Today – 12th March – is three years since the final book in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series came out, freshly edited and re-released by Boldwood Books. As all the books in this series were released in quick succession over a two-month period, it’s really a celebration for all of them.
This rapid release was a game-changer for me as it helped build a readership with a thirst for the next part which was quickly satisfied. Making Wishes at Bay View was released on 14th January 2020 with both New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove out on 20th February, concluding with Coming Home to Seashell Cottage on 12th March.
Less than two weeks later, the UK went into the first Covid lockdown. I don’t know about you, but it still feels like some strange dream looking back at that time. I find myself thinking, “Did that really happen?” Such peculiar times.
I’m convinced that going into lockdown massively helped the sale of this series because readers were seeking escapism and non-readers were turning to books for the same reason. New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms went into Prime reading in the May and shot up the Kindle chart, peaking at #14 and staying in the Top 100 for roughly four months. To this day, this remains my highest position in the UK chart across all my books. Still hoping one day for a UK Top 10. Pretty please!
Three years on, the four books continue to sell steadily. All of them have exceeded 50k of sales with the bestseller, as you’d probably expect, being the first in the series although there are only 5,000 sales separating book 1 and book 4 which makes me so happy as it means that readers have typically gone on to read all four books rather than reading one and not going any further.
I have to pinch myself that the books I’ve written have managed to hit sales levels like this, especially after such a tricky start. I was originally with a publisher who struggled to make an impact and ceased trading after book 4 was released. The sales figures I had with them were:
Book 1 – 379 in 18 months (was a novella at the time but is now a full-length novel)
Book 2 – 1,316 in 18 months
Book 3 – 699 in 6 months
Book 4 – 72 in 3 months
Bit different, eh? I then released them as an indie author and sold very few so I still do a double take and count my blessings big time every time I get my sales figures. I’m eternally grateful to my amazing publisher, Boldwood Books, for completely turning things around for me.
The reviews/ratings never cease to amaze me and I am so thankful for readers who take the time to share the book love, whether that’s in review format or just a rating. It makes a massive difference to authors in making a book more visible, and the written reviews can be such a boost of encouragement when self-doubt sets in … which it frequently does for all authors I know!
Across Amazon and Audible, reviews/ratings have passed 21,000 (16.5k on Amazon and approaching 5k on Audible).
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms will always be a very special book to me because it’s the first book I wrote. It was inspired by something that happened in my personal life which I thought would make a great premise for a story and got me writing. The main character, Sarah, needed two friends and as soon as they started to develop, I realised they had stories of their own to tell and a trilogy was born. Then my original publisher asked me to write a short story to give away for free before we released the first book. I’m not good at writing ‘short’ so a prequel novella came out. When I was an indie author, I felt there was more story to tell and wrote a sequel. The two were then combined to make one full-length novel.
Although Seaside Blooms is really special to me, my favourite book in the series is Coming Home to Seashell Cottage. It’s full of twists and turns and is also more emotional than the others in the series. While writing that book, I felt as though I’d truly found my voice and the type of author I wanted to be. I’m very proud of that book.
And, of course, the setting of Whitsborough Bay opened a flood of ideas and my twelfth book set in this fictional coastal town is out next month with plenty more still to come.
The first book after the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series celebrated a birthday yesterday too but I actually forgot about it because it was also my husband’s and dog’s birthdays so it had slipped my mind that there was also a book birthday. And, as I’ve mentioned the dog, here she is yesterday with one of her birthday gifts.
All You Need is Love was my first brand new indie release and, after a fresh edit through Boldwood, came out on 11th March 2021 so happy 2nd birthday to that story.
Although these books (using different titles) are officially older than this, I made a decision to use the Boldwood re-release dates for book birthday celebrations rather than the original release dates because those are the ones that had the impact. All the books floundered before Boldwood came along.
This is also a really special book to me and remains one of my favourites of all the books I’ve written. It was the first time I wrote a dual perspective story and I really loved the challenge of that. I’ve written another eight dual perspective stories since then and even one with three points of view – The Secret to Happiness.
If you’ve read any of these books, I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Do you have a personal favourite?
Thank you and enormous grateful hugs to Boldwood and all the amazing readers and listeners who have supported these books.
Hi there, and a warm (or should that be cold?) welcome to December? Have you put the tree up yet? I’d normally have done it this weekend but I can’t. I have a submission deadline tomorrow evening on Summer Nights at The Starfish Café and am way behind where I’d ideally be. I’ve written nearly 40k words of it in the last week, bringing my word count up to 77.5k so far but there’s still a long way to go. My poor editor has already been warned that the words will be there but they may be a jumbled mess full of typos and plot holes as I won’t have had the chance to read it at all. Still, it’s better to have a messy manuscript to edit than no manuscript at all, right?
Anyway, because I have a miracle to pull out of the bag before tomorrow night, this is just a very quick stop by to let the Audible fans among you know that a whopping THREE of my books are on the 2 for 1 credit sale on Audible UK which started today. The countdown is on and it ends at 11:59 pm on Sunday 11th December.
