Starry Skies reaches for the skies and achieves a reviews milestone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s some quotes from 5-star reviews:

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx

A lovely May Day birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Amazing Kindle Deals in Australia TODAY ONLY

Happy Easter everyone!

Down in Australia, the Easter bunny is delivering a fabulous basket of treats for Kindle readers because a whopping eight of my ebooks … yes, EIGHT of them … are on a very special offer for ONE DAY ONLY.

The four titles in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Series, one of my Hedgehog Hollow books, and three more of my Whitsborough Bay books are all reduced to the ridiculously low price of $0.99 for SUNDAY 4th APRIL ONLY:

  • Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 1)
  • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 2)
  • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 3)
  • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 4)
  • The Secret to Happiness
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
  • New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (Hedgehog Hollow book 2)

And All You Need Is Love and Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series) are both only $1.89 on offer at the moment too.

So you can get all ten of my Boldwood Books releases for only $11.70!!!

You can find my Amazon Australia books here.

The only book not on offer is Charlee and the Chocolate Shop because that’s due an edit and re-release from Boldwood Books in July so I’d encourage waiting until then to read the fresh version.

Happy Easter and happy reading! Please tell your friends and family and I wish you a fabulous Easter weekend.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day feels a little strange this year because I’m used to being out and about and seeing the build-up in all the shops: pink, white and red flowers and hearts everywhere, flowers, chocolates and soft toys. But, like so many, I don’t leave the house these days and, even if I did, so many of the retailers are closed so the big build-up wouldn’t have been there. Just one of the many things about the past year that has been different.

Hubby and I don’t buy each other gifts and I’m not sure we’ve ever gone out for a Valentine’s Day meal but we always exchange cards … and he does often get me a little treat.

This year, hubby had to buy his own card from me from the local supermarket. I don’t know if he was planning to get me a gift but I emailed him a link of something I’d really like hee hee! The link was for a gorgeous soft Jellycat notepad. I’ve become a bit obsessed with Jellycat recently. My original publisher bought me a soft bear when my first book was published and I treated myself to a panda a couple of years ago but I’ve discovered they do a hedgehog and ocean creatures range and they look so good in promo pictures of my books that I have made a few purchases. It’s all strictly business, of course 😉


Anyway, back to the Valentine’s gift, hubby ordered me my Jellycat notepad but he also surprised me with the cutest, softest pair of otters cuddling. They’re actually hotties but I don’t think I could bring myself to put them in the microwave. I’d imagine them screaming!

I was really flattered a few weeks back to be asked by my contact at our local newspaper if I’d write an article entitled ‘Why I Love Valentine’s Day’. She figured that, as a romance author, I’d be well placed to put something together. Even better, it would be offered out to all the newspapers in the group – over 170 local newspapers. Wow!

Disappointingly and ironically my local newspaper didn’t print it. And neither did the other three most local ones to me. Eek! My contact said most of the papers in the group did take it which is fantastic news but I’ll need to be content with the pdf. If anyone spots it, please comment as I’d love to have a copy for my scrapbook. The media group is JPI Media (with coverage UK-wide) and the article could have appeared across the weekend or last week in a section branded with the ‘Your Time’ logo you can see top left below.

The big focus of the article is about love and friendship today whatever your relationship status. Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about being all loved up in a happy relationship; it can be about love for others, pets, yourself. Or books! I’m suffering with vertigo at the moment. It’s the first time I’ve had it but it’s been bugging me for a month now so I’m trying to relax this weekend and I’ll be spending this afternoon watching a romcom with my 14-year-old daughter while hubby watches the football. I also plan to finish the book I’m currently reading. Lovely way to spend Valentine’s Day. If a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows materialises at some point, I’ll be a very happy bear.

And I also got a very special Valentine’s Day gift from my lovely readers. A little over a week ago, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow went into Prime Reading and had a lovely boost up the charts but it didn’t look like it was going to break the Top 100. Yesterday it did and this morning it hit its highest position at #86 in the overall Kindle chart which is so exciting. It hit the same number back in August, about six weeks after release, so I’m hoping the hedgehogs might climb even higher. Go hedgehogs go! The first two books in the series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow and New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – are both only 99p for ebook at the moment on Kindle, Apple and Kobo.

