The one where I was Top 3 in Australia

I had a lovely moment a week ago when one of my Christmas books – Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café – secured a pretty fabulous chart position in Australia.

Last Thursday (5th November) it climbed to number 3! Eek! That’s number 3 in the overall kindle chart.

This is the highest chart position that any of my books have achieved anywhere in the world in overall rather than category charts, the previous highest being #9 in the Canada Kindle Chart for The Secret to Happiness last year.

Prior to that, my highest position in Australia was #11 with Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow so it was really exciting to break the Top 10 and even more exciting to get into the Top 3 down under.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t enter my head how incredible it would be to achieve the #1 position but I knew there was no chance and that wasn’t me being negative. The latest Jack Reacher outing written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew had just been released and was #2. I was never going to outsell Jack Reacher! The top slot was held by Imogen Clark’s The Last Piece. It was certainly a proud moment to be sharing chart space with them both.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café is currently on a monthly Kindle deal in Australia which will have helped propel it up the chart and I’m thrilled that, a week later, it’s still in the Top 50.

The first and third books in my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series – Making Wishes at Bay View and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – are also in Kindle monthly deals in Australia so are on offer there. (Making Wishes at Bay View) is also on a UK monthly deal just now. These deals are throughout November so still plenty of time to bag bargains.

Thank you to all those readers in Australia who made another writing dream come true for me. It’s certainly something I could never have imagined happening this time last year!

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where all my books are Best Sellers at the same time

Ask any author and they’ll tell you that seeing the orange #1 Best Seller tag on Amazon appearing on any of their books for the very first time is a special moment. I can remember the very first time one of mine received one. I nearly fell off my chair with excitement!

What does it mean?

All books are assigned to categories on Amazon based on relevance to the type of book/storyline and they get awarded the tag when they become the top selling book/ebook in that category.

For example, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is about a florist and is #1 in ‘Floral Crafts’, The Secret to Happiness is set in a fitness bootcamp and is #1 in ‘Exercise and Fitness’ and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove is #1 in ‘Divorce’ because the main character’s marriage falls apart.

If an author has several best seller tags at the same time, it’s extra exciting and, since Boldwood Books re-released my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series earlier this year, I’ve been proud to see the four books in that series regularly displaying their orange tag.

Then I saw six of my books with orange tags at the same time. Then seven. Eight… nine….

I was absolutely thrilled but couldn’t help wishing I could see all ten of them with tags at the same time. But that final tenth tag appeared destined to remain illusive. It seemed that, every time the book without one secured it, a different book would lose it. Or two books would lose it. Then one would get it back but another one would lose it. And so it went on.

But, last night, for the first time ever (or at least the first time that I’ve spotted) every single one of my ten published books was proudly sporting a #1 Best Seller orange tag on Amazon Kindle UK at exactly the same time. Eek! I was like a proud mum seeing my book babies get their little orange awards.

I expected to wake up this morning and one or two books to have lost their best seller status but, so far today, all ten have kept it. Woo hoo!

I am so grateful to readers who have bought or borrowed my books, helping them to get to the top of their categories, and to readers/reviewers who’ve recommended them to others. This is something I never, ever expected to achieve. THANK YOU. You’ve helped me achieve another writing goal and given another slap across the chops to that damn imposter syndrome!

You can find all my books on my Amazon page here. All but two are also available on AppleBooks, Kobo and Audible.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

What’s on my wall? (Part 6) Monday Motivation

Happy Birthday AliceToday’s #MondayMotivation is a metal sign that we bought in a furniture store in York shortly before Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was released.

IMG_8728The reasons for the purchase are hopefully fairly obvious but I was also thinking about this sign a year later when I wrote Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe. I describe The Chocolate Pot as having vintage metal signs all over the walls which are both beach-themed and cafe-themed and I imagine this being one of them.

This sign couldn’t be more appropriate for today because I woke up to some quite astonishing chart positions overseas for Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes.

UK PB #17 Free Kindle Chart Visual - 20:08:20This book was re-released on 13th August through Boldwood Books after a completely fresh edit and it quickly made its way into the Top 50 on the UK’s free Kindle chart. It has twice peaked at #17 which is very exciting.

I was very pleased with how well it was doing overseas but it surpassed all my expectations today.

In the USA, it hit #15 today which was completely amazing, especially when you think of the size of the US market! I certainly never expected to get higher in the USA chart than in the UK one!

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes also reached #20 in Canada today and #43 in Australia.

STARRY SKIES HI RESObviously I don’t make any money from these high chart positions with the book being free but the hope is that readers might read it, love it and be inspired to read the sequel, Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe, which has also been edited and expanded and will be out on 8th September. Fingers crossed!

Thank you to everyone who has downloaded a free copy in any territory worldwide. If you haven’t got it already, here’s the links to those four markets but you can buy it from your local Amazon site anywhere in the world as it’s free globally.

UK: https://amzn.to/3iJGvIV

AUS: https://amzn.to/2CupTp3

CA: https://amzn.to/3iJnW7D

USA: https://amzn.to/2CsU0gs

It should also be free on Kobo and AppleBooks but hasn’t appeared on either site yet. Not sure why. Hang on in there if you use either of those eReaders as it should appear free on both very soon.

So why is this my choice for #MondayMotivation? It was always there on my wall as a reminder of having written two of my books – a proud achievement in itself – but now it gives me motivation in reminding me of the time I reached #15 in the USA!

Somebody pinch me! Eeeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!

Have a fabulous week.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Carly's Cupcakes Tagline Twitter

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

The one where the hedgehogs are doing me proud. Let’s do them proud

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A month ago today – 2nd July 2020 – my tenth novel, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, was released. The start of a new trilogy set in a hedgehog rescue centre in the Yorkshire Wolds, it features one of the most loved animals in UK wildlife.

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Photo credit: Sarah Howell

The book is doing me proud but, before I come onto that, last week was a sad week for hedgehogs. It was announced that they are now formally classified as ‘vulnerable to extinction.’ In the 1950s, there were an estimated 30 million hedgehogs across England/ Scotland/ Wales. Today, it’s estimated there are only 1 million so it’s not surprising that this has happened.

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Photo credit: Sarah Howell

Why such a demise? There are several factors but the main one is the same thing that leads to reduced numbers across so many species around the world: changing habitat. Hedgehogs need two things to keep them happy – something to eat and somewhere to sleep – and both are provided by rough pasture, hedgerows and woodland, all of which have depleted over the years.

Hedgehogs roam huge distances on an evening – often 2km (1.25 miles) searching for food. Once upon a time, they could roam from garden to garden but housing estates – which have encroached onto land they might have previously roamed freely – get built with fences to the ground meaning roaming is a challenge and therefore finding food is a challenge.

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Photo credit: Stan Potts

I was personally hoping that one positive outcome of Covid 19 would be a boost to the hedgehog population with fewer cars on the roads, particularly in the babies season of May-July, but I haven’t seen any reports to suggest this has been the case.

All is not lost. There are loads of things we can do to help increase population numbers. I did a blog post of do’s and don’ts a little while back which you can find here. There’s loads of helpful information on the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s website here and People’s Trust for Endangered Species here. Both are charities seeing financial support.

Screenshot 2020-07-23 at 11.55.08As for how the hedgehogs are doing me proud, they stormed up to #291 on the Amazon UK Kindle Chart on publication day and immediately secured orange bestseller tags. They steadily scampered up the charts over the next few weeks, making it as high as #91 on Tuesday which was amazing. They spent two days in the Top 100 but keep trying to get back in there so I’m hoping they’ll make it. Go, hedgehogs, go!

They also made it to #27 in the overall AppleBooks chart and #8 in the Romance category chart, and #12 in Australia’s Kindle chart.

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What’s been even more amazing is the number of reviews on Amazon. In only one month, they’ve already gathered a whopping 80 reviews or ratings; a speed I’ve never seen for any of my other books. Therefore a huge thank you to anyone who has bought or borrowed Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and an extra huge thank you to anyone who has reviewed it or even simply provided a rating. I’m so thrilled that readers are loving their journey to Hedgehog Hollow.

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The sequel is with my editor at the moment so I anxiously await the verdict. It will be out in January 2021 and, for anyone who wished there were more hedgehogs in the first book, there are loads of them in this one!

Wishing you a great week and do please put out some food and fresh water for hedgehogs if you’re able to. Water is especially important in the summer months when rainfall may be limited. Those little hedgehogs are going to be pretty thirsty.

