The one where the Write Romantics went to York

I’m part of a writing collective called the Write Romantics. Started by myself and fellow Boldwood author, Jo Bartlett in late 2012 with a plan to blog together, we realised that we had very little to blog about – both approaching but not quite being at the submissions point – so we opened it up in spring 2013 and asked if anyone else wanted to join us. Two became ten. We’re based all over the country from as far south as Brighton and as far north as Cumbria so there isn’t a lot of opportunity to get together. I’ve met everyone – most on several occasions – but we’ve never all been in the same place at the same time. Smaller numbers of us have done our best to meet up at RNA events over the years or catch up when we’ve been on holiday or working near one or more of the others.

Last November, six of us went to Stratford Upon Avon and had such a lovely time that we decided to arrange another get together for this November in York and had a whopping seven takers – the biggest number we’d have ever had in one place. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against us and numbers dropped and only three of us were able to make it – Sharon Booth, Jackie Ladbury and me. We missed the others loads but still had a lovely few days away together.

My parents take their caravan to a site just outside York each year to visit the Christmas markets and celebrate my mum’s birthday and it struck me we’d be there at the same time. My mum’s a voracious reader and has read most of the books the Write Romantics have written and has loved them all so she was very excited at the idea of meeting some of the group. As we couldn’t check in to our hotel until 3pm but had all planned to arrive earlier, we met her for lunch while my dad did a walk round the city walls.

After checking in, we had a little bit of writing downtime then met for tea. I didn’t think to take a photo but I had the most delicious meal. My ‘festive burger’ had turkey slices, stuffing, bacon, a sausage and cranberry sauce with a pig in blanket on the top, served with roast potatoes and gravy. Mmmm.

The forecast for Wednesday – our full day – was looking pretty dire for the morning so we decided there was no point traipsing into the city centre, getting wet and miserable, when it was meant to be clear in the afternoon. We loitered over breakfast and had been told we were fine to do so but felt a bit guilty when they started vacuuming round us so we returned to our rooms for a bit more writing time.

As forecast, the rain lifted at noon and we walked into the city, pausing on one of the bridges to take some photos of a very swollen River Ouse, although it wasn’t as high as it had been over the weekend.

None of us were planning on doing much in the way of Christmas shopping. It was more of a chance to wander round the market stalls, soak in the atmosphere and catch up. I still haven’t quite mastered the art of the selfie as I always find my eyes straying to the button I need to press so please excuse my dodgy gazing!

Here, we have the Christmas Markets, The Shambles, a nutcracker outside the Christmas shop on The Shambles, and York Minster. I had to pop into The Works to get a shelfie which included another couple of Write Romantics – Jo Bartlett and Helen Rolfe – in our trip, albeit in book format.

Speaking of books, I had an amazing surprise in Waterstones. I’d already been to York on Saturday to take my mum out for a birthday meal and my daughter and I had dived into a few shops. I love to go into branches of Waterstones and look at the R shelf, imagining seeing my books there so imagine my surprise when York Waterstones had a copy of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow in stock! They don’t stock my books so I’m assuming it was ordered in for a customer who failed to collect. Very exciting to see it there, even if that was the reason!

This is actually me on Saturday. I took Sharon over to the shelf yesterday and pretended it was a surprise to spot it there but I’m a rubbish liar and admitted pretty much straight away that I’d seen it at the weekend. She took a photo of me holding it which I was going to include here but then I realised it was on Sharon’s phone so I’ll get that off her and post it on social media instead.

Back to the Write Romantics trip, there were several nutcrackers around the city centre but I hadn’t noticed at first that they all had names on them. It seems there’s a nutcracker trail which would be a really lovely thing to do but we were nearly done with our wandering at this point. We’d paused on a bench next to a white one and I spotted that his name was Stephen so I had to take a picture. In my book New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, Sarah goes searching for the man of her dreams called Steven and I’d just found him for her in nutcracker format!