However you’re spending it, whether with loved ones or apart, I’m wishing you a restful Valentine’s Day full of love and friendship. Could you find it in the pages of a book? Could the love of your life be a fictional character? Here’s a couple of my fictional leading men to tempt you…

Big hugs
Jessica xx

Happy New Year and a warm welcome to 2021

Has 2020 gone? Can someone triple check?

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

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

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

Brand New Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-releases

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

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

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

My Writing Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing-Related Plans, Hopes & Dreams

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

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

Other hopes and dreams include:

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

And other hopes and dreams…

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

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

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

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

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where 2020 has been quite extraordinary – and surprisingly full of highs

So, it’s finally arrived. The end of 2020. The year many people have wanted to “do one” for a long time.

It’s probably not a bold statement to say that it’s the strangest year that most of us will ever have experienced and, pretty please, can it be the last time we do?

But while this may be a completely bonkers surreal year that many will want to push to the back of their minds filed under ‘grim’, 2020 has been an amazing year for me professionally, seeing so many dreams come true. So, while there are many reasons why I want to send 2020 to the naughty step, I want to high-five it too.

This is a rundown, quarter by quarter, of what 2020 has looked like for me personally and professionally, presented in order of occurrence. When I originally wrote it, it was nearly a novel in itself so I have massively cut it down to highs and lows. Even so, it’s still long as so much has happened professionally this year. I honestly don’t know if anyone other than my mum or hubby will read it all but thank you if you do! xx

JANUARY to MARCH 2020

Happy New Year and the start of a new decade. How exciting! I eagerly anticipated the year ahead with a whopping seven Boldwood releases made up of six of my back catalogue and one new novel, and I hoped this would be the year I could leave my day job as an HR Tutor and write full-time.

Little did we know that reports of a flu-like illness in China were going to change our lives beyond all recognition.

HIGHS

  • Release of the entire re-edited ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series:
    • Making Wishes at Bay View (14th Jan)
    • New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (20th Feb)
    • Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (20th Feb)
    • Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (12th Mar)
  • Seaside Blooms broke into the UK Kindle Top 1,000 on 19th March and kept climbing
  • Making Wishes at Bay View was selected as Apple’s free book of the week (9th – 15th March) propelling it to the top of the free Apple Books chart
  • A massive knock-on effect on the rest of the series with a #3 for New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #24 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. They all made it into the Top 5 on the Romance category occupying positions #2, #3 and #5 at one point
  • Celebrating hubby’s 50th birthday with a meal with his parents just before going into a national lockdown
  • Normality for almost three months, regularly meeting up with Sharon Booth (great friend and super talented author) and attending the RNA’s Beverley Chapter meeting

LOWS

  • Saying goodbye in January to our beloved cat, Felix. After nearly 14 years with us, I was – and still am – heartbroken to have lost him
  • The munchkin, age 13, experienced a scary bullying incident on the bus home from school, so serious we needed to involve the police who classified it as an assault
  • Lockdown. I don’t think I need to expand on that! Although munchkin’s grumbles at being made to do the Joe Wicks PE session every weekday morning provided us with great amusement!

APRIL to JUNE 2020

This quarter started with a second month of panic-buying where household staples like toilet roll, pasta, cans of soup and flour were like gold dust. Hand sanitiser, paracetamol and disinfectant were also in short supply.

Zoom – something I personally had never even heard of until this year – became a life-saver for keeping in touch, as did social media (although you had to be careful not to be sucked down the rabbit hole of scary statistics and conspiracy theories!)

I’m going to swap it around for this month and start with the lows because they directly led to the highs in this quarter.  I will just remind you that these are presented in order of occurrence rather than severity.