The offer is on:
A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow (book 4 in the series)
Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow (book 5 in the series)
Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (book 3 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series although book 1 and 2 – Making Wishes at Bay View and New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms are FREE on Audible Plus)
I’ve mentioned about the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Series having the first two books free on Audible Plus. The first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – is also free on that programme, as is Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café and The Secret to Happiness.
There are loads of other amazing reads from Boldwood authors included in the current 2 for 1 promotion so, if you take advantage of all three of mine, I’m sure you’ll find something fabulous for your fourth pick.
Happy listening! I’m off to bury my head back in my book. Hubby, if you’re reading this – a cup of tea would be lovely!
I’m part of a writing collective called the Write Romantics. Started by myself and fellow Boldwood author, Jo Bartlett in late 2012 with a plan to blog together, we realised that we had very little to blog about – both approaching but not quite being at the submissions point – so we opened it up in spring 2013 and asked if anyone else wanted to join us. Two became ten. We’re based all over the country from as far south as Brighton and as far north as Cumbria so there isn’t a lot of opportunity to get together. I’ve met everyone – most on several occasions – but we’ve never all been in the same place at the same time. Smaller numbers of us have done our best to meet up at RNA events over the years or catch up when we’ve been on holiday or working near one or more of the others.
Last November, six of us went to Stratford Upon Avon and had such a lovely time that we decided to arrange another get together for this November in York and had a whopping seven takers – the biggest number we’d have ever had in one place. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against us and numbers dropped and only three of us were able to make it – Sharon Booth, Jackie Ladbury and me. We missed the others loads but still had a lovely few days away together.
My parents take their caravan to a site just outside York each year to visit the Christmas markets and celebrate my mum’s birthday and it struck me we’d be there at the same time. My mum’s a voracious reader and has read most of the books the Write Romantics have written and has loved them all so she was very excited at the idea of meeting some of the group. As we couldn’t check in to our hotel until 3pm but had all planned to arrive earlier, we met her for lunch while my dad did a walk round the city walls.
After checking in, we had a little bit of writing downtime then met for tea. I didn’t think to take a photo but I had the most delicious meal. My ‘festive burger’ had turkey slices, stuffing, bacon, a sausage and cranberry sauce with a pig in blanket on the top, served with roast potatoes and gravy. Mmmm.
The forecast for Wednesday – our full day – was looking pretty dire for the morning so we decided there was no point traipsing into the city centre, getting wet and miserable, when it was meant to be clear in the afternoon. We loitered over breakfast and had been told we were fine to do so but felt a bit guilty when they started vacuuming round us so we returned to our rooms for a bit more writing time.
As forecast, the rain lifted at noon and we walked into the city, pausing on one of the bridges to take some photos of a very swollen River Ouse, although it wasn’t as high as it had been over the weekend.
None of us were planning on doing much in the way of Christmas shopping. It was more of a chance to wander round the market stalls, soak in the atmosphere and catch up. I still haven’t quite mastered the art of the selfie as I always find my eyes straying to the button I need to press so please excuse my dodgy gazing!
Here, we have the Christmas Markets, The Shambles, a nutcracker outside the Christmas shop on The Shambles, and York Minster. I had to pop into The Works to get a shelfie which included another couple of Write Romantics – Jo Bartlett and Helen Rolfe – in our trip, albeit in book format.
Speaking of books, I had an amazing surprise in Waterstones. I’d already been to York on Saturday to take my mum out for a birthday meal and my daughter and I had dived into a few shops. I love to go into branches of Waterstones and look at the R shelf, imagining seeing my books there so imagine my surprise when York Waterstones had a copy of Christmas Miracles at Hedgehog Hollow in stock! They don’t stock my books so I’m assuming it was ordered in for a customer who failed to collect. Very exciting to see it there, even if that was the reason!
This is actually me on Saturday. I took Sharon over to the shelf yesterday and pretended it was a surprise to spot it there but I’m a rubbish liar and admitted pretty much straight away that I’d seen it at the weekend. She took a photo of me holding it which I was going to include here but then I realised it was on Sharon’s phone so I’ll get that off her and post it on social media instead.
Back to the Write Romantics trip, there were several nutcrackers around the city centre but I hadn’t noticed at first that they all had names on them. It seems there’s a nutcracker trail which would be a really lovely thing to do but we were nearly done with our wandering at this point. We’d paused on a bench next to a white one and I spotted that his name was Stephen so I had to take a picture. In my book New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, Sarah goes searching for the man of her dreams called Steven and I’d just found him for her in nutcracker format!
Sharon had a gift voucher for tea for two at Patisserie Valerie so we went in there for a late lunch. I’ve never been in before but have always thought the cakes looked delicious. The afternoon tea looked impressive and we even managed to eat the scones without our usual debate as to how to pronounce the word so we must all have been tired! However, we were extremely unimpressed that there were no toilets in working order. There was a sign on the door saying no toilets and we assumed that was a deterrent for the general public but it was genuinely the case that the toilets were out of order. I’m pretty sure that’s actually illegal and not great when a food stop usually includes a toilet stop.
Sharon and Jackie headed back to the hotel and I stayed in the city centre for a little longer so I could grab a couple of Christmas gifts and catch the lights. My photos really don’t do justice to how pretty York looked as dusk turned to dark but hopefully they give you some flavour of it.
Today, we had breakfast, some writing time, then met for lunch before all heading home. I’ve got a very busy ten days ahead of me to finish writing Summer Nights at The Starfish Cafe. I’ve only written a third of it so far so that’s definitely going to be a challenge but I’ll get there.
We missed our other Write Romantics buddies but did have a lovely few days of writerly and family chat and hope it’s not too long before we can see the others. Thank you, Sharon and Jackie, for the fabulous company.
Hi there and happy Sunday to you! Hope you’re having a fabulous weekend.
I’m on the penultimate day of writing my 5th Hedgehog Hollow book – Chasing Dreams at Hedgehog Hollow – ahead of submission to my editor so am only briefly emerging from the story to bring you the exciting news of two audiobooks in the Audible UK £3 sale this week.
The first title included is book 3 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – is included. Book 1 – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – is free with AudioPlus anyway and book 2 – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – has previously been in the £3 sale.
The second title is Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, currently a finalist in the RNA’s Christmas/Festive Romantic Novel of the Year.
Even though I’m frantically writing to meet my deadline, I know I’ll find it impossible to resist checking the Audible chart. All the other audiobooks I’ve had in the £3 offer have made it into the Top 100 which is very exciting.
Don’t forget the offer only lasts one week. There’s a helpful countdown on Audible’s sale page…
If you’re an eBook reader instead, Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café is still on a 99p offer on all eBook formats.
I’m also celebrating a double book birthday today.
Books 2 and 3 in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove – were re-issued through Boldwood Books two years ago today on 20th February 2020.
The re-launch of this series in quick succession across a 2-month period heralded a big change for my writing and, after years of struggling, I finally started to sell more than a handful of books each week. A few months later, I was able to realise my dream of writing full time.
Birthday book New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms is still on a Kindle Monthly Deal for 99p in the UK and an equivalent price in Australia.
Coinciding with its birthday celebration, I’m thrilled to have had the news this week that New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms has passed an amazing sales milestone of 50,000 units so far with Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove only 7,000 units behind so hopefully that will reach the 50k mark very soon too.
Thank you, as ever, to anyone who has bought/borrowed/downloaded any of my books and, to the Audible UK subscribers, I hope you enjoy these two audiobooks on offer. If you’ve already listened to them, do please spread the word to any friends/family members who might be interested.
Hello and welcome to Boxing Day. How was Christmas Day? If you were celebrating, I hope you had a fabulous time.
I’m really excited today as seven of my books are on a very special offer on Kindle UK. It’s known as a ‘gold box’ and is only available on a Sunday for eBooks. To be eligible for a gold box offer, an author must have at least six books with the same publisher and they need to have been retailing at £2.99 for at least two months before the 99p gold box deal is secured so that readers are genuinely getting a good offer.
You can usually spot which author has a gold box deal because, late on Sunday afternoon and into Monday morning, those books are usually doing very well near the top of the Kindle charts. This is because they’re featured in the Kindle newsletter and on the daily deals pages and heavily marketed by Amazon themselves.
Yesterday, there was a special Christmas day gold box on the Cadfael series of books by Ellis Peters. At one point yesterday evening, I spotted a whopping 19 of the 21 books in the Top 50. Wow! That’s serious chart domination! They’re still riding high this morning as I’m writing this although they’re back up to the £3.99 price now so they’ll drop position later. There’s always a lag in the sales figures having an impact on the chart.
Unusually, today’s gold box is a joint Boldwood Books one with Jennifer Bohnet who has four of her titles in the deal alongside my seven and it looks like another Boldwood author, Rosie Clarke, has a daily deal with Stormy Days on Mulberry Lane.
My gold box books are:
Making Wishes at Bay View (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 1)
Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 3)
Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book 4)
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (Hedgehog Hollow book 1)
New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow (Hedgehog Hollow book 2)
Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow (Hedgehog Hollow book 3)
We’re not really sure why book 2 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay book – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms – wasn’t selected alongside the rest of the books in the series but it’s less than £6 for the full four-book series, even paying full price for that title, which is still a great deal.
With book 4 in the Hedgehog Hollow series – A Wedding at Hedgehog Hollow – out on 6th January, this is the perfect time to catch up with the three books in the series so far but only pay the price at which one book usually retails. Even though each book in this series is a complete story, it’s a far richer reading experience starting from the beginning and watching the characters develop across the series.
All my Christmas/seasonal books are on a 99p offer at the moment too, although not part of the gold box deal. These will probably stay at 99p until at least the end of December but the gold box is ONE DAY ONLY. There is a slight possibility that Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café may stay at 99p a little longer as Amazon had been price-matching that to an Apple Books offer but I wouldn’t take that chance:
Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café
Christmas Wishes at the Chocolate Shop
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
So you can pick up a whopping TEN of my books on Kindle UK for only 99p each today – £9.90 total.
For another £7.77, you could add in the three books that aren’t on offer just now – New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, All You Need is Love and The Secret to Happiness meaning you’d have the entire Whitsborough Bay collection and Hedgehog Hollow series released so far – 13 books – for £17.67, averaging £1.35 each. SUPER BARGAIN!
