The one where ‘Making Wishes at Bay View’ is in The Works

I adore my Kindle (other eReaders are available!) but I’m sure most people who love reading will admit to getting a little thrill from browsing a bookshop or even simply pausing in a section of a store where books are displayed. A happy place.

As an author, that thrill is multiplied several-fold when the shelves contain one of my own books. I don’t think that feeling will ever get tired!

At the weekend, I was delighted to visit my local The Works store in Scarborough and not only see Making Wishes at Bay View on the shelves but to sign them! The manager in there is lovely and recognised me from when I’d been in to visit The Secret to Happiness at the start of summer just after restrictions were lifted and shops opened again.

Making Wishes at Bay View in the Scarborough branch of The Works with the special home-made ‘signed by author’ sticker

I’d never thought to ask if I could sign copies of Secret but I’d seen photos of other authors signing their books in their local stores and the manager was delighted for me to do so with Making Wishes at Bay View.

What a surreal moment perching on the till and signing the seven remaining copies. They didn’t have any ‘signed by author’ stickers – probably don’t get as many local authors as a large city store might – but she created her own version which was lovely.

Despite the mask, you can probably tell there’s a huge grin on my face!

Today I went into Beverley, East Yorkshire (about 75 mins drive away from me) for a socially-distanced catch-up with my fabulous friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth. It was the first time since mid-February that we’ve seen each other and we suspect it will be next year before it happens again.

I took the opportunity to nip into town as the branch of The Works in Beverley is about twice the size of the Scarborough one and therefore with much more space dedicated to fiction. Making Wishes at Bay View was in there. I was going to see about signing them too but there was a queue at the till and only one member of staff serving so I thought I’d best not pester anyone!

Making Wishes at Bay View in Beverley’s The Works

It makes me so proud to be on the shelves with other Boldwood authors, a few of whom I met in person at the back end of last year. I’ve taken a few shelfies in Scarborough but, with a bigger selection in Beverley, how lovely it was to see so many Boldwood authors together (okay, so a little re-arrangement was needed to get them all together but I did put them back where they came from!) This is the selection of feel-good books – a mixture of romcoms and contemporaries. That’s twelve amazing titles and, on the 3 for £5 offer, you could therefore get them all for only £20. Bargain!!!

This is the thrillers/crime/other selection looking fabulous too:

You can buy Making Wishes at Bay View from The Works for £2 (or 3 for £5) or online from The Works here. I’ve included the blurb below.

Alternatively, you can download it for Kindle, Kobo and AppleBooks, order a paperback from Amazon or any other good bookstore (it will be a different price as they are printed differently) or on various audio formats including Spotify.

Wishing you a fabulous week.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Book 1)

Never give up on a wish for a happy ever after…


Callie Derbyshire has it all: her dream job as a carer at Bay View, finally she has found the love of her life. Everything is perfect.

Well, almost.

Ex-partners are insistent on stirring up trouble, and Callie’s favourite resident, Ruby, hasn’t been her usual self. 

But after discovering the truth about Ruby’s lost love, Callie is determined to give Ruby’s romantic story the happy ending it deserves. After all, it’s never too late to let love in again. Or is it?

The one where Boldwood Books are celebrating one year of publishing

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Boldwood Books, my amazing publishers, are celebrating the one-year anniversary of their first published book and what a year it’s been for Boldwood as a publisher and for me personally as one of their authors.

They shared a graphic on their social media this morning which I’ve shamelessly stolen, summarising an amazing year:

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I was the 5th author to be published with The Secret to Happiness released on 3rd September 2019. My re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series came out in the first quarter of the year and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the start of a new series – came out last month. Six of those 59 titles published are therefore mine. Greedy, aren’t I?

I’ve had such an amazing first year as a Boldwood author.

I’ve gone from languishing in the charts and failing to make an impact to being a Top 10 international bestseller… Woo hoo!!!! All of my books have been in the UK Kindle Top 200 with two of them entering the Top 100. Just yesterday, New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (which has been in the Top 100 since the start of May, peaking at #14) and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow were in the Top 100 at the same time which was lovely. Five titles have been in the Top 30 on the AppleBooks chart and the other – Making Wishes at Bay View – only didn’t make it quite that high because it was on a free offer and #1 in the free chart.

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I’ve gone from days and days of zero sales to… well, watch this space as I should have an announcement about that next week when July’s sales figures are in. Eek! It’s something I could never, ever have dreamed I’d achieve until I joined Boldwood.

IMG_8440I’ve gone from having my titles in eBook only… to 9 formats. Wow! You’re going to ask me to name them all, aren’t you? Argh! I think it’s eBook on 3 platforms (Kindle, Kobo, AppleBooks), paperback, large print, audio MP3, audio CD, digital audio and one more format that I know about but there’s not been an official announcement yet so I’d better not say just yet). The Secret to Happiness has appeared in The Works stores around the UK and online and it is always a dream to hold (and sniff and stroke) your own paperback. It’s not just me. I promise. We all do it!

I’ve gone from having a demanding day job… to being a full-time author and I could not be happier to be able to spend my days chatting to my fictional friends and making stuff up. And procrastinating a bit on social media. Okay, procrastinating a lot! Although I did write 80k words of my second Hedgehog Hollow book since leaving the day job so I’ve got my head down too.

I’ve gone from feeling like a failure… to feeling like a real author who isn’t just wasting their time slapping a few words on a computer and hoping somebody will read them. If anyone asked me what I do, I’d always say I work in HR (true) and only occasionally add in an embarrassed voice that I also write books. Why? Because I dreaded the next question: Would I have heard of you? Cringe! Er, no. Only my mum has! Or the classic: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! (As if to suggest that I clearly had loads of spare time on my hands!) Or the glazed-over eyes/disinterest/disbelief and swift change of subject.

Now, I proudly declare I’m an author – or I did before Covid turned me into more of a hermit than usual – while trying to push that pain in the backside, Imposter Syndrome, back in his box. Ooh, he’s a little tinker.

Now, readers get in touch with me to say they’ve loved my work. Now, other authors ask me to read and endorse their books. I have to pinch myself every time these things happen and wonder if they’ve got the right person!

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So on Boldwood’s 1-year publication anniversary, my thanks go to so many people who have changed my life over the past year:

  • Boldwood Books for inviting me into their fold and believing in me – Amanda, Nia, Caroline, Sarah, Megan and Ellie (and welcome Emily!)
  • Our audio partners, Isis Audio, and Ulverscroft who run the uLibrary App and produce our large print books. Your work is fabulous and my audios, voiced by Lucy Brownhill and Emma Swan are brilliant
  • My superb, passionate, talented and lovely editor, Nia Beynon, whose support and advice I value so highly
  • My fellow Boldwood authors for being such a supportive community
  • My husband, Mark, and our daughter, Ashleigh, for being amazing and never moaning about the crazy hours I had to work trying to balance a day job with writing
  • My mum for being my number one fan!
  • The amazing book blogger community, some of whom have been with me since my debut release. You are such amazing champions of my work and I appreciate all your kind words and promotion so much
  • Any of my family and friends who’ve read/reviewed/promoted my books. You know who you are and I’m so very grateful
  • My writing bestie and super-talented fellow author, Sharon Booth, for tea, cake, advice, encouragement and sympathy
  • My other Write Romantic buddies for being there with virtual hugs during hard times and congratulations during the good
  • The Beverley Chapter of the RNA who are so much fun to be around. So glad we’ve managed to keep our meetings going virtually
  • A whole host of authors, some of whom I’ve met, some of whom I only ‘know’ virtually who’ve been so supportive and encouraging
  • And last, but absolutely not least, all you lovely readers. Boldwood say they’d be nothing without their authors and I’d be nothing without my readers. You are absolute stars, every one of you

If I had some cake, I’d be tucking into it right now but, instead, I’ll take a sip of Diet Pepsi (I so know how to party!) and toast Boldwood Books and their team of amazing authors.

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If you’re an author, Boldwood are currently closed for submissions but will be open again later in the year. I cannot recommend them enough as a home for your books so do follow them on social media and watch out for news.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

 

 

The one where Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is published

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My tenth novel, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, was published yesterday – Thursday 2nd July – and what a busy day it turned out to be. So busy that I didn’t even get a chance to write a blog post!

The first thing I did when I woke up was log onto Amazon to see my chart position and was thrilled to be #1,891 on the Kindle chart. I hoped to make it inside the Top 1,000 but was both surprised and delighted when I moved up to #557 just after lunch, #324 by mid-afternoon, #295 by teatime and #291 by bedtime. Wow!

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I secured two category best seller flags and even pushed my own book off the top spot in one of them!

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There was lovely news over on AppleBooks too with a #10 in the Romance chart and #27 in the overall chart.

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And then fabulous news later that day with Kobo selecting Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow as one of their books of the month.

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And it wasn’t just about chart positions. A blog tour kicked off with three of the most gorgeous five-star reviews (you can click on the blog name if you want to read the full review):

Being Anne said: “The characterisation is exceptional … This whole book entirely enchanted me from beginning to end – I lived every twist and turn of the story, and felt a real sense of loss when I reached the end”

Portobello Book Blog said: “It’s a delightful story of friendship, kindness and love and of being true to yourself. It’s a wonderfully heart-warming story which I recommend if you are looking for a really feel-good read”

Books and Bookends said: “This book just hit me hard in the feelings. There’s some really toxic family dynamics and equally some amazing relationships in this story…. It’s well and truly a feel good story with a gorgeous Yorkshire setting and amazing characters”

Thank you so much to all three of you for such wonderful, heartwarming reviews.

Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow Full Tour Banner

Over on my publisher Boldwood’s blog, I talked about my Auntie Gwen who is a real-life ‘hedgehog lady’. She’s rescued sick, injured and abandoned hedgehogs for forty years and is such an inspiration. You can read the post here.

The day before, I was guest on good friend and super talented author Sharon Booth’s blog talking about the change of setting in this book and why hedgehogs. You can read that post here. Thank you, Sharon, for being a fabulous host.

Boldwood Books hosted a ‘Summer Moment’ on Zoom for all their authors. They’d have organised a summer party under normal circumstances but this was the next best thing and they sent us a bottle of fizz so we could raise a toast. It was lovely to see the faces – albeit it spread across four different screens – and hear the voices of a writing community with whom I’ve engaged with through social media but, in the main, not met or spoken to.

