Good morning and welcome to a beautiful Friday. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it’s nearly the weekend. Yay!
I have just had the most delicious start to the day. I’m sure I’m not the only author who logs into Amazon and AppleBooks first thing to have a quick check chart positions and I was astonished and thrilled to see the most #1 Best Seller flags I’ve ever had on Amazon. Ooh, I love that little orange flag. When books are uploaded for sale, they are allocated to 2-3 categories based on the content of the book and the flag appears when the book makes it to #1 in that particular category.
Don’t they look pretty? (The 9th one is further down the page)
Out of all my books, only Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Charlee and the Chocolate Shop haven’t got best seller flags first thing but the only reason for that is that they’re in the same categories as Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe which does so they can’t all have one! They are, however, numbers 2 and 3 in that chart and therefore would be #1 if one of my books wasn’t already in that slot. So can I pretend that’s 11 flags? Hmm. Maybe pushing it a bit far with that.
I’m particularly thrilled to see Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow displaying an orange flag as it’s only on pre-order, out next week on 2nd July. And I’m even more thrilled to see Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe with a flag. This is a re-edited and much longer version of Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe and is also available for pre-order now, out on 8th September. The original version will disappear from sale on 1st July.
Thank you so very, very much to anyone who has bought or borrowed any of my books, left a review, recommended them to friends/family and to anyone in the blogging community who has loved them and spread the word. This could not happen without you all and I’m so incredibly grateful.
I opened up Facebook this morning and was presented with a memory from one year ago which momentarily confused me. It was stunning bouquet of flowers but why? My birthday is in May, Mother’s Day is before that, and my wedding anniversary is in September. So what was significant about 18th June 2019 that warranted flowers? Hmm.
Then I scrolled down the memories a little further and all was revealed. One year ago today was the day Boldwood Books officially announced their first twenty authors. I’d been sitting on the news about my 9-book publishing deal for three months so it was so thrilling to see the full announcement go out and to be able to finally share the amazing news with the world. Woo hoo! You can read about the announcement here.
A year on, what a difference Boldwood have made to my writing career. After years spent languishing in the lower echelons of the Amazon charts, I have officially become an international bestseller with a Top 10 in the Kindle Canada charts, Top 20 in the Kindle UK and Australia charts, and Top 3 on AppleBooks UK. Eek! I never, ever imagined chart success like that.
My 9-book deal with Boldwood extended to a 12-book deal when I signed contract addendums this year for the rest of my back catalogue to be re-edited and re-released through them. When I first submitted to Boldwood in February last year, I was drawn to their promise to work with the author on developing their career and they have absolutely delivered on that. Earlier this year, for the first time ever, I felt like a real author.
And, thanks to Boldwood, this month I achieved a long-held dream of becoming a full-time author. A year ago, I hoped it might be possible one day. Six months before that, it seemed like an unreachable goal.
If anyone reading this is an aspiring writer and struggling, hang on in there and keep believing as you never know when it might happen for you. I wrote about my journey to publication here and it certainly had many dips in the road before I found my home with Boldwood.
My gratitude to the team at Boldwood Books is enormous, for believing in my stories in the first place and for delivering everything they promised – and so much more. They have ‘reimagined publishing’ in so many ways: by bringing out all books for all authors in all formats (eBook on all platforms, audio, paperback and now large print), by treating all authors equally whether debut or with a huge back-catalogue, and by having an individual brand and marketing strategy for each author. Everyone is friendly, supportive, passionate about what they do, and I’m so lucky to be part of the team. #TeamBoldwood which has now grown to 38 announced authors (may well be others lined up for a future announcement) is a pretty special place to be. My editor, Nia Beynon, is an absolute delight to work with and I have learned so much from her expertise in editing my work.
Happy announcement-anniversary to Boldwood and thank you. It took a lot of years and some major disappointments but I am so glad I found my home with you. The first year has been amazing beyond my wildest expectations and I look forward to a long and happy relationship.
When you get the one thing you’ve worked so hard towards and dreamed of for years, how long does it take to actually sink in?
Last Sunday (7th June 2020), I assessed my final assignment, responded to my final student query, submitted my invoice and put on a permanent out of office. That was it. Done. I was no longer an HR tutor; the home-based role I’ve had for just over five years.
I didn’t set any major writing goals for my first week as a full-time author because I had a feeling that, the moment I took my foot off the pedal, the fatigue of a demanding work schedule would catch up with me. For the past five years, I’ve worked more than full-time hours in the day job, have written eight books, have created several works-in-progress (probably the equivalent of another full-length novel-and-a-half) and have obtained a Masters in Creative Writing. For more than half of that time, I was also the Brown Owl for a 24-strong Brownie Pack. Eek! I feel exhausted just thinking about it! With so much going on, sleep was a frequent struggle.
