so lovely to be able to talk about going out after months of having very little to write in this section. I do feel a little on edge when in crowds but I’m more worried about the munchkin than I am about me now. She says they’re going to get vaccinated at school in September but I’d love it if it could roll forwards. The new variants that keep appearing are a concern.

Hope you had a great June and wishing you a fabulous July.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on May

We’ve reached the end of the month. Where did May go? So here’s my monthly round-up…

With so much time in my editing cave, May has been another month where I’ve read very little I’m afraid. I finished reading the final book in Sharon Booth’s fabulous Kearton Bay series, The Whole of the Moon, and loved it. The book was released on Friday and you can get it here although I’d encourage you to start at the beginning and enjoy the whole series. Sharon writes gorgeous stories of love, friendship, family and community with lots of warmth and humour.

I’m reading a book called Escape to Honeysuckle Hall by Rebecca Raisin at the moment which I was send in advance for a quote. I’m nearly a third of the way through and really enjoying it so far. I read several of Rebecca’s books quite a few years ago while on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed them so it’s lovely to be back reading one of hers.

Line of Duty finished. Let’s not talk about that underwhelming ending eh? And I Can See Your Voice also finished and I really hope it returns for a second season.

I watched the Friends Reunion which I loved. It was funny and emotional and I wish it had been longer as I could happily have watched several hours of it. Friends remains one of my all-time favourite programmes and I loved seeing the genuine friendship and affection the six main cast members had for each other.

I’ve started watching Virgin River on Netflix. I’m only three episodes in but it’s nice gentle viewing so all good so far.

We’ve only managed to squeeze in one film this month: Tenet. Lots of action, lots of explosions, visually impressive… and I have no idea what it was all about. Far too clever for me I’m afraid. The general consensus is you need to watch it a twice and things start to make sense but, with a running time of two and a half hours, I think I’ll pass on that.

I completed my final proofread on the edited version of Charlee and the Chocolate Shop which will be out on 3rd August as Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop. That’s now with production and you can pre-order it here.

I’ve also finished the second round of edits on book 13 – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café – which is out on 31st August and can be pre-ordered here. It was the toughest of edits but I’m really happy with the way it has turned out and hope readers love it too.

Today, I dived back into the world of Hedgehog Hollow and started on the fourth book in the series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – which is out on 6th January and can be pre-ordered here. I haven’t written many words yet as I needed to do some preparation around the backstory for one of the main characters, but I will hopefully get about halfway through by the end of June. I wrote the first three Hedgehog Hollow books back to back so, after working on two Whitsborough Bay ones since, I need to reset my head away from the coast and into the countryside!

I started off the month with my birthday and, on 4th May, celebrated the release of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. I was a little nervous about it as I’d had a few negative comments on NetGalley but it seems to have gone down a storm with bloggers and readers. I shared my fears on a blog post here.

With a high Kindle chart position of #38 at the time of release thanks to a phenomenal number of pre-orders, it made the Bookstat eBook Top 10 in The Bookseller for sales that week (see blog post here). Four weeks on, it’s still in the Top 200.

The rate at which reviews have been coming in has astonished me. After a fortnight, I was thrilled by 300. By two weeks, there were over 800. After three weeks it had passed 1,000 and a day ahead of the four-week anniversary, there are nearly 1300 reviews/ratings on Amazon, 83% of which are 5-star. Wow! I still can’t quite believe that quantity or quality. Thank you so much everyone who has left a review or rating on whatever platform.

Book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow ­– celebrated passing 2,000 reviews/ratings on Amazon and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Café passed the 1,500 milestone.

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow has been on an amazing promotion over on Apple. In the UK and Ireland, it has been the free book of the week and it was selected as the (free) Romance of the week in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. This has had some amazing results for this book, the other two in the series, and also The Secret to Happiness. I’ll write a separate post about this in the next few days.

I celebrated six years as a published author. I’m certainly in a very different place now to how I was back then. You can read all about it here.

As it was my birthday at the start of the month, we went out for a walk along Scarborough’s South Cliff. It might not sound the most exciting when we live in Scarborough but it’s beautiful and, on a bank holiday weekend, the roads get so snarled up around here, we never venture far from home.

I had my hair cut for the first time in nearly 18 months and had a quick whizz around town afterwards, and I also had my second covid jab. These events should not really feature as the most exciting things I’ve done this month but I think it speaks volumes for the world in which we live in that they do just now.

Other than that, I really haven’t been anywhere. That’s partly to do with being heads down for deadlines but also a bit of nervousness about being out and about again. Or is it nerves? I don’t know. I don’t feel anxious when I’m out so perhaps it’s more about routine. I’m so used to not being out and about that home feels more comfortable. And safer. And less peopley. Really must try to leave the house more than three or four times in June!

Hope your May was kind to you. Welcome June…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on April

It’s the last day of the month and time to reflect on what’s happened in April…

I’ve had another month of not reading much as I’ve been deep in my editing cave (more on that later) but I have read an early copy of the first book in a new series from Nicola May. Nicola has had some phenomenal success, topping the Kindle chart for what seemed forever a couple of years back – an impressive feat anyway but extra impressive for an indie author. Her paperbacks now have a publishing deal and I was asked if I’d read Welcome to Ferry Lane Market. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it will be out in the summer so watch out for that. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon here.

I’ve also just started beta reading the final book in the four-strong Kearton Bay series, The Whole of the Moon, by super talented author (and bestie) Sharon Booth. It’s out at the end of May and it’s so fabulous to be back among old friends. You can pre-order it on Amazon here although I’d definitely recommend the full series. And all the rest of Sharon’s books for that matter!

The fabulous Line of Duty continues to grip hubby and me on a Sunday evening although last week’s episode was a little confusing as it felt like there was a plot hole. Hopefully it will all become clear in Sunday’s final episode. Will we discover who ‘H’ is? I would so love to think so but I’m pretty sure I’ve read that there’s another series to come so I suspect we might not.

I love watching The Hit List with the lovely Marvin and Rochelle Humes on a Saturday teatime. It’s a fun format so, even if you’re not into music, it’s worth watching. I love Rochelle’s facial reactions and how she clings onto Marvin in the final round when the contestants panic, their minds go blank, and the money starts slipping away from them.