Sharon had a gift voucher for tea for two at Patisserie Valerie so we went in there for a late lunch. I’ve never been in before but have always thought the cakes looked delicious. The afternoon tea looked impressive and we even managed to eat the scones without our usual debate as to how to pronounce the word so we must all have been tired! However, we were extremely unimpressed that there were no toilets in working order. There was a sign on the door saying no toilets and we assumed that was a deterrent for the general public but it was genuinely the case that the toilets were out of order. I’m pretty sure that’s actually illegal and not great when a food stop usually includes a toilet stop.

Sharon and Jackie headed back to the hotel and I stayed in the city centre for a little longer so I could grab a couple of Christmas gifts and catch the lights. My photos really don’t do justice to how pretty York looked as dusk turned to dark but hopefully they give you some flavour of it.

Today, we had breakfast, some writing time, then met for lunch before all heading home. I’ve got a very busy ten days ahead of me to finish writing Summer Nights at The Starfish Cafe. I’ve only written a third of it so far so that’s definitely going to be a challenge but I’ll get there.

We missed our other Write Romantics buddies but did have a lovely few days of writerly and family chat and hope it’s not too long before we can see the others. Thank you, Sharon and Jackie, for the fabulous company.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where the past two months have been crazy busy

Do you ever have months where there’s so much going on, you hardly get to pause for breath? I’ve just had two of them and there’s more still to come this month. But it’s (mainly) been wonderful.

I’ve met up with lots of friends, new and old…

Before I became a full-time author, my most recent role was as an HR Tutor – something I did for about five years. I marked assignments for students studying their HR professional qualification, CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development), and ran online workshops. However, when I first started in the role, the workshops were run in person on weekends and I met some wonderful students and also some amazing tutors.

One of my former (and favourite – but don’t tell the others!) students, Charlie, was holidaying in Whitby with his husband, Paul, and asked if I’d like to meet them in Robin Hood’s Bay. We worked out it had probably been about seven years since the workshop. It was so good to catch up with Charlie and to meet Paul. I never thought to take a photo but here’s a pic of Robin Hood’s Bay from a previous visit.

From my tutoring role, I also met up with my former colleague, Carol, for a day out in York. York’s my favourite city and so lovely for a wander, especially outside the school holidays on a weekday when it’s a bit quieter. We met at York Station where I spotted this gorgeous postbox topper and completely fell in love with the viking on the top – so perfect for York. Whoever made this is so talented.

I also had a catch-up with a blast from the past. An old friend from school dropped me a message recently on my author page and, as I write under a pen name, it was a bit of a mystery at first as to how she’d found me. It turned out that she’d seen me on the re-run of my appearance on ITV’s The Chase and had recognised me from school. She couldn’t find me on Facebook under my maiden name but couldn’t remember my author name. Then, spookily, she was running a workshop and a delegate mentioned that she was reading one of my books! So she found me and it was so good to meet up, although the memory was certainly tested as it’s 34 years since we left school. We’ll hopefully catch up again before Christmas.

I had several writing-related get-togethers too. My first was with Sharon Booth and Eliza J Scott which was several hours of wonderful chat. There’s a cafe and farm shop on the outskirts of Scarborough which is a great central location as Sharon and Eliza live in different directions and I’m in the middle.

I indulged in the most amazing hot chocolate before lunch and we had a quick look at a few of the animals before we left – and I mean quick because it started raining!

A second writerly meet-up was with author Lizzie Lamb who was also holidaying in Whitby. Sharon and I have both met Lizzie on several occasions at RNA events (Romantic Novelists’ Association) but, with so much happening and so many people to talk to, conversation has always been brief so it was fabulous to have a full afternoon together.

We exchanged signed books, which was lovely. Thank you, Lizzie, for my copy of Scotch on the Rocks and the accompanying bar of chocolate – nom nom!

My next writing-related meet-up was with four of the five-strong admin team on the amazing Facebook group, The Friendly Book Community. If you’re interested in sharing the love for books, this is such a happy, friendly place to be. I was thrilled to be invited to join the group right at the start and watch them grow to a whopping 2.7k members so far.

They’d come to Scarborough for a weekend and I met them for lunch. It was amazing to meet (from L-R in the pic) Sarah, Marie, Louise and Hazel in person (I’m in the middle), having got to know them virtually over the past 18 months or so, and they were just as warm and welcoming in real life. I stayed with them all afternoon and wish I could have stayed longer, but I had a deadline to get home to (more on that later). Love to Adrienne who was unable to join them for the weekend.

Our only disappointment is that we nipped to The Works where they hoped to get a photo of me next to my books on the shelves but the shelves were pretty empty at that point and all my books had sold through.

I have a final writerly catch-up today which I’m really looking forward to. Sharon and I are having lunch with authors Joy Wood and Sylvia Broady. Sylvia is in the same RNA Chapter as us so we have seen her recently but the last time I saw Joy was last September at the RNA’s York Tea. I’m excited to hear all their news.

There’ve been writing events…

I had three writing events lined up for September but only one of them actually went ahead. The first would have been the RNA’s annual York Tea but it was being held a little earlier in September than usual and, unfortunately, the date clashed with a few other events so there weren’t enough tickets sold and that got cancelled. It’s my favourite RNA event so hopefully all will be back to normal next year.

The next cancelled event was to be my first ever festival appearance. I was so excited about appearing as a speaker on the Richmond Walking & Book Festival but my slot was scheduled for 11am on 19th September – the same time and day of the Queen’s funeral – so it couldn’t go ahead. Hopefully I’ll appear next year instead. It was the only day that was cancelled so such a shame that I was booked for that day. What a sad time that was, losing our Queen, and it feeling so sudden too.

What did go ahead in September was a library talk. Stockton Libraries had kindly invited me to speak one evening so I went along to Norton Library and was thrilled to have an audience of roughly twenty there. They’d created an amazing display of my books and a local library user had made the most stunning (and delicious) cupcakes. Mmmm.

I completely fell in love with the kissing hedgehogs in the display and was told they were from Next. I couldn’t find them online but we have a Next Home on a small retail park near us so I nipped there the following day and was thrilled to find one on display so I bagged it!

A huge thank you to Ruth for arranging the evening and the amazing team at the library for being such welcoming hosts. Thank you to all those who attended including a few members of my Facebook group Redland’s Readers who it was lovely to meet in person. I am, however, mortified, as a member of my group came along and I didn’t register who she was. For some reason, I had it into my head that she was coming to my Richmond talk and couldn’t make it to the library. When she said her name, I misheard it too and made no connection at first. Even though we’ve messaged and it’s all sorted, I still feel really bad as I know she was disappointed that I didn’t click who she was. All I can plead is brain drain. There’s so much going on in my head at an event like this and my brain can’t always hold everything.

My friend and amazingly gifted artist Lucy Pittaway came along to support – an extra surprise for some audience members who love her work – and we went for a quick drink afterwards with her and her colleague, Vicki, which rounded off a perfect evening.

I’m excited to announce that, although I hope to speak at the Richmond Walking & Book Festival next year, I will definitely be appearing at a festival. Stockton Libraries collaborate with the Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Redcar & Cleveland districts to put on an event called Crossing the Tees (genius name – the River Tees running through the area alongside the literary meaning of the phrase). A date for your diary is Sunday 10th June 2023 at 2.00-3.30pm at Ormesby Library, on the outskirts of Middlesbrough. I’ll be on a panel of authors talking about the romance genre. Jane Lovering, a fellow-Boldwood Books author, will be joining me and I’m in the process of securing another author too.

If anyone is an aspiring writer, I’m also going to be running a beginner’s writing workshop on the afternoon of Saturday 9th June. The details of the workshop and the venue will be confirmed later but I’m really looking forward to that.

It was my wedding anniversary in late September (17 years) and we had a family trip up to Whitby and a delicious meal on the way home. I was excited to see a whopping FOUR of my books in Great Reads Whitby (a discount bookstore) including one in the window.

It was a beautiful day, but very windy as you can see from the photos. That sea was definitely wild… and so was my hair!

There was a publication day…

Already looking pretty busy? There’s more! Around all this, I had publication day of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow and a separate audio publication day on this occasion as we couldn’t secure the main narrator for the original publication date. Publication day is always busy with announcements, responding to congratulations messages, having the blog tour start, and eagerly watching the chart.

The hedgehogs have been dipping in and out of the Top 100 since publication day and, at the time of writing, they’re currently at #90 which is exciting (they have been higher – woo hoo!). This week, a day shy of 6 weeks since release, they had their 1,000th review/rating on Amazon and I’m so grateful to everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts.