I needed to dip out of that early as I was hosting my first ever Facebook Live on Book and Tonic’s Facebook page. I had so much fun doing that, answering questions submitted beforehand or posed on the evening, and reading Chapter 1 from Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. I had an awkward moment at the start where I wasn’t sure there was anyone there and, when I knew there was, whether they could hear me so, if you do listen, you might want to skip past the first minute. It does get better after that, I promise! You can connect to the recording here.

Thank you to everyone who made publication day so special and to all those who pre-ordered or have since bought a copy of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. It’s available on eBook for AppleBooks, Kindle and Kobo, audio, large print and paperback so something to suit everyone. Here’s the Amazon link if you fancy meeting the hedgehogs.

Wishing you all the best for a great weekend.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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 fulfil 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.

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The one where it’s #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay

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The Angel of the North

Today – 1st July – is #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay. I’m northern. I’m an author. It’s therefore a special day for me and what’s even more special is that this year is the very first year for #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay.

Set up by northern authors, Trisha Ashley and Milly Johnson, it’s about celebrating northern authors past and present. Northern authors have an opportunity to promote their own work over on Twitter and celebrate their favourite northern authors.

I’m northern born and bred. My parents are from the area around Bishop Auckland in Co Durham but I was born in Middlesbrough in Teesside. Shortly before my fourth birthday, we moved to the market town of Guisborough, still in Teesside (although it was known as Cleveland back then). I left home when I went away to university in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and lived all over the country after that, as far north as Edinburgh and as far south as Reading. But the north always felt like home and I settled in North Yorkshire seventeen years ago, moving to Scarborough a year later where I’ve been ever since.

(The beautiful north: Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, a view over Lake Windermere and Hardraw Force Waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales)

I’m immensely proud of being northern but have experienced a lot of prejudice about my roots over the years. It always astonishes me how many people believe the phrase “it’s grim up north” and think of it as dark, dirty and industrial. And don’t get me started on the stereotypes of all northerners wearing flat caps, eating fish and chips, walking whippets and still having outside toilets. Rude! Yes, there are parts of the north that are industrial but this is part of our heritage and essential for the economy. There are also parts of the south that are industrial. In the same way, both the north and the south boast exceptional beauty. If you’ve never been, just Google any of the following: Yorkshire Dales, Northumberland, Lake District National Park, Yorkshire Coast. Wow!

(The beautiful north: Castle Howard, Scarborough Castle and Ribblehead Viaduct)

As well as boasting stunning scenery, the north is proud to present a plethora of writing talent, past and present. From poets such as Wordsworth, Ted Hughes and W H Auden (remember that gorgeous poem read at the funeral in Four Weddings and a Funeral?) to playwrights such as Alan Ayckbourn and Alan Bennett to authors such as the Brontë sisters, Catherine Cookson and Beatrix Potter, the north has demonstrated impressive writing credentials across the years.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.25.12One of my northern writing heroes is Catherine Cookson. What a writer! Born into extreme poverty in Tyneside, Cookson channelled her experiences into over 100 books. My mum has read all her books and I have probably read about a quarter to a third of them, borrowing from my mum’s collection in my teens and early 20s. My favourites include the Tilly Trotter series, The Dwelling Place and A Dinner of Herbs. I would certainly cite Catherine Cookson as an early inspiration for me becoming an author as, along with Virginia Andrews, she was the first author of adult books I read prolifically. They both taught me what a page-turner was. You can find Catherine Cookson’s author page on Amazon here.

Moving into the present day, I am now a northern author myself. Certainly never imagined that when I was reading Catherine Cookson’s novels! All my books are set in North Yorkshire, on the coast or in the countryside in the Yorkshire Wolds. I can see me writing books in other settings but I don’t anticipate moving away from the north. It’s what I know and it’s what I love. My readers seem to love my setting too. Phew!

I’m very lucky to class some super talented northern writers as good friends so want to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to three of them:

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.18.26Yorkshire-based Sharon Booth writes stories that include “love, laughter and happy ever after” and they’re simply gorgeous. I’ve read and loved every single one. With Yorkshire settings inspired by the Dales, Robin Hood’s Bay and Knaresborough, you can find her Amazon author page here.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.19.37Helen Phifer is based in Cumbria and writes crime and horror books. I absolutely love her Annie Graham series which are crime with a supernatural/horror book but her pure crime are superb too. On Amazon, you can find Helen’s author page here.

Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 10.18.52Alys West is also Yorkshire-based and she has a couple of different genres in her writing toolkit with contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Both are genres I’d never explored before but Aly’s work is fabulous and I’m a convert! Alys’s author page can be found here.

And, of course, you can visit the fictional North Yorkshire Coast town of Whitsborough Bay through my books, and take a trip to Hedgehog Hollow in the Yorkshire Wolds with my brand new series set in a hedgehog rescue centre. Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is out tomorrow.  My author page is right here.

Wishing all northern writers a happy #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay. Are you doing anything special to celebrate? As for me, I’m about to nip to the toilet (outside of course), put my flat cap on and take my whippet out for a walk. Then I think I’ll enjoy a fish and chip supper 😉

Please do join in with the fun over on Twitter but don’t forget to use the hashtag #NationalNorthernAuthorsDay to join in the conversation. Thanks Trisha and Milly for setting this up 🙂

Big hugs

Jessica xx

Welcome to Whitsborough Bay 4 Books

 

 

The one where I look back on an unusual May

I always think there’s something extra special about the start of a month being on a Monday – fresh week, fresh month, fresh start. Lovely.

And as we step into June, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on May because it’s been an unusual month with a few disappointments but, oh my goodness, what a delicious set of delights. Which is perhaps a little odd considering the whole of May was spent in a COVID-19 lockdown.

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Definitely not me celebrating my birthday                                               Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 

 

DISAPPOINTMENT – I hate to start on a negative but the month started with a disappointment. I’m a May Day baby and I really didn’t respond well to a lockdown birthday and had a little strop about it which actually surprised me as I don’t really both much with my birthday. I tend not to work, I love gifts, and I like to go out for a meal with my husband and daughter to acknowledge the day. The fact that we couldn’t go out made me unhappy and my reaction was to ignore my birthday rather than have a half-hearted non-event. I made a ‘no gifts’ rule and sort of regretted that when the day arrived …. although I then broke it by ordering myself a stunning Lucy Pittaway print for my office. I can’t put it up yet because I can’t get it framed but it will make my heart sing when I can. And, actually, I might have ordered two. Well, there was 25% off and it would have been rude not to!

Screenshot 2020-05-11 at 22.17.16DELIGHT – I worked in the day job on my birthday but I took the following week off – a much needed break after working some extremely long hours since the start of March. When I returned to the work as a home-based HR Tutor, it was to a big delight because I handed in my notice. I really enjoy my day job but to write full-time is a dream come true and, whilst I will not be matching the income from the day job, I will be doing what I love and finally have a work:life balance; something I haven’t had for well over five years. Six days and counting…

DISAPPOINTMENT – There’ve been a couple more disappointments. Like so many people, there were plans in place which had to be cancelled in May – a shopping and theatre trip to Leeds to see Sister Act with the munchkin and a family half-term holiday in Portugal.

IMG_7561DELIGHT – I’ve missed my fortnightly meet-ups with my very good friend and fellow-author, Sharon Booth, but we had a lovely virtual catch-up this month and it was so good to see her/speak to her. Last week, I also caught up with a really good friend who I met when I was on TSB’s graduate programme in the mid-90s. We haven’t seen each other since I had my daughter (who will be 14 in December) so it was great to see/speak to her online too although that’s a lot of years to try and catch up on! One of the things that has come out of lockdown for a lot of people is reacquainting with old friends and that’s definitely a delight.

 

DELIGHT – I’ve received lots more delights this month with readers getting in touch with me. I’ve had tweets, emails and messages on Facebook from readers thanking me for writing my books which they say have seen them through lockdown. Every single time I receive a message like that, it humbles and astonishes me. I’m so grateful that (a) my stories have helped provide escapism during these challenging times and (b) that they’ve thought highly enough of them to take the time to find me and contact me. How lovely is that? Thank you to everyone who has made contact in May or prior to that. It really is so kind and thoughtful of you.

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Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay

DELIGHT – And the month of May finished on an absolute delight. One of the things that many readers have been saying is that they’ve binge-read my entire back catalogue. My fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have re-released five of my books (two shorter ones were packaged together as one to make it a four-book series release) and I’ve signed a contract with them for my remaining four but, for now, those four are out there as indie releases. I can therefore log into the author information on Kindle and see how many eBooks have sold each day and how many pages have been read.

Prior to the re-release of the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series, I had a steady but not impressive number of pages read and eBooks sold. Nothing to make me particularly visible in the charts. Nothing to write home about. Nothing to make me feel I could ever do this full-time. But the re-release, the promotion on these books and the lockdown scenario have steadily boosted sales and pages read of all of my books. This morning, my Kindle stats told me that I had well over 1million pages read during May from readers borrowing my four indie books on Kindle Unlimited (Bear With Me and my three Christmas books). Eek! I have never come close to that before. I had a look back at the same month from last year and we’re talking just shy of 197k pages and that was for nine books, not four! And even if I just go back one month and look at April, pages read were 443k so they have more than doubled in one month and increased nearly six-fold in a year. Wow!

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For years, I’ve felt invisible. I’ve felt I was failing. I always believed in my ability to write but I just couldn’t seem to make an impact. And now it’s happened. I cannot thank my publishers, Boldwood, enough for helping get my name out there and to all the readers who have bought or borrowed my Boldwood and my indie releases. Because of you all, I will be a full-time author this time next week. If I didn’t have writer’s bottom, I’d be doing a happy dance round my office right now! I hope to make you proud with more time to write and therefore more uplifting stories to read.

I know that June is going to bring a couple more cancellation disappointments but hope it brings another box of delights too. Hope it also brings delights your way.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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The one where I share some tips about hedgehogs

It’s the final day of Hedgehog Awareness Week in the UK and I posted a true or false quiz yesterday. Today, I’m sharing the gorgeous graphics that my publishers, Boldwood Books, pulled together with my hedgehog dos and don’ts.

They’re divided into 3 x categories of food and drink, in your garden, and finding hedgehogs. Hope you find them interesting and perhaps you might be able to do something in your garden over the weekend, if you have one, to help hedgehogs. It’s been very dry lately so even just putting out a shallow dish of water would be amazing.

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I’ve really enjoyed researching hedgehogs. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s website has been exceptionally helpful and I have a gorgeous book called The Hedgehog Handbook by Sally Coulthard which I picked up in the gift shop at Castle Howard when I went on my Christmas visit with my fabulous author friend, Sharon Booth, last year. It’s available on Amazon and, if you are interested in hogs, I highly recommend it. You can find it here.

IMG_8294Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow is available for pre-order now – out on 2nd July – and is the first part in a trilogy. The second part (not yet named) is out in January 2021 and I’m writing it as we speak (well, not exactly as we speak as I can’t write a blog post and a novel at exactly the same time but I will be working on it this weekend) and it’s packed full of hedgehogs and I’m learning new things every day.

If you are worried about a hedgehog or find an injured one, you can call The British Hedgehog Preservation Society but make sure you do call them and not leave a Facebook message as it is not regularly checked. There are rescue centres all around the country too so a quick Google should help find yours. Here’s the links to The British Hedgehog Preservation Society if you want to find out more about their work:

Website

Facebook

Instagram

And find them on Twitter @HedgehogSociety

Telephone: 01584 890801

And if you’d like to pre-order my book, you can do so on Amazon, Kindle and AppleBooks. Here’s the Amazon link and I’ve pasted the blurb below.

Have a great weekend and stay safe.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

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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.

The one where I share 5 things that should NOT be on my desk!

My super writing friend, Sharon Booth, has a fabulous blog and she posted earlier today about the five most important items she has on her desk, which is the sort of blog post I love because I adore little insights into the writing spaces of other authors. You can read Sharon’s post here which, in turn, was inspired by a post from wonderful author Linda Huber whose post you can read here.

I thought I might jump on the bandwagon and write a similar post. But then I looked at the state of my desk and thought maybe I’d take the opposite approach and pick 5 things that should NOT be on my desk, either because they have no place on a desk or because they are maybe a little more unusual.

So, in no particular order, I submit the following evidence…

IMG_7909Yes, that’s right, your eyes are not deceiving you. It’s a bottle of V.I.Poo. On. My. Desk. Why? That’s a very good question! A couple of years ago, this product was launched and the adverts made hubby and me laugh and cringe in equal measures. “Punish the porcelain?” Ew, that’s gross! We speculated on whether anyone would really keep a bottle on them, just in case they were caught short in a public place. Imagine rummaging through your handbag and out pops the bottle of V.I.Poo? I’d die!!!!

Anyway, I bought a bottle – Lemon Idol fragrance – for hubby and wrapped it up as a Christmas gift. Oh, how we laughed on Christmas Day! Across the course of last year, the V.I.Poo bottle kept going back and forth between us, trying to surprise the other with where it materialised. I hid it in hubby’s pillow, his pants drawer, in his hoodie pocket and so on and he revelled in secreting it in my handbag. I arrived at the RNA’s York Tea with it, for example, and it made it down to London with me for the Winter Party. So naughty!

It had provided us with so many fun moments (we probably need to get out more) that, of course, I wrapped it up and gave it to him again this Christmas. He rewarded my generosity by placing it in my handbag once more. And now it’s on my desk, reminding me I need to get revenge at some point. Hmm. Got my thinking cap on…

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Next we have a one-eared toy monkey.

Our 4-year-old Sprocker Spaniel, Ella, loves playing with her dog toys. Some of them don’t last a day but others seem to last years. Every so often, she will decide “today is the day you die” and pick one of her toys to destroy. It’s usually ears or labels or something else fairly easy to rip off and little monkey was the latest victim.

He was confiscated before dying completely and he’s sat on my desk to give her on a day she’s being less destructive!

 

IMG_7908Item 3 is a broken necklace. Of course.

The munchkin really wanted this ‘WISH’ necklace from Claire’s for Christmas. I couldn’t see it in our local store but managed to source it in a sale online and have it delivered to store. She wore it once and it broke. It’s there for a bright day when I don’t have tired eyes and can try to repair it.

As my eyes are permanently tired these days, not sure when that will be. Maybe never.

 

IMG_7912We move onto perhaps a more unusual item but one which I actually find essential: a back scratcher. In fact, it’s an extendable back scratcher. Not only that, it’s an extendable back scratcher in the shape of a bear claw. OMG! Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Hubby bought it for me last year as we both work from home and I often ask for a back scratch if he comes in to ‘visit’. So he sourced this. It was only a couple of pound off either Amazon or Ebay and, my goodness, it’s been invaluable. I’m like Baloo the bear from The Jungle Book rubbing up and down that tree without actually having to rub up and down a tree … which is just as well because there aren’t any trees in my office.

IMG_7910My final item is this: Body Shop Pink Grapefruit eau do toilette. Oh my, how gorgeous does this stuff smell?

I sit at my desk all day, marking assignments and occasionally (ok, you got me, make that constantly) want to eat cake and biscuits and chocolate because this is a job that requires a lot of concentration but is very repetitive.

I would have to be winched out the roof if I succumbed to all my sweet cravings and I therefore feel appeased if I spritz myself occasionally. It’s sweet in a non-edible way but it seems to work and, of course, my office smells gorgeous on the back of it.

Hope you enjoyed a foray into my not-meant-to-be-here items from my desk. What do you have on your desk that (probably) shouldn’t be there? I’d love to hear from you.

Jessica xx

 

The one where I went to a Christmas Masquerade at a Castle … sort of

IMG_7545I had a lovely day out yesterday with my good friend and fellow author, Sharon Booth, visiting the Christmas installation at Castle Howard. We’ve started an annual tradition (does twice count as a tradition?) of visiting a stately home each Christmas. Last year we went to Burton Agnes Hall near Bridlington which was beautifully-decorated and very impressive, but Castle Howard – a much bigger stately home – exceeded all expectations. Wow! Just wow! I think we may be back next year. Or maybe do both????

Castle Howard is a grand estate in North Yorkshire situated off the A64 between York and Scarborough and, given the size and grandeur, it’s not surprising that it took over 100 years to be built, starting in 1699. With 1,000 acres of rolling gardens and parkland, there’s plenty to explore on full-day visit. As it was bucketing it down and blowing a gale, Sharon and I did not explore the grounds but we did enjoy our wander around the house. The photos above were taken on a much nicer day a couple of years ago!

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I’ve been to Castle Howard before, several times, but have only explored the house once at Christmas and that was many years ago when the munchkin was small and we took her to their Father Christmas experience (highly recommended and very magical but you need to book as soon as the dates are released in September each year). This was before they did the installations so it was lots of flowers, candles and dressed trees but nothing like the Christmas Masquerade.

I cannot recommend the Christmas installation enough. It is absolutely stunning. Every room offered a new treat and, as we moved along corridors and up staircases between rooms, the statues were adorned with colourful masks and vases displayed baubles, feathers, birds and more masks so there was always something to look at related to the theme.

I was worried that, without flash, I wouldn’t take any decent photos (photography is allowed but flash-free). However, I was quite pleased with what I managed to get.

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Lady Georgiana’s Bedroom

The first room elicited a huge “oooh” and we just continued with the “ooohs” and “aahhhs” every step we took. What imagination the team have to have pulled this together. Apparently plans start about a year in advance, although they had less than two weeks to actually build the installation. That’s quite astonishing when you see it as you’d think it would take months to put it up. It takes me more than a full day to put up my Christmas decorations at home so two weeks to achieve this? Serious respect to everyone involved.

Rooms carried the theme of a famous masquerade character such as Harlequin, Pierrot  and Colombine whilst others carried the general masquerade theme. There were costumes, masks, and wigs all cleverly displayed with lighting. And the colours! Wow!

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The New Library

Sharon and I both adored Lady Georgiana’s Bedroom and dressing room but our favourite room was The New Library which is used as an office. We’d both have happily stepped over the rope, grabbed a book from the shelves, and settled in front of the fire until security forcefully removed us. Despite the high ceilings and large dimensions of the room, it managed to feel so cosy and welcoming.

I loved the upside-down Christmas tree – such imagination – and marvelled at the 25-foot one in the Great Hall.

I was super impressed with the river and bridge in The Long Gallery and had to stop to pose on the bridge. Beautifully-dresses masked mannequins showed off their finery.

We ended our tour with a visit to the chapel which is very ornate and lovely for a rest and some contemplation.

IMG_7558When we’d finished contemplating (and resting our feet), it was time for lunch and, of course, cake. Nom nom. I had the last slice of lemon sponge and Sharon chose a Victoria sponge. It was very delicious and … dare I use that word that so many people hate? …. moist!!!! As you can see, I was halfway through it before I even thought to take a photo.

All too soon, it was time to head home and we were just in time to catch the land-train back to the entrance. We had the entire two-carriage train to ourselves and, my goodness, was it cold. With open sides, a gale blew right through it but it was still a lovely journey. We were also only just in time for Sharon to catch her train from my local station. Seriously, the poor woman was dashing across the tracks on one side as the train was pulling in the other! Far too close for comfort!

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If anyone is thinking of visiting Christmas Masquerade at Castle Howard, then definitely do. They are open until 23rd December and again before New Year.

You can find out more about the installation, dates, and prices here.

It’s got great access for anyone with mobility challenges and we saw several visitors moving around in wheelchairs so don’t let any mobility issues put you off as most of the exhibits can still be accessed.

IMG_7513Oh, and I found a bear! Unfortunately he was part of the installation so I had to leave him where he was.

I’m already curious as to what next year’s theme will be. Hopefully if we do go back, we’ll manage a less blustery day. And apparently it’s good to avoid Tuesdays as that’s when they get most of their coach trips. Good to know!

Have a great week and good luck with any final Christmas preparations.

Jessica xx

 

The one where I talk about my lovely London trip

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At the end of last week, I had a very busy and very exciting few days in London. There were so many highlights but I nearly didn’t make it, thanks to our delightful train network.

Hubby dropped me off at Scarborough Train Station on Wednesday morning to catch the train to York where I’d connect to London. I was confronted with this…

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Whilst the new trains are lovely and the staff are delightful and often full of good humour, the actual service run by Transpennine Express is shocking. So many of the journeys I have made lately have been cancelled or running late. Apparently there was no conductor for the service so it was simply cancelled and no alternative provided other than the next train an hour later; far too late to make my connecting train to London.

I’m very lucky in that hubby works from home and I knew he wasn’t working on a deadline so I called him on the car hands-free and he had to turn around and come back to collect me. Our dog was in the car so we had to arrange to drop her off with his parents rather than dragging her to York and back (an hour each way). Just as well we did this because, whilst my London train was thankfully running on time, it took hubby nearly three hours to get home again. There’d been an accident on the main York to Scarborough road and both lanes were shut so there was a massive diversion in place. I actually made it to London fifteen minutes after he got home which is ridiculous.

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Me with my editor, Nia. No idea why I’m leaning like that!

I had a lovely afternoon in London, meeting my editor, Nia, and the CEO and Founder of Boldwood Books, Amanda. I’ve spoken to Nia on the phone several times and have had a Skype conversation with Amanda and Nia but nothing beats meeting them face to face. What a lovely lunch we had, talking about the first few months of The Secret to Happiness being out there, and marketing plans for 2020 and beyond. Every day, I am so very grateful that I submitted to Boldwood and my manuscript was chosen for representation because they really are an absolute joy to work with.

My hotel had a room with a view, ha ha ha! I posted this image showing Fenchurch Street station on Facebook and one of the Write Romantics, Deirdre, really made me laugh by asking “what’s that on the roof – ectoplasm?” Certainly looks like it!

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On Thursday morning, I had a very quick swim, jacuzzi and steam room before wandering over to The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, five minutes’ walk from the hotel.

I’ve been to London many times over the years and this is the second time I’ve been to this area but I don’t think the sights of London will ever bore me. I love all the history amongst the modern. It was a bit chilly by the river, mind.

Usually I find London several degrees warmer than the north but not last week. Brr.

After my walk, I took the tube to Kings Cross to collect my very good friend and fellow Write Romantic, Sharon Booth. I was early but Sharon’s train was running late so that gave me a great excuse to wander around the shops at Kings Cross and the ones at St Pancras over the road. How gorgeous is this Lancome Christmas tree? When you get up close, each light is shining through a bottle of perfume. That’s a heck of a lot of bottles of perfume!

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As well as meeting Boldwood, a massive highlight for me was having seven out of ten of the Write Romantics in the same place at the same time. I think we’ve managed six before so maybe one day all ten of us will get together. (From left-right on the 2nd picture below, it’s Jackie Ladbury, Jo Bartlett, Helen Phifer and Sharon Booth). Helen J Rolfe is in later pictures and I’m afraid I didn’t manage to get a picture with Deirdre Palmer as we weren’t sat together.

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We joined RNA members for a talk with bestselling author, Sophie Kinsella, who has just released another book in her shopaholic series after several years’ break. It was interesting to hear how she became a writer and more about her stories. Sorry about the poor pic but we were on the back row!

I love the Confessions of a Shopaholic film and am looking forward to Can You Keep a Secret? released soon. I’ve read several of Sophie’s books including that one.

After the talk finished, all but one of the Write Romantics gathered in my room for Prosecco and I grabbed a quick drink with them before changing and heading to a drinks reception with Boldwood.

This was an opportunity to see Amanda and Nia again but also a third team member, Megan, who is the Publishing Executive. Several of the Boldwood authors were gathered and it was so wonderful to meet them in person.

(L-R is Beth Moran, Amanda Ridout (BW), Lucy Coleman, Emma Murray, Diane Saxon, Jessica redland, Nia Beynon BW) and Fay Keenan). Megan (BW) was taking the pic.

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Next was the RNA’s Winter Party and Industry Awards. I’ve never been to one of the RNA’s London parties so this was a first. I had been looking forward to catching up with a few people I knew on social media but had never actually met but it was busier than I expected and, despite doing a few rounds of the room after the awards ceremony, I couldn’t see them! It doesn’t help that I’m vertically-challenged so trying to spot people in a roomful of people isn’t easy at the best of times but, when the lighting is dim and the room packed, I don’t think I stood much chance.

IMG_7344The highlight of the party for me was seeing two wonderful bloggers – Anne Williams and Rachel Gilbey – being nominated for the Best Blogger Award. Rachel reviewed my very first book and has read everything I’ve written since. I’ve been on several blog tours arranged via her Rachel’s Random Resources role. Anne has been a wonderful supporter of my work too more recently and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her a few times before. Anne won and I was pleased to be able to congratulate both of them and get a photo of them together.

One of the Write Romantics was heading off home soon but the remaining six of us decamped to Pizza Express and had a lovely evening, catching up on all things writing and non-writing. Helen J Rolfe is the one on the right on the 1st image above. And I had to show my pizza because, whilst you may not be able to see, it had potatoes on it. Yes, that’s right, potatoes on a pizza! And it was delicious.

It was pouring when we left but that didn’t stop us getting a couple of photos outside The Four Seasons Hotel.

Isn’t that a lamppost gorgeous? It’s like something out of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I kept expecting Mr Tumnus to appear at any moment!

A huge thank you to everyone who organised the Sophie Kinsella talk and the Winter Party as I know how much time and effort goes into coordinating events like this. Thank you so much to Boldwood for organising the pre-event drinks and to all the Boldwood authors. I’m sorry I didn’t get to chat individually to everyone during our short time together and then for not being able to find you to say goodbye.

My journey home was a bit fraught. I only had six minutes to make my connection in York and we were about 25 minutes late. However, so was my connecting train so I did manage to catch it. One time when I’m grateful for the poor service!

IMG_7295Have an amazing week.

Jessica xx

 

Some useful links:

The Romantic Novelists’ Association

Boldwood Books

Anne Williams’s ‘Being Anne’ Blog  

Rachel Gilbey’s ‘Rachel’s Random Reads’ Blog

 

The Write Romantics’ Amazon Pages (including those not in London):

Jo Bartlett

Sharon Booth

Jackie Ladbury

Deirdre Palmer (also writes as Zara Thorne)

Lynne Pardoe

Helen Phifer

Jessica Redland

Helen J Rolfe

Rachael Thomas

Alys West

 

 

The one where I learned how to murder people … in books, that is!

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I had a lovely day out yesterday at the Festival of Words in Beverley, East Yorkshire. My good writing friend, Sharon Booth, and I had bought tickets for ‘Murder Day’ which involved 5 x different sessions, all with authors of crime.

Session 1 was with author Martin Edwards, interviewed by local author, Nick Quantrill. He spoke about the golden age of crime, which is the era between the two world wars during which Agatha Christie wrote. It was a really fascinating insight into the popularity of this genre and the influence it has had on writers since.

IMG_7165During the break, we grabbed a drink and I treated myself to something I’ve never tried before: a chocolate scone. I posted on Instagram that it was surprisingly nice and my younger brother made me laugh by asking why it was surprising: chocolate good, scone good!

A discussion panel was the set-up for Session 2 with Nick hosting. Jess Kidd, Chris Simms and debut-novelist Amanda Mason talked about their gothic thrillers and each read an excerpt from their books. It was interesting hearing the very different writing voices.

Prolific writer, Kate Ellis, spoke alone for Session 3, taking the audience through the inspiration behind her 23-strong DI Wesley Peterson series and her other novels.

We had a break after that and went to the cafe library for a spot of lunch, joining another author friend, Sylvia Broady.

After lunch, Session 4 was the one I’d been really looking forward to: The Art of Forensics. Author Margaret Murphy hosted a discussion with Anne Cleeves and Helen Pepper. Ann Cleeves writes the books which were made into the TV series Vera and Shetland. I confess I haven’t read any of her books but I absolutely love Vera; brilliant series. She’s started a new series based in Devon which has been optioned for TV so I treated myself to a signed copy of the first in the series. Helen is a former CSI from Co Durham and now trains police recruits in forensics. She advises both Anne and Margaret on the forensic elements of their books and is the advisor on the TV series Vera.

IMG_7157It was a brilliant discussion. When I’ve written my books, I’ve reached out to experts via social media or explored websites/blogs to check out information relevant to my storylines but I’ve never thought about an author working with an expert on more of a consultative basis like this, yet it absolutely makes sense, particularly for something so important and specialist like forensics. The discussion was also very funny. Ann was very down to earth, admitting that she avoids doing anything that seems like hard work – for example writing the scripts for the TV series of Vera – because she really just enjoys sitting in her jogging pants and “making up stories”. Helen was exceptionally funny too and I bet she’s fascinating and fun to work with.IMG_7170

We had another hour’s gap before the final session so nipped into town. There’s a Paperchase in Beverley so I treated myself to a bear desk pad and post-it notes from a lovely new range there.

Poor Sharon had been battling with illness all day and was wiped out so she headed home and I attended Session 5 on my own. There was a change of venue from the Memorial Hall to The Art Gallery and the final speaker was Cath Staincliffe, interviewed by Nick again. Cath had written several books before she hit her big break with the TV series Blue Murder starring Caroline Quentin. I loved that series. Whereas Ann Cleeves wrote the Vera books ahead of the TV series, Cath had created a character ready to write a book and it became a script first. It was therefore really interesting to hear how she then retrospectively wrote the books. She was then asked to write the prequel novels to the popular series Scott & Bailey so she talked about those too, as well as writing for radio.

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I’ve been to a few talks over the years as part of Scarborough Literature Festival which later became Books by the Beach but I’ve never been to another venue or attended a full day of events. I thoroughly enjoyed my Murder Day and hearing from so many crime writers. It’s not my genre but it’s always fascinating to hear from other authors, whatever they might write.

As I was listening to the authors speaking I found myself wondering if, one day, I might be the one up there. It’s my absolute dream to be a guest author on Scarborough’s Books by the Beach festival but I’m under no illusion around my ability to draw a crowd so it would be many years yet – if at all – before that might happen. Still, it’s good to have dreams.

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The other thing I thought about was how much I’d have loved to throw question after question at the authors about their writing day, their publication journey, and a whole host of other questions that are of interest to me as a writer but probably wouldn’t necessarily appeal to the readers in the audience. There weren’t many questions asked of Cath at the end session so I did sneak one in about whether she had any traditions or superstitions. She talked about writing long hand, always on the same type of paper, with the same type of pen. I wanted to explore more but could easily have monopolised the conversation for ages if I had!

Thank you to all the authors for their input and to the organisers for such a fabulous day.

Jessica xx