By the way, if you’re a Kobo user, my publisher, Boldwood Books, have an amazing offer on Kobo running until 9th August. Readers can buy ANY Boldwood Books release on a 3 for 2 mix and match offer. All six of my Boldwood releases are part of the offer including Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. There are so many fabulous books you could choose from (the image below shows just a small selection). Happy reading!

3 for £3 Kobo (1)

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I have 9 bestseller flags on Amazon – Eeeeekkkk!!!!

Good morning and welcome to a beautiful Friday. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it’s nearly the weekend. Yay!

I have just had the most delicious start to the day. I’m sure I’m not the only author who logs into Amazon and AppleBooks first thing to have a quick check chart positions and I was astonished and thrilled to see the most #1 Best Seller flags I’ve ever had on Amazon. Ooh, I love that little orange flag. When books are uploaded for sale, they are allocated to 2-3 categories based on the content of the book and the flag appears when the book makes it to #1 in that particular category.

Don’t they look pretty? (The 9th one is further down the page)

Out of all my books, only Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Charlee and the Chocolate Shop haven’t got best seller flags first thing but the only reason for that is that they’re in the same categories as Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe which does so they can’t all have one! They are, however, numbers 2 and 3 in that chart and therefore would be #1 if one of my books wasn’t already in that slot. So can I pretend that’s 11 flags? Hmm. Maybe pushing it a bit far with that.

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Screenshot 2020-06-26 at 09.46.37I’m particularly thrilled to see Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow displaying an orange flag as it’s only on pre-order, out next week on 2nd July. And I’m even more thrilled to see Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe with a flag. This is a re-edited and much longer version of Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe and is also available for pre-order now, out on 8th September. The original version will disappear from sale on 1st July.

Thank you so very, very much to anyone who has bought or borrowed any of my books, left a review, recommended them to friends/family and to anyone in the blogging community who has loved them and spread the word. This could not happen without you all and I’m so incredibly grateful.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

 

 

The one where something special happened a year ago today

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I opened up Facebook this morning and was presented with a memory from one year ago which momentarily confused me. It was stunning bouquet of flowers but why? My birthday is in May, Mother’s Day is before that, and my wedding anniversary is in September. So what was significant about 18th June 2019 that warranted flowers? Hmm.

IMG_6343Then I scrolled down the memories a little further and all was revealed. One year ago today was the day Boldwood Books officially announced their first twenty authors. I’d been sitting on the news about my 9-book publishing deal for three months so it was so thrilling to see the full announcement go out and to be able to finally share the amazing news with the world. Woo hoo! You can read about the announcement here.

A year on, what a difference Boldwood have made to my writing career. After years spent languishing in the lower echelons of the Amazon charts, I have officially become an international bestseller with a Top 10 in the Kindle Canada charts, Top 20 in the Kindle UK and Australia charts, and Top 3 on AppleBooks UK. Eek! I never, ever imagined chart success like that.

My 9-book deal with Boldwood extended to a 12-book deal when I signed contract addendums this year for the rest of my back catalogue to be re-edited and re-released through them. When I first submitted to Boldwood in February last year, I was drawn to their promise to work with the author on developing their career and they have absolutely delivered on that. Earlier this year, for the first time ever, I felt like a real author.

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And, thanks to Boldwood, this month I achieved a long-held dream of becoming a full-time author. A year ago, I hoped it might be possible one day. Six months before that, it seemed like an unreachable goal.

If anyone reading this is an aspiring writer and struggling, hang on in there and keep believing as you never know when it might happen for you. I wrote about my journey to publication here and it certainly had many dips in the road before I found my home with Boldwood.

My gratitude to the team at Boldwood Books is enormous, for believing in my stories in the first place and for delivering everything they promised – and so much more. They have ‘reimagined publishing’ in so many ways: by bringing out all books for all authors IMG_7016in all formats (eBook on all platforms, audio, paperback and now large print), by treating all authors equally whether debut or with a huge back-catalogue, and by having an individual brand and marketing strategy for each author. Everyone is friendly, supportive, passionate about what they do, and I’m so lucky to be part of the team. #TeamBoldwood which has now grown to 38 announced authors (may well be others lined up for a future announcement) is a pretty special place to be. My editor, Nia Beynon, is an absolute delight to work with and I have learned so much from her expertise in editing my work.

Happy announcement-anniversary to Boldwood and thank you. It took a lot of years and some major disappointments but I am so glad I found my home with you. The first year has been amazing beyond my wildest expectations and I look forward to a long and happy relationship.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I remember the Top 40 singles chart

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

When I was young, Sunday was ‘visiting day’; the day where we had our Sunday lunch then bundled into the car and visited my mum and/or dad’s family who lived about 35 miles away. It wasn’t every week but it was regular.

IMG_6892We’d stay for tea at my grandma and granda’s house or occasionally dine with or visit other relatives. Tea was always afternoon tea-style food with sandwiches and scones and cakes. Lovely. Ooh, I could just fancy a bit of cake right now. Nom nom.

On the way home in the car, we’d catch part of the UK Top 40 Singles Chart on BBC Radio 1. We’re talking the late 1970s and most of the 1980s here and this was way before the days of digital downloads. In fact, most of that time was before CDs, with the charts compiled purely on the sale of vinyl records. Showing my age here!

In those days, singles would typically enter the charts and gradually climb up week on week, sometimes only one or two chart positions at a time. It would be exciting listening out for whether our favourite records would have gone up that week and, if so, how far and it would be so disappointing if they’d dropped, especially as that would typically mean the song wasn’t played.

What was even more exciting was predicting who’d be in the Top 3. One of the DJs – can’t remember which one now – used to get listeners to phone in with their predictions.

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Image by Martin Ludlam from Pixabay

Many amazing records didn’t make it to number 1 but still sold in significant quantities and the ones that did make it to that coveted position often stuck around at the top slot for weeks. Anyone remember Bryan Adams being at number 1 for eight years with ‘(Everything I do) I do it for you’? from the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves? Okay, so it was 16 consecutive weeks really but it felt like eight years although I never fell out of love with that song despite it being played constantly. This was 1991 and Bryan Adams still holds the record (literally) these days for having the longest number of consecutive weeks at number 1 in the UK.

You might be wondering where I’m going with this on a blog predominantly about writing and I promise there’s a link!

Over the past month or so, the four books in my Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series have been steadily climbing up the Kindle charts and, over Easter, I blogged about how excited I was that they’d all received a best seller tag for at least one of their categories and that they’d all broken into the Top 1000 with Book 2, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, storming ahead at #352 on the morning of 10th April. You can read that blog post here.

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Breaking the Top 1000 was so exciting for me. All the books had previously been released under different titles across 2015-2016 and, after my publisher ceased trading, I re-released them as an indie author. They had never got anywhere near this type of chart position so this was an absolute dream come true. But it kept getting better. By late April, they’d all cracked the Top 500 and, a week into May, they’d all cracked the Top 400 with the trailblazer, Seaside Blooms, making it into the Top 100 at #91 on 5th May. Wow!

Screenshot 2020-05-05 at 23.14.38It didn’t end there and this is where the chart connection comes in. Once a book makes it into the Top 100 on Amazon in any chart – including category charts – then you can see all the books in that Top 100 displayed beautifully in a chart showing the covers rather than just a number at the bottom of the book details.

It’s a lovely visual representation of how your book is performing and which authors have the books out either side of yours.

Screenshot 2020-05-10 at 20.08.24New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms made it to #51 in the overall Kindle chart a couple of days later on 7th May and suddenly a new milestone of Top 50 seemed realistic. The next day, it got to #42. Was the Top 40 possible? Yes, the following day, it reached #32. But that meant another potential milestone of Top 30. Could it? Would it? The day after – Sunday 10th May, it did. And, not only that, it also reached the Top 25 on the same day. Eek!!!!!

I will admit that, by this point, chart-position-watching had become a bit of an obsession. I think all ‘firsts’ are for writers. I remember staying up until midnight on the day of my first release to watch it arrive on my Kindle. I don’t do that now.

The charts are meant to get refreshed hourly but my experience is they don’t seem to – more like bi-hourly or even every three hours. I couldn’t sleep at night, waking up every couple of hours, wondering if I’d have made it even higher. I am still shattered from several days of doing this. I have, thankfully, got it out of my system now. I wasn’t setting an alarm or anything like that – I’m not that desperate – but it was like my body clock would go, “Right, you, a couple of hours have passed so it’s time to get up and check the charts”. So up I got and padded into my office across the landing to see where I was.

In the very early hours of the Monday morning, I hit #20. Top 20!!! Yay!!!!