Speaking of fun formats, I have a new viewing pleasure for a Saturday evening: I Can See Your Voice on BBC hosted by Paddy McGuinness with a celeb panel helping a pair of contestants deduce who from a line-up of six can sing and who can’t. Over a few rounds, they gradually eliminate 1-2 ‘singers’ and at that point we discover whether their sleuthing was accurate and they’ve eliminated someone who’s tone-deaf. When they get down to the final ‘singer’, the contestants win £10k if that person can sing but the ‘singer’ wins £10k if they are tone-deaf and have fooled everyone. I’d seen trailers and dismissed it as something I wouldn’t be interested in but then caught a clip on Gogglebox which looked great fun. We laughed so much on Saturday night when the final singer turned out to be completely off-key and the singer on the celeb panel – Ronan Keating that night – had to duet with her. If you haven’t already checked it out, I highly recommend it. Great family fun!

Finally, we managed a film this month but I’m still undecided about it. I saw it trailered a lot when it came out in 2018 and it had me intrigued, especially as it’s based on a true story: Welcome to Marwen. It stars Steve Carrell as aspiring artist Mark Hogancamp who was horrifically assaulted by a group of 5 men and left for dead. Brain damaged from the attack, he has no memory of his previous life and can no longer draw so he turns to photography, constructing a miniature WWII village called Marwen and creating stories using Barbie-like dolls. A lot of the film is played out by the dolls whose experiences, albeit in the WWII backdrop, mirror what Hogancamp is going through. Why did I struggle? Probably because so much of it was with the dolls. I wanted to know more about Hogancamp himself and what happened to his attackers when the case went to court but there seemed to be gaps. I’m probably missing the point and I’m sure others would feel that everything that needed to be told was told by the dolls but it just didn’t quite work for me personally.

It has been a crazy-busy month with writing. The edits came through for the final book in my backlist to be re-released: Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. I haven’t read this since it went up for publication in 2017 but it has had great reviews. My editor commented on how much my writing style has changed over the years and I was surprised at that as this was the 6th book I’d written and I thought my style had changed much earlier. When I re-read it, I had a bit of a shock! I’ll write a separate post with more detail about this but I wasn’t happy with the book. The story was still great but the way I told it needed work so it took me about six times as long to edit as it would have done if I’d just made the editorial tweaks here and there. I feel much happier with it so it was time well spent.

I also finished writing book 13 and it has been a huge struggle. Again, I’ll cover this in more detail in a future blog post but I knew something wasn’t quite right with it and had my suspicions as to what that might be. When the edits came back a week ago, those suspicions were confirmed. I had effectively tried to cover two stories in one book and, as a result, hadn’t given enough attention to either. The exciting news is this means a sequel which is already partially written but the challenging part for me is stripping one plot line out and stitching the story back together. Lots of hard work and re-thinking but it will be worth it in the end. My editor, Nia, is phenomenal. She is so insightful about what needs work but also so supportive and encouraging.

I’ve had some exciting events to celebrate in April:

AUSTRALIAN GOLD BOX – Seven of my books were in a special gold box deal on Amazon Australia where they are offered for the equivalent of 99p (or thereabouts) for a 24-hour period only. All but one of the books reached the Top 100 with one of them – The Secret to Happiness – peaking at #10 which was amazing. The only book that didn’t make it into the Top 100 wasn’t far outside and it was Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes. Given the time of year, I wasn’t at all surprised it wasn’t storming the charts!

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE – There was a BookBub promotion in the UK, Australia and Canada which saw Top 100 in Canada and Top 50 for Australia although it peaked at #127 in the UK. As this book had previously been out as Bear With Me, I wasn’t sure if it would climb so high so I was really pleased with these positions.

We think that the timing of Easter Sunday for this promotion and the Gold Box one may have had an effect on sales as I know of lots of people who were off social media and making it family time so, instead of seeing that as a negative, I prefer to think of it as even more impressive how high the books got considering it was Easter Sunday and there were so many other distractions.

SIGNED PAPERBACKS – I started selling signed copies of my paperback and had a really positive response with quite a few readers wanting the entire back catalogue which was lovely. I still have loads of paperbacks as I haven’t pushed it since so do DM me on any social media format if you’re interested.

REVIEWS MILESTONES – Making Wishes at Bay View and The Secret to Happiness both passed 1,000 reviews this month, meaning six of my books have now done so. The love for the hedgehogs is strong with both Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow passing 1,500 and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes passing a whopping 2,000 milestone! Can’t believe how many reviews/ratings my stories have been gathering. Thank you so much to everyone who has shared the book love. It means the world to me xx

Restrictions have lifted and we met up with my parents at Thorp Perrow arboretum at the start of this month for a lovely (but very cold) wander around. I hadn’t seen them since October half term so it was brilliant to catch up in person although weird not hugging. Don’t like that 😦

Piano lessons have resumed face to face but I’m going to return to Zoom lessons from next week. I struggle for time to practice around writing and, to allow for traffic and roadworks getting across town to my lesson, I end up losing about 45-50 mins travelling. My daughter’s learning piano and she does this in a group lesson (although there are only 2 in her group). I think it’s important she has the face-to-face interaction but I don’t need it. I can already play (badly) and am rekindling the skill after a 30-year gap without touching the piano. I’m also playing for fun rather than exams so it’s a different set-up. My travel time can be devoted to practice instead and, as my piano teacher has to be at the opposite end of the room to me due to distancing, there is no benefit in us being in the same room.

On the way back from my first face-to-face lesson, I passed a local garden centre called Dean’s Garden Centre and decided to nip in to see if I could get some artificial spring flowers for my Insta posts. I managed that but was also surprised and delighted to spot Making Wishes at Bay View in there alongside some other Boldwood authors! When The Works stock our books, the print-run includes a number that are sold to another book distributor who sends them mainly to the USA and Canada. However, they can also be distributed around the UK and will appear in retailers with small selections of books such as post offices, garden centres, local supermarkets and so on. I feel I may also need to check out our other local garden centre soon in case there are any in there!

Other than that, I haven’t ventured out at all. I started to paint the fence a couple of weekends ago and managed 5 out of the 11 panels but I’ve been in my editing cave since then so it will be end mid-May before I manage the rest. Quite pleased with the result so far, though. Ella wasn’t impressed. She spent the time trying to eat a plant pot instead!

I have a busy May coming up. It’s my birthday tomorrow and publication day of Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow on Tuesday which is exciting (but nerve-wracking as it’s always scary awaiting the verdict!) I’m also getting my hair cut for the first time since December 2019 on Tuesday. Yay!

I have until the middle of May to finish the huge edit on book 13 and then I’m back to Hedgehog Hollow to write book 4 in the series; my 14th book in total.

Hope April has treated you well and, if it hasn’t, that May is kind to you.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on February

It’s a new month so I thought I’d have a look back over February. I confess that I’ve also just signed up to a free trial of Canva Pro so it’s a good excuse to create a few more graphics!