You can get to my Amazon UK author page here where you’ll be able to find all my books.
I’ve seen so many of these gold box deals secure astonishing chart positions, albeit for a brief window of time, and I’m trying not to get too excited about the idea of seven books in the Top 50 together or even Top 20 success. My absolute dream would be a book in the Top 10 in the UK. I’ve managed that in Canada and Australia but #14 is the highest I’ve had in the UK Kindle charts with Seaside Blooms when it was on a Prime Deal last year. None of the other books in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series have been in the Top 100 so it would be amazing if they got there.
I’d be ever so grateful if you could share the news if you’re UK-based or have friends/family in the UK who might like to take advantage of this offer. Wishing Rosie Clarke all the best with her daily deal and Jennifer Bohnet every success with her four gold box books. Go Boldwood!
I’m delighted to say that all four books in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series have now passed the 1,000 reviews/ratings milestone on Amazon and want to thank every single reader who has taken the time to leave a review or rating, especially if it’s a positive one!
Book 1 – Making Wishes at Bay View – was the first to get there quite a few months ago and has already passed the 1,500 milestone, next stop 2,000. This made sense to me as the first book in a series is often the most widely read.
Book 4 got there next – Coming Home to Seashell Cottage – and is well on its way to the 1,500 milestone now. Again, this made sense to me as, reading the reviews, quite a lot of readers have referred to the whole series as though they have perhaps just rated the final one.
It was therefore a battle betweenNew Beginnings at Seaside Blooms(book 2) and Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove(book 3) as to which would get to 1,000 first. Seaside Blooms took that crown nearly a fortnight ago on 16th September and, at the time, Lighthouse Cove only needed seven more reviews to reach the milestone. But there were none the next day… or the day after.
Finally, today, book 3 was jubilant and hit the big 1,000.
Between the four books and the box set, there are well over 5,000 reviews/ratings on Amazon and 92% of those are a positive 4- or 5-star rating. I’m thrilled that readers have taken this series to their hearts and shown such love for Callie, Sarah, Elise and Clare’s stories.
No matter how many books I write, this will always remain an exceptionally special series for me as it’s where my writing journey started. I often get asked which my favourite book is and I love them all for different reasons.
Seaside Blooms, although book 2 in the series, is the first book I wrote so that will always hold a very special place in my heart. Seashell Cottage is probably my favourite story as I felt something shift in my author voice when I wrote that story, moving from a lighter romcom style into the deeper emotional women’s fiction category. Clare fascinated me as she arrived on the pages of Seaside Blooms all feisty, spiky and guarded and I didn’t know why. It was a wonderful thing unwrapping her story in book 4.
But I love Making Wishes because octogenarian Ruby is one of the most fun and fabulous characters I’ve ever created, and Lighthouse Cove has one of my favourite romances in it. So, yes, I love them all and I’m thrilled that readers do too. Thank you again.
A huge thank you also to my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books, and my brilliant editor Nia Beynon without whom I wouldn’t be celebrating milestones like this.
What a lovely start to the week. If you haven’t yet taken a trip to Whitsborough Bay, I hope you’ll be tempted to dive in.
Some authors steer clear of their reviews and I can completely understand why. A negative review can be so hurtful and destructive that it can leave them unable to write for the rest of the day and sometimes even longer. I know that to be true as it’s happened to me.
But not all reviews are negative and it seems a shame not to read the lovely comments shared by readers who’ve loved a story. I feel they’re so special and something to celebrate. I therefore read every single review posted on Amazon, including the negative ones. The latter do still hurt but they are massively outweighed by the positives and I’ve been working hard to keep the negative few in perspective.
This week, I’ve been thrilled to reach review/ratings milestones for three of my books. Woo hoo!
Just under a month ago, I announced in my Facebook readers group that three books were heading for the 1,000 milestone and asked members which they thought would get there first:
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms at 980
Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove at 957
All You Need Is Love at 949
As the first two have been out a year longer and the rate of reviews had massively slowed, I did wonder if All You Need Is Love might just race ahead. It came very close but Seaside Blooms pipped it to the post. Just.
I logged on yesterday morning and New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms had hit the 1,000 mark.
And then, this morning, there was a surprise. A book not even previously in the race – The Secret to Happiness – had stormed ahead hitting the bigger target of 2,000!
Not to be outdone, All You Need Is Love also hit the 1,000 mark this morning. I knew the bears could do it!
Finding Lighthouse Cove isn’t far off the target either with 993 reviews/ratings at the time of writing this so hopefully we’ll be celebrating that milestone by the start of next week. Come on Lighthouse Cove. You can do it!
To all those lovely readers who have taken the time to share a review – whether detailed, a couple of sentences, a few words or even just a rating – I am so grateful. I get such a buzz out of reading all the gorgeous comments and it drives me to keep writing and wanting to bring you loads more books.
Please keep sharing the book love for all your favourite authors as you never know when a few kind words might be the lift they need at a time when they’re struggling with edits or deadlines, feeling disillusioned by lower sales or weaker chart positions, have been wounded by a negative comment, and may be questioning whether it’s all worth it. You really can make a difference. No pressure!
At the end of July, Audible launched a new programme for their UK subscribers called Audible Plus. This programme was rolled out in the USA previously and is all about giving subscribers additional free unlimited content so, if you’re an Audible user, do check it out.
The Audible Plus catalogue consists of thousands of carefully selected audiobooks, podcasts and Audible originals which subscribers can listen to as many times as they want for no additional charge.
Audible say: “The new Plus Catalogue offers an exciting opportunity to introduce more audiobooks, podcasts and Audible Originals to members, on top of their credits. New and existing members will be able to discover more titles for the first time at no extra cost, which we believe will increase member listening and allow them to discover new authors or similar genres and themes. The Plus Catalogue provides extra content our members will love, and forms part of our ongoing commitment to present value-added offerings to consumers.”
I’m really excited to have a whopping SIX out of my twelve titles included in this special programme from day 1:
Making Wishes at Bay View (book 1 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series)
New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms (book 2 in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay series)
The Secret to Happiness
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes
Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café
Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow (book 1 in the Hedgehog Hollow series)
I hope that this will introduce new listeners to my worlds of Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow who will perhaps go on to use their usual credits to explore my other titles.
Let me know if you’ve discovered any fabulous new listens through this programme.
Six years ago today on 23rd May 2015, my debut book was published. Happy anniversary to me!
I’ve written a few posts in the past celebrating all the amazing things that have happened since joining Boldwood Books in 2019 and my challenging journey prior to joining Boldwood. I’m therefore not looking to repeat that. Instead, I’m going to look back at what happened when I first became published as it was one of the most exciting but also one of the most stressful periods of time as one door opened but another closed.
My anniversary would originally have been 3rd June as that’s when my debut full-length novel Searching for Steven was released (now available under the revised title of New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms) but my publisher at the time had asked if I could write a short story to give away for free before publication day. It needed to be linked to the series (Searching for Steven was originally the start of a trilogy).
Well, I tried, but I’m not so good at thinking ‘small’ and ended up writing a novella!
We weren’t going to just give that away so it went up for sale as a 99p eBook on 23rd May 2015. It was called Raving About Rhys and, a few years later, I wrote a follow-up short novel called Callie’s Christmas Wish. These two have since joined together and are now available as Making Wishes at Bay View, the first book in the four-strong ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series.
I remembered staying up late the evening before both releases to watch them appearing on my Kindle at midnight which was a very surreal and magical experience. I know I barely slept at all after Searching for Steven was published as that was the big one: my proper, real, full-length debut novel.
These two publication days saw the start of a new era for me as I became a published author. Eek! But late May/early June that year also saw unexpected change.
I was a Learning & Development Advisor for a large food manufacturer at the time and the company had been going through some major restructuring so it had been quite a difficult period. The HR function was already slimmed down to the bones and a couple of job vacancies on the structure chart were removed so the remaining HR staff were given repeated reassurances that there would be no HR redundancies.
Guess who got made redundant?
It was a hell of a shock and the timing of it pretty much took the shine off the release of Raving About Rhys. I’d been out of the office for the week prior to Rhy’s release – which I’ve just realised makes it sound like he was coming out of prison! – running a special community event I’d organised for the apprentices I supported. It had been a huge piece of work which I’d planned to run with a colleague and good friend of mine who did the same role as me but for the more southerly factories. Last minute, she got pulled off it and I was told I had to run it on my own which was a disaster because the whole programme had been planned around two of us so I had to put copious extra hours in – including evenings and the weekend before the event – re-working everything we’d so carefully put together.
Thanks to all that additional hard work, the week with the apprentices went fairly smoothly but it was exhausting. I was so relieved that I’d tagged an extra day’s holiday on after Spring Bank Holiday Monday so I had four days to recover before returning to work.
I got back into the office on the Wednesday – four days after Raving About Rhys was published – and my manager asked if she could see me. She was working in a different building to me so I walked across the site thinking we were meeting for a debrief about the week. As soon her manager came into the room, my stomach sank and I knew something bad was about to happen. I frantically tried to think what it was that I might have done wrong as their sombre faces suggested I was in trouble. Job loss never entered my head.
I cried when they told me I’d been made redundant, but mainly because it was such a shock after the reassurances that nobody in HR would lose their job.
Even worse, I was the only one.
And even worse than that, the decision had been made several weeks previously but they’d wanted me to run the brilliant high-profile event I’d masterminded first!
That was a bit of a punch in the stomach. I did understand from a business perspective why they’d done that, but I was a little insulted that they might think I’d be so unprofessional to run a sub-standard event just because I’d lost my job. If they knew me at all, they’d have known that’s not how I work and, if anything, I’d have pulled out all the stops to make it even bigger and better in order to leave an impressive legacy behind.
What also hurt was that they’d taken my support away from me, meaning I had re-work the entire thing and have the most stressful week ever, when they could have softened the blow of redundancy by letting that week run as planned.
Fortunately, I’d put feelers out with a local recruitment agency during the apprentices week as, although I definitely hadn’t foreseen redundancy, I wasn’t happy with the way things had been heading lately. The apprentice week incident had been the last of many uncomfortable situations.
The day before I was made redundant, while I was on holiday, I’d coincidentally had a conversation with the recruitment agency to explore my CV and consider if there may be an opportunity to join the team, but I had no idea if that would come to anything. I had years of recruitment experience in big and small companies but never in an agency role and I wasn’t sure if my skills would be a good fit.
On Wednesday 3rd June when Searching for Steven was released, I was out of work. I had been invited back to the recruitment agency for a conversation the following week and I had to keep focusing on the hope that it would be a positive outcome otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my special moment for worry about the future.
I had a launch party for my friends and family on Saturday 6th June and still had no idea whether I had a job. My dream was to write full-time but I was under no illusion about how unlikely this was. I knew the statistics. The vast majority of published authors make less than £10k a year from their writing and most make nowhere near that. I wasn’t with a big publisher. I wasn’t even with an established publisher. If I made £100 in the year, I’d probably be doing well! So it was essential that I found myself another HR job.
The problem with where I live is that HR roles are few and far between. Those that exist tend to be more generalist (dealing with contracts, grievance and discipline, ill health and so on) and that’s not where my expertise (or interest) lay. I was a recruitment and training specialist; roles usually associated with large companies in their head offices and not many companies had HQs in Scarborough. I’d just been made redundant from the biggest!
My launch party was emotional and I remember being in floods of tears a couple of days before when I had it confirmed that the printer had made a mistake and I wouldn’t have any books. A launch party with no books? Well, that was certainly going to be interesting. My publisher had a couple of sample copies that they could send to me so I could at least show what the book looked like and, bless them, they sent me a gorgeous teddy bear to say sorry, but it did mean the day I’d dreamed of for years wasn’t going to be quite as I’d hoped.
Despite the lack of books, the party went reasonably well but it was a boiling hot day and there was no air-con so everyone was melting, especially me.
Hubby was going to take photographs but got so distracted talking to people that he didn’t get a chance so I have very few photos of the event.
My sister in law made an amazing cake and I completely forgot to cut it. I didn’t get to speak to half the guests and I didn’t manage to get any buffet to eat so I was starving and my celebratory wine went straight to my head.
But it was still lovely and I’m so appreciative of everyone who came, some of whom had travelled quite some distance, and all the lovely and unexpected gifts.
The following week, I did get a job offer to join the recruitment consultancy and, after serving my notice on gardening leave (lovely), I started in early July.
Just to close the loop on that, it didn’t work out in the end. Eek!
It was a learning experience on both parts. I might have skills and experience at recruitment but what the role needed was a salesperson and I’m not that. I shed so many tears knowing I was a square peg in a round hole, loving the company and the team, but hating the role itself, knowing that I’d be found out at any moment.
The first few months were a fluke because I was able to secure business with a large manufacturer the agency had been desperate to work with for ages. I’d worked there many years before and one of the managers had rated me highly and was delighted to work with me again. On the back of that, I filled several vacancies, secured bonuses, and was crowned ’employee of the month’.
But once those vacancies were filled, the reality was I couldn’t do the job and that was a horrible position to be in as I’ve always been good at roles I’ve previously held.
There were no other roles around so I couldn’t jump ship, even though I wanted to. The day my manager called me into a room and said ‘this isn’t working’, I also cried. Shock? Yes. Relief? Oh, yes! Time to pack up my desk again…
Fortunately, I’d put feelers out once more. I’d held a very part-time job for several years as an internal verifier for a company who offered the HR professional qualification by distance learning. I’d been scheduled to verify a tutor on a workshop but, when his wife took ill, I was asked if I could train the workshop instead and had the opportunity to meet the manager who managed the tutors as he was tutoring on a workshop that same weekend. I explained my predicament and asked him if they might be looking for any more tutors. It so happened that they would be as the company had expansion plans for later in the year. Yay!
I got straight onto the phone to him while I was waiting for hubby to pick me up after losing my job at the recruitment agency and, within a couple of weeks, I’d secured a tutoring role alongside the verifying role and did that for the next five years.
Last June – roughly five years on from first being published – I marked my final assignment and became a full-time author. This was always my dream although the struggles I had in the first five years as a published author meant I never expected to achieve it. I never gave up hope, though.
To all the readers and bloggers/reviewers who have been with me since the beginning or those who’ve discovered my writing more recently, I cannot thank you enough for putting this square peg firmly in a matching square hole. I’ve finally found my place.
And to my editor Nia and the team at Boldwood Books, you know how grateful I am for being selected as one of the first twenty authors when you first set up and for everything you have done to take my books to an international audience and achieve so many dreams. Thank you doesn’t seem enough.
So I’ll raise a glass (of water – it is only lunchtime after all) and toast a happy sixth anniversary. And it truly is a happy one now that I’ve found the place I was always meant to be.
To quote Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are they day you are born and the day you find out why”. The day I became an author was the day I found out why, but this last year or so has been the year I’ve experienced why. The gorgeous reviews, social media posts, and messages from readers about how much my books have meant to them have meant so much to me.
My hubby had canvases made for me on the publication day for Searching for Steven with Rhys’s and Steven’s covers on them and the Mark Twain quote. It hangs above my desk and I look at it several times each day and am so grateful to have found my purpose in life.
Did you know it’s notebook day today – 20th May 2021? Nope, me neither, but a lovely reader/reviewer, Sue, posted on social media about it. Thanks, Sue.
Like so many authors, I’m a bit stationery obsessed. Let’s face it, you don’t need to be an author to have that obsession at all and I’ve been a huge fan of all things stationery-related from a very young age. I get excited looking at a packet of felt-tip pens/highlighters/Sharpies/Stabilo fine points laid out in in a stunning colour transition format. Oh my goodness, I’ve gone to my happy place just thinking about it!
My absolute favourite of favourites is notebooks so I’m thrilled to discover there is a day to celebrate them. Apparently this year is the sixth annual special day. How have I missed this?
So, in celebration of notebook day 2021, I thought I’d share some photos of my collection. It is a hideously dark day and bucketing it down where I am so I apologise if the photos are a little more dull than I might have liked. Hope the fabulousness is still clear.
I’ve written a few bits to bring the collection to life but I completely understand if you just want to scroll through the pics and gaze at their loveliness!
Let’s start by seeing the collection… or the largest part of it. I used to have these on my bookshelves but they were taking up such a huge amount of space that I put them in a crate. The ones leaning at the front all live in the crate but I needed to take them out to get the full effect. If I’ve counted correctly, there are 45 living there!
I use a notebook for each book I’m working on. I develop mind maps for each of my characters which capture details about their appearance, job, family, age, motivations and so on. I add in information about the timeline/critical dates, work through problems, and scribble down research.
They’re mainly A5 sized as that sits nicely in a plastic wallet for each book along various other documents I create as part of my process and I don’t need more space than that for the information I include.
Many have been gifts but most have been ones I’ve bought for myself because there’s something on the front cover which is relevant for a future project or simply because they were gorgeous. And, of course, there are bargains I have picked up in a sale and couldn’t resist at the reduced rate!
I absolutely adore hand-stitched journals. Paperchase carry a stunning range of these and they’re gorgeous for gifts (to myself!!!) Aren’t these just stunning? There isn’t a Paperchase in Scarborough so I have to wait until I visit York to explore. I can, of course, order them online, but I do like to stroke the books with texture.
I’ve been attracted to other notebooks simply because they’re beautiful. I am not a huge fan of ‘boring insides’ i.e. pages that are just white lined or plain paper. I like colour and/or an image. So much more inspiring. The ones in my crate that do have a ‘boring’ inside tend to be the ones I keep rejecting (sorry notebooks).
The ‘Agenda’ one was a Sainsbury’s one. From time to time, they carry lovely ranges of stationery. Not sure about the middle one – maybe Paperchase – and the flowery one is Cath Kidston and the pages are coloured and flowery. Gorgeous.
The one below is a bit bigger than my usual size but isn’t it so pretty? I know it’s only stripes but there’s something about that colour combination that is so beautiful. I bought it in TK Maxx. I’ll be honest. Not my favourite shop for clothes – I don’t have the patience to rummage – but I love the home section and particularly love their stationery. Every so often, I’ll find something gorgeous.
I love the journal-style notebooks. I think these may all have been gifts. The central one definitely was; a gorgeous gift from the hubby. I love the old-fashioned feel from he soft leather and the strap. Mmmm.
Some of my notepads are bought for the cute factor. These ones, for example, are for stroking. I bought the bear for myself and the other two were for my daughter but she never used them and put them on a clear-out pile … so I snaffled them! The fluffy ears may not be the most practical when it comes to writing on the left-sided page but awwww, soooo cute!
I think the ones with ears might have been Clintons and the panda is Paperchase.
I have an eclectic mix of other cute ones. The bottom left two in the picture below were also snaffled from the daughter’s clear-out pile (I think I might have been guilty in attempting to pass on my notebook obsession over Christmases past!)
I don’t know where the top left one is from but it’s a Hallmark one so I’m thinking maybe Clintons too, and Boofle is a Clinton’s bundle of loveliness. Hadn’t realised quite how much Clintons stationery I have! I salute you, Clintons!
The top right one is a range from a Dutch company called Paperclip International which I used to stock when I had my teddy bear shop in 2003-05. I stocked a good range of Paperclip cards, love and friendship postcards (used to sell a stack of those), keyrings and stationery items, and they were really popular. The main characters were the bear and his friend a giraffe although the greetings cards and postcards included a range of other animals such as sheep and pigs. I’ve just looked on their website as I can’t remember what the little bear was called, but they don’t make the range anymore and I got bored after ten minutes of Googling and finding pictures of paperclips instead of the company.
The bottom right is another Clintons one from a collection called Herbie and Friends they had in a few years back. I loved that collection so much but I’m not sure it really took off as I managed to pick up a lot of items on sale the following year, including a soft polar bear (and a bear in the same range for the munchkin), a bag, and several stationery items.
Some notebooks were chosen for nostalgic reasons. I have a feeling the Mickey Mouse and Moomin ones were Sainsbury’s. Holly Hobbie was Clintons. I’m not such a fan of the Mickey Mouse one (sorry Mickey) as, up close, the image looks a tiny bit blurred and that messes with my eyes! I think I might have had an impulsive sale purchase there but I love the other two.
I adore Winnie the Pooh. As a child, I really wasn’t familiar with the work of A A Milne but I fell in love with the characters as an older teen and adult. I stocked traditional characters in my shop and a big range of traditional and colourful Pooh stationery. The notebooks below were not from my shop, though.
I absolutely love Eeyore’s smile on the bottom right one and the phrase: “Some days just don’t let you stay grumpy”. Awww. I have a feeling the top two were Sainsbury’s.
I was a Brown Owl for 7.5 years between 2010-2017 and absolutely loved running a Brownie Pack. Owls were therefore an obvious theme for notepads. A couple were gifts from the Brownies but most were gifts from me to me. I absolutely love the special middle one which was given to me when I stepped down from my perch from a pair of lovely sisters who came to my pack. Isn’t that the most adorable?
The top right one is a Lucy Pittaway design. If anyone has read the acknowledgements in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café, you’ll know that Lucy’s amazing artwork inspired part of that story.
Hedgehogs, of course, do feature. The bottom right one is another gorgeous Lucy Pittaway from a friend of mine, the top right is from my mum from The Works which she sent me during the first lockdown and felt particularly appropriate.
The big one is my work in progress notebook for the Hedgehog Hollow series. It’s from the Wrendale Designs range which I adore. I started writing Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow using an A5 notebook from the same range but, when I realised I had my series on my hands, I super-sized with an A4 one.
I’m also drawn to notebooks with phrases or sayings on them. I have some lovely ones from TK Maxx saying things like “if you want to write…write” but they’re in small lettering on the cover and it didn’t come out very well on camera.
I love the phrase on the pink one (another TK Maxx one). It felt so applicable to my journey to becoming an author. Ask a group of authors what phrase they often hear when they tell someone they’re an author and I can guarantee most will say this: I’d love to write a book… if only I had the time! None of us had time. Not one iota. But we were the girl (or boy) who decided to go for it. We had a dream and it would never come true if we didn’t do something about it so we created time and went for it.
The purple notepad is one of my absolute favourites for three reasons:
The quote – it’s amazing
What the notepad represents
In 2002-03, I made a major change to my life. I’d ended a bad relationship in 2002 and our house was on the market. A friend gave me a gift voucher for a telephone clairvoyant. Not my thing really but I was at a career crossroads, wondering whether to leave a well-paid job to move back to the north and open a teddy bear shop or to stay put and buy a house on my own in Reading. So I made the call which changed my life. The clairvoyant told me I was going to move home and set up the shop and, not long after doing that, I’d meet the man of my dreams who’d be called Steven.
Is this sounding a little bit familiar? If you’ve read New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms, you’ll recognise this as the premise for the story. I didn’t find Steven when I set up the shop but, from that clairvoyant call, I did find the premise for my debut novel. When I opened Bear’s Pad in 2003, that’s when I started to write. Having the shop also provided the inspiration for All You Need is Love which is partially set in a specialist teddy bear shop.
In New Beginnings at Seaside Blooms,the main character Sarah comes across lots of different Stevens when she takes over her auntie’s florist’s and that was all inspired by my real life experiences when opening Bear’s Pad. You know that red notebook with the little yellow bear from earlier? The rep for Paperclip was called Stephen. I’d made enquiries with the company to stock their products and someone rang me to say a rep was in the area and did I want him to call round. I had such a shock when she gave me his name! Cue me rushing around in a panic because I had no make-up on, my hair was a mess and I was in casual clothes as I’d been cleaning and painting!
Anyway, I said the purple notebook was particularly special for what it represents. When I was getting ready to leave Reading and move home, a good friend of mine came to stay with me and she presented me with the notebook with best wishes for the new chapter of my life. She knew my premise for my debut book and the quote (which I’ve put in a bigger picture below) couldn’t be more appropriate. And I did become what I imagined!
I have a drawer full of small A6-sized notebooks and another drawer full of even smaller ones (not shown) and usually pop one of those in my handbag when I’m out and about as you never know when inspiration might hit. Yes, I know I can use the Notes app on my phone but a phone isn’t stationery and doesn’t get me excited!
And I have another drawer of A4 notebooks. I have future plans for a series set on a farm so I bought the highland cow in anticipation of that. It’s from the same series as the hedgehog one – Wrendale Designs – and I love it lots.
I’ve a bit of an obsession with desk jotters too. Spot the Herbie and Friends one, picked up in the sale…
And, finally, I have a drawer full of unicorn ones as I have a plan for a future project involving them but goodness knows whether I’ll ever find the time to write it. Still, the stationery is ready for if and when I do!
So on notebook day, I think we can safely say I have a notebook obsession! I’m trying to be good. When I’m writing a new book, I do try to select one from the collection rather then buy a new one but it’s hard when they’re not quite right! Some of the ones in the collection have specifically been bought for future projects although I did recently purchase one for a future project, went to put it in the crate, and realised I already had two with that particular theme on them. Oops!
Are you a notebook fan? Do you have a crazy large collection like me? What draws you to them? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.