As suspected, it did catch up with me this week and I have felt phenomenally tired every single day. I probably should have just taken two days off and slobbed in front of the TV but I was keen to get some word count under my belt on the WIP. It’s been slow-going, though. Not because I’m struggling with the WIP but because I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I gave up and had a lie on the bed with the dog on Monday afternoon. Three hours later… Oops! Still, I obviously needed it.
Today – Saturday – is the first day I feel slightly less fatigued although I think the lie-in until 10.15 a.m. massively helped. I haven’t slept in like that in years!
The big difference for me this week has been a determination not to work every evening like I normally would and I have to admit that it has been strange. Very strange. I’m so used to watching some TV while eating my tea, then getting up as soon as the programme finishes and returning to work for the evening. In fact, I’m so used to it that, up until Wednesday, my body was actually twitching with that familiar routine and it has been so lovely not to have to get to my feet and retreat to my computer.
I do want to form a routine over the next couple of weeks where my time writing is focused, I finally have the opportunity to work through my enormous TBR pile, and I have some family time too but I think I natural routine will probably evolve once the tiredness subsides.
I’ve had lots of lovely surprises arriving in the post this week too. Flowers, cake and Prosecco, cards, a teddy bear with a special wooden necklace celebrating my new career, a Lucy Pittaway mug and notepad, some Cath Kidston hand creams (with hedgehogs on them) and a gift voucher. I really wasn’t expecting anything. And then hubby disappeared late this morning and returned with an amazing cake in the shape of my next release, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, which looked too good to cut into but, hey, it’s cake and cake does not survive for long when I’m around with a fork in hand! Thank you so much to Mark and Ashleigh, Sharon, Helen, Jo, Liz, Carol, Wendy and Mum and Dad for your amazing generosity xx
I also treated myself to a cross stitch – something I haven’t done in years but used to love doing to relax – and a new sign for my wall. Feeling very spoilt right now!
Despite everything, it still hasn’t sunk in that it’s finally happened. The thing I’ve been dreaming/wishing/hoping/longing for has come true. I keep expecting to have to do the day job. Maybe next week it will start to feel real…
Wishing everyone a relaxing weekend and a great week ahead.
I have just marked my final assignment, dealt with my final query, emptied my email folders and put on an out of office which says: “I no longer work for XXXX…..”
Five years in my day job as an HR Tutor have come to a close and I feel… What do I feel? Free? Elated? Excited? Scared? All of those and perhaps a little bit in denial that it has actually happened. I never thought the day would come.
If you were to ask my good friend and fellow author, the super talented Sharon Booth, what my writing goal has been in all the years we’ve known each other, she’d say, “To write full-time.” Some authors might specify their writing goals in terms of securing a deal with a certain publisher, being taken on by a specific agent, winning an award, achieving a certain chart position or level of sales. For me, it has always been to be able to earn enough income to write full-time.
Why? Because I love it. It’s part of me. It’s who I am.
I actually loved being a writer years before I even thought about writing a book. That may sound a little odd to say but my career has always been in HR, other than a brief diversion into retail when I opened and ran a teddy bear shop. My HR roles mainly specialised in recruitment and L&D (learning and development). The tasks that excited me were the ones where I got to write, whether that was a job advert, an assessor’s manual or a training exercise. The writing activities that gave me the biggest buzz were designing case studies or group exercises for recruitment or training purposes. Looking back, this was I was creating characters. I was developing plots. Of course, I had no idea that it was the start of me developing my skills ready to become an author. Destiny had plans for me!
Writing has always had to take a back seat to my day job and it’s been a tough old slog fitting it in but I’ve toiled away, writing on evenings and weekends, always hoping that I could one day write in a ‘normal’ 9-5 day. And now I can. Yay!!! The income won’t be nearly as much as I earn from the day job but I’ve managed to build up some day job savings that I can draw on in the hope that, one day, my writing income will be enough to do this forever.
So why do I feel a bit in denial? I suppose it’s because leaving a job where the office is my home and my colleagues and customers are all virtual is different than leaving a regular office job. When someone leaves an office job, they often say the thing they’ll miss the most is the colleagues they’re used to seeing every day but that isn’t the case for me because I’m a remote worker. I have a few colleagues who I am good friends with who I’ll definitely stay in contact with, one of whom I used to regularly meet up with pre-virus so I’m looking forward to being able to see her again. We have more than the job in common.
When a teacher leaves a job, they would typically say they’ll miss their students but being an online tutor is different there too. I tutored two subjects, each of which have three compulsory and three optional practice assignments. I worked with some students on both subjects and others on only one. Some students wouldn’t pass a single assignment first time around and would ask lots of queries so, although we never met or spoke, we’d have a good working relationship. Others never interacted beyond submitting their assignments. Some were a delight to work with and were so enthusiastic to learn. Others not so much. But, because it was a constant churn as students moved through the qualification, the relationship was short-term so I don’t miss “my class” because I never had a class. That said, there are some students – recent and from some time back – who I will always remember for being an absolute pleasure to support on their journey.
There have been some major frustrations and I have massive empathy and respect for anyone in the teaching profession as a result of my five years as a tutor because … oh my goodness … so many students do not listen! Or read. Or pay attention. Argh! Which prompted my super talented husband to draw the amazing image at the top of this post of me at my desk with steam coming out my ears when even the basics couldn’t seem to be mastered.
For example, when running a webinar explaining the assignment:
Me: This assignment is 500 words. There’s a 10% leeway meaning you can submit between 450-550 words. This applies to the WHOLE assignment, not per question. If you submit an assignment over or under the allowable word count, it won’t be marked….
Student 1: Is it 500 words per question?
Student 2: Can you go over word count?
I could write pages of examples but it would make for a very boring blog post for anyone except my colleagues who’d be nodding and smiling and rolling their eyes with me. I’m sure most people can relate to the picture, though, whatever job you’re in.
So tomorrow is a new dawn, new day, new era. Very, very exciting. And scary. But mostly exciting…
Thank you so much to my long-suffering husband and daughter who have never moaned at the ludicrously long hours I’ve had to work to try and keep two full-time jobs going.
Have a great start to the week. I’m certainly going to!
A couple of weeks ago, I shared a blog post celebrating five years as a published author and I’m being a bit greedy and sharing another one because it’s also a special anniversary today – 3rd June 2020. As it happens, this should actually be my anniversary for five years as a published writer because my first book – a novella released on 23rd May 2015 – was not originally part of the plan.
3rd June 2015 was the publication day of my very first full-length novel, Searching for Steven, now re-edited and re-packaged as New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms.
This was such a momentous occasion that I held a launch party for friends and family in my hometown of Scarborough. I was so excited about it but it didn’t quite go to plan…
A cock-up at the printer meant I had no paperbacks which made me cry. A lot. A book launch with no books? Hmm.
The day itself was very hot and muggy and the function room that should have been fine at that time of year was unbearably melting. My hair was plastered to my head and I had no choice but to expose my arms as the lacy shrug I’d bought to go with my outfit made me too hot.
My sister in law made an amazing cake and I completely forgot to cut it and hand it out. I promise it wasn’t a deliberate ploy to keep it all to myself! Although it might have been a bonus that I did have lots of cake to eat afterwards.
My husband was on photography duty but got so tied up speaking to friends and family that barely any photos got taken so I have very few pictures from the event. I had to put my dress back on the follow day and pose for some photos in the garden.
I did my best to circulate round the room but the hours flew by and I didn’t get to speak to half the guests which made me feel awful and, even five years on, I still feel guilty about it. Mind you, I still feel guilty about guests I didn’t have a chance to speak to at my wedding and that was nearly fifteen years ago! This is something I might need to work on. As the song says, let it go!
As a result of circulating, I was too late for the buffet and didn’t get anything more than a mini sausage roll and a few crisps. Soooo hungry.
I made a speech and forgot what I planned to say including forgetting to thank my SIL for the amazing cake. My daughter (eight at the time) got overwhelmed by it all and burst into tears mid-speech which didn’t help with my recall!
So it definitely didn’t go to plan. But it was still wonderful because it was a once-in-a-lifetime moment. After all, I will never have another debut novel.
I’m so grateful to everyone who travelled to Scarborough to share my special day with me, to those who placed orders for books, and to my publisher at the time who was so gutted for me about the books cock-up that they sent me a teddy bear in the post. She knew how to cheer me up! They also got the printer to cover the postage of sending my books out to everyone after they finally turned up.
Earlier this year, I’d briefly wondered whether I might have another launch party to celebrate the release of Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – the start of a new series – and five years as a published writer. Then a little virus started circulating and quashed any further thoughts of that. I will have a special celebration this weekend, though, as I mark my last ever HR assignment and deal with my final student query then hang up my tutor hat to become a full-time author.
It’s been five years since my first novel was published but eighteen since I had the idea for it and seventeen since I started writing it. Good things come to those who wait and, my goodness, that’s been a lot of years of waiting, Happy anniversary, me! Cheers!
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.
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!
DELIGHT – 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.
DELIGHT – 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.
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!
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.