And some special offers on my Hedgehog Hollow series…

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow (book 6) both went into Prime Reading so are free to Prime Reading subscribers. Finding Love is currently 99p on Kindle.

Although not in Prime reading, book 5 – Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – is also currently on a 99p offer so do grab that if you haven’t already done so.

I mentioned writing deadlines a couple of times. These two months have also been deadline-filled. Book 18 is out on 24th January 2023 and is called Healing Hearts at Bumblebee Barn. It’s available to pre-order for Kindle right now (click the title to get to it) although the cover and blurb won’t appear until early November. It will be available to pre-order on other eBook platforms and on Audible nearer the time. It will also be out in all the print formats from publication day too.

I had a deadline to get the first draft in to my editor which I had to extend as I contracted conjunctivitis and had to spend a few days away from the screen. I’m really squeamish with my eyes. You know that episode of Friends where Rachel needs eye drops and the others have to quite literally pin her to the sofa? That was me! I swear the hubby took far too much delight in putting those drops in my eyes!

I made it to the revised deadline but knew my manuscript was a bit of a mess and that I wanted to change one part of the plot and the ending. My editor, Nia, is amazing and she typically agrees with what I’ve already identified is wrong with the story (but didn’t have time to fix) and comes up with some invaluable suggestions of her own. I then had deadlines for getting the 1st round of edits back and the 2nd, which were returned at the weekend. In between those rounds of edits, I came down with Covid for the second time!

Fortunately it was reasonably mild – bad cold, tired – and I’m so thankful it hit me between edits instead of during them as working was too exhausting. I watched lots of films but had hoped to do lots of catching-up on my admin so that all had to be put on hold.

I’ve seen the gorgeous cover and have had the blurb finalised too and can’t wait to share them with readers.

And as if all that wasn’t busy enough, I’ve had a flu jab, hair appointment, physio sessions (I have back/neck/shoulder problems – typical for an author spending too much time hunched over their keyboard!), a tour round the local sixth form ready for my daughter applying there for next September, and an open evening at her school about GCSE revision tips. Phew! Exhausted thinking about it all!

So today I’m off to meet Sharon, Sylvia and Joy as mentioned and then I’m off on my holidays over half-term – a much earned (and needed) rest after a couple of busy months.

Hope September and October have treated you well and hope you’ve enjoyed my photos. Do grab yourself those Hedgehog Hollows on offer if you haven’t already done so. And spread the word!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I talk about the RNA’s conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

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

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

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

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

The one where I turned fifty

It was my birthday yesterday (1st May) and I hit the half-century which doesn’t feel real because I still don’t feel any older than I did at thirty, although my body would beg to differ. I try to avoid sitting on the floor these days as it’s touch and go as to whether I can get up again!

I don’t normally go big for birthdays and I’m not one for big nights out drinking but specifically wanted to celebrate turning fifty, especially when so many people I know (my husband and older brother included) were unable to celebrate big occasions during lockdown.

With going away to the Lake District for a fortnight over Easter, we didn’t want to venture very far. We have two Forest Holidays sites near us called Cropton and Keldy – both just 45 minutes drive away – and we’ve been to them both in the past when our daughter was young and we could stay out of season (cheaper!) Even though a bank holiday weekend was going to be pricey, we decided to go for it with it being a special occasion.

Look what I found in the gift shop in the reception! I had to have him! His name’s Bramble and he is soooo adorable.

The great thing about going on holiday somewhere so local is getting there quickly and being able to enjoy your evening rather than spending it travelling. We were there as soon as check-in started and we had a little wander round the site before having a relaxing evening in our log cabin with food delivered from the on-site restaurant.

Saturday morning – the day before my birthday – dawned with beautiful blue skies and sunshine. We decided to go for a walk round nearby village Thornton-le-Dale then visit Pickering, get some lunch, and take it up to the castle.

I’ll admit it does feel a little weird being on ‘holiday’ and visiting places that we regularly visit anyway but the point was to get away and have a relaxing time. If we’d stayed at home, I might have taken my birthday off but I’d have worked for the rest of the weekend.

Thornton-le-Dale is such a picturesque village and it was gorgeous to see ducklings on the river and the pond. So cute. There are some stunning houses and I always joke they’d be where an author would live as the views are inspiring. I doubt they come on the market very often and, if they did, they’d be way out of our price bracket but it’s nice to have dreams.

We’ve not visited Pickering Castle as a family before so it was great to explore the ruins and the grounds and generally enjoy the sunshine. Pickering Castle is an English Heritage site and you can find out more about it here. It’s a lovely place to visit and the views are fabulous.

We returned to the cabin with time for a Cornish cream tea which my fabulous friend and super talented author, Sharon Booth, sent me, followed by a sneaky glass of wine in the hot tub before getting ready to go out for a birthday tea.

On the evening, we met my parents at a nearby pub. They’d brought their caravan to a site in the area so they could see me for my birthday. The person who’d taken the booking over Facebook Messenger hadn’t written it down which was a bit fraught as they were full but they made space for us, thank goodness.

I won’t name the pub as these things happen and so much of the hospitality industry is struggling with lack of staff but it was a lesson learned for me never to make a booking for any pub via Messenger in future. I only did it that way because it was out of hours but I’ll wait and do it via the phone when the pub is open going forwards!

The following day – my actual birthday – it was pouring when we woke up and it put a real dampener on things (literally). It had been such a gorgeous day before and the thought of traipsing through the forest in the rain didn’t appeal.

We decided to take a trip to the market town of Malton but hadn’t paused to think about whether the shops would be open on a Sunday. Most weren’t. So we had a walk round (mainly closed) Malton although the good news was it had stopped raining and I gazed longingly in the gift shop windows.

I wanted some cakey loveliness and had been hoping to find some in a nice independent bakery but there were none open. We nipped into a farm shop and a garden centre on the way back to the cabin but it was mission unsuccessful. Hubby, bless him, did a detour via the high street in Pickering so we could nip into the cafe/bakery where we’d bought lunch the day before – Russell’s Cafe & Traditional Bakery. They had a window full of the most delicious-looking slices of cake. They were on a deal where it was cheaper to buy three but the munchkin wanted something not in the offer so, after asking for hubby’s, I had to pick two for me. It would have been very wrong not to! And, oh my goodness, they were delicious. If you go to Pickering, definitely visit Russell’s. The sandwiches for lunchtime the day before were delicious too.

We returned to the cabin and decided that, as it was dull, we’d relax and watch a film but we couldn’t find anything we particularly fancied. We went for the recent re-make of The Secret Garden starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters but it’s a slow story and I was getting fidgety. I will watch the end but we put it off and went for a walk along one of the forest trails instead although I was a bit full after my double-cake indulgence and could probably have been rolled round the trail.

The munchkin and I had time for another dip in the hot tub, this time with some champagne (for me) before Mum and Dad came over to the cabin on the evening to look around and join us for a birthday tea. They brought a balloon and cake with them which was lovely.

We had planned to do something today (bank holiday Monday) but it was another dull day and we decided that, as we still hadn’t settled back in after our Easter trip, it would make more sense to get back home and get organised. I only have a couple of weeks left to write my final Hedgehog Hollow book and I’m only a fifth of the way through it so I have a lot to do. Catching up today (or trying to) means I can be head down from tomorrow. Or at least that’s the plan!

I couldn’t really think of anything I wanted for my birthday but my Kindle is on the way out so I got a new Paperwhite and hubby and daughter surprised me with a lovely new watch. From my parents and brothers, I got some money to buy a teddy bear but instead treated myself to a limited edition Herdy while I was in the Lakes. It’s made by Merrythought who are a longstanding UK-based teddy bear manufacturer (so nearly a bear!) and I’m completely in love with him.

A huge thank you to everyone who sent cards, gifts, flowers and best wishes, helping to make my fiftieth a special day.

Hope you’ve had a lovely bank holiday weekend and, if you’ve worked it, hope you get a break soon.

On a final note, even though it’s my birthday, I’m giving away some gifts. The wonderful The Friendly Book Community over on Facebook have been celebrating their first birthday with some amazing giveaways across the week donated by the lovely Admin team and some of the authors. If you haven’t already joined this group and you love books, you might want to do so, as it’s a warm and friendly space to be. And then you can be in with a chance to win one of my bundles. There are 4 for UK-based readers and 1 for overseas readers. You can find the group here and you have until Friday to be in for a chance of winning on my giveaways.

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

The one with some really special Christmas gifts

I know I’ve just posted about New Year but I was just scrolling through my photos and realised that I took several for a blog post, then forgot to write a post, so let’s dip back to Christmas for a moment when the lights were twinkling on the tree (ok, they still are), the gifts were looking gorgeous in their wrapping, and the dog was stealing things she shouldn’t have. Oh wait, Ella does that EVERY day, not just at Christmas…

There wasn’t anything the hubby or I particularly wanted this year so we agreed to treat ourselves to a picture we’d fallen in love with on holiday in the summer and get a few bits and bobs. The hope was to get the picture framed and up on the wall for Christmas but, well, you know how it is!

I find it pretty much impossible to think of anything for him beyond the supply of socks he needs every year after putting holes in them throughout the preceding 12 months, a dark chocolate orange, and his annual Landscape Photographer of the Year book but he usually comes up trumps with a few special gifts for me and this year was no exception.

I love the ‘On Air’ sign so watch out for that in my next Facebook Live on publication day of A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow (6th January). The ‘I’m a Best Selling Author’ colouring book made me laugh. It’s full of positive affirmations about my brilliance ha ha ha! The book has unusual words in it and the fluffy socks are bears. Perfect.

The hedgehogs in the next pic are mittens and they’re so gorgeous and soft. I wore them when we had our wander down to the harbour and they kept me so warm and snug. The munchkin bought me the hedgehog stress ball which I’m sure will be very useful when pondering tricky plot points.

The necklace (shown larger below) is adorable. It’s a hedgehog but its tummy is made from Whitby jet which combines my two worlds of Hedgehog Hollow and Whitsborough Bay in one necklace (as Whitsborough Bay is based on a mix of Scarborough, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay). What a gorgeous idea!

The lovely hedgehog notepad above was from my friend Liz (who also sent me some delicious mint chocolates) and there’s a Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow key ring from one of the fabulous admins, Marie, at The Friendly Book Community Facebook group (who also sent me a large bar of Galaxy – nom nom). I’ll post a bigger pic of that (the key ring, not the Galaxy!) further down as it’s fabulous. It was very unexpected and extremely kind.

Hubby also bought me the latest Westlife CD (I’m a bit old school and enjoy CDs for my favourites) and a lovely starfish necklace and heart one… although I admit I picked those myself when we visited York Christmas Markets.

The face masks were sent in a care package with some tea and coffee from Fiona, one of the lovely admins in Heidi Swain and Friends – A Facebook Book Club – which was very kind of her and the lovely friendship heart hanger is from my good friend, Write Romantic and Boldwood Buddy Jo Bartlett.

My bestie, Sharon Booth, and I always exchange Christmas gifts and she is so much better than me at buying them. This lovely selection were so fabulous that I have to up my game next year as mine for her weren’t anywhere near as good.

I’ve added a larger picture of the wooden shop below. Isn’t it gorgeous? In All You Need is Love, part of the story is centred around a specialist teddy bear shop on Castle Street called Bear With Me. Main character Jemma and her mum make artist bears under the brand name of Ju-Sea Bears for her mum and Ju-Sea Jem bears for the smaller ones Jemma makes. The shop was inspired by my own teddy bear shop called Bear’s Pad and Ju-Sea Bears was the brand I used for the handful of bears I made.

Sharon has been building up a collection of these wooden businesses for a new series she’s working on for release next year and I’ve been admiring the photos on her Insta account but nothing quite beats seeing one up close. They’re amazing. I may need to start a Castle Street collection!

A huge thank you to everyone for these gorgeous gifts. I feel you all know me so well as these are simply perfect.

Tomorrow I will place my first entry in my ‘Happy Jar’ from Sharon. Absolutely love that idea and, as I’m celebrating a very big birthday in 4 months’ time, I hope that I have a lot to celebrate in 2022.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

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