LOWS

  • An unprecedented increase in work volumes as students took advantage of lockdown to race through their assignments. Enrolments of new students soared through the roof and, whilst financially amazing, the stress levels in trying to keep up were extraordinary. All without support or thanks from our manager

  • I couldn’t face celebrating my birthday and chose to largely ignore it 
  • My older brother turned 50 and couldn’t have the celebrations planned with his friends or family – a common story for so many this year
  • Cancellation of two theatre trips – a day trip to Leeds to see Sister Act and a weekend away to see Six
  • Family holiday to Portugal over May half-term cancelled
  • The unexpected and sudden loss of our brother-in-law, aged only 50. RIP, Richard, with love xx

HIGHS

  • Resigning from the day job and becoming a full-time writer from 8th June. It had always been my dream to be able to earn enough to be able to write full-time and it had finally happened. The increased income would give me a give me a buffer while my writing royalties (hopefully) increased from my new releases
  • Apple asked if they could repeat the UK promotion in the USA. Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #16 in the free chart and the series sold well on the back of this
  • Amazon selected New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms for a Prime deal. It was already inside the Top 100 by then but it peaked at #14 on 17th May thanks to being in Prime
  • People were turning to books for escapism, comfort and boredom relief. Uplifting stories of love and friendship – exactly what I write – fit the bill perfectly and this was reflected in my sales
  • Receiving messages from readers who’d binge read my Boldwood releases and the rest of my indie back catalogue and wanted to thank me for giving them such an uplift and welcome escape. Wow! I certainly hadn’t been expecting that
  • During the summer, Making Wishes at Bay View made it to #144, Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove to #145 and Coming Home to Seashell Cottage to #165. I’d never experienced chart positions like this. I’d barely hoped to dream of them and kept waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me it was a dream
  • How proud the munchkin made us. She moaned about Joe Wicks but not about studying and, with only a few nudges to ask her teachers for more work when she’d run out, she showed amazing maturity, never once moaning about being in lockdown and missing her friends

JULY to SEPTEMBER 2020

Restrictions had lifted in the UK but I pretty much remained a hermit. It’s not so much that I was afraid to go out but more that there seemed no point taking the risk. Being substantially overweight I am in a higher risk category and, with so many holiday-makers flocking to the coast, I felt my local town and beach were no-go areas. I managed a few local walks with the dog, hubby and munchkin – and even did an evening walk along the main seafront before the holidays hit – but that was about it. And my bottom has just expanded and expanded as a result!

HIGHS

  • The first book in a series set in a hedgehog rescue centre – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was released on 2ndJuly. I was a little bit nervous about it as it was a new setting for me but the hedgehogs captured the hearts of readers
  • An impressive number of pre-orders meant an astonishing UK Kindle chart position of #291 on publication day, peaking at #86 in mid-August. My second Top 100 book. Yay! It made it to #40 in Canada and #11 in Australia
  • The Secret to Happiness appeared in branches of The Works. I chatted to the staff and took photos but I never thought to ask if they’d like me to sign copies. Muppet. Missed opportunity!
  • Boldwood celebrated one year since their first release. What an amazing first year of trading they’d had. We were invited to a summer moment on Zoom to celebrate which was pretty special
  • Release of the re-edited Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes (13th Aug). Initially it was free and reached #8 in the free UK Kindle chart, #43 in Australia, #20 in Canada and #15 in the USA
  • Release of the re-edited Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. An impressive number of pre-orders saw an amazing release day chart position of #204
  • Met my parents outdoors on a couple of occasions
  • Sharon and I also managed one meeting but not for as long as usual. It was brilliant to be able to meet in person but the time went far too quickly
  • The munchkin returned to school and started three years of study towards her GCSEs. One of the bus bullies apologised (I think lockdown gave her plenty of thinking time), a truce has been reached and there’ve thankfully been no further incidents
  • Hubby and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a mid-week visit to Thorp Perrow Arboretum. It was a gorgeous day and there were very few people around so it was the perfect place to go. And, being only a short drive away from my parents, we stopped off at theirs for a socially distanced cuppa before coming home
  • The Works stocked another book – Making Wishes at Bay View – and this time I signed them. Proud author moment!
  • I was astonished and thrilled to be offered another contract with Boldwood for a whopping 12 brand new books. I nearly fell off my chair! The first book in that contract will be a brand new Christmas story in September 2021. Before that, there’ll be four more books released in January, March, May and August to see out the original contract: books 2 and 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series (January/May) and the remaining two in my back catalogue (March/August)

LOWS

  • After only a week back at school, unable to see properly with her mask on, the munchkin tripped over a raised drain cover, went splat, landed awkwardly and broke her arm. Cue scary dash up to school and a trip to A&E to get a pot put on
  • She later fell down the stairs at school, also struggling to see properly in her mask, and made a right mess of both of her shins, scraping the skin off and badly bruising them both. The good news was she didn’t break her arm again!
  • The increased attention on me and my books massively exacerbated my imposter syndrome and I struggled to feel worthy of the amazing things happening to me. Writing a week-long series of posts about what this meant and how it manifested itself did me the world of good and I have been able to continue to make great inroads in quietening my ‘you’re not good enough’ demons since then, although I don’t think they’ll ever completely disappear and I’ve still had the occasional moment

OCTOBER to DECEMBER 2020

Now with the country in tiers, each tier dictating a specific set of rules, it seemed there was no end in sight. Another lockdown. Then came a ray of hope: a vaccination had been approved and would be rolled out imminently. Hurrah!

As Christmas approached, with a new strain of the virus spreading at an alarming rate, Christmas plans changed for many.

HIGHS

  • All ten books sported an orange Amazon #1 Best Seller tag at the same time. TEN! Wow! What a special moment that was! (13th Oct)
  • A socially distanced Hallowe’en BBQ at my parents’ house. A BBQ in late October in this country was certainly a first but a big brolly kept the rain off and the patio heater worked its magic!
  • The Works wanted another of my books and squeezed in an order of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow. I managed to see it in my local branch – and sign the copies as well as another batch of Making Wishes at Bay View – before going into the second lockdown
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes – no longer available for free – became my third book to get inside the Top 100, reaching #93 on 1st November. It only stayed inside the Top 100 for two days but that doesn’t matter. It still made it which, considering how many thousands of free copies it shifted, I wasn’t expecting
  • Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café broke the Top 100 too, peaking at #24 in the UK, #11 in Canada and an astonishing #3 in Australia. Woo hoo! With the exception of one day, it stuck around in the Top 100 right until Christmas Eve. I was a bit gutted it didn’t stay in the Top 100 for Christmas but over a month in the Top 100 wasn’t too shabby!
  • Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes achieved 1,000 reviews/ratings. At the start of the year, none of my books had more than 100 reviews. Today, it has hit 1,600. Still can’t quite believe it! (16th Nov)
  • The Secret to Happiness went on a BookBub deal – the only of my books to have done this – and it got to #32 in the USA in mid-November. That market is enormous and I certainly never expected that!
  • Guest speaker slots on a Facebook Live with Kim The Bookworm and with Exeter Libraries
  • Part of a Boldwood Christmas books panel on My VLF (My Virtual Literature Festival) which was great fun
  • Interviewed by a reader, Liz Clifton, about confidence and motivation
  • Guest on Julie Morris’s blog – A Little Bookish Problem – twice
  • The Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series continued to perform well and, in mid-December, all of them passed 500 reviews/ratings on Amazon

LOWS

  • Cancellation of my graduation ceremony after achieving my Masters in Creative Writing through Open University in late 2019
  • Cancellation of our October half-term holiday to Lancaster (to give us access to Blackpool and the Lake District) as Lancaster was in tier 3 so we (in tier 2 at the time) couldn’t travel there
  • Not able to see my side of the family over Christmas or my husband’s sisters
  • The tragic news that my second cousin died just before Christmas. Aged only 42, my heart is broken for his mum (my cousin) and her family and for another lovely man taken far too soon. RIP, Gary, with love xx


AND TO CLOSE…

Whether you’ve read the Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities or not, you probably know the beginning: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” And that pretty much sums up my 2020.

For the best of times, I have achieved my dream of writing full-time, I am fortunate enough to work with the most incredible publisher with a wonderful team who support and respect all their authors as well as making us all feel equally important. Through Boldwood, I’ve had four books inside the Kindle UK Top 100 and Apple Top 100 this year, a Top 3 in Australia and Top 40 in the USA. All of my books have sported bestseller tags at the same time. Every book Boldwood has released has passed 500 reviews/ratings with one exceeding 1,600 and another marching towards 1,000. Quite honestly, it has been phenomenal.

But for the worst of times, I’ve lost my brother in law, a second cousin, and our gorgeous cat, and my daughter was assaulted. The disappointment of birthdays, holidays, theatre trips, weekends away and a graduation ceremony all cancelled pales into insignificance when faced with such loss and sadness.

