Brontës, Bella, books, and a busy beach

Strictly-speaking, it’s still spring but I can’t bring myself to put ‘out and about – spring’ as the header after the gorgeous weather we’ve had this weekend, so I’ve declared summer!

I went out this weekend. Proper out. Among people! Eek!

It was Scarborough’s Books by the Beach Festival this weekend – a slightly shorter (and later in the year) event than usual. When the line-up was announced, I was excited to see that Rowan Coleman would be speaking. What made Rowan’s presence extra special is that many of the events this year were in a change of venue: St Mary’s Church in Scarborough’s old town near the castle. Anne Brontë died in Scarborough and is buried in the churchyard there and Rowan is both passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the Brontë family. She is two books into a series called The Brontë mysteries under the pen name Bella Ellis imagining that, before the sisters became authors, they were sleuths. Isn’t that a delightful idea? So where better for Rowan to speak about this series than in the resting place of one of the sisters?

I took my fourteen-year-old along for company (with the bribe of an ice cream afterwards). She doesn’t know anything about the Brontës but she enjoyed hearing about the mysteries and, after reading the blurb on the back of the couple of books I bought and had signed, she declared she may well snaffle them for a read. The hour-long talk and Q&A session was really interesting and Rowan was, as always, exceptionally engaging.

It was lovely to spot another writing friend outside, albeit briefly, before going in and it was lovely to be out, even if being at an event meant wearing masks and being socially distanced in the church. I couldn’t take any photos during it as we were struggling to find somewhere to sit that wouldn’t be too close to anyone and ended up off to a side with a column partly blocking our view. We could still hear perfectly, though.

Congratulations to the team at the Books by the Beach Festival for organising a safe, enjoyable event. I’d imagine that there’s a lot of work goes into organising an event like this anyway but even more so when trying to make it Covid-safe.

The munchkin and I went for our ice cream afterwards. Scarborough’s South Bay was absolutely heaving. Wandering along the seafront, it would be so easy to believe that life is back to normal with no masks in sight and very little social distancing. I thought I’d feel a bit more anxious than I did. I think being double-jabbed probably helped with that.

We had an ice cream and leaned on the railings above the heaving beach, took a walk along the pier, past the harbour, then walked back up to town. It was great to be out in that sunshine but I was relieved to be away from the crowds. That wasn’t just pandemic-related. I’m okay with crowds but I don’t enjoy being in places that are heaving. I much prefer peace and quiet.

On the way back up to town, we had a chance to pay a visit to my favourite shop – White Beach Designs – and maybe make a couple of purchases.

I went out again on the evening. I know! Get me! I know Rowan, having attended a writing retreat she ran in West Yorkshire a little over three years ago. She gave me some really helpful advice about my writing career for which I’m very grateful. As she was staying over in Scarborough, she’d asked if I fancied meeting up outside of her talk so we’d booked to go for dinner. I really enjoyed the chance to have a catch-up. It is so long since I’ve spoken face to face to someone who isn’t family and it was great to feel some sort of normality. Thank you so much, Rowan, for the wonderful company xxx

As we walked to the restaurant, Rowan asked how come I hadn’t been speaking at the festival. It would be an absolute dream come true – Scarborough author who writes about Scarborough on the bill of a Scarborough-based festival – and I did put my name forward. Maybe one day.

Hope you enjoy the pics of Scarborough aka Whitsborough Bay looking resplendent in the sunshine. Ooh, and I’m going out again tomorrow! There’s no stopping me. I’m off to Beverley to meet my bestie and fellow author Sharon Booth. We used to meet up a couple of times a month but obviously haven’t been able to for a long time and video chat isn’t the same. Really looking forward to seeing her face to face again.

If you’re venturing out and about again, hope it’s going well for you. It certainly helps that the nice weather means we can be outside seeing the people we love.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

My first year as a full-time author. Not quite as expected…

An old friend and I exchanged news on Messenger this week and she asked if I was still writing full-time. I replied last night that I was and it had been about a year. And then it struck me that it had been pretty much exactly a year and I might even have missed the anniversary. I had. So this is a bit of a belated post!

Tuesday – 8th June – was the one-year anniversary of me being a full-time author. What an amazing year it has been for my career as an author with so many wonderful goals achieved, but it has also been the most peculiar of years thanks to a global pandemic changing everyone’s lives.

This isn’t a blog post about goals achieved or about the strange world in which we live. Instead, it’s about how I’ve found writing full-time…

I thought I’d start this post by sharing an amazing cartoon my husband drew for me to represent frustrating days in my previous role as a distance learning HR Tutor. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job … most of the time. I don’t think there are many jobs that don’t have a few niggles but the ones in mine had become more frequent and increasingly challenging so the steam coming out the ears had become a regular thing!

So how has the first year been as a full-time author? Not quite what I expected. I say this not because I’m not ‘living the dream’ by doing exactly what I want to do, but because my approach to the freedom to write full-time hasn’t been what I expected and I find myself unexpectedly working more hours than I’ve ever worked.

I used to be able to write a book in 2-3 months squeezing my writing time into evenings and weekends around my demanding more-than-full-time day job. I ran evening webinars so I didn’t even have every evening free to write. I therefore assumed that, with full days available, I would get so much more writing done and at a quicker pace.

Wrong!

I have mastered the art of procrastination. I continually break from what I’m doing to:

  • Check my emails
  • Scroll through my social media feeds
  • Check my chart positions
  • See whether I have new reviews

The last two points are fair enough when it’s publication day or there’s a promotion on but it isn’t necessary several times every day outside that.

I don’t need to repeatedly check my emails and the scrolling through social media feeds is completely unnecessary, especially when the way I do it is so ineffective. I frequently find myself scrolling aimlessly, not resetting Facebook to ‘most recent’ so I am seeing posts I’ve already seen and I’m not interacting with any of them.

I dread to think how many hours I waste each day doing this. Yes, we are talking hours!

Linked to the above, I have absolutely no routine. I plonk myself down at my desk on a morning and am usually still there past 10pm. Argh! That’s not good.

When I had very little time to write, I used to just crack on with it. One hour to write? Okay, let’s do this!

Not so much now. With the whole day and week spread out before me, I don’t use it effectively. I spend ages staring into space. Sometimes I’m thinking about a plot point or piece of dialogue. Most of the time, I’m not. 

I get distracted doing little bits of research when I would previously have put ‘CHECK THIS’ in the middle of my manuscript (MS) and come back to it later to avoid disrupting my flow.

I used to use the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) approach of just getting the words on the page and editing them later but I’ve started editing as I go again or spending ages trying to think of the perfect words to use instead of getting the intention down on the page and perfecting the words later.

I think having so much time spread before me is the problem. At the back of my mind, I knew this could be an issue as a very good friend of mine had become a full-time author a couple of years earlier and she experienced the same issue. When you have very little time, you’re very focused with it. When you have loads of time, you waste it.

I need to be so much more focused with my writing time.

As you can probably guess from what I’ve said about how many hours I spend at my desk, I don’t have one of these. I can’t remember the last time I did.

Last summer, I wrote a week-long series of blog posts about imposter syndrome and it was quite a revelation for me pinpointing what had triggered mine. It went back to my early twenties and continued throughout my working life where I was bullied in the workplace and overlooked for promotion on several occasions.

We all know when we’re good at something or not (even though it’s very British to downplay our abilities) so I’m going to be very non-British and bold and declare that I was excellent at my job but I wasn’t good at playing the game. I didn’t network with the ‘right’ people. I didn’t ‘big myself up’ at work. I didn’t get involved in work politics. I didn’t stamp on others to get to where I wanted to be. I always hoped to progress on my own merits instead of because of who I knew. That strategy didn’t work! I therefore developed a workaholic approach, putting in way more effort and hours than were required in order to prove myself. And that approach became part of me and has never quite left me.

I find it very difficult to relax. I don’t like not being busy. I’m always doing something work-related and this isn’t good. This has exacerbated during the pandemic. Stuck at home? Might as well work then. So I did. Yet, as already stated, it hasn’t been time spent constructively.

Looking back, I have achieved a lot. In the year I’ve been a full-time author, I have:

  • Written three full-length novels, one of which required a complete re-write in edits
  • Completely re-written one of my backlist books as I wasn’t happy with the way it was written
  • Undertaken a full edit on another of my backlist

But I could have done more and … here’s the rub … in fewer hours if I hadn’t procrastinated, if I’d found a routine, and if I’d given myself a work life balance.

I think that the latter is one of the reasons why I procrastinate and don’t have a routine and it’s a vicious circle. I’m shattered because I don’t have any downtime so, when I do sit down at my desk, I can’t concentrate for long so I write a few hundred words and then get distracted. The words come more slowly because I’m tired but that means I need to sit at my desk longer to get the book written which means no work life balance which means I’m shattered so I procrastinate…

What can I do?

Only I can make the change. My husband challenged whether I should write fewer than four books a year to give me more time, but four books a year is absolutely do-able. The problem is that I don’t use the time effectively so it’s not the volume of work I need to change; it’s how I work.

I was fascinated by listening to a Facebook Live last week from fellow-Boldwood author Shari Low on the publication day of her latest novel, One Summer Sunrise. Shari talked about how quickly she writes her books and I was fascinated by it. She pretty much shuts herself off for a week or two and blitzes it. She doesn’t look at social media or go out. It’s a very intensive period with very long hours but the book gets written. Wow!

I wondered if she might put a huge amount of planning into it so that she knows exactly what she’s going to write but she’s a pantser, like me, just getting on with writing the idea she has. So this could work for me. If she’d planned first, that would be no good. I’m definitely not a planner with my writing.

I have started writing the fourth book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – and it’s going very slowly. This is partly because I have to do some research first and I’m struggling to find the detail I need so that’s holding me up, but it’s also because I’m procrastinating and because I have no routine. Next week isn’t a good week to try Shari’s approach as I am meeting up with my writing bestie, I have a hair appointment, and I have a cover reveal at the end of the week so need to be on social media. However, w/c 21st June is relatively clear in the diary so I’m going to come off social media for the week and see what happens if I try to blitz the book. Even if I could write half of it in a week, I’d be thrilled.

Every author is different and what works for one isn’t going to work for another but they say that the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I’ve been doing the same thing for the past year and it’s not effective so it’s time to experiment with something a little different. I’ll let you know how I get on.

I hope this approach does work for me as I love the idea of an intensive fortnight to write a book and then time to do other things and be with my family outside of that. Of course, the process of writing the book doesn’t stop at that fortnight. There are still two rounds of edits, copy edits and proofreading stages but I think something radical is needed to stop me from working all these crazy hours.

Wish me luck!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Venturing into real Hedgehog Hollow countryside

One of the things readers love about my Whitsborough Bay series is that, while the setting is fictional, it is inspired by real places. The biggest inspiration comes from Scarborough but there are elements of Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay and a couple of other local coastal towns and villages. Readers who are familiar with the area like to guess which pubs, cafes and landmarks they think I’m referring to.

When I started writing the Hedgehog Hollow series, my intention was to to do the same thing: to create villages in the books that were inspired by specific villages on the Yorkshire Wolds. But Covid hit and we couldn’t go out and about so I couldn’t do that and I didn’t know the area well enough myself. I only live a few miles away from the northern tip of The Wolds and I have travelled through the area oodles of times but I’ve never veered from the main roads to thoroughly explore the villages. I do, however, have a really good understanding of the beauty of the countryside.

What’s been interesting is that, although I haven’t used specific villages as inspiration, some readers who live in the area think they recognise certain villages on The Wolds. I love that because it means that I have properly captured the essence of Wolds villages in my writing.

Yesterday afternoon, hubby and I planned to go exploring for the afternoon but our plans were slightly thwarted. He had a last-minute opportunity to go for his 2nd Covid jab so we set off much later than intended, but then our daughter called us from her after school photography club to say the teacher had an appointment so it was finishing half an hour earlier so we had to cut our trip short at the other end.

We managed a stop in the middle of the countryside although the photos really don’t do justice to the stunning rolling hills and fields surrounding us – the real Hedgehog Hollow countryside.

We explored a village called Wold Newton with a pretty church and a village green with a pond. Check out that blue sky! I had flip flops on so some careful navigation was needed round the pond as there was goose poo everywhere!

How fabulous is this bus shelter? It was full of books, DVDs and games. I wondered if it had started during the pandemic to keep people entertained or whether it has been a community scheme running much longer than that.

I checked the shelves but couldn’t see any Jessica Redland’s loitering! I loved this book with what we call a Steven lighthouse on it. When New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms was first issued, it was called Searching for Steven and, as the book features a red and white striped lighthouse, we have since referred to striped ones as Steven lighthouses.

We also walked around a smaller village called Thwing but I forgot to take any photos.

Our next stop was driving through Butterwick, Weaverthorpe and Helperthorpe intending to park at the furthest and explore, but that’s when we got the call to go to school early so no more photo opps. My husband’s dad was born and brought up in Helperthorpe so I definitely wanted a good look around.

I will share more photos when we return and I continue on my mission to find some villages that are how I would imagine Huggleswick, Umplesthorpe, Fimberley, Little Tilbury and Great Tilbury.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Thank you for helping me reach three amazing milestone celebrations

Just a quick post this morning to celebrate some more review/ratings milestones over on Amazon. I was so close to posting this yesterday but one of the books was just one off the milestone but hit it overnight. Yay!

And that book is Coming Home to Seashell Cottage which is the fourth and final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, telling Clare’s story. I love all the books in that series for different reasons but this one is my personal favourite. I felt that I’d discovered who I was as a writer when I wrote this one and I love the twists and turns in the story.

Thank you to everyone – especially Jade on Twitter who added in the 1,000th review last night after I posted that I was tantalising close – for helping Coming Home to Seashell Cottage reach the 1,000 reviews/ratings milestone.

This is the second book in the series to reach 1,000 reviews/ratings. Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1) passed that milestone a few weeks back. Book 2 – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – and book 3 – Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – still have a little way to go and are currently at 838 and 826 reviews respectively but I’m hoping that they’ll reach their 1,000 milestones too in the not too distant future.

We’re still in Whitsborough Bay for the next book and it’s The Secret to Happiness which passed the 1,500 milestone yesterday. This was the book which secured me my publishing deal with the amazing Boldwood Books so it will forever be a special book for me. It’s one of the most adventurous I’ve written in that it features three different perspectives, and it’s the only one of my books that is written in third person.

Another huge thank you to everyone who has helped The Secret to Happiness pass the 1,500 milestone. Even the 1-star reviewer who describes it as “absolute pish” and tells me he “didn’t know it was possible to publish something so bad”! How rude!!!!

And finally the hedgehogs have done it again with a goal also achieved yesterday on the five-week anniversary since publication day. The third book in the series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – passed the 1,500 reviews/ratings mark. Woo hoo!

Of all my books, it has the highest average percentage of 5-star ratings with a whopping 83%. I’m so very grateful that everyone has taken this series – and particularly this book – to their hearts. Although I’m massively feeling the pressure with book 4 which I’ve just started writing ready for the 6th January publication date. Hoping I haven’t set the bar too high with book 3!

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write a review or just to leave a rating. It is such an amazing way of thanking an author if you’ve loved one of their stories, and I personally find it such a motivator to keep writing.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy Women’s (also read by men) Fiction Day 2021

Today is Women’s Fiction Day, a day set up two years ago by USA-based WFWA (Women’s Fiction Writers’ Association) “to celebrate the authors, stories, readers, bookstores, and fans of the women’s fiction genre.” You can read more about them here.

When a reader sent me a lovely message earlier today wishing me Happy Women’s Fiction Day and thanking me for my stories, I was touched and delighted and nearly penned a blog post immediately to celebrate the day.

But then I didn’t.

And I wondered why I’d paused. I realised it was the label ‘women’s fiction’ that had stopped me.

I’m not the sort of person who gets precious about labels because I know I work in an industry that is rife with them. Two decades ago before I ever entertained the idea of being an author, I used the term ‘chick-lit’ for what I read. When I became an author many years later, there was a definite move away from this and many authors felt it was a derogatory term. I can see why but I’ve never felt upset by it, although it’s not a term I tend to use these days, much preferring ‘romcom’.

I sometimes say I write romance or contemporary romance. I more often use a tagline – stories of love, friendship, family and community – but I’ve never applied the term ‘women’s fiction’ to my work and I think that’s because I struggle with the suggestion that the stories I tell are only suitable for women. Because they’re not.

Before anyone shouts at their computer, I know that the term doesn’t mean that but, to me, it implies it.

I love how the WFWA describe women’s fiction and they have this amazing visual on their website. They also make the point that women’s fiction may or may not have a romance :

This is definitely what I write. Although there is always a romance in my books, it doesn’t always take centre stage. Even when the romance is a major plot point, the driver of the story is more about the journey the protagonist is going on and their emotional growth.

Despite reading – and agreeing with – all the above, I still struggle with using the term ‘women’s fiction’. I am certain that women make up the largest percentage of my readership and my social media following, reviews, and membership of my Facebook Readers Group would back this up, but I know for a fact that I have male readers. Some message me, some engage on social media and others make it clear they’re male in their reviews and I love that.

We don’t have a genre called men’s fiction so why do we have women’s fiction? What else would we call it though, especially if it doesn’t include a romance? Contemporary fiction is far too broad as anything set in modern times would fall into that. I don’t know what the answer is.

So I think I’ll create a new label for the purpose of this post called ‘Women’s fiction (also read by men)’ and leave it there for the moment.

To all the authors of this wonderful genre and all those who love to read it, sending my love and thanks.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Super celebrations for those hedgehogs

It has been another amazing week in the world of Hedgehog Hollow.

Today, on the 4-week anniversary since the release of book 3 in the series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – the first book is celebrating a major reviews/ratings milestone. It has now passed the 2,000 point on Amazon. Woo hoo those hedgehogs!

But book 3 has hit another amazing number. 1,300 is maybe not a number we’d call a milestone but when we say that 1,300 was achieved in only 4 weeks, my gaster is well and truly flabbered (which auto correct wanted to change to my Easter is blabbered!)

And with over 2,300 reviews, the 2nd book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – is well on its way to a 2,500 milestone.

Meanwhile over on Apple, the hedgehogs have been enjoying more celebrations. I posted to say that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow had been chosen as Apple’s Free Book of the Week in the UK and Ireland as well as being free Romance of the Week in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. That week is over now. Well, I say the week is over but it still is showing as FREE in some territories so, if you’re an Apple user and haven’t already grabbed it, you may still get it for free.

Giving away a book for free may seem a strange thing to do as it obviously brings in zero income for an author and we do have bills to pay. It’s a strategy that can work well when the book is the start of a series as it’s effectively giving readers a free sample. If they like what they try, they’ll hopefully go on and read the other books in the series and, as they’ll be buying those, some income is still generated.

In March last year, the first book in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series – Making Wishes at Bay View – was the Free Book of the Week in the UK and made it to the #1 position, with #3 for Making Wishes at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #23 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (#2, 3 and 5 respectively in the Romance category chart). I hoped similar things would happen for the hedgehogs.

And I’m delighted to say they have…

FINDING LOVE AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW topped the overall chart in UK and Ireland, and the Romance category in both those territories and Australia. Top 6 everywhere else!

It was so lovely seeing it at the top of the overall free chart…

NEW ARRIVALS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW came so close to the top in the UK and I thought at one point that it might just nudge up there… but there was a new E L James released today. The hedgehogs are not going to topple Mr Grey!

I was absolutely delighted to chart in the USA with it being such an enormous market. Apple shows the Top 200 positions but gives no indication of chart positions outside that so it’s such a special moment spotting it visually represented.

A particular thrill was becoming a sandwich in the Apple Books UK chart with Richard Osman and Matt Haig who have two of the biggest selling books of the year. What an honour! I’d bought both paperbacks recently so couldn’t resist recreating the sandwich in my office.

And this was my #2 moment, so very close to the top. As you can see, book 3 was still working its way up the charts at this point. It’s so surreal when I see some of the HUGE names with whom I’m sharing ‘shelf-space’ and also particularly lovely to see a fellow Boldwood author, Diane Saxon in there too…

FAMILY SECRETS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW didn’t chart in Ireland but did well in all the other territories and potentially could still climb higher but I wanted to write this post today as it’s the 4-week anniversary since the release of Family Secrets.

It was particularly great capturing book 2 and 3 today in the Top 5 together:

At one point, books 2 and 3 were Top 5 together while book 1 was top of the free chart so they were all featuring on the home page in the UK. Don’t imagine I’ll see that again!

A huge thank you to all Apple users who’ve made this possible this week and to all the Amazon users who’ve helped achieve those amazing review/ratings numbers.

As I say, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow still appears to be free in most territories for Apple so do check yours out if you haven’t already grabbed it. It’s also still in Prime Reading on Amazon and all my books are in Kindle Unlimited so free if you subscribe to that.

Big hedge-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

An Interview With: Jessica Redland

Hannah from This Hannah Reads has interviewed me about the Hedgehog Hollow series. Here’s the interview and some gorgeous pics of hedgehogs. Thank you so much, Hannah xx

This Hannah Reads

The other week I posted my first interview post with Heidi Swain and it went down a storm! If you’ve not seen it yet you can check it out here but today I’m spending some time with the lovely Jessica Redland, another of my auto-buy authors and I’m so excited to share this with you all!

She is now working with Boldwood and has written a number of different books, but all with a little touch of magic. I’ll pop some links to all of my reviews for her books at the end so you can check them out if you want to know more!

Let’s getstarted

Hi Jessica, first off can I just say a massive thank you for letting me interview you and appear on my blog. I’ve discovered your books over lockdown, starting with Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes but I’ve recently been reading the Hedgehog…

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Hedgehogs on the move

Last week I attended a webinar run through the Hedgehog Friendly Campuses at The University of Sheffield and Nottingham Trent University in conjunction with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.

There were two presentations from students studying at Nottingham Trent and both were fascinating but I wanted to share a few points I picked up from the first one delivered by Lauren Moore.

Lauren’s studies were focusing on hedgehogs on roads, exploring the challenges they face and potential solutions to this. This involved monitoring movement of hedgehogs and also looking at where hedgehogs regrettably lost their lives on the roads.

I thought I’d share a few points that stood out to me about movement of hedgehogs. I was already aware that they covered a lot of ground in a night and that males covered more ground than females, but picked up a few more snippets from this session:

  • More male hedgehogs are killed on our roads because they travel further looking for food but also looking for mates in mating season (April/May)
  • In autumn, more female hedgehogs tend to be killed on roads than males because they are having to forage further to look for food and warm nesting materials after having their litter of autumn juveniles
  • July is sadly a high time of year for roadkill as juveniles leave their mums and fend for themselves, frequently crossing roads
  • As you’d probably expect, there are more deaths on quieter/regional roads because there are far more hedgehogs living in those more rural areas
  • 10pm-1am are the times when most hedgehog movement takes place
  • There’s a big problem with isolation caused by all the ongoing building of new houses. This places more and more roads across the green areas where hedgehogs roam reducing their geography. They get isolated within these areas resulting in a reduction in the genetic diversity in that area which is not good

This all seems very doom and gloom and the reduction in habitat is one of the primary causes of reduction in hedgehog numbers.

What can we do to help?

The big thing the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) advocate is getting involved in their amazing Hedgehog Street initiative. You can find information about this on their website here.

There’s loads of great information on the website but one thing they’re eager to get the public involved in is the building of the Hedgehog Map. Whether you see a hedgehog in your garden or your neighbourhood or whether you find one that has been killed, they would like to hear from you.

Building up a map of where there are active hedgehogs and where the main danger spots are can massively help in initiatives around their survival.

You can also become a member of BHPS for a small annual sum (or lifetime membership) and there’s a form on their website found here.

If you’re based in the UK, maybe this bank holiday weekend you could check to see whether hedgehogs can pass between your house and your neighbours’ or perhaps even create a feeding station in your garden. I’ve got a quick reminder of what to feed them below. And remember they need fresh water but not milk as they’re lactose intolerant and it can make them very ill and even kill them.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

FREE Romance of the Week in MORE territories

I blogged yesterday to say that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was the FREE Book of the Week on AppleBooks in the UK. It’s currently #1 in the overall FREE chart and the Romance category chart.

I have exciting news! It is also the FREE Book of the Week on AppleBooks in IRELAND where it is also currently #1 in both free charts. Woo hoo!

FREE Book of the Week in UK and Ireland

And there’s more!!!!

I announced that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow was the FREE Romance of the Week in Australia, Canada and USA. More news… it’s also on that promotion in NEW ZEALAND too!

So loads of AppleBooks territories around the world where you can grab the start of the Hedgehog Hollow series for absolutely nothing.

Romance of the Week in Australia, Canada, New Zealand & USA

I’m really excited to see the hedgehogs have just entered the Top 20 in the USA’s and Canada’s free charts this morning.

And perhaps treat yourself to books 2 and 3 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow and Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – while you’re at it!

The hedgehogs and I wish you happy (free) reading!

If you’re not an Apple user but you have friends/family who are, please do spread the word!

This offer will continue across the weekend but I believe it will be back up to normal price on Monday (depending on timezone).

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx