Signing Starry Skies in The Works

On Tuesday this week, I posted the exciting news that Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – my Boldwood Christmas release from last year – had gone online at The Works.

I was in town for an eye test on Wednesday and it hadn’t gone onto the shelves of my local store but I needed to go into town again today to help hubby pick some frames for his new glasses and was excited to pop into the Scarborough branch to find that the festive books had arrived.

The staff in there are lovely and immediately moved the copies to ‘eye level – buy level’ (not at my request, I hasten to add) and cleared some space for me to sign the copies. I have no idea why I still had my sunglasses on in the above pic or my bag on my shoulder. Too excited!

And, yes, that is a hedgehog dress! It’s a Popsy and, since I discovered Popsy Clothing last year, I’ve been hoping they’d introduce a hedgehog print design and was thrilled when it came into stock last week. You can find this particular design here. I love it. It has a blouson style top which I’d worried might be tight on me but thankfully isn’t, and pockets. Gotta love a dress with pockets!

I can’t imagine I’ll ever tire of seeing my books in a shop and being able to sign them. Thank you so much to the lovely team for letting me do that.

If you do spot one in your local store, I’d love you to take a shelfie and tag me into it on social media.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café goes into The Works

I’m very excited to bring the fabulous news that The Works have taken on another of my titles.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café is now available online right here and should be appearing in branches of The Works very soon. A huge thank you to my amazing publisher Boldwood Books for making this happen.

This is the fourth of my titles to appear in The Works after The Secret to Happiness and Making Wishes at Bay View went in during summer 2000 and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow snuck in as a late addition just before we went into a second lockdown in the autumn.

All three of these sold out online fairly quickly last year but there may be the odd copy still to be found in stores, particularly if they’ve been positioned on the higher shelves (which means books don’t sell as quickly).

I’m in town tomorrow for an eye test so will be checking out the Scarborough branch of The Works but it usually appears in-store a short while after appearing online so I’m probably a bit early to catch it, especially when today is the first day Starry Skies has been available online.

All paperbacks in The Works are £2 or 3 for £5. Such a huge bargain and what a great excuse to treat yourself to three books… or six… or maybe nine! You could start your Christmas shopping with these great stocking-fillers.

The blurb:

Everyone is getting into the festive spirit on Castle Street – snow is falling, fairy lights are glistening and Christmas shopping is underway.

But for Tara Porter, owner of thriving cafe, The Chocolate Pot, this is the most difficult time of the year. From the outside, Tara is a successful businesswoman and pillar of the community. Behind closed doors, she is lonely. 

With a lifetime of secrets weighing on her shoulders, she has retreated from all friends, family and romance, and shut her real self away from the world. Afterall, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. She’s learnt that the hard way.

But as the weight of her past becomes heavier and an unexpected new neighbour moves onto the street – threatening the future of her cafe – Tara begins to realise that maybe it’s time to finally let people back in and confront her history. It could just change her life forever…

With over 1,700 reviews/ratings, 78% of which are 5-star and 16% of which are 4-star, this has been very warmly received by readers. Hot chocolate, Christmas and a giant house rabbit called Hercules … what more could you want?

If you do spot any of my books in a branch of The Works (or a garden centre, post office, local shop), please do post a shelfie on social media and tag me in. As my books don’t get stocked in the major bookshops or supermarkets, it’s a thrill to see them out and about.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy 2nd Birthday to Boldwood Books

Today I’m delighted to wish my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, a Happy 2nd Birthday. Woo hoo!

Boldwood officially launched in February 2019, opening up to submissions that day, and I was all ready with my manuscript the moment we passed midnight and was thrilled to get ‘the call’ the following month and join the team as one of the first twenty authors.

The reason today – 1st August – is the official birthday is that this is the date the first release went out into the world. Nina Manning’s The Daughter in Law – a psychological thriller – was a huge success, as were the other August releases: romcom Honeymoon for One by Portia MacIntosh and contemporary women’s fiction Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet.

My Boldwood debut, The Secret to Happiness, was the first September release and it was so exciting seeing a new release out pretty much every week as the portfolio grew.

During their two years, Boldwood have delivered exactly what they promised: publishing reimagined. They have taken the ‘digital first’ concept and said ‘but that doesn’t need to mean digital only’ and, right from the start, all titles were released in several formats: eBook on all platforms, paperback, physical audio and audio download. But they haven’t stopped there. All titles are available in large print formats too and all titles released since March this year have come out in hardback (and older titles will, over time, retrospectively be available in that format). Streaming services have also been added meaning that, whatever a person’s reading or listening preferences, Boldwood have it covered.

They established a programme with The Works and I was thrilled to have three books – The Secret to Happiness, Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – go into The Works stores and online in 2020. This programme has also seen additional stock distributed around the UK, Ireland, USA and Canada meaning that books could appear in garden centres, post offices, small and large supermarkets in those countries. I’ve personally spotted one of mine in two local garden centres and a friend sent me a photo of one in her local post office which was such a thrill.

Two of my books in The Works together

Another amazing deal saw many books go into supermarkets in Australia. The distributor specified crime and thrillers only so mine weren’t included but I was still able to enjoy the moment vicariously seeing shelfies from down under featuring books by my Boldwood buddies.

Across the two years, Boldwood have been nominated and shortlisted for various industry prizes, winning the regional heat of the Publisher of the Year in the British Book Awards 2021 and winning the Best Newcomer award at the Independent Publishing Awards 2020.

Team Boldwood have also:

  • Sold 4 million books (across all formats)
  • Had 45 Top 10 Bestsellers
  • Signed more than 60 authors
  • Published over 160 titles
  • Received more than 100,000 5-star reviews on Amazon
  • Expanded to a team of 8
  • Acquired over 15,000 social media followers

That’s a lot of amazing achievements in only two years! Very much looking forward to where the next two years take us. I’m already aware of some exciting new opportunities which will be revealed in due course, and I’m sure there’ll be many more.

First to Last Release in Two Years (well, give or take a couple of days!)

For me personally, two years brings an amazing milestone. On Tuesday (3rd August), the final book in my first twelve-book publishing contract is released. Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop is also the final book in my backlist, all of which Boldwood acquired, and was previously out as Charlee and the Chocolate Shop. Then, later this month, Snowflakes at The Starfish Café is published (31st August) which sees the start of a brand new twelve-book deal and a new series. I can’t believe I’m already on my second contract! When it came to resigning with Boldwood, I didn’t even need to think about it. A resounding YES!

A month before Boldwood’s first birthday, I added Hedgehog Hollow to my settings and have been overwhelmed with the love for the hedgehogs. There are now three books out there with a fourth on pre-order and more to come from the hedgehogs in 2022.

The dawn of a new series

A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the whole team at Boldwood Books for creating such a warm, friendly, innovative company and for being so supportive. My particular gratitude goes to Amanda Ridout, our Founder and CEO, for her passion, enthusiasm and tremendous vision and to my editor (and Publishing / Sales & Marketing Director), Nia Beynon, who is an absolute dream to work with. Nia has been my editor from the start and therefore knows, understands, and loves the worlds of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow as much as I do. She is my sounding board and a shoulder to cry on and I have learned so much from her exceptional editing skills about how to turn a good story into a great one.

A thank you to Megan Townsend, Publishing Executive, who works behind the scenes preparing the books for publication and Claire Fenby, Digital Marketing Manager, who only joined the team fairly recently but has already made such a tremendous impact on our social media channels with her digital innovations.

I’m so grateful to the team of authors at Boldwood for being such a supportive, friendly group. Very excited to hopefully meet them all in person at some point. Congratulations to you all for writing such amazing books. I’m a very slow reader but I think I’ve maybe read about twenty Boldwood releases so far and they’ve all been exceptional. My mum, bless her, has read (and loved) nearly all of them!

Finally an enormous THANK YOU to all the readers and bloggers/reviewers who buy the books in whatever format, leave reviews, spread recommendations, send messages, and share the love. We wouldn’t be here without your support. Huge hugs to every single one of you.

Happy 2nd Birthday Boldwood. Here’s to an exciting third year…

Big birthday hugs
Jessica xx

Thinking of the book industry during a tough year

A memory came up on my Facebook feed from a year ago: an announcement from The Bookseller about Boldwood Books launching their traditional print programme with The Works. This was so exciting as it was an opportunity to see our paperbacks out in the world and every author who’d signed with Boldwood at the time was guaranteed at least one book going into this programme. Woo hoo!

But at the time of that announcement, as I celebrated the great news and looked forward to visiting my first book in The Works, none of us had no idea what was about to hit us. None of us had any idea how much our world was about to change.

The Secret to Happiness – my Boldwood debut book – was scheduled to go into The Works around Easter which would coincide with the start of the tourist season in Scarborough. I had visions of my local store quickly selling out of the book before I’d even seen it as locals and tourists recognised the Scarborough scene on the front cover. But my book didn’t go into The Works at Easter because we went into a national lockdown. Stores closed and we retreated indoors. The programme was on hold.

The Secret to Happiness went into The Works in June instead when restrictions were lifted and I was both delighted and surprised when they took another two of mine – Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – before stores closed once more in late 2020.

I felt a mix of emotions as that announcement from a year ago popped up on my feed today. So many amazing things have happened for me as an author during the past twelve months yet so many tragic, shocking and heartbreaking things have happened around the world, changing life as we know it both now and for the future.

Today I’m thinking of all book sellers in the UK and around the world whose doors are currently closed or who have been closed at points during 2020 and 2021. Some of them for good.

I’m thinking of all book sellers whether high street chains, small independents, market stalls or those for whom books are part of a bigger product offering. I’m thinking of how they lost their valuable Christmas season and how 2020 barely existed and 2021 hasn’t even started.

I’m thinking of the indies who don’t have an online presence or a way of operating a click and collect process so no way of making sales.

I’m thinking of all the owners of these businesses, particularly indies, and the staff they employ. 

I’m thinking of all the businesses connected with book retailing like printers and distributors who may have been furloughed/lost jobs/ceased trading. And perhaps less obvious connections like the arts. My husband is a freelance typesetter and everything he was working on was put on hold during the first lockdown. One of his clients produces plays. With theatres closed, there were no plays to typeset.

I’m thinking therefore of all the freelancers in the business whose work may have slowed down or dried up: typesetters, editors, cover designers and so on. There will be exceptions and some may have been busier than ever but not in our household.

I’m praying the industry is able to ride the storm and, despite the hardest year ever to face retailers, I’m hoping they’re back when some sort of normality returns. I’m hoping they all remain part of our ‘new normal’.

It’s been tough for authors too. At the ever-innovative Boldwood Books where all our books are available in a stack of formats with a big emphasis on the digital offering (ebook, audio or streamed), we’ve still been able to reach our readers. Authors with the bigger traditional publishers derive much (most?) of their income from the sales of hardbacks and paperbacks and have had to rely on sales through online retailers. With Amazon needing to prioritise warehouse space for ‘essentials’ like medical supplies, even that route became a challenge.

Last year, launches were pushed back with one crazy day in September where hundreds of new titles were released. Debut authors who might have waited years for this to happen may have been lost in the masses. Even successful authors might have experienced limited impact. Book signings, launches, festivals, fairs and conferences would normally generate income and provide an invaluable opportunity to meet and engage with existing readers and find new ones. And, of course, the organisers of these events and the venues where they’d have been held have also missed out.

Some of my fellow Boldwood authors didn’t get their opportunity to go into The Works, perhaps because they’d written a Christmas book and the shifting schedule would have made it out of season or simply because the moving schedule didn’t have the space to fit them in. And some authors had their books instore but couldn’t visit them because that would involve unnecessary travel. I was very fortunate that my local branch stocked all three of my books and I was able to visit them all. I also tried to get photos of other Boldwood Books like this fabulous romance collection in the Beverley branch of The Works last September when travel was permitted.

And finally my thoughts are with our amazing libraries and the passionate, book-loving knowledgeable staff who work for them, whether employed or as a volunteer. Such a valuable resource, libraries have struggled for many years for funding and support and this past year has provided new and unexpected challenges but it’s been amazing seeing how libraries around the country have worked hard to engage with users and bring them new content, even when the library doors have had to close.

Of course, the book industry isn’t the only industry to have had a tough year. Hospitality, travel and tourism, leisure, retailing as a whole, the creative arts … I could go on and on as I doubt there are many (if any) industries not touched by the pandemic and that’s before we even think about healthcare. But this is a post prompted by Boldwood’s The Works Programme announcement so the focus of the post is purely on the book industry.

Spring is approaching as is the one-year anniversary of the UK lockdown. Let’s hope year two is kinder.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to 2021

Has 2020 gone? Can someone triple check?

If you read my 2020 round-up post yesterday, you’ll know that I’ve had mixed feelings about saying goodbye to 2020. For me, it was the most wonderful and astonishing year so far in my writing career. I fulfilled long-held dreams and achieved so many goals, including some that weren’t even on my writing bucket list because I never, ever expected to achieve them. 

But, for so many other reasons, 2020 was pants wasn’t it?

Anyway, it’s behind us now. Welcome to 2021 and a new colour for the blog (previously pale blue). This year sees the start of my first full year as a full-time author and I have plans.

Brand New Releases

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – the second book in my Hedgehog Hollow series – is out on Thursday 7th January and is available on Kindle here. Advanced reviews are mainly positive so hopefully the blog tour will go well. 

I’ll try to ignore the two reviewers who were “very disappointed” with it and left feedback that I shouldn’t have extended this into a series, particularly the one who said she’d loved my previous books but “this one was cringeworthy and had nothing to add, just padding”. Ouch! Thankfully there were plenty who loved it and can’t wait for the third instalment. Phew!

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – book 3 – is out on 4th May and will be up for pre-order as soon as the cover is ready.

Ooh, is that the first time you’ve heard that title mentioned? Fabulous isn’t it? I’ve been a little vague about the name until now, tending to refer to it as ‘book 3’. We were going to call it Life Begins at Hedgehog Hollow which you may have heard me mention in interviews. It felt like a good title for the end of a series. However, book 3 is no longer the end so it wasn’t as appropriate. 

My editor, Nia, came up with ‘Family Secrets’ and I absolutely love it. It’s possible that ‘Life Begins’ will be used for book 4, or we may come up with something else. It won’t be out until January 2022 so there’s still time to decide.

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is written and I’m working on my edits now but I won’t write book 4 until later this year.

Re-releases

The final two books in my back-catalogue acquired by Boldwood as part of my original publishing deal will come out this year:

All You Need Is Love is available for pre-order now (click here) and will be out on 11th March. This was previously available under the title Bear With Me. The original version was only ever available as a Kindle eBook and was taken down from sale just before Christmas. I wrote a blog post about what the changes involve which you can find here.

Charlee and the Chocolate Shop will be re-released in August. I haven’t had edits through for this story yet but I don’t anticipate any major changes. It could be that additional chapters are added in, like with my other two Christmas stories, but the fundamental story and main characters won’t change. I don’t know whether there’ll be a new title or not but watch this space for as and when I have news.

My Writing Plans

I’ll have my edits finished on Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow within a week and may or may not have a second round of edits before it goes through the copy editing and proofreading processes.

Then I get cracking on a brand new book, which I’m really excited about, especially as it’s a return to Whitsborough Bay. This will be my first release from my second Boldwood publishing deal and will be my Christmas release (out in September 2021).

Although it’s a brand new book for readers, it’s not completely new to me. I’ll be returning to a story I started but abandoned three years ago. I wanted to release a Christmas novella in 2017. I had the idea, the setting, the main character and even did a stack of research. As soon as I started writing it and my male main character arrived on the scene, I realised it was definitely not a novella. It needed to be a dual perspective full-length novel so I parked it after 10k words. I absolutely love the story and it has been nudging at me all that time so I can’t wait to return to it.

After that, I’ll be back to Hedgehog Hollow for the fourth (and final???) instalment.

I had originally talked with my editor about a new series for 2022 – which I’d start writing this year – but I’ve thrown a spanner in the works with my fourth Hedgehog Hollow book so I’m not sure whether I’ll still be starting work on that new series this year (for a spring 2022 release) or working on some of my standalone ideas with a view to the series being out in 2023 instead. 

I also want to return to The Chocolate Pot at some point soon. It’s been lovely seeing reviews and comments on social media hoping for a follow-up. I have mixed opinions on exactly how I want this to work. For those asking about Zoe, who appears at the end of Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café, we will find out what happens to her. I have big plans for her which will ultimately impact on another business in Castle Street. I haven’t decided yet how I want that to work and whether that business will come into play in the Starry Skies follow-up or as a third book further down the line. Hmm. Decisions decisions!

Writing-Related Plans, Hopes & Dreams

I’m hoping to set up a reader’s group on my Facebook page but want to think some more about how I best do this in a way that engages with my readers who are keen to know more about Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow without me taking too much focus away from novel-writing. It’s a delicate balance.

I’m also working on some writing tips and plan to share these on my blog and You Tube simultaneously. To ensure regularity of posts, I want to have most of these prepared pre-launch so I’ve written the first few blog posts this week.

Other hopes and dreams include:

  • At least one more book in The Works. I have been spoilt by having three in the space of six months last year so I’m kind of hoping for more than one
  • Appearing on the Books by the Beach Festival programme (Scarborough’s literary festival in June). I keep pestering the poor organiser and hoping!
  • A UK Kindle Top 10. Not hopeful of this one but you’ve got to have dreams!
  • Foreign rights for any of my books
  • A film or TV deal. Come on, Netflix! Christmas on Castle Street? Hedgehog Hollow? Gorgeous!!!!
  • Not letting imposter syndrome spoil my enjoyment of achieving my dream to become a full-time author
  • Not letting negative reviews upset me. I thankfully don’t get many but those I do get can knock me back for days and I shouldn’t let them
  • Getting more of a work:life balance and accepting I don’t need to work evenings and weekends
  • Reading more and not feeling guilty if I spend a day reading instead of writing

And other hopes and dreams…

Personally, I’m looking forward to a return to some form of normality and being able to see friends and family again. Roll on vaccination time!

I have developed a very bad case of lockdown-lard-arse which I absolutely must address. I start every New Year saying I’m going to lose weight and get fit to the point where it has become a standing joke because I know I have no intention of putting in the effort. A distinct lack of movement in 2020 alongside some understandable comfort eating has definitely exacerbated an already large problem. I’m not a vain person and my size doesn’t bother me that much because I’m used to it, but the potential impact on my health does bother me and 2020 was scary, knowing that my food demons had made me more susceptible to the virus. I turn 50 next year and I don’t want to be fifty and fat.

I have tickets booked for a number of gigs at our local outdoor concert venue – Scarborough Outdoor Theatre – across the summer and hope all will go ahead. Our tickets for Six at Leeds Grand Theatre were rescheduled for July so hopefully that will go ahead too but Sister Act has been completely cancelled. I’m just praying our poor theatres will have survived a horrendous year for many of The Arts. Still can’t get my head around why it was okay to fill aeroplanes but not theatres when restrictions were lifted in the summer but let’s not go there!

What are your plans for 2021? Hope it treats you more kindly than 2020 has.

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 Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is available from The Works

I absolutely love my Kindle and read most books as ebooks but there’s a special feeling that comes with holding (and stroking) a paperback I’ve written that I don’t quite get from seeing it on my Kindle. And the one thing that beats that is seeing a book I’ve written in a book shop.

I’ve been so grateful and honoured this year to have had two of my books go into The Works. The Secret to Happiness appeared in June shortly after we came out of the first lockdown and Making Wishes at Bay View appeared in September. I thought that would be it until 2021 so I was both surprised and delighted to get an email from Boldwood’s lovely CEO, Amanda, advising me that The Works had taken delivery of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow last month, making it three books in The Works in the space of five months. Eek!

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow appeared on The Works’ website about a week ago. For the other two books, it took about a fortnight from appearing online to the books appearing in stores. With the announcement at the weekend that England would be entering a 4-week lockdown from Thursday, I suspected I wouldn’t see the hedgehogs in my local branch of The Works until we were the other side of lockdown but I’m delighted to say I was wrong!

I met my daughter off the school bus in town yesterday so she could get a copy of the book she’s studying in English – A Christmas Carol – and pick up a few other bits and bobs. We took a trip to The Works.

I didn’t actually spot the hedgehogs at first because there was a fresh batch of Making Wishes at Bay View on the shelves smiling at me. They’d sold out of them very quickly – perhaps helped by them being signed – so it was lovely to see them re-stocked. Then the munchkin pointed out that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was on the shelves too, right next to Making Wishes... How could I have missed it?

So out came the pen and I signed them all. Several copies of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow had obviously sold already as there were only six left out of the ten that they’d been sent. That was quick! The munchkin had been in with her grandparents at the weekend and the hedgehogs hadn’t arrived then and I know from asking before that book deliveries come on Tuesdays! So those hedgehogs definitely proved popular on their first day on the shelves.

Both books are available on the website which you can access here but The Secret to Happiness sold out online a few months ago. There may still be some copies loitering in some stores.

There are lots of amazing books available from Boldwood authors (and lots of other authors too, of course) so why not treat yourself to some lockdown reading and perhaps some Christmas shopping (so you don’t have any postage to pay)? They’re £2 each or 3 for £5.

If you do see a copy of any of my books out in the wild, I’d love to see a photo shared on any of my social media – a shelfie – telling me which store you found it in. Equally, photos of books bought online are fabulous to see.

It’s still a bit surreal imagining that there are people out there reading or listening to my stories, making friends with my characters, snarling at a couple of them, and immersing themselves in Whitsborough Bay or the Yorkshire Wolds.

Thank you to Boldwood Books for making this possible and to the lovely staff in The Works for being so welcoming each time I pop in.

And a final thank you to everyone who has shared their love for the hedgehogs so far. At the time of writing, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is still in the Top 300 on Amazon and has a whopping 595 reviews/ratings, 93% of which are 5-star or 4-star. Seriously delighted author here!

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

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

 

 

The one where you can find The Secret to Happiness in The Works

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Did you know that you can find The Secret to Happiness in branches of The Works? Well, maybe not the actual secret to happiness but you can find my first Boldwood release of that title. Yay!

It appeared online a couple of weeks ago and we nipped into Scarborough last Tuesday to see if stores had taken delivery of it but it hadn’t yet arrived.

IMG_8440I’d hoped by leaving it over a week and going in yesterday that it would definitely be there but it wasn’t on the shelves. Cue sad face. However, I asked one of the very helpful staff and she said they’d not had a chance to fully unpack Tuesday’s delivery. She went upstairs to search and kindly came down with a pile of ten of my books. Yay!

The two staff members in there were so lovely and enthusiastic when I shared that I was the author and that it was a book set in a fictional version of Scarborough written by a Scarborough-based author. They were keen to take a photo of me with my books to send to their Regional Manager and said they’d be directing everyone to my book and telling them the author had just been in. How lovely is that?

There were a couple of other Boldwood authors books in there – Jennie Bohnet’s Villa of Sun and Secrets and Maxine Morrey’s #NoFilter. Jennie lives in France so won’t be able to visit a branch of The Works herself so it was lovely being able to take a shelfie for her. I’ve read both those books and they’re fabulous.

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IMG_8438My hair’s looking pretty messy thanks to me having my hood up in the rain but it was certainly a proud moment. When I was first published with my original publisher, my local Waterstones kindly stocked my books after I asked nicely and it was lovely seeing them in there but yesterday was something extra special, knowing that copies of The Secret to Happiness are not just in my local store but in stores nationwide.

If you’d like to explore The Secret to Happiness (blurb below), you can take a trip into your local branch of The Works or buy online at http://www.theworks.co.uk You can go directly to my book by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can get the eBook for AppleBooks, Kindle or Kobo or choose the audio version.

Thank you so much, Boldwood Books, for fulfilling another writing dream.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

*The Top 10 Bestseller*

Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…

Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…

Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.

Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through …

When the women meet at their local bootcamp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…

An uplifting story of friendship and finding the strength to come to terms with the past. Perfect for fans of Tilly Tennant and Cathy Bramley.

What readers are saying about The Secret To Happiness:

‘An emotional but uplifting page turner. The Secret to Happiness is a beautiful story of friendship and love’ Fay Keenan

‘I loved how realistic and flawed the characters were, no perfect people, just honest characters with real problems.’

‘Easily Jessica Redland’s best novel so far. The amount of heart and depth that has gone into it is astounding.’

‘This is a story that will have you enthralled from the start to the end with its many twists and turns. Jessica has the knack of drawing you into her “heroines”. She always includes some humour in her books but wow, does she know how to bring you to tears as well.’

‘Reading this book is the secret to happiness. Wow!’

‘Loved the characters and didn’t want it to end.

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My author copy (the version available via Amazon or other bookstores) alongside the one from The Works with a glossy cover