I haven’t seen my brothers or their families since last Christmas although we did a regular family Zoom across the first lockdown. Hubby and I have never had much of a social life – we’re home bunnies and only have a few friends in the area – but we do miss being able to meet up with the small number of people we know and, as writing tends to be a lonely business, I’ve really missed my fortnightly meet-ups with Sharon.

I send my love and best wishes to my family affected by loss, and to anyone else for whom this year has been particularly tough whether that be through illness, bereavement, employment (or lack of it), finances, loneliness or any of the many other challenges that may have been faced.

My eternal gratitude goes to Boldwood Books and, in particular my editor, Nia, for making my dreams come true and being such a joy to work with. And thanks to my fellow Boldwood authors for all the support you’ve given and any reviews/promotions of my work.

Thank you to all the book bloggers/reviewers who’ve been so kind this year and to Rachel Gilbey for organising my blog tours.

I can’t thank enough all the amazing readers who’ve bought, borrowed, downloaded, and/or streamed any or all of my books. Thank you for choosing to take a journey to Whitsborough Bay and/or Hedgehog Hollow and for all the lovely messages on social media. You give me the encouragement to keep making stuff up!

To Sharon and my fellow-Write Romantic family, you’re my writing rocks and I couldn’t imagine how I’d have navigated my way through the troubled world of publishing without you all. It’s been lovely having such good virtual friends supporting each other in this difficult year. And to the Beverley chapter, I’ve loved our catch-ups.

Thank you to new writing friends I’ve made this year – Sam Tonge, Vicky Walters, Kim Nash and many others who’ve supported or promoted my work and whose books I’ve enjoyed reading. I hope we can meet in person next year.

And finally, to my biggest fan – my mum – my amazing husband and our wonderful daughter, thank you for all your excitement and encouragement. It really does keep me going. I know my dad is also super proud so thank you daddy bear too.

For anyone out there with a dream, chase it. Because dreams really do come true and I’m living, breathing proof of that.

When I finish writing a book, I love typing ‘The End’. Despite all the amazing things that have happened for me this year, I am relieved to stamp ‘The End’ on 2020 and look ahead to exciting writing achievements and some sort of normality in 2021.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I visit the ‘real’ Castle Street at Christmas

A theme that comes through in reviews of my Whitsborough Bay books, particularly my Christmas ones, is how much readers would love to visit Castle Street and I sometimes get asked if it’s real.

Castle Street is not real. Sorry. But it is definitely inspired by real places and I see it as a blend of three, which I’ll come to in a moment.

Whitsborough Bay is a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town but it’s predominantly inspired by my hometown of Scarborough. It has the same geographical set-up as Scarborough: North Bay and South Bay separated by a headland with a castle on it, and the town up the cliff from South Bay. The large image below is a view of South Bay and the castle on the cliff from an area called South Cliff.

In my books, I’ve even called these areas North Bay and South Bay. I originally called them North Beach and South Beach to be different but decided ‘beach’ didn’t make sense when the town was called Whitsborough BAY so I stuck with bays.

There are many much-loved locations and landmarks in Scarborough that appear in my Whitsborough Bay stories but with different names:

  • The Sea Life Centre in North Bay becomes the Sea Rescue Sanctuary (bottom left above)
  • Peasholm Park, also in North Bay, is Hearnshaw Park in my books
  • The colourful beach huts in Whitsborough Bay’s North Bay (top right above) are a direct match to those in Scarborough but the shops and cafés nearby take on different identities
  • In Scarborough’s South Bay, there’s a lighthouse and harbour and I have the same in Whitsborough Bay but the lighthouse is red and white striped in my books instead of white (bottom right above), and the approach to it is different

The main difference geographically between Scarborough and Whitsborough Bay is that Whitsborough Bay has a river which runs through the Old Town and along the South Bay side of the castle. It is crossed by a swing bridge. This is very much inspired by Whitby up the coast from Scarborough; a place I’ve adored since childhood.

Back to Castle Street, it is fictional but, as I said before, it is inspired by a blend of three places:

  • Bar Street in Scarborough (which is a narrow street housing independent shops and cafés)
  • The cobbled streets of Whitby’s south side
  • The cobbled streets of Robin Hood’s Bay (which is between Scarborough and Whitby but closer to Whitby)

I imagine Castle Street to be wider than any of these streets (more the width of Huntriss Row if anyone is familiar with Scarborough) and with old-fashioned grey cobbles, more like these ones in this photo of Whitby at the bottom of the famous 199 steps up to St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey.

I love Bar Street at Christmas. It has waves of simple white lights running down the street from one end to the other and I describe these in my Christmas books but have them connecting between the buildings instead.

Last week, hubby, munchkin and I took our sprocker spaniel, Ella, for a wander round the lights just as the shops were closing (so we could capture the lights in the shops but visit when there weren’t many folk about).

The large picture below is looking down Bar Street with our backs to the town. The shops are Steampuss Cat Lounge (which I visited with the munchkin a few months back) and a bridal shop which is partial inspiration for The Wedding Emporium which I mention in a few books. In Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, Bethany gets her wedding dress and the bridesmaid dresses for her Christmas wedding from there.

I’d been eager to get a photo of the giant illuminated teddy bear on the main precinct when I spotted him in town last month but the lights didn’t show very well during the day. So much better at night. I love him!

On Boxing Day evening, we took Ella down to the harbour where many of the boats were lit up, as was the viewing wheel along the seafront. Very pretty. But very cold!

I think I might need to make more of the harbour in future books as it really is beautiful with all the lights on the masts and sails. My pretty poor phone photography doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. On the top row, the lit-up building on the top left pic which is bigger on top right (at the far left of the pic) is The Grand Hotel. Owned by Britannia Group it has changed a lot over the years but it was once one of the largest and most impressive hotels in Europe. You can see it in daylight in the top set of images, bottom middle.

In my stories, The Grand is The Ramparts Hotel (Alison works there in The Secret to Happiness and Callie has a meal there near the end of Making Wishes at Bay View) and I position it as Whitsborough’s only 5-star hotel and very luxurious.

In the top middle photo, you can just about make out Scarborough’s Lighthouse. If you look above the boat lit by red lights, there’s a bright light. Move along to the boat behind it and there’s another light and just to the right of that is a triangle shape of light. That’s the lighthouse. Hubby took a better pic of it, though, looking back over the Old Town. What looks to be a strip of lights above the Old Town in his photo is the castle walls illuminated.

Hope you enjoyed your trip to Whitsborough Bay’s Castle Street and harbour at Christmas. If you’d like to read about it, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café are both still only 99p but act quickly as Starry Skies will probably have a price increase in the not too distant future. They’re best read in that order as Starry Skies is set after Carly’s Cupcakes and the two businesses are next door and run by friends Carly and Tara so we find out what happens to Carly after her story finishes when Tara picks up the reins.

You can find all my books for Kindle here although they’re also available as eBooks for Kobo and Apple and a gazillion other formats depending on your reading or listening preferences.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

The one where I have the most amazing news

Followers of my blog will have seen that, last week, I wrote a series of blog posts about imposter syndrome. This is something which has plagued me for pretty much all of my adult life and became particularly troublesome this year when my books started climbing the charts and this previously invisible author stepped out of the shadows.

Something happened in the middle of that series of posts that could not have been more perfectly timed for proving to me that I am not an imposter and do deserve to enjoy the success my stories have had this year: an offer of a new publishing contract from the amazing Boldwood Books.

And not just any contract. A 12-book publishing contract! Eeeekkkk!

I am so surprised, thrilled and excited by this and can’t wait to see where this continued partnership with Boldwood takes me over the next few years.

In 2021, I will still be working out my original contract:

  • Hedgehog Hollow book 2 out on 7th January – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (available for Kindle pre-order here. It will also be available in due course for AppleBooks and Kobo pre-order)
  • The revised refreshed re-edited version of Bear With Me (title TBC) out in March
  • Hedgehog Hollow book 3 out in May
  • The revised refreshed re-edited version of Charlee and the Chocolate Shop (title TBC) out in August

Then my new contract will begin in September with a brand new Christmas release. This is set in The Starfish Cafe on the cliffs south of Whitsborough Bay above a seal haven. It’s run by Hollie and regular readers will already have encountered the cafe in Coming Home to Seashell Cottage and Bear With Me although Hollie is only briefly mentioned in one of these books.

It’s actually a story I began writing to release as a Christmas novella in 2017. I hadn’t got very far into it before I realised that the story was quite meaty and it was going to turn into a full-length novel so I parked it and wrote Charlee and the Chocolate Shop and Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes instead. Poor Hollie has therefore been waiting in the wings for quite some time and I can’t wait to get back to the 12k words I’d already written and finish telling her tale.

From 2022, there’ll be a mixture of standalone books and series. There may be some sequels. I even have an idea for a prequel. We’ll return to Whitsborough Bay, go back to Castle Street, and continue to explore the area around Hedgehog Hollow. I have some new settings planned but they’re all in the vicinity of the places readers already know and love.

All twelve of the books on my new contract will be brand new stories as Bear With Me and Charlee and the Chocolate Shop are the last of my back catalogue to get the Boldwood re-touch.

I have been quite overwhelmed with all the lovely congratulations messages I’ve received on social media since announcing my news last night. It’s been extra lovely that some of my fellow-Boldwood authors and a couple of other authors have been in touch privately to express their delight. It means so much to be part of such a supportive community.

From the moment I had my first conversation with my editor, Nia, back in March last year, I knew I’d found the perfect home for my books. Nia and the team at Boldwood have done so much for my career as an author already in just one year and I’m so excited to see where the next few years take us.

If you would like to watch a video of me announcing the news, you can find it here.

Wishing you all the best for an amazing weekend.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where I visited Steampuss Cat Lounge

I love cats but was never allowed pets as a child. When I was at senior school, I lived several miles from school but my best friend lived a short walk away so I’d go to her house at lunchtime. One summer’s day, we found a litter of 4 kittens abandoned in a cardboard box in a cut-through by a main road. Who does that?! I dread to think what would have happened to the poor little things if they’d got out and ventured onto the road. My friend and I carried two each to her house. In a gesture of extreme gratitude for rescuing them, one of them peed down my white school shirt! Yummy! I wanted to keep one but wasn’t surprised when I was told a resonating no. Fortunately my friend’s mum found them all new homes.

It was many years later before I owned my first pets when, fourteen years ago, my husband and I adopted two RSPCA rescue kittens: Felix and Pixie. Sadly they’ve both crossed the rainbow bridge. We lost Pixie six years ago and Felix left us in January this year.

No longer having my own cats to fuss over, I was really keen to visit Steampuss Cat Lounge which had opened in Scarborough in 2019. Then Covid hit and that wasn’t an option.

Last Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of The Secret to Happiness – my first release through Boldwood Books – and it was also the last day before my daughter, Ashleigh, returned to school so I booked us in to visit the cats as a special treat. What a lovely hour! In fact, some might say purrrr-fect!

The cafe is on Scarborough’s Bar Street which provides partial inspiration for Castle Street which appears in many of my books. There’s a ground floor room which, when we were there, had two tables and a lower ground room also with two tables. Booking is advisable to avoid disappointment as spaces are limited. This can be done via their website or Facebook page.

There are twelve cats who go home with the owners each day rather than living in the cafe but they’re not all there every day. We were told that there were eight cats there during our visit and we saw seven of them. There’s an area on the lower ground floor for staff and cats only so a cat may occasionally go in there for a complete break.

Ashleigh and I were thrilled to be allocated a ground floor table by the bay window because it’s in the window where the cats tend to congregate. There’s a large scratching post/sleeping tower in the middle and vintage suitcases either side which the cats were curled up in.

Most of the cats are named after characters in films/books and there’s a lovely booklet on the table including pictures and giving detail about each cat from breed to age to who its best friends are. Awww! It’s perfect for trying to identify the cats although a few of them have similar markings so we’re not convinced we were accurate with our guesses!

The menu includes hot and cold drinks and cakes but there’s a large choice within that and vegan/gluten-free choices too so it caters for all dietary needs. Ashleigh and I both had the most delicious milkshake we’ve ever tasted. Mine was caramel and vanilla and hers was white chocolate and vanilla. To eat, she chose chocolate cake and I had a Victoria sponge with passion fruit topping although her chocolate cake was enormous and she let me have the last bit. Nom nom!

Delicious as it was, a visit to Steampuss was not about the food for us. It was all about the experience of being there among the adorable cats. You’re allowed to stroke them when they’re asleep (which several were) but are asked not to try to wake them up and definitely not to lift them. Full guidance on getting the most out of your visit and treating the cats with care and respect is on the website.

When we first went in, the largest cat – Hagrid – was in the middle of the floor, staring at us. It was as if he was telling us it was his domain and checking us out. Loved that! Once he was satisfied we were friends rather than foes, he settled into one of the beds on the scratching post.

There were six cats including Hagrid spread out in the window area but then another appeared. Lots of shelves were built into the walls in a way that made an accessible climb for the cats so that one decided to hang out on one of the higher shelves.

Ashleigh absolutely loved the experience. She’s 13 and I think children young and old and adults (as long as they like cats) will adore a visit. Actually, scrub that, even if they’re not cat-people, it’s such a lovely experience. Do it!

The cats are so soft and happy and lovely. A friend of Ashleigh’s has visited and it sounds like they were more active during her visit. Having been a cat owner myself, I would imagine that there are times of the day when they might be prowling more than sleeping, either of which will be amazing.

It costs £5 for an adult and £4 for a child to have an hour in the Steampuss Cat Lounge and then, of course, you do pay for your food and drinks on top of that. There are also various gifts available.

We’ll definitely be back in person but I hope to be back in my imagination too because, of course, the cogs are now whirring and I have a story forming. I would love to add a cat cafe to Castle Street. I think it would be perfect in Whitsborough Bay and not in competition to Tara’s The Chocolate Pot because it’s a very different experience to what Tara offers.

Because I was celebrating my book publication anniversary, I just happened to have a paperback with me for a photo shoot!

I highly recommend a visit to Steampuss Cat Lounge. You can find their website and all the details about the cats here. They’re also on Facebook here. The Twitter and Instagram accounts are @Steampuss with Twitter not active since last year but Instagram full of regular picture updates for a gorgeous fix of beautiful cats.

Have you ever been to a cat cafe? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

The one where Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe is published

It’s publication day for Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café. Yay! Happy publication day to me!

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was previously available under the title of Starry Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Just like my ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series which got refreshed and re-released under new titles earlier this year, it’s one of my back catalogue books that my fabulous publishers, Boldwood Books, have acquired and breathed fresh life into.

If you’d like to know more about the changes, you can read my previous blog post about this here.

The prequel, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, was released last month and it didn’t make sense to have a blog tour for both when there was only three weeks separating their publication dates so, instead, we have an enormous 3-week 63-stops ‘Christmas on Castle Street’ tour. Some bloggers will review both – which is why some names appear twice – and some will review just one.

A huge thank you to Boldwood Books, Rachel Gilbey from RachelsRandomResources, the tour organiser, and everyone who is participating. Book bloggers don’t take any payment for reviewing books. They do it because they are passionate about reading and the support they provide in promoting the work of authors is invaluable.

The links and blurbs for both books are at the end of this post.

What am I doing today? I have finally learned that there’s no point trying to write on publication day as there’s so much activity on social media that it’s hard to concentrate so, for the first time ever, I have taken the day off. I still have lots to do. We had some new bedroom furniture delivered yesterday and it’s still in boxes around the house which will get unpacked later, in between me responding to all the lovely congratulations messages and excitedly checking chart positions!

Tonight I’m on a Facebook Live in conversation with my fabulous editor, Nia Beynon. It will be at 7-8pm over on the Book and Tonic Facebook page so hope you can join us.

Have a fabulous day and hope to see you later at the Facebook Live.

Big hugs

Jessica xx

CHRISTMAS AT CARLY’S CUPCAKES

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.


You can buy it here.

STARRY SKIES OVER THE CHOCOLATE POT CAFE

Cosy up with a mug of hot chocolate for some festive sparkle from bestseller Jessica Redland.

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

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

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

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

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café was originally released as Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café. Now re-released with a new title and new cover, this version has been freshly edited and features several new chapters.

You can buy it here.