I’ve read some great books this month and have managed to read more than I usually do as I’ve been making a concerted effort to try to read a bit each night before bed. They’re all 5-star reads for me and you can click onto my Goodreads review if you want to know more:

Dreaming Under an Island Skye by Lisa Hobman – Goodreads review here
The House by the Sea by Louise Douglas – Goodreads review here
The Secrets of Meadow Farmhouse by Katie Ginger (available for pre-order) – Goodreads review here
The Juggle by Emma Murray – Goodreads review here

I’ve also read a fabulous novella called The Other Half by my good friend Sharon Booth. This was available exclusively to newsletter subscribers and introduced us to the families who will be the focus of a new series she’s bringing out later this year. You can find out more about subscribing and getting your free copy of the novella here.

I’ve just started Summer Secrets at Streamside Cottage by Samantha Tonge and I’m only three chapters in but I’m gripped by it already so very excited to see where that goes.

I don’t watch a huge amount of TV but hubby and I do try to get a film night in occasionally. At the start of this month we watched The Help which I’ve been meaning to watch for years. By sheer coincidence, it was the third film in a row we’d seen featuring people of colour during the last century (the others being Hidden Figures and Green Book – both brilliant) and the segregation broke my heart.

On my parents’ recommendation, we watched a Netflix film called The Fundamentals of Caring. Knowing Paul Rudd was in it, I was sold on it already but it’s a fabulous film and highly recommended. Funny, poignant and just lovely.

We also watched The Dig on Netflix which we both loved. It was slow and gentle yet somehow completely mesmerising.

Last weekend we watched To Olivia which is a Sky Original about Roald Dahl’s family. Jim Broadbent and Keeley Hawes were amazing as the main characters and it was a really good film but I think I went into it with expectations that it would feel a bit like the brilliant Miss Potter with elements of magic among the darker moments. There were a few but not quite enough for me personally to make it feel like an uplifting film. As I say, I thought it was really good but it was very sad.

That’s a lot of films so I think I might have dipped into January there!

On TV, we’ve started watching Bloodlands which is a BBC1 drama starring James Nesbitt. The first part was brilliant. The second part last night was a little confusing and hubby isn’t so sure but I’m really enjoying the twists and turns of it.

I adore Dancing on Ice and have watched every single series since it started but, my goodness, has this series been plagued with injury and illness. They’ve had to skip a week as they lost so many celebrities early on but have still lost another since then. The poor producers must be tearing their hair out as they probably expected some Covid challenges but not so many injuries. It’s good but I think all the drop-outs have massively impacted on the contestants as I think some have left who might not have done otherwise.

And, finally, the addition of Star to Disney Plus means that I have been able to introduce the munchkin to the brilliant Castle. This US series stars the gorgeous Nathan Fillion as a crime author who shadows detective Kate Beckett who provides the inspiration for the lead character in his new series of books. It’s clever and funny but I had previously only watched a couple of seasons. We thought the munchkin (now 14) might like it and it may stop her binge-watching Pretty Little Liars for the third time. She loves it but isn’t impressed that she can’t binge it and needs to wait for me to have time to watch. We’re going to be working our way through that over the next few months. If you’ve never tried Castle, I highly recommend it.

I’m working on a brand new Christmas novel which will be out on 31st August. It’s a story I originally started writing four years ago to be my first ever Christmas novella but I realised that it was a longer story than that so I parked it. I thought it would be easy returning to something with 10k words already written. It wasn’t. I’ve actually found it my hardest book to write so far. Eek!

Last week I had a catch-up phone call with my editor and we discussed why I was struggling. Part of it is that what I’d written is four years old. My writing has developed since then and I don’t remember where some of the ideas I’d planted were going. But the biggest challenge is that, because it’s several years old, I have been thinking about this book for a long time and have therefore developed so much of the plot in my head. And that goes against my natural style. I am a pantser. I know my main characters really well, I know the premise of the story and I know how it’s going to end but I let the story unfold as I go. I really love seeing where the characters take me but, with this book, I haven’t had quite the same freedom and I’ve found it stifling.

Having said that, now that I’ve worked out why I was struggling, I’m finding it easier and am now up to 45k words. I have five weeks to double that and knock it into shape but I’m really good with deadlines (she says writing a blog post instead of getting on with it) so I’m confident it’ll all come together at the eleventh hour.

It’s been an exciting month with a few amazing achievements for my books:

  • It was a book birthday for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove which were both released on 20th February last year and continue to do me proud with sales and reviews
  • Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was accepted for Prime Reading and, just yesterday, got to its highest ever UK Kindle chart position of #31. I’d seen it previously at #34 and have a screenshot of that but it was lovely to see on Author Central (a tracker that shows authors their historic chart positions) that it rose a little higher. It also hit #8 in the Prime Reading chart
  • New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow was on a BookBub promotion which peaked at #77 in the UK Kindle chart making it my fifth book to crack the UK Top 100. Woo hoo!
  • Finding Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow entered the Top 400 at #383 and it’s not even out until 4th May so this is based on pre-orders alone. Woo hoo! It was also trending on Kobo as one of the most popular pre-orders. That’s some pretty big names the hedgehogs are partying beside! And it has already eclipsed my own personal record for pre-orders set by New Arrivals with two months still to go. Thank you so much to everyone who has pre-ordered it. I’m so very grateful

I’ve been out and about this month more than I have been for the past few months…

I had my first dental check-up in eighteen months which was a combined appointment with the munchkin. I’ve been suffering from vertigo since mid-January and, although it’s really mild, I didn’t want to risk driving so hubby drove us. Our dental practice is right by Sainsbury’s so hubby did the weekly shop while we had our appointment. When he returned to the car, it had a flat battery and Green Flag would be at least two hours so we needed to get a local garage out to jumpstart us then fit a new battery. Glad hubby was with me as I’m more than capable of sorting that out but prefer to leave car-related stuff to him.

I also left the house to get my first Covid vaccination. I’m not in the age group but I have underlying health conditions. I was so impressed with the efficiency of the set-up of the whole thing. I’m relieved to have had my first jab but will feel more relaxed when hubby’s had his. I’ve heard about the side effects some friends have had and count myself very fortunate that mine were very limited. About an hour or so afterwards, I felt very fluey for about half an hour – sweats, shivers, headachy – but it soon went. My arm ached and felt heavy and I struggled to sleep that night but it was fine by the end of the next day.

I’ve also been out for a couple of walks to stop me being welded to the office chair. We’re lucky that we have the coast right on our doorstep but what used to be a quiet coastal walk where you’d only see the occasional dog-walker has become a phenomenally popular walk and extremely people-y. And many of those people seem to struggle with the concept of social distancing despite having a road rather than a path to walk along (the road was blocked off for vehicles years ago). Being in a higher-risk group (but not one high enough to self-isolate), it puts me on edge which is why I barely leave the house.

As the Government guidelines permit travel within the local area and of a short distance to find an open space, we went to the south part of South Bay in Scarborough yesterday (usually not too people-y as there aren’t many amenities at that end) and to a forest just outside Scarborough the Sunday before. There was quite a difference in temperature between the two weekends, as you can see by me being bundled up in my hat and scarf in the forest!

Wishing you a fabulous start to March and another step closer to being able to meet with friends and family again. Right, really must get some more of this novel written…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Would you like to join my Redland’s Readers Facebook group?

I’ve done it. After chatting to my good friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth, about setting up a reader’s group for the past 18 months (maybe even 2 years), I’ve finally bitten the bullet and done it.

Sharon got her act together way before me and runs a gorgeous, cosy group called Love, Laughter, & Happy Ever After so, if you’re a fan of Sharon’s writing (or even if you’re not), you might want to check out her group. It’s lovely.

I love a bit of alliteration so I’ve called my group:

Why does Redland’s Readers exist? The ‘about’ section sums it up so I thought I’d paste that here:

The purpose of this group is to explore together the world of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow (without any spoilers) where I set my stories. 

WHAT WILL I SHARE WITH YOU? 
I’ll reveal some details before they’re generally available such as titles, release dates and book covers. I’ll talk about the project(s) I’m currently working on and may even ask you for inspiration around names of characters, streets, jobs etc. when my creative well runs dry. I may occasionally talk about books I’ve read, music I love and favourite films and I’d love you to join in those conversations.


WHAT WOULD I LIKE YOU TO SHARE? 
I’d love to hear your feedback on my stories (spoiler-free please) and see pictures/hear about connections with Yorkshire. For example:
Do you live here?
Have you visited the area / would you like to?
Do my settings remind you of other places?
Do any of my characters remind you of yourself or someone you know?
Do you know someone with the same name as one of my characters?


Feel free to ask me questions. If anyone follows me on social media or on my blog, you’ll know I’m always honest. I absolutely love what I do and am so very lucky to be able to do this full-time now but that doesn’t mean it’s all shiny so I’ll hopefully give you some insight into what goes on behind the scenes to get a book/ebook/audio to you.

And I’m sure it will evolve as we go… xx

And that last sentence is key. This will definitely evolve depending on the members and what they want from the group/how they’d like to interact.

I went live late yesterday afternoon and am amazed to have 89 members already. I’m having a few problems setting up notifications for myself so have to keep scrolling through as I’d hate to miss anything.

If this sounds like a group you’d like to join, please do ask on Facebook here. There are a couple of simple entry questions and you’ll be asked to accept the ‘rules’ (straightforward things like no spamming, being kind, no spoilers etc.) and then you’ll be welcomed into the fold with a warm virtual hug.

Thank you to everyone who has written a review, emailed me, messaged me, contacted me on any form of social media across the past year to say how much you’ve loved my books. It’s quite overwhelming (in a nice way). Without your kindness, I’d never have set up a group like this and I’m looking forward to getting to know you all a bit better.

If you don’t fancy joining the group but you would like to follow my author page on Facebook, you can find it here.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where 2020 has been quite extraordinary – and surprisingly full of highs

So, it’s finally arrived. The end of 2020. The year many people have wanted to “do one” for a long time.

It’s probably not a bold statement to say that it’s the strangest year that most of us will ever have experienced and, pretty please, can it be the last time we do?

But while this may be a completely bonkers surreal year that many will want to push to the back of their minds filed under ‘grim’, 2020 has been an amazing year for me professionally, seeing so many dreams come true. So, while there are many reasons why I want to send 2020 to the naughty step, I want to high-five it too.

This is a rundown, quarter by quarter, of what 2020 has looked like for me personally and professionally, presented in order of occurrence. When I originally wrote it, it was nearly a novel in itself so I have massively cut it down to highs and lows. Even so, it’s still long as so much has happened professionally this year. I honestly don’t know if anyone other than my mum or hubby will read it all but thank you if you do! xx

JANUARY to MARCH 2020

Happy New Year and the start of a new decade. How exciting! I eagerly anticipated the year ahead with a whopping seven Boldwood releases made up of six of my back catalogue and one new novel, and I hoped this would be the year I could leave my day job as an HR Tutor and write full-time.

Little did we know that reports of a flu-like illness in China were going to change our lives beyond all recognition.

HIGHS

  • Release of the entire re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series:
    • Making Wishes at Bay View (14th Jan)
    • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (20th Feb)
    • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (20th Feb)
    • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (12th Mar)
  • Seaside Blooms broke into the UK Kindle Top 1,000 on 19th March and kept climbing
  • Making Wishes at Bay View was selected as Apple’s free book of the week (9th – 15th March) propelling it to the top of the free Apple Books chart
  • A massive knock-on effect on the rest of the series with a #3 for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #24 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. They all made it into the Top 5 on the Romance category occupying positions #2, #3 and #5 at one point
  • Celebrating hubby’s 50th birthday with a meal with his parents just before going into a national lockdown
  • Normality for almost three months, regularly meeting up with Sharon Booth (great friend and super talented author) and attending the RNA’s Beverley Chapter meeting

LOWS

  • Saying goodbye in January to our beloved cat, Felix. After nearly 14 years with us, I was – and still am – heartbroken to have lost him
  • The munchkin, age 13, experienced a scary bullying incident on the bus home from school, so serious we needed to involve the police who classified it as an assault
  • Lockdown. I don’t think I need to expand on that! Although munchkin’s grumbles at being made to do the Joe Wicks PE session every weekday morning provided us with great amusement!

APRIL to JUNE 2020

This quarter started with a second month of panic-buying where household staples like toilet roll, pasta, cans of soup and flour were like gold dust. Hand sanitiser, paracetamol and disinfectant were also in short supply.

Zoom – something I personally had never even heard of until this year – became a life-saver for keeping in touch, as did social media (although you had to be careful not to be sucked down the rabbit hole of scary statistics and conspiracy theories!)

I’m going to swap it around for this month and start with the lows because they directly led to the highs in this quarter.  I will just remind you that these are presented in order of occurrence rather than severity.

LOWS

  • An unprecedented increase in work volumes as students took advantage of lockdown to race through their assignments. Enrolments of new students soared through the roof and, whilst financially amazing, the stress levels in trying to keep up were extraordinary. All without support or thanks from our manager

  • I couldn’t face celebrating my birthday and chose to largely ignore it 
  • My older brother turned 50 and couldn’t have the celebrations planned with his friends or family – a common story for so many this year
  • Cancellation of two theatre trips – a day trip to Leeds to see Sister Act and a weekend away to see Six
  • Family holiday to Portugal over May half-term cancelled
  • The unexpected and sudden loss of our brother-in-law, aged only 50. RIP, Richard, with love xx

HIGHS

  • Resigning from the day job and becoming a full-time writer from 8th June. It had always been my dream to be able to earn enough to be able to write full-time and it had finally happened. The increased income would give me a give me a buffer while my writing royalties (hopefully) increased from my new releases
  • Apple asked if they could repeat the UK promotion in the USA. Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #16 in the free chart and the series sold well on the back of this
  • Amazon selected New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms for a Prime deal. It was already inside the Top 100 by then but it peaked at #14 on 17th May thanks to being in Prime
  • People were turning to books for escapism, comfort and boredom relief. Uplifting stories of love and friendship – exactly what I write – fit the bill perfectly and this was reflected in my sales
  • Receiving messages from readers who’d binge read my Boldwood releases and the rest of my indie back catalogue and wanted to thank me for giving them such an uplift and welcome escape. Wow! I certainly hadn’t been expecting that
  • During the summer, Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #144, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove to #145 and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage to #165. I’d never experienced chart positions like this. I’d barely hoped to dream of them and kept waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me it was a dream
  • How proud the munchkin made us. She moaned about Joe Wicks but not about studying and, with only a few nudges to ask her teachers for more work when she’d run out, she showed amazing maturity, never once moaning about being in lockdown and missing her friends

JULY to SEPTEMBER 2020

Restrictions had lifted in the UK but I pretty much remained a hermit. It’s not so much that I was afraid to go out but more that there seemed no point taking the risk. Being substantially overweight I am in a higher risk category and, with so many holiday-makers flocking to the coast, I felt my local town and beach were no-go areas. I managed a few local walks with the dog, hubby and munchkin – and even did an evening walk along the main seafront before the holidays hit – but that was about it. And my bottom has just expanded and expanded as a result!

HIGHS

  • The first book in a series set in a hedgehog rescue centre – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was released on 2ndJuly. I was a little bit nervous about it as it was a new setting for me but the hedgehogs captured the hearts of readers
  • An impressive number of pre-orders meant an astonishing UK Kindle chart position of #291 on publication day, peaking at #86 in mid-August. My second Top 100 book. Yay! It made it to #40 in Canada and #11 in Australia
  • The Secret to Happiness appeared in branches of The Works. I chatted to the staff and took photos but I never thought to ask if they’d like me to sign copies. Muppet. Missed opportunity!
  • Boldwood celebrated one year since their first release. What an amazing first year of trading they’d had. We were invited to a summer moment on Zoom to celebrate which was pretty special
  • Release of the re-edited Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes (13th Aug). Initially it was free and reached #8 in the free UK Kindle chart, #43 in Australia, #20 in Canada and #15 in the USA
  • Release of the re-edited Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. An impressive number of pre-orders saw an amazing release day chart position of #204
  • Met my parents outdoors on a couple of occasions
  • Sharon and I also managed one meeting but not for as long as usual. It was brilliant to be able to meet in person but the time went far too quickly
  • The munchkin returned to school and started three years of study towards her GCSEs. One of the bus bullies apologised (I think lockdown gave her plenty of thinking time), a truce has been reached and there’ve thankfully been no further incidents
  • Hubby and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a mid-week visit to Thorp Perrow Arboretum. It was a gorgeous day and there were very few people around so it was the perfect place to go. And, being only a short drive away from my parents, we stopped off at theirs for a socially distanced cuppa before coming home
  • The Works stocked another book – Making Wishes at Bay View – and this time I signed them. Proud author moment!
  • I was astonished and thrilled to be offered another contract with Boldwood for a whopping 12 brand new books. I nearly fell off my chair! The first book in that contract will be a brand new Christmas story in September 2021. Before that, there’ll be four more books released in January, March, May and August to see out the original contract: books 2 and 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series (January/May) and the remaining two in my back catalogue (March/August)

LOWS

  • After only a week back at school, unable to see properly with her mask on, the munchkin tripped over a raised drain cover, went splat, landed awkwardly and broke her arm. Cue scary dash up to school and a trip to A&E to get a pot put on
  • She later fell down the stairs at school, also struggling to see properly in her mask, and made a right mess of both of her shins, scraping the skin off and badly bruising them both. The good news was she didn’t break her arm again!
  • The increased attention on me and my books massively exacerbated my imposter syndrome and I struggled to feel worthy of the amazing things happening to me. Writing a week-long series of posts about what this meant and how it manifested itself did me the world of good and I have been able to continue to make great inroads in quietening my ‘you’re not good enough’ demons since then, although I don’t think they’ll ever completely disappear and I’ve still had the occasional moment

OCTOBER to DECEMBER 2020

Now with the country in tiers, each tier dictating a specific set of rules, it seemed there was no end in sight. Another lockdown. Then came a ray of hope: a vaccination had been approved and would be rolled out imminently. Hurrah!

As Christmas approached, with a new strain of the virus spreading at an alarming rate, Christmas plans changed for many.

HIGHS

  • All ten books sported an orange Amazon #1 Best Seller tag at the same time. TEN! Wow! What a special moment that was! (13th Oct)
  • A socially distanced Hallowe’en BBQ at my parents’ house. A BBQ in late October in this country was certainly a first but a big brolly kept the rain off and the patio heater worked its magic!
  • The Works wanted another of my books and squeezed in an order of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. I managed to see it in my local branch – and sign the copies as well as another batch of Making Wishes at Bay View – before going into the second lockdown
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – no longer available for free – became my third book to get inside the Top 100, reaching #93 on 1st November. It only stayed inside the Top 100 for two days but that doesn’t matter. It still made it which, considering how many thousands of free copies it shifted, I wasn’t expecting
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café broke the Top 100 too, peaking at #24 in the UK, #11 in Canada and an astonishing #3 in Australia. Woo hoo! With the exception of one day, it stuck around in the Top 100 right until Christmas Eve. I was a bit gutted it didn’t stay in the Top 100 for Christmas but over a month in the Top 100 wasn’t too shabby!
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes achieved 1,000 reviews/ratings. At the start of the year, none of my books had more than 100 reviews. Today, it has hit 1,600. Still can’t quite believe it! (16th Nov)
  • The Secret to Happiness went on a BookBub deal – the only of my books to have done this – and it got to #32 in the USA in mid-November. That market is enormous and I certainly never expected that!
  • Guest speaker slots on a Facebook Live with Kim The Bookworm and with Exeter Libraries
  • Part of a Boldwood Christmas books panel on My VLF (My Virtual Literature Festival) which was great fun
  • Interviewed by a reader, Liz Clifton, about confidence and motivation
  • Guest on Julie Morris’s blog – A Little Bookish Problem – twice
  • The Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series continued to perform well and, in mid-December, all of them passed 500 reviews/ratings on Amazon

LOWS

  • Cancellation of my graduation ceremony after achieving my Masters in Creative Writing through Open University in late 2019
  • Cancellation of our October half-term holiday to Lancaster (to give us access to Blackpool and the Lake District) as Lancaster was in tier 3 so we (in tier 2 at the time) couldn’t travel there
  • Not able to see my side of the family over Christmas or my husband’s sisters
  • The tragic news that my second cousin died just before Christmas. Aged only 42, my heart is broken for his mum (my cousin) and her family and for another lovely man taken far too soon. RIP, Gary, with love xx


AND TO CLOSE…

Whether you’ve read the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities or not, you probably know the beginning: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” And that pretty much sums up my 2020.

For the best of times, I have achieved my dream of writing full-time, I am fortunate enough to work with the most incredible publisher with a wonderful team who support and respect all their authors as well as making us all feel equally important. Through Boldwood, I’ve had four books inside the Kindle UK Top 100 and Apple Top 100 this year, a Top 3 in Australia and Top 40 in the USA. All of my books have sported bestseller tags at the same time. Every book Boldwood has released has passed 500 reviews/ratings with one exceeding 1,600 and another marching towards 1,000. Quite honestly, it has been phenomenal.

But for the worst of times, I’ve lost my brother in law, a second cousin, and our gorgeous cat, and my daughter was assaulted. The disappointment of birthdays, holidays, theatre trips, weekends away and a graduation ceremony all cancelled pales into insignificance when faced with such loss and sadness.

I haven’t seen my brothers or their families since last Christmas although we did a regular family Zoom across the first lockdown. Hubby and I have never had much of a social life – we’re home bunnies and only have a few friends in the area – but we do miss being able to meet up with the small number of people we know and, as writing tends to be a lonely business, I’ve really missed my fortnightly meet-ups with Sharon.

I send my love and best wishes to my family affected by loss, and to anyone else for whom this year has been particularly tough whether that be through illness, bereavement, employment (or lack of it), finances, loneliness or any of the many other challenges that may have been faced.

My eternal gratitude goes to Boldwood Books and, in particular my editor, Nia, for making my dreams come true and being such a joy to work with. And thanks to my fellow Boldwood authors for all the support you’ve given and any reviews/promotions of my work.

Thank you to all the book bloggers/reviewers who’ve been so kind this year and to Rachel Gilbey for organising my blog tours.

I can’t thank enough all the amazing readers who’ve bought, borrowed, downloaded, and/or streamed any or all of my books. Thank you for choosing to take a journey to Whitsborough Bay and/or Hedgehog Hollow and for all the lovely messages on social media. You give me the encouragement to keep making stuff up!

To Sharon and my fellow-Write Romantic family, you’re my writing rocks and I couldn’t imagine how I’d have navigated my way through the troubled world of publishing without you all. It’s been lovely having such good virtual friends supporting each other in this difficult year. And to the Beverley chapter, I’ve loved our catch-ups.

Thank you to new writing friends I’ve made this year – Sam Tonge, Vicky Walters, Kim Nash and many others who’ve supported or promoted my work and whose books I’ve enjoyed reading. I hope we can meet in person next year.

And finally, to my biggest fan – my mum – my amazing husband and our wonderful daughter, thank you for all your excitement and encouragement. It really does keep me going. I know my dad is also super proud so thank you daddy bear too.

For anyone out there with a dream, chase it. Because dreams really do come true and I’m living, breathing proof of that.

When I finish writing a book, I love typing ‘The End’. Despite all the amazing things that have happened for me this year, I am relieved to stamp ‘The End’ on 2020 and look ahead to exciting writing achievements and some sort of normality in 2021.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I recommend some gorgeous Christmas books

I have a confession to make. I may have written three Christmas novels and also covered the Christmas period in other stories but, until I became a published author, I’d only ever read one Christmas book! It may seem odd that I’ve therefore written several Christmas books but the reason I hadn’t read many was that, sadly, my first Christmas read was disappointing.

I remember browsing Waterstones about ten years ago and there was this table covered in Christmas reads. They looked so irresistible with their reds and greens and snowy covers and I selected one by an author whose name I recognised although I’d never read anything by her. I started to read it but it didn’t quite capture my interest and I didn’t get very far. Perhaps it was me. Perhaps I didn’t have enough time to get into it with so much going on in the run-up to Christmas. So I decided to try again the following year.

The following year, it didn’t fare much better. It took the third year before I got through it but it was a struggle. I’m not going to name the author or book as that would be unfair but instead of being the uplifting read I was promised, it was quite depressing and it put me off.

But a few years later, a friend of mine – Jo Bartlett – wrote A Holly Bay Christmas and my faith in Christmas books was restored. I think I’d just picked badly with my first Christmas read. Jo’s story is gorgeous and uplifting and simply fabulous and she’s written several Christmas books since then, all of which are lovely and highly recommended: The Gift of Christmas Yet To Come, Hope’s Cornish Christmas, A Song for St Nicholas and The Christmas Shop at Central Park. On my reading plans for this week is her latest release, The Last Christmas Kiss. You can find Jo Bartlett’s Amazon author page here.

Inspired by Jo’s first Christmassy read, I wrote my first Christmas book: Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. You can buy it here now but followers of my work will know that all of my back catalogue has been re-edited and re-issued by my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, and Charlee’s story will be the final one to get the Boldwood polish and will be re-released in August 2021 so you might want to wait until then for a fresh version.

That year, I also wrote a book called Callie’s Christmas Wish which was a sequel to a novella called Raving About Rhys. Both stories have been seamlessly combined to make one full-length novel – Making Wishes at Bay View – which is the first book in the ‘Welcome to Whisborough Bay’ series. It spans roughly a year but there is quite a bit of action around Christmas and New Year so, while not strictly a Christmas book, it will give the Christmas feels.

The following year, I wrote Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes (Kindle link here) and Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café which have both been freshly edited and re-released this year through Boldwood, the latter under the new title of Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Café (Kindle link here).

I’m really looking forward to diving into some Christmas books across the rest of December, including a few from fellow Boldwood authors but I thought I’d share a review of some of the Christmas releases from this year that I’ve already loved…

SHARON BOOTH

Sharon is a really good friend of mine and I’ve read and loved every single one of her books. She writes beautiful stories of ‘love, laughter and happy ever after’ set in Yorkshire and there are several Christmas ones: Christmas at the Country Practice, Merry Christmas Bramblewick and Christmas at Cuckoo Nest Cottage are the 2nd, 4th and 6th books respectively in her gorgeous six-strong Bramblewick series. Each is a standalone story featuring a different main character but the whole series is fabulous so I’d recommend reading them all!

Saving Mr Scrooge is a full-length novel and a nod to the Dickens classic, as you can probably guess from the title. It’s the start of a Moorland Heroes series but each book is standalone.

Belle, Book and Christmas Candle is the brilliant start to the Castle Clair trilogy and set over Christmas. You’ll definitely want to read the whole series. It’s great fun!

But the book I’m going to focus on here is Sharon’s 2020 release: Christmas With Cary. My review is below. This is the third in a series called ‘Home for Christmas’ but all three books are only connected by the theme of being home for Christmas. There are no recurring characters or settings so they can be read completely out of order without any spoilers. Baxter’s Christmas Wish and The Other Side of Christmas are the first two books and both are wonderful.

Christmas With Cary

Having read (and loved) every single one of Sharon’s books, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of this on my Kindle and was hooked from the first page. I was instantly on Molly’s side, rooting for her to make some pretty enormous decisions about her future … and her past.

I could feel her trepidation as she moved into her holiday cottage facing Christmas alone and was delighted as she overcame each hurdle and started to find herself again.

I’m not giving anything away when I say this is about seeking a second chance with Cary – the one who got away – and, over the course of the book, we find out more about Cary and Molly’s past and why they didn’t quite make it. This is beautifully fed into the present-day storyline and is really easy to follow.

Cary is named after the movie star of old, Cary Grant, and I wondered if my lack of familiarity with him or his films might hinder my enjoyment or understanding of the story but it absolutely didn’t. The chapters are all named after films and very cleverly linked but you absolutely don’t need to know the films to follow this touch of brilliance. On an aside, I may now need to seek me out some Cary Grant films as he sounds divine!

Back to the book, though, it really is a delight. It’s such a beautiful and moving story and I did have tears in my eyes at several points, hoping that Molly would finally get the Christmas she deserved. As to whether she does, you’ll have to read it to find out but I would definitely encourage to you to read it. It’s an absolutely gorgeous warm hug of a book.

You can visit Sharon Booth’s Amazon author page here and specifically purchase Christmas With Cary here.

SAMANTHA TONGE

Sam writes lovely heartwarming stories and I’ve read and loved several of them. I’m hoping to read Sam’s Christmas release from last year – The Christmas Calendar Girls – this month as I didn’t quite manage to squeeze it in last year. Her 2020 release is The Winter We Met.

The Winter We Met

This is the story of Jess Jagger, toy shop manager, who sits in the wrong seat when flying back from a toy show – a move which brings Nik into her life. Nik’s family run a toy manufacturing company from Australia but it’s struggling and he’s on a research trip to see what’s new and popular in toy stores around Europe with the hope of injecting some new ideas into the business. Jess invites him to visit Under the Tree – the shop she manages – and they soon become firm friends.

Jess’s flatmate, Oliver, doesn’t seem too enamoured by Jess’s new friendship and is convinced that Nik isn’t the person he claims to be, especially when befriends the residents of the care home where Jess’s gran lives. Oliver becomes even more suspicious when Nik gets involved in a plan to throw a last Christmas party before the care home closes – shock news for everyone and awful timing – and the residents are separated into new homes.

I have a real fondness for intergenerational stories when the elderly characters are conveyed in a non-stereotypical way and Samantha Tonge handles this beautifully with some really interesting personalities. I love the friendships that are painted between the residents and how devastated they are at the news of Willow Court’s closure, and also the friendships with the staff and the families of the residents.

My favourite moment involves pebbles. I won’t say any more than that. I thought it was beautiful and poignant. I also loved the way the community pulled together to give the residents a memorable final Christmas party.

As for whether Oliver is right to be suspicious about Nik, you’ll just have to read The Winter We Met to find out for yourself!

This is a heart-warming story filled with lovely sentiments about what the spirit of Christmas is and the importance of family and friendships. Awww.

You can buy it here.

VICTORIA WALTERS

Victoria writes lovely heartwarming stories and started a series set in the Scottish Highlands last year. I haven’t read the first two but I read Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall this year which is the third book in the series. I’m going to go back and read the previous two as I loved the setting and Victoria’s writing.

Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall

A gorgeous feel-good story about embracing the unexpected and finding your place in life. With a stunning setting and fabulous cast of characters, I’m already looking forward to the next one. 

There are two books in the series before this one which I hadn’t already read but there was enough back story in Hopeful Hearts at Glendale Hall for me to follow what had happened in those. This book therefore can definitely be picked up now and thoroughly enjoyed. I’d now like to go back and read the other two as my interest has definitely been piqued and, of course, a return to the stunning Scottish Highlands would be lovely.

You can buy it here.

I’ll post some more reviews for the Christmas reads I manage before the end of the year.

Hope all the Christmas preparations are going well.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where ‘Making Wishes at Bay View’ is in The Works

I adore my Kindle (other eReaders are available!) but I’m sure most people who love reading will admit to getting a little thrill from browsing a bookshop or even simply pausing in a section of a store where books are displayed. A happy place.

As an author, that thrill is multiplied several-fold when the shelves contain one of my own books. I don’t think that feeling will ever get tired!

At the weekend, I was delighted to visit my local The Works store in Scarborough and not only see Making Wishes at Bay View on the shelves but to sign them! The manager in there is lovely and recognised me from when I’d been in to visit The Secret to Happiness at the start of summer just after restrictions were lifted and shops opened again.

Making Wishes at Bay View in the Scarborough branch of The Works with the special home-made ‘signed by author’ sticker

I’d never thought to ask if I could sign copies of Secret but I’d seen photos of other authors signing their books in their local stores and the manager was delighted for me to do so with Making Wishes at Bay View.

What a surreal moment perching on the till and signing the seven remaining copies. They didn’t have any ‘signed by author’ stickers – probably don’t get as many local authors as a large city store might – but she created her own version which was lovely.

Despite the mask, you can probably tell there’s a huge grin on my face!

Today I went into Beverley, East Yorkshire (about 75 mins drive away from me) for a socially-distanced catch-up with my fabulous friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth. It was the first time since mid-February that we’ve seen each other and we suspect it will be next year before it happens again.

I took the opportunity to nip into town as the branch of The Works in Beverley is about twice the size of the Scarborough one and therefore with much more space dedicated to fiction. Making Wishes at Bay View was in there. I was going to see about signing them too but there was a queue at the till and only one member of staff serving so I thought I’d best not pester anyone!

Making Wishes at Bay View in Beverley’s The Works

It makes me so proud to be on the shelves with other Boldwood authors, a few of whom I met in person at the back end of last year. I’ve taken a few shelfies in Scarborough but, with a bigger selection in Beverley, how lovely it was to see so many Boldwood authors together (okay, so a little re-arrangement was needed to get them all together but I did put them back where they came from!) This is the selection of feel-good books – a mixture of romcoms and contemporaries. That’s twelve amazing titles and, on the 3 for £5 offer, you could therefore get them all for only £20. Bargain!!!

This is the thrillers/crime/other selection looking fabulous too:

You can buy Making Wishes at Bay View from The Works for £2 (or 3 for £5) or online from The Works here. I’ve included the blurb below.

Alternatively, you can download it for Kindle, Kobo and AppleBooks, order a paperback from Amazon or any other good bookstore (it will be a different price as they are printed differently) or on various audio formats including Spotify.

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Book 1)

Never give up on a wish for a happy ever after…


Callie Derbyshire has it all: her dream job as a carer at Bay View, finally she has found the love of her life. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost.

Ex-partners are insistent on stirring up trouble, and Callie’s favourite resident, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self. 

But after discovering the truth about Ruby’s lost love, Callie is determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. After all, it’s never too late to let love in again. Or is it?

The one where Boldwood Books are celebrating one year of publishing

Author Shareable Twitter

Boldwood Books, my amazing publishers, are celebrating the one-year anniversary of their first published book and what a year it’s been for Boldwood as a publisher and for me personally as one of their authors.

They shared a graphic on their social media this morning which I’ve shamelessly stolen, summarising an amazing year:

Screenshot 2020-07-29 at 14.38.02

I was the 5th author to be published with The Secret to Happiness released on 3rd September 2019. My re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series came out in the first quarter of the year and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the start of a new series – came out last month. Six of those 59 titles published are therefore mine. Greedy, aren’t I?

I’ve had such an amazing first year as a Boldwood author.

I’ve gone from languishing in the charts and failing to make an impact to being a Top 10 international bestseller… Woo hoo!!!! All of my books have been in the UK Kindle Top 200 with two of them entering the Top 100. Just yesterday, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (which has been in the Top 100 since the start of May, peaking at #14) and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were in the Top 100 at the same time which was lovely. Five titles have been in the Top 30 on the AppleBooks chart and the other – Making Wishes at Bay View – only didn’t make it quite that high because it was on a free offer and #1 in the free chart.

thumbnail

I’ve gone from days and days of zero sales to… well, watch this space as I should have an announcement about that next week when July’s sales figures are in. Eek! It’s something I could never, ever have dreamed I’d achieve until I joined Boldwood.

IMG_8440I’ve gone from having my titles in eBook only… to 9 formats. Wow! You’re going to ask me to name them all, aren’t you? Argh! I think it’s eBook on 3 platforms (Kindle, Kobo, AppleBooks), paperback, large print, audio MP3, audio CD, digital audio and one more format that I know about but there’s not been an official announcement yet so I’d better not say just yet). The Secret to Happiness has appeared in The Works stores around the UK and online and it is always a dream to hold (and sniff and stroke) your own paperback. It’s not just me. I promise. We all do it!

I’ve gone from having a demanding day job… to being a full-time author and I could not be happier to be able to spend my days chatting to my fictional friends and making stuff up. And procrastinating a bit on social media. Okay, procrastinating a lot! Although I did write 80k words of my second Hedgehog Hollow book since leaving the day job so I’ve got my head down too.

I’ve gone from feeling like a failure… to feeling like a real author who isn’t just wasting their time slapping a few words on a computer and hoping somebody will read them. If anyone asked me what I do, I’d always say I work in HR (true) and only occasionally add in an embarrassed voice that I also write books. Why? Because I dreaded the next question: Would I have heard of you? Cringe! Er, no. Only my mum has! Or the classic: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! (As if to suggest that I clearly had loads of spare time on my hands!) Or the glazed-over eyes/disinterest/disbelief and swift change of subject.

Now, I proudly declare I’m an author – or I did before Covid turned me into more of a hermit than usual – while trying to push that pain in the backside, Imposter Syndrome, back in his box. Ooh, he’s a little tinker.

Now, readers get in touch with me to say they’ve loved my work. Now, other authors ask me to read and endorse their books. I have to pinch myself every time these things happen and wonder if they’ve got the right person!

new-years-eve-3894621_1920

So on Boldwood’s 1-year publication anniversary, my thanks go to so many people who have changed my life over the past year:

  • Boldwood Books for inviting me into their fold and believing in me – Amanda, Nia, Caroline, Sarah, Megan and Ellie (and welcome Emily!)
  • Our audio partners, Isis Audio, and Ulverscroft who run the uLibrary App and produce our large print books. Your work is fabulous and my audios, voiced by Lucy Brownhill and Emma Swan are brilliant
  • My superb, passionate, talented and lovely editor, Nia Beynon, whose support and advice I value so highly
  • My fellow Boldwood authors for being such a supportive community
  • My husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, for being amazing and never moaning about the crazy hours I had to work trying to balance a day job with writing
  • My mum for being my number one fan!
  • The amazing book blogger community, some of whom have been with me since my debut release. You are such amazing champions of my work and I appreciate all your kind words and promotion so much
  • Any of my family and friends who’ve read/reviewed/promoted my books. You know who you are and I’m so very grateful
  • My writing bestie and super-talented fellow author, Sharon Booth, for tea, cake, advice, encouragement and sympathy
  • My other Write Romantic buddies for being there with virtual hugs during hard times and congratulations during the good
  • The Beverley Chapter of the RNA who are so much fun to be around. So glad we’ve managed to keep our meetings going virtually
  • A whole host of authors, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom I only ‘know’ virtually who’ve been so supportive and encouraging
  • And last, but absolutely not least, all you lovely readers. Boldwood say they’d be nothing without their authors and I’d be nothing without my readers. You are absolute stars, every one of you

If I had some cake, I’d be tucking into it right now but, instead, I’ll take a sip of Diet Pepsi (I so know how to party!) and toast Boldwood Books and their team of amazing authors.

calligraphy-2658504_1920

If you’re an author, Boldwood are currently closed for submissions but will be open again later in the year. I cannot recommend them enough as a home for your books so do follow them on social media and watch out for news.

Big hugs

Jessica xx