But, of course, I wanted more. That’s the problem with achieving a goal; you instantly make a new one! Could I actually get inside the Top 20 into the teens?

It didn’t look like it. On Monday 11th May, Seaside Blooms began to drop to the mid-twenties. Boo. But 20 was absolutely amazing and when it first dipped inside the Top 1000, I’d never have dreamed of reaching that sort of number.

Like the UK singles chart where records go up and down, Seaside Blooms did the same. A good friend of mine tagged me on Facebook on Wednesday 13th May with a screenshot to show #19. I’d done it! I’d made it inside the Top 20 and figured that surely it would end there, especially when it began dropping again.

Up and down, up and down, it gradually moved towards the Top 10 with the highest position to date – #14 – being secured on Sunday 17th May. At some point over the past few weeks, it has held every single position from 14 to 30!

My mum and husband were convinced I’d make it into the Top 10 still but, with a few days having now passed since hitting #14, I think Seaside Blooms has definitely peaked. Although I thought that at #20 and, a few days later, it hit #19 so you never know.

Meanwhile the other three books are all doing me proud:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View (Book 1 in the series) is currently at a personal best of #157. Top 150 next?
  • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (Book 3) has a PB of #182 from Monday but has mainly hovered around #200 since then. I’m hoping it will follow Book 1 and 2 nearer the top of the charts as readers steadily work through the series
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (Book 4) achieved a PB of #214 earlier today so I’m hoping it will break the Top 200 soon. It would be so amazing to have the entire series in the Top 200 together. Even better if they were in the Top 100 together! I achieved that on AppleBooks UK back in March with all of them being in the Top 75 at the same time which was another really thrilling moment.

I am absolutely delighted and so very grateful to my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, for giving me this opportunity and to all the readers who have helped the series rise. I will admit, though, that it doesn’t feel real. When I was at #14, it didn’t feel possible that only 13 books in the UK out of the millions of eBooks on Amazon were higher in the charts than mine. As I’m typing this, it feels like something that must be happening to someone else; not to me.

Without wishing to sound pessimistic, I don’t think this is something that will happen to me again unless one of my books is on something like a BookBub promotion. I think a combination of factors have all come together at the same time to lead to the current positions enjoyed by Seaside Blooms:

  • Lockdown Time – people have the time to read a lot more and sales of eBooks have rocketed
  • Lockdown Comfort – readers want escapism and they want books that will uplift and hug them, which is what I write
  • Whole Series – because these are re-issues, the whole series are out at the same time, creating an appetite for binge-reading and more so during lockdown
  • Prime Deal – Seaside Blooms is currently on a Prime deal so lots of Prime members are downloading it too

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I don’t have another whole series in my back catalogue to re-issue and I hope we are never, ever in a scenario of lockdown ever, ever again so the above set of circumstances won’t happen again. Or at least I hope the lockdown scenario doesn’t happen again.

Going forwards, I will never forget the moment I broke every goal I dreamed of and those I hadn’t even dared to imagine.

I’ll never forget that unreal moment at 4am, lying back down in bed thinking, ‘I’m at number 14 in the charts!’ and having to fight the urge to wake up hubby to tell him.

I’ll never forget watching my books steadily moving up the charts, just like when I listened to my favourite songs moving up the charts on ‘visiting day’ as a child.

And I’ll never forget those who I’ve been unable to visit for many years. RIP, Granda Wiseman, Grandma and Granda Williams, Uncle Stan, Uncle George and Auntie Olive. Sending love and I hope I’ve done you proud.

Jessica xx

The one where I took a big step in building the tomorrow I’ve always dreamed of

Boldwood Books posted this meme on their Facebook site yesterday and it could not have been more appropriate for me because, yesterday, I grabbed my opportunity to build the tomorrow I want. Yesterday, I resigned from my day job!

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I’ve always needed to fit writing around a full-time day job which has not been easy. Over the years, I’ve held some very demanding roles where I’ve barely written because extremely long hours and/or business travel has prevented it. And it didn’t really matter at first because, when I was writing my debut novel, it felt a more like a hobby. Could I learn how to write a book? Could I get to the end? Would it be readable? I never actually thought beyond that but, once I’d joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and received positive feedback from readers on the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS), I began to imagine that there could be something beyond a finished manuscript loitering on my computer.

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Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay 

And there was.

Five years ago, I became a home-based HR Tutor.

Five years ago, my first book was published.

Five years ago, it was no longer a hobby.

Five years ago, I dreamed that I would one day be able to write full-time.

And five years later, it’s happening. Or at least it will be when I’ve served my four weeks’ notice.

And then I’m going to lie on a chaise while a scantily-clad Adonis drops grapes into my mouth while dictating my amazing new novels to a harassed secretary. Oh, wait, have I stolen a Little Britain sketch there?

What I’ll actually be doing is writing but I’ll be able to do it every day. And I’ll be able to do it during the day instead of late on evenings or across weekends like I’ve had to since I started writing. Which means I may actually have some time to spend with my immediate (household) family, extended family (post lockdown) and actually find time to exercise the lard off my rather enormous writer’s bottom!

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

I am so very grateful to the brilliant Boldwood Books and particularly my editor, Nia. Without my publishing deal with them, my dream would have remained just a dream. Their passion and enthusiasm has taken me from ticking over in the charts with a small number of sales each week to being an international bestseller who has sold 30,000 books (eBook, paperback or audio) through them since my first release in September last year. Wow!

I can’t help but smile at the words ‘international bestseller’ because, in my mind, that conjures up the likes of J K Rowling, Dan Brown, Catherine Cookson, Jackie Collins and Stephen King (picking from a mix of genres here). It’s not me! However, you are officially classed as a ‘bestseller’ if you get into the Top 100 on the Amazon charts and I’ve managed that:

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 02.20.52The Secret to Happiness – #9 in Canada

The Secret to Happiness – #20 in Australia

New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – #20 in the UK

Eeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!!!!

Leaving my day job is scary. I’m walking away from a decent monthly income. I’m leaving behind a career choice I made when I was eighteen (a loooong time ago!) My income from writing will be a small fraction of what I earn normally but that drop in income will be worth it for the joy of being able to spend time every day ‘making stuff up’ and finally getting a work:life balance.

To anyone with a dream like mine, keep holding onto it. It might not come to fruition quickly or easily. I’ve certainly had my fair share of rejection, disappointment, self-doubt, and more disappointment along the way. About eighteen months ago, I felt so down about things that I even wondered whether to give up completely. But I couldn’t not write. It’s part of who I am and I’d be lost without it. So I took a deep breath, tried not to cry too much about the many days with zero sales and the low chart positions despite the great reviews and keep believing that, one day, it would happen to me.

And it has.

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

Roll on Friday 5th June – my very last day. Each webinar run, each assignment marked, and each query answered will take me a step closer to living my dream.

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Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and believed in me along the way, especially my amazing husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, who have always accepted that I have two full-time jobs and not a lot of time.

Thanks to my mum – my biggest supporter who tells everyone she meets about her daughter, the author.

Thanks to all those who have ever beta read my work (in alphabetical order) – Clare, Liz, Debbie, Jo, Mum, Nicola, Sharon, Sue and Susan with an extra huge shout-out to Sharon who has been my shoulder to cry on, my champion and an inspiration. Can’t wait to meet up and eat (lots of) cake when we’re through the other side. Yes, I know that defeats the bottom-reducing plan but needs must!

And, of course, a huge thanks to so many amazing bloggers and readers, some of whom have been around since the start, through my indie years, and are still with me now and others who’ve just recently discovered my work and have been so lovely and supportive.

Every single one of you have made my dream come true and I can’t thank you enough.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

If you want to read my uplifting stories of love and friendship set on the stunning North Yorkshire Coast, or find out more:

My books are available on Amazon, AppleBooks, Kobo in eBook, paperback and audio formats. You can find my Amazon page here.

You can find my Boldwood Books on Audible here.

You can sign up to my newsletter here.

 

The one where it’s cover reveal time for Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow

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I am very excited to be able to reveal the stunningly gorgeous cover to my new book. Isn’t it sooooo pretty. I think it might just have become my favourite of all my covers. Those hedgehogs. That farmhouse. The flowers. The sky. All so delicious.

I hope you love it as much as I do.

Hedgehog Hollow Facebook Cover Reveal

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is out on 2nd July but is available for pre-order right now. Here’s the Amazon link but it’s available on AppleBooks and Kobo too. On release day, it will be available on audio format, paperback, via the uLibrary App if your library subscribes to that and, for the first time for any of my books, large print format. Something for everyone!

Here’s the blurb:

Can love really be found when you stop looking for it…?

As Samantha Wishaw watches the love of her life marry another woman, she’s ready to give up hope of finding her happy ever after.

But when a chance encounter leads Sam to find friendship in Thomas – a lonely, grumpy elderly widower living at derelict Hedgehog Hollow – her life is about to change forever.

Glad to have a distraction from family feuds and match-making, Sam vows to fulfill Thomas and his wife, Gwendoline’s, dreams of restoring Hedgehog Hollow to its former glory, and to open a hedgehog rescue centre.

Throwing herself into the task at hand, little does Sam realise that the keys to love and happiness may also be found at Hedgehog Hollow, when she least expects it…

Escape to Hedgehog Hollow this summer with top 10 bestseller Jessica Redland for the perfect uplifting, feel-good read.

 

This is the first book in a trilogy. Book 2 and 3 don’t currently have titles … mainly because I haven’t written them yet! I’ll be taking a break from my day job next week and should make good progress with book 2 then and we hope to have a title reveal by the time Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is released.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I think about the kindness and cruelty of strangers

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Image by Linus Schütz from Pixabay

How are you holding up? Do you ever have to remind yourself that this really is happening and not just a strange dream from eating too much cheese?

In the UK, we’re entering month 2 of lockdown. For those who work, it’s business as usual for some, immense additional volume and/or pressure for others, and there are those who find themselves furloughed or redundant and perhaps at a loose end. And many of those are turning to books.

In life before pandemic (concentrate hard and you’ll remember it), different people read at different times: before bedtime, on a commute to work, during breaks, all day (if they’re able) or perhaps only when on holiday.  Before pandemic, people read for different reasons: to learn, to be challenged, to switch off, to escape. In our reality now, the latter two have never been more important.

In a survey conducted by The Reading Agency, the people responsible for World Book Night, it was revealed that over 31% of people were reading more since lockdown began. They reported a 35% week-on-week boost for paperback fiction yet a drop of 13% in adult non-fiction sales. Bookstores with an online presence are reporting phenomenal increases in online sales (Waterstones, for example, reporting a 400% week-on-week increase) and the rise in new readers in digital format has been unprecedented.

This isn’t really surprising. In a world where we are staying home to stay safe, entertainment is needed, particularly for those who aren’t working, and books are an obvious place to turn, providing hours and hours of entertainment for a small financial outlay, or even for free. I’m not surprised that it’s fiction that has seen the surge either, based on that need to switch-off and escape.

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Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

I write uplifting stories of love and friendship and, via my chart positions in AppleBooks and Amazon, I have seen a surge in readers escaping to the world of Whitsborough Bay. My amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, have massively raised my profile as an author through some wonderful recent promotions on Apple, Amazon and Kobo. The coincidental timing of these with lockdown has seen readers binge-reading the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series and then turning to my other books to continue their fix. I’ve received messages on Facebook, Twitter and by email from readers thanking me for writing these books which have lifted them and given them a much-needed escape during difficult times. I feel so humbled to think that my words – written in a time when a worldwide pandemic was the domain of a Stephen King novel rather than reality – have given someone a much-needed hug.

I have been quite astonished by the reaction. By the kind words from strangers. By the virtual hugs I’ve received to thank me for the hug my book gave them. I wanted to share some of them here, received recently on Twitter and Facebook:

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There are many gorgeous reviews on Amazon and Apple too for which I am so appreciative. The kindness of strangers has been touching, heartwarming and, as I say, humbling.

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I come from the school of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. However, as an HR Professional specialising in recruitment, coaching, learning & development, I know this is an ideal and not necessarily practical. In my current role as a tutor, I constantly need to give feedback about the assignments I’ve marked and I can’t say “that was amazing” when it clearly wasn’t and hasn’t met a single one of the criteria needed to pass. However, there’s a massive difference between writing something like “this is dire and clearly you will never secure an HR role” and writing “xxx was a good start but you may have misinterpreted the next point and what I’m looking for is xxxx” The difference is constructive feedback; feedback that doesn’t destroy the student and from which they can learn.

Which brings me to the other point of the title of this blog post: the cruelty of strangers. Oh my goodness, some people can be nasty. I’ve seen some reviews of books that can only be described as vicious and it makes me wonder whether the person writing them even pauses to think that there’s a human being at whom they’re directing their venom.

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I have been really lucky with most of my reviews. I confess that I do like a spreadsheet and I will admit to being a geek in keeping a reviews one for Amazon, which tells me that, at the time of writing this post, I have 518 reviews across my nine titles combined and 500 of those (96.5%) are at 5- or 4-star (416/84 respectively). Thirteen (2.5%) are at 3-star, 3 at 2-star and only 2 at 1-star (1% combined). I’m thrilled with this and it does help me think, in my insecure moments, that I might not be too shabby at this making up stories lark. But some of my lower ratings are a little cruel.

I must start with my all-time favourite insult for The Secret to Happiness. “Absolute pish” apparently. If I remember correctly, this reviewer also reviewed a book from a very big name writer and a charger for their car, all of which got the 1-star treatment. Obviously a tough customer to please. On first reading this, I’ll admit that my heart slipped down my body, ran out the office screaming and hurled itself down the stairs. And then I thought of them sitting there, so livid about their car charger and my book that they had to have such a rant yet they haven’t reviewed anything else. Nothing from Amazon has brought them 3-, 4- or even 5-star rating joy. I began to feel sorry for them. And I reminded myself that 55 x 5-star reviewers disagreed, although I can’t comment on what those lovely people might have said about the car charger 😉

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Then there was this very unfair one for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms. The blurb said it has previously been released as a different title and it’s been all over social media. All the person needed to do was return it for their money back for a purchase made in error:

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Also in New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, a reader took a strong dislike to my protagonist, Sarah. Yes, Sarah makes some questionable decisions but she learns from them. It’s known in writing as a character arc 🙂 Sarah is actually predominantly modelled on me and the book is inspired by a true-life story about me. That’s me told, then!

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I have a scathing review on Goodreads for Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe. It’s not scathing because the person didn’t enjoy the book but because I hadn’t released it in the format of their choosing. Ouch! Okay, I admit it, the rise of eBooks as the chosen (and sometimes only) format for indie and trad-publisher releases is all my fault. I’ll take one for the team on that!

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Another reader didn’t like me having cancer in my books and went to pains to point out that there are other ways that people die and listed them. The book on which she placed this review had somebody who was in remission from cancer and, across all my books, I have many other forms of death where a death is required for the plot line. Another gave me a low review because she prefers erotica and my book was a bit tame. Had she looked at my covers and read my blurbs? I have no idea what about them would possibly suggest they could appeal to someone who only reads erotica!

But I have to save my ‘favourite’ review till the end. This is actually a 3-star review for the final part in the series, Coming Home to Seashell Cottage so, rating-wise, not so bad. It’s from someone who appears to have read the whole series… and hated it – and me. I’m ‘Redland’ – the one whose voice and characters are disliked:

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Why read the whole series when you “never enjoy them”. And what’s that about Ireland? It was read by an Irish proofreader and copy editor who Irish-ised it for me.

Confused by the review? Yes, I was too! And so was this reader whose comment made my day. Nice to have someone in my corner there:

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I don’t think negative reviews will ever not upset me but how long they upset me for has certainly diminished over time. Everyone has different tastes and my books aren’t going to appeal to everyone who picks them up, even if my genre is usually the one they enjoy. But it would be nice if people could be a little kinder if they haven’t enjoyed what they’ve read.

In fairness, all the negative reviews I’ve placed above with the exception of one were pre-lockdown and some are a few years old. We’re all facing challenges right now and a little bit of kindness – even if the message is 1- or 2-star rating – can go such a long way.

So I’ll leave this post with a big thank you to all those strangers who are kind, who have reached out, who have picked me up at a time when I am physically, mentally and emotionally drained because my day job has doubled in volume and I’m working 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week. Your kind words have meant the world to me and I look forward to creating more characters and stories to provide you all with further comfort and escapism.

Stay home, stay safe, stay kind.

Big (safely distanced) hugs

Jessica xx

PS All the messages and reviews are in the public domain but, in the interests of kindness, I have removed the name from the Amazon reviews. I therefore thought it only fair to remove the names from the kind comments too as this is a post about observing the differences between two approaches and not about popping anyone on the spot and making them feel uncomfortable

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Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay