Some hedgehog-tastic dos and don’ts as Hedgehog Week ends

I posted some true and false graphics about hedgehogs earlier and promised a dos and don’ts post would follow. I then got completely distracted by the number of reviews on Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow followed by a takeaway and a night in front of the TV and forgot to do the second post. Oops!

So, a bit later than planned, here we go. We can all make a difference around our homes without spending much to help increase the hedgehog population and stop them being vulnerable to extinction…

Hope you find these helpful. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Third book, 4.5 days, 120 plus reviews

Back in January, I wrote a post entitled ‘One book, one week, one hundred reviews’ celebrating the phenomenal speed at which book 2 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – was gathering reviews. You can read it here. I’d never known anything like that before…

Until now!

As you can probably guess from the title of this blog post, book 3 has smashed it. At lunchtime today, 4.5 days into publication, Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow passed the 100 mark on Amazon. In fact, it did it so quickly that it jumped from 90 when I looked earlier to 110 the next time I checked and it’s now at 122!

In January, I was also astonished at how many reviews I got before any 1 or 2-stars crept in. It actually passed a whopping 400.

Of the 122 reviews/ratings showing at the time of writing this post, there are 2 at 2-star so I’m not going to match that record, but there is still a stack of love for the hedgehogs with 92% of those 122 being at 4 or 5-star.

The hedgehogs and I are so very grateful. When I was a struggling indie author making little impact with my writing, I used to see the excitement from readers as a favourite author released their book and devoted fans raced to read it. I’ve even done it myself with one of the books in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, buying it on release day and devouring it across the next three days, and with a couple of Jill Mansell’s books. I never ever imagined this happening to anything I’ve ever written yet the speed of reviews coming in and the lovely messages from readers tell me it is. It really is a dream come true.

In the meantime, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1) and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (book 2) are both speeding towards the 2,000 reviews/ratings mark. Eek!

And book 4 – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – is up for pre-order on Amazon here. With no cover and no blurb yet, it is already heading for the Top 1,000 which is also astonishing. Double eek!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and thanks again. Hedgehogs dos and don’t will still be coming later but I had to quickly dip in to share this news!

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Some hedgehog-tastic facts as Hedgehog Awareness Week ends

It’s the last day of Hedgehog Awareness Week or #hedgehogweek in the UK today and what a special week it has been!

There’ve been some fabulous videos and competitions over on the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s Facebook Page and readers have been in touch telling me about guest appearances from patrons/experts/rescue volunteers on a variety of TV programmes from their local news to The One Show to Good Morning Britain!

For me personally, this week has seen the released of the third instalment of the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – and I’ve been thrilled at the speed of the reviews coming in as readers join their old friends for more love, friendship, family, drama and, of course, hedgehog gorgeousness.

When the first book in the series came out, I pulled together some true or false statements about hedgehogs so I’m sharing these here again now for anyone who might have missed the original post or who’d like a refresher. I also have some dos and don’ts I’ll share later today.

Hope you enjoyed the hedgehog facts and that you perhaps learned something new.

Have a fabulous day and I’ll return later with some dos and don’ts.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

Starry Skies reaches for the skies and achieves a reviews milestone

In the midst of all the excitement of publication day for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, another of my books has achieved an amazing reviews/ratings milestone.

Well done to Tara, Hercules the giant house rabbit, and the amazing Castle Street café – The Chocolate Pot – for passing 1,500 reviews/ratings on Amazon. Woo hoo!

I absolutely love this story. Reviews slowed down post Christmas but they keep coming in and I’m so thrilled it has reached such an epic number.

This book is best enjoyed after reading Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which is a slightly shorter novel set purely in December in the business next door to The Chocolate Pot. Starry Skies itself is set across a whole year from Christmas Eve one year until Christmas Day the next so it’s not purely about Christmas.

Thank you to everyone who has reviewed or rated this book, especially as they’re predominantly positive.

My only 1-star review is from someone who couldn’t download it onto her Kindle. This isn’t actually anything to do with the author and is an issue Amazon could easily resolve but it’s one of those things and at least somebody looking at it could dismiss that particular review if they are influenced by looking at negative reviews.

I do have some readers who didn’t gel with the book or the character and that’s always going to be the case as we don’t all like the same thing. However, I’m delighted that 93% of readers who commented loved it.

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

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…

It’s available as an eBook for Apple, Kindle and Kobo, in large print format, paperback, physical audio, audio download and via streaming services. In the next couple of months, it will also be available as a hardback. You can get the eBook on Kindle here.

Here’s some quotes from 5-star reviews:

Thank you again to everyone for helping Starry Skies at the Chocolate Pot Café reach this fabulous milestone. It makes me soooo happy! And thank you to my amazing editor, Nia, and the team at Boldwood Books for making this possible.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Celebrating Publication Day for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow

Yesterday (4th May) was the publication day for the third book in the Hedgehog Hollow series: Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. Woo hoo!

When I was a struggling indie author, publication day was a fairly ‘normal’ day. I’d post about it on social media and a few family members and friends would congratulate me, then I’d get on with my day to day work. I might nip go out for lunch with the hubby or maybe even an evening meal to celebrate but it was fairly low key because so few readers had discovered my work. I didn’t excitedly watch the charts because there wasn’t an impressive chart entry moment.

Since joining the amazing Boldwood Books, this has completely changed. Publication days are now an excited frenzy of activity on social media, responding to loads of gorgeous congratulations messages, and the start of a blog tour. I’ve learned not to attempt to write or edit as there’s too much else going on but I did slip in an appointment with the hairdresser yesterday and that was a mistake in terms of time but, my goodness, how nice was it to have my hair cut and professionally coloured for the first time since December 2019!

I debuted it during a Facebook Live with my fabulous editor Nia Beynon last night. If you weren’t able join the Live, you can catch up with it here. Thank you to all those who joined us on the evening and for the lovely comments and questions.

It was the perfect opportunity to also debut my new hedgehog print dress (awww) and show off a couple of my soft friends. Thank you to my friend Nic for the lovely knitted sparkly hedgehog, Erin.

The blog tour has started and the reviews yesterday along with the first review I’ve seen posted today are absolutely gorgeous. I also had two lovely reviews from bloggers not on the tour. Thank you to everyone who has signed up. I’m excited and a little trepidatious (is that a word?!) to hear all the comments.

I wrote a post for Boldwood’s blog about one of the themes of this book – forgiveness – which you can find here and I wrote a post for my own blog about the risks of writing about an unlikable character which you can find here.

Fabulous publication day biscuits arrived from my publisher. I love these. It’s so adorable seeing my book in biscuit format. They’re made by a company called Enchanting Bakes if you want to check them out. Amazingly they are still unopened but I suspect they won’t last beyond the morning!

We unveiled the winner of the ‘Name the Hedgehog’ competition for Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. A draw was made from those who’d signed up to my newsletter and the winner, Kaye, chose Prickles as the name. As we did with the amazing Snoop Hoggy Hog who appears in New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, my hubby created a cartoon of Prickles. We saw him as a cheeky Yorkshire chappie in a flat cap, drinking his Yorkshire Tea, standing in the meadow at Hedgehog Hollow. Isn’t he fabulous?

We’ll be running another competition to name a hedgehog for book 4 so watch out for details of that late next month.

Speaking of book 4, we revealed yesterday in the Facebook Live that book 4 will be called A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow. We don’t have the blurb or cover yet but it’s available for pre-order now right here! It can only appear as a pre-order for Kindle this far in advance but it will be available for pre-order on Kobo and Apple nearer the release date. It’s out in January 2022.

Finally, let’s talk about those hedgehogs scampering up the charts! I knew I’d had a large number of pre-orders for this book – way bigger than anything I’ve experienced before – so I was hoping I might end up with a Top 100 on Amazon. The chart is meant to update hourly but that doesn’t seem to happen and yesterday it was super slow at moving. I made it to #77 by the end of the day and the full impact or those pre-orders was finally shown this morning at #38. I can’t quite believe that. Hubby had asked me what I would be happy with. Obviously I’m happy with it all and I had anticipated perhaps Top 100 on the back of pre-orders but had hoped maybe 70s. A dream would be Top 50 but I genuinely didn’t think that would happen … yet those hedgehogs went one better with Top 40! So proud!

This position has put the hedgehogs at #11 in the Hot New Releases chart and #1 in the same chart in several categories.

Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow is sporting #1 Best Seller tags in the UK, Australia, Canada and USA which is such a thrill and it was up to #59 in Australia yesterday. Even more fabulous was that 9 out of my 10 released books had a #1 Best Seller flag at the same time. Wow! Six of them are currently sporting one in the UK.

I’ve just checked the USA chart and am astonished to be a little outside the top 1,000 (#1,259) which is such a thrill knowing how enormous the US market is. And the hedgehogs have cracked the top 1,000 in Canada at #785 just now.

Over on Apple, they made it to #43 in the overall chart yesterday and #9 in the category chart of ‘Fiction and Literature’. They’re on the home page of Kobo too as ‘New and Notable’!

My huge apologies to anyone who is wanting to obtain the paperback version or get it from Audible. Amazon are showing the paperback as ‘currently unavailable’ despite it being a print on demand book and very much available. This is an error on their part and my publishers are working hard to rectify it but they’ve had this with another paperback recently and it did take a week so thank you for your patience. It is showing available for order on Waterstones website here. It doesn’t appear to be on Barnes and Noble yet either but should do soon. It can also be ordered from bookshops, as can any of my paperbacks.

As for Audible, it only appeared yesterday afternoon but it appeared as a pre-order with delivery in a weeks’ time. My publisher is also working with them to rectify this and we are hopeful it will properly be available today or tomorrow. Fingers crossed. Thank you so much for your patience if you’re waiting for either of these formats.

I’ll end by saying a huge THANK YOU to all the amazing readers who pre-ordered Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow, making these amazing chart positions possible. THANK YOU to all those who bought or borrowed on publication day. I’m so grateful to everyone who has shared or commented on social media or sent me a private message wishing me a happy publication day and/or telling me how much they’ve loved reading it. It is such a thrill that readers have devoured the book in a day with some even saying they couldn’t sleep until they’d finished it. Wow! That just blows me away!

If you haven’t delved into the Hedgehog Hollow series already, I do strongly recommend starting at the beginning as, although the story in each book is complete, there are themes that carry across the series and threads that further develop. It’s a richer reading experience for starting at the beginning and the great news is that, if you read eBooks, the first two – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – are both still on offer. But grab them fast as the prices will go up soon. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is also in Prime Reading but won’t be for much longer and ALL my books (this series and the Whitsborough Bay stories) are in Kindle Unlimited.

Hope you all have a fabulous week. The hedgehogs and I send you our love and gratitude.

Big hedge-hugs
Jessica xx

It’s publication day and I’m wondering if readers will like my unlikeable character

It’s publication day today for book 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – and I face the day with the usual blend of excitement, anticipation and also nerves! I’m sure all authors have the same questions whirring round their mind the day a book is released:

  • Where will it chart?
  • When will the first reviews come in?
  • Will readers like it?

When writing a series, there’s the added worry: Will readers like it as much as the last one? 

The bar has been set high for the series with the first two books being extremely well received. At the time of writing Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow has just over 1,700 reviews/ratings on Amazon with 94% at 4 and 5 star and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow has nearly 1,850 with 93% at 4 and 5 star. That’s a lot of pressure on Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow and, while readers love the main character Samantha Wishaw, they do not love her cousin, Chloe Turner.

And this book is partly Chloe’s story…

The first book – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was told purely from Samantha’s perspective. She’s one of the kindest women ever but she’s had a rough time and there are some family members who don’t treat her well but in whom she still tries to see the best. Readers get to know Samantha, discover how she comes to be the owner of Hedgehog Hollow, and follow her as she gets the hedgehog rescue centre up and running.

Book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – continues Samantha’s story with Hedgehog Hollow now open for business. Part of the book is told from her perspective but part of it is from boyfriend Josh’s perspective as we find out all about him and the challenging relationships he has with family members but for very different reasons to the challenges Samantha has.

This dual-perspective approach will continue across the series. Book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – adds Chloe’s perspective to Samantha’s. Chloe is Samantha’s cousin and she’s one of the family members who causes Samantha major problems. Readers don’t warm to her and it isn’t surprising as, right at the start of book 1, she marries Samantha’s ex-boyfriend. Eek! That’s going to hurt. I won’t give any spoilers about what else she does for those who might not yet have read the first book, but it’s not good and the overall feeling is that she’s spoilt and selfish and Samantha would be better off without Chloe in her life. 

It therefore may seem like a risk for me to have written a novel where I’m focusing on an unlikeable character but it’s not actually the first time I’ve done this. In the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, the second, third and fourth books (New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage) include a character called Clare O’Connell who comes across initially as spiky, cold and sarcastic. Coming Home to Seashell Cottage is Clare’s story and readers discover why she’s the way she is and there are so many reviews where the reader comments that they didn’t initially like Clare but, by the end of the book, she’s their favourite.

Could the same be said of Chloe?

What I’m hoping for here is that readers will finish Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow understanding Chloe better even if they still don’t like her. I’m sure there will be readers who find that they like her and even a few who can feel themselves starting to fall a little in love with her but I think the latter may be in the minority because of everything that’s gone on before.

What worries me is having some readers who didn’t like Chloe from the previous books (completely understandable) who still don’t like Chloe in this book and, instead of looking at the whole story, they will rate/review the book based on whether or not they’re in Chloe’s fan club.

Whether a reader likes a character or not can massively affect their review for a book. I’ve seen it so often for other authors – Great story but I didn’t like [name of character] – and they give it a 1 or 2-star rating because that character wouldn’t have been on their list of drinking buddies. Yet they’ve acknowledged the story was great. This seems very unfair but I can see the point if that character is the only main character or there’s a book where there are several characters and none of them are likeable. I read a book recently with five or six main characters and none of them were likeable and I have to admit I struggled with the book. I wasn’t rooting for any of them but I kept going believing they were going on a journey and, by the end, I would be cheering for them. It didn’t happen. And here’s why…

There’s a brilliant ‘how to’ book called Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. (There are also variations like Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies (also Snyder) and Save the Cat! Writes a Novel (Jessica Brody)). The original book is about screenwriting but the lessons can be equally applied to writing a novel. Snyder states, “liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story” and this is where he gets the title from. He writes about how a movie could have a real badass detective or gangster as the lead character who is potentially not very likeable … BUT there is a scene early on where he saves a cat and this makes the viewer warm to him because we see his nice-guy side and find ourselves rooting for him. This makes me think of the John Wick series of films starring Keanu Reeves. John Wick is an assassin and kills lots of people in those films but we see how much he loved his wife and his dog and that makes us warm to him and root for him.

So can the reader root for Chloe?

Chloe is selfish and self-centred but she has plenty of ‘Save the Cat!’ moments. While she does offload baby Samuel onto Samantha the second she turns up at Hedgehog Hollow, there are many moments where we see how caring and protective she is towards him. She says and does things that upset people but she recognises this and struggles as she reflects on her own behaviour.  And, of course, Samantha keeps giving her chances and we find out why this is the case, again seeing the ‘Save the Cat!’ moments through Samantha’s reflections.

This book is also Samantha’s story and readers love her so it’s understandable they don’t want to see anyone hurt her or take advantage of her. I love it that readers may feel defensive towards her and outraged by Chloe’s initial behaviour. But Chloe’s treatment of her enables Samantha to develop further herself and it also has another positive outcome (but I won’t say what that is to avoid spoilers).

Even if readers still don’t like Chloe, I hope they’ll still enjoy the book because of their love for Samantha, Josh and, of course, the hedgehogs. Afterall, it is ultimately their story and Chloe is just the ‘featured guest’ this book if you like. 

Overall I hope that, whether readers finish the book disliking Chloe or waving a banner declaring #TeamChloe, they will understand her, appreciate the journey she goes on, and love Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow as much as the previous two. Fingers crossed!

If you’ve pre-ordered or purchase the book (in any format) at any point today or in the future, a huge thank you to you. Happy reading!

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Welcome to Hedgehog Awareness Week

Starting today it is Hedgehog Awareness Week in the UK – Sunday 2nd May until Saturday 8th May.

Various activities and promotional events are happening and you can join in/stay informed by following the hashtag #hedgehogweek on social media.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society are running giveaways, posting top tips and sharing expert videos on their Facebook page which you can find here. The People’s Trust for Endangered Species also have loads of great information on their Facebook page here.

I’ll be sharing my hedgehog facts and tips again later in the week.

Timing wasn’t deliberate but couldn’t have been more perfect for the release of the third instalment of the Hedgehog Hollow series. Book 3 – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – will be out tomorrow on all these formats:

  • eBook on Apple, Kindle and Kobo
  • Paperback
  • Large print
  • Hardback
  • Physical audio
  • Audio download

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

Every family has its secrets, and at Hedgehog Hollow there is no exception…

It was always Samantha’s dream to run her beautiful rescue centre, Hedgehog Hollow, full-time. But just as her wish comes true, she becomes a victim of her own kindness when she finds herself with a house full of guests – all with their own problems and secrets – looking to her for support.

When her self-absorbed cousin, Chloe, unexpectedly turns up at the farm – swiftly handing over her baby to Samantha to care for – trouble is definitely brewing. Especially as Chloe won’t tell anyone why she’s left her husband, James…

As Samantha juggles new hedgehog arrivals, family dramas and her own health challenges, it soon becomes clear that she needs to start putting herself first for once. Little does she know that life-changing secrets from the past are about to unravel and turn their lives upside down…

Return to glorious Hedgehog Hollow with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for a heartwarming, emotional but uplifting story of family, friendship and moving on from the past.

Praise for the Hedgehog Hollow series:

‘I loved my trip to Hedgehog Hollow. An emotional read, full of twists and turns’ Heidi Swain

‘A wonderful, warm series full of family, friends and romance.’ Katie Ginger

I was really excited earlier today as it climbed the Kindle charts to its highest position so far of #354 which is amazing when it’s still only on pre-order. It’s had the greatest number of pre-orders of all my books so far and I am trying not to get too excited about where that should see it charting tomorrow but I am expecting the hedgehogs to do me super proud. Watch this space!

Which put me at #68 in the Hot New Releases Chart (when it isn’t even released yet!) and #74 in the Movers & Shakers Chart. Eek!

Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered or who downloads it in whatever format from publication day and thank you to all the amazing supporters of hedgehogs all over the country from the heroes who run rescue centres to those who feed the hogs in their gardens. You’re all amazing!

Please do check out all the activities going on this week.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

A lovely May Day birthday

I cancelled my birthday last year. We were only a few weeks into lockdown when I was asked the ‘what would you like for your birthday?’ question and I had a mini-meltdown. Even though I’ve never really made a huge thing out of my birthday in previous years, I didn’t like the idea that I couldn’t even if I wanted to so I told hubby and the munchkin not to bother with gifts and we’d do a birthday later in the year. Then I found a couple of Lucy Pittaway prints which I ordered for the office so I did get a gift after all even if there was no celebration 😉

This year, we’re not in lockdown but restrictions are only just easing so it we still couldn’t plan much. I did, however, lift the ‘no presents’ thing and was spoilt with some lovely gifts.

There was a bit of a hedgehog theme with the most adorable plush Steiff hedgehog from the hubby, a sewing project for a hedgehog and hoglet and a cute pen holder with a hedgehog reading a book in it.

Loving my new lighthouse and looking forward to featuring it on some photos with my books soon.

A huge thank you to my amazing friend Sharon for the gorgeous flowers, candle, bear and chocolates and to my lovely friend Jo for the hedgehog and bear scarves.

Sharon also sent me the most amazing card. It’s a card containing cake. I never knew such a thing existed and, being the huge fan of cake that I am, it made me very happy. I can’t wait to dive in and would have had a piece today but my in-laws dropped round surprise afternoon tea so we ditched our plans for a takeaway and had that instead and I am now full of cake. It was sooooo yummy. But there’s always tomorrow. Nom nom. And I have a birthday cake too!

Thank you to everyone who has sent me lovely messages on social media. Very much appreciated.

Back to editing tomorrow but it’s been nice to have a rare day off today.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

All You Need Is Love Bank Holiday Bundle

It’s my birthday today but I’m the one giving away the gifts along with my fabulous publisher Boldwood Books. This bank holiday weekend we’re offering a bear-themed bundle consisting of:

  • A signed copy of the paperback of All You Need Is Love
  • A gorgeous Ed the Bear Doodlepad (Paperchase)
  • A trio of bear-themed body washes (Cath Kidston)

This is happening over on Twitter and, to enter, you need to go to Boldwood’s Twitter feed – @BoldwoodBooks – and find the competition announcement. It’s the Pinned Tweet so not tricky to find. Then follow the instructions on there. There’s a link to the full T&Cs but you can also find them here.

I have shared this on my Twitter feed but please ensure it’s the ORIGINAL Boldwood post you’re RT’ing and not mine.

The competition is only running across this May Day Bank Holiday weekend so act fast!

Good luck xx

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Reflections on April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx