It has been another amazing week in the world of Hedgehog Hollow.
Today, on the 4-week anniversary since the release of book 3 in the series – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow – the first book is celebrating a major reviews/ratings milestone. It has now passed the 2,000 point on Amazon. Woo hoo those hedgehogs!
But book 3 has hit another amazing number. 1,300 is maybe not a number we’d call a milestone but when we say that 1,300 was achieved in only 4 weeks, my gaster is well and truly flabbered (which auto correct wanted to change to my Easter is blabbered!)
And with over 2,300 reviews, the 2nd book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – is well on its way to a 2,500 milestone.
Meanwhile over on Apple, the hedgehogs have been enjoying more celebrations. I posted to say that Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow had been chosen as Apple’s Free Book of the Week in the UK and Ireland as well as being free Romance of the Week in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. That week is over now. Well, I say the week is over but it still is showing as FREE in some territories so, if you’re an Apple user and haven’t already grabbed it, you may still get it for free.
Giving away a book for free may seem a strange thing to do as it obviously brings in zero income for an author and we do have bills to pay. It’s a strategy that can work well when the book is the start of a series as it’s effectively giving readers a free sample. If they like what they try, they’ll hopefully go on and read the other books in the series and, as they’ll be buying those, some income is still generated.
In March last year, the first book in the ‘Welcome to Whitsborough Bay’ series – Making Wishes at Bay View – was the Free Book of the Week in the UK and made it to the #1 position, with #3 for Making Wishes at Seaside Blooms, #13 for Finding Hope at Lighthouse Cove and #23 for Coming Home to Seashell Cottage (#2, 3 and 5 respectively in the Romance category chart). I hoped similar things would happen for the hedgehogs.
And I’m delighted to say they have…
FINDING LOVE AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW topped the overall chart in UK and Ireland, and the Romance category in both those territories and Australia. Top 6 everywhere else!
It was so lovely seeing it at the top of the overall free chart…
NEW ARRIVALS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW came so close to the top in the UK and I thought at one point that it might just nudge up there… but there was a new E L James released today. The hedgehogs are not going to topple Mr Grey!
I was absolutely delighted to chart in the USA with it being such an enormous market. Apple shows the Top 200 positions but gives no indication of chart positions outside that so it’s such a special moment spotting it visually represented.
A particular thrill was becoming a sandwich in the Apple Books UK chart with Richard Osman and Matt Haig who have two of the biggest selling books of the year. What an honour! I’d bought both paperbacks recently so couldn’t resist recreating the sandwich in my office.
And this was my #2 moment, so very close to the top. As you can see, book 3 was still working its way up the charts at this point. It’s so surreal when I see some of the HUGE names with whom I’m sharing ‘shelf-space’ and also particularly lovely to see a fellow Boldwood author, Diane Saxon in there too…
FAMILY SECRETS AT HEDGEHOG HOLLOW didn’t chart in Ireland but did well in all the other territories and potentially could still climb higher but I wanted to write this post today as it’s the 4-week anniversary since the release of Family Secrets.
It was particularly great capturing book 2 and 3 today in the Top 5 together:
At one point, books 2 and 3 were Top 5 together while book 1 was top of the free chart so they were all featuring on the home page in the UK. Don’t imagine I’ll see that again!
A huge thank you to all Apple users who’ve made this possible this week and to all the Amazon users who’ve helped achieve those amazing review/ratings numbers.
As I say, Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow still appears to be free in most territories for Apple so do check yours out if you haven’t already grabbed it. It’s also still in Prime Reading on Amazon and all my books are in Kindle Unlimited so free if you subscribe to that.
The first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series – Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow – was on a BookBub promotion yesterday in the USA.
Starting the day with a chart position of #7,047 those hedgehogs were going to need to work hard to scamper up the charts but they did it! With a peak position of #71, I’m absolutely delighted that they reached the Top 100. Go hedgehogs!
They gathered a stack of #1 best seller tags for different categories on their journey. That little orange tag is such a happy sight and I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of it.
There was also a knock-on impact on the second book – New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow – jumping up the chart too and also the third book on pre-order – Family Secrets at Hedgehog Hollow. The latter might not seem that high a chart position but when you look at the jump of over 74,000 places, it gives more context.
The first two books are still on offer at 99c for a limited time so if you were a BookBub subscriber and missed the offer, it’s still available. You can find Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow here.
Thank you to my publishers, Boldwood Books, and all the readers who bought these books for making a Top 100 in the USA possible. The hedgehogs are doing a very happy dance today.
Today, one of my books cracked the Kindle Top 40 in the USA and, if I wasn’t full of my delicious tea (thanks hubby), I’d be doing a happy dance round my office right now!
The Secret to Happiness – my first release from publisher Boldwood Books back in September 2019 – was accepted for a BookBub promotion. It was the very first promotion I’ve had for any of my books in the US market so how it might perform was very much an unknown entity.
With such an enormous number of books available in the USA, impact on the charts would be a challenge. I hoped that it would make it into the Top 1,000. Secretly I hoped for Top 100 but realistically didn’t expect it.
A year ago, the same book got to #9 on a BookBub in Canada and #20 in Australia but we’re talking smaller markets here.
The starting position yesterday afternoon when the BookBub newsletter landed in inboxes was #43,248 so it had a lot of climbing to do!
The Secret to Happiness clambered away and it must have been at peak fitness as it certainly did me so proud. At bedtime, it was up to #660 and had gained several category #1 Bestseller Awards. In the early hours of this morning, it hit #138, then #53 and, shortly after 6am, it was at #35! Eek!!!!
I figured that would be it – no chance of going higher – and a slight drop late morning today to #37 suggested it had peaked. But it climbed those 2 places again and another 3 more a bit later this afternoon, reaching #32.
THANK YOU so much to the amazing Boldwood Books for putting me forward for the promotion, to BookBub, and to anyone in the USA who has downloaded The Secret to Happiness. I hope you enjoy it. I love the story of Alison, Karen and Danniella and it will always be a super-special one to me as it’s the book that secured me a publishing deal with Boldwood and completely changed my life.
If you’re not a BookBub subscriber, do check out Amazon.com as I believe it may be 99c for the eBook for a smidge longer.
If you’d like to find The Secret to Happiness, it’s available as an eBook for all formats, on Kindle Unlimited, paperback, on streaming services, for audio download, physical audio formats and via the uLibrary app in UK libraries or Hoopla for US libraries. You can find it on Amazon Kindle here.
Thank you again.
Everyone deserves a chance at happiness…
Danniella is running from her past, so when she arrives at the beautiful seaside resort of Whitsborough Bay, the last thing on her mind is making friends. After all, they might find out her secrets…
Alison is fun, caring and doesn’t take herself too seriously. But beneath the front, she is a lost soul, stuck in a terrible relationship, with body confidence issues and no family to support her. All she really needs is a friend.
Karen’s romance has taken a back seat to her fitness business. But she doesn’t want to give up on love quite yet. If only those mysterious texts would stop coming through…
When the women meet at their local bootcamp, a deep friendship blossoms. And soon they realise that the secret to happiness is where they least expected to find it…
An uplifting story of friendship and finding the strength to come to terms with the past. Perfect for fans of Tilly Tennant and Cathy Bramley.
One year ago today, The Secret to Happiness was published. Happy book-birthday to me! It’s an exceptionally special book-birthday because this was the first of my books released by my amazing publishers, Boldwood Books. It was the book that secured me my publishing deal.
Originally titled Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye, it tells the story of three women – Alison, Danniella and Karen – who are struggling to let go of something/someone from their past. They all meet at a beach-based bootcamp run by Karen and it explores whether the power of friendship can give the women the strength to move on and find the happiness they deserve.
It’s an emotional but uplifting story which I love and I was sure that, after several years as an indie writer, it would secure me a publishing deal. It didn’t at first. When Boldwood opened for submissions, it had been rejected by five different publishers. Five rejections is not a lot in the grand scheme of things but I took each one to heart and was crushed by them. Because I’d already released nine books, originally with a publisher and then via an independent route – all with great feedback – I started to seriously doubt myself. I wondered if I’d tried to be too clever writing about three women instead of just having one protagonist (like in all my books except Bear With Me which has two). I wondered whether I’d lost my writing mojo.
But this is a positive post and I want to focus on the amazing things that have happened since what became The Secret to Happiness found its home at Boldwood. I have pasted my rejection feedback at the end if anyone is curious. For authors, this may give the encouragement to keep going as, what one editor passes on, another may feel passionate about.
Thankfully, Boldwood thought differently to the other five publishers and offered me a 9-book deal for this book plus another three new ones, and five novels from my back catalogue! Wow!
And I couldn’t be happier. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. I believe I was always destined to join Boldwood so I’m grateful for those rejections because they meant I could find my true home.
What has The Secret to Happiness done for me?
Over 9k paperbacks in branches of The Works around the UK
Sold nearly 500 audio copies*
Sold nearly 15k eBooks*
#122 in the UK Kindle Chart
#9 on the Canada Kindle Chart
#20 on the Australia Kindle Chart
#35 on the overall AppleBooks Chart and #10 on the Romance Chart
Secured 123 ratings/reviews on Amazon UK, 92% of which are 4 or 5-star
Secured 43 ratings on AppleBooks UK, all of which are 4 or 5-star
* Up until end June 2020
This book took a struggling indie writer and turned her into an international bestselling author! Eek! Still can’t quite believe that!
I cannot thank my amazing editor, Nia Beynon, enough for believing in this book and helping shape and polish it ready for publication. And thank you to the team at Boldwood Books and the fabulously talented authors there who’ve supported and promoted my work.
If you haven’t yet read it, now’s your chance as it has been selected for Kindle UK’s September Monthly Deal and is 99p for the whole of the month. Kobo and AppleBooks also have it for 99p.
You can find it for Kindle here or on Audible here.
If you prefer paperbacks, The Works sold out really quickly online but you may still be able to find a copy in your local branch. Alternatively paperbacks can be ordered via Amazon. Or you could win a copy!
Yes, to celebrate The Secret to Happiness’s 1st book-birthday, I’m giving away THREE signed copies. There’ll be one book given away in a competition on Facebook, one on Instagram and one on Twitter. I’ll share details from my various social media accounts but they’ll appear first on Boldwood’s social media. You can find them as:
Book & Tonic on Facebook and Instagram
@BoldwoodBooks on Twitter
So watch out for news of how to win!
In the meantime, have an amazing week/weekend and thank you once more to everyone who has discovered The Secret to Happiness or is about to discover it!
And, as promised, here’s the rejections…
“Concept intriguing and writing engaging [but] not suitable for our list.”
“Created a great ensemble cast .. setting well delineated … [but the] concept wasn’t quite ‘hooky’ enough to stand out in a very crowded market.”
“While the premise is fun and engaging and original, we just feel the bootcamp idea is not quite right for us at this time. I do think it’s very well written, however, so please don’t let this stop you – you just need a cracking idea and you’ll be on your way.”
“I absolutely loved diving into the world you’ve conjured here … [but] as the story went on I struggled to empathise with the characters as much as I wanted to. Rather than being invested in their journeys I felt they lacked the necessary depth and layers, I wanted to see more of their emotions and feelings on the page. In such a competitive book market we have to ensure we feel passionate about the book and characters and sadly I just couldn’t find myself getting lost in Alison or Karen’s story as I couldn’t connect with them. In terms of next step I recommend looking at how you can weave more depth into the characters, offering readers different layers to uncover from them all.”
“Your writing is great, and there is huge warmth and emotion in your narrative. All of the women’s stories are hugely poignant, but because there were three of them, it felt at times like there wasn’t quite enough space for each story, including the tragic events before the book begins, to be fully explored. The women’s fiction market is so tricky at the moment, and what we tend to be looking for at the moment are in-depth emotional stories with a tight scope, or high-concept stories that can be pitched in a single line. I’m afraid that Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye didn’t quite hit the mark for me.”
Today’s #MondayMotivation is a metal sign that we bought in a furniture store in York shortly before Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was released.
The reasons for the purchase are hopefully fairly obvious but I was also thinking about this sign a year later when I wrote Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe. I describe The Chocolate Pot as having vintage metal signs all over the walls which are both beach-themed and cafe-themed and I imagine this being one of them.
This sign couldn’t be more appropriate for today because I woke up to some quite astonishing chart positions overseas for Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes.
This book was re-released on 13th August through Boldwood Books after a completely fresh edit and it quickly made its way into the Top 50 on the UK’s free Kindle chart. It has twice peaked at #17 which is very exciting.
I was very pleased with how well it was doing overseas but it surpassed all my expectations today.
In the USA, it hit #15 today which was completely amazing, especially when you think of the size of the US market! I certainly never expected to get higher in the USA chart than in the UK one!
Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes also reached #20 in Canada today and #43 in Australia.
Obviously I don’t make any money from these high chart positions with the book being free but the hope is that readers might read it, love it and be inspired to read the sequel, Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe, which has also been edited and expanded and will be out on 8th September. Fingers crossed!
Thank you to everyone who has downloaded a free copy in any territory worldwide. If you haven’t got it already, here’s the links to those four markets but you can buy it from your local Amazon site anywhere in the world as it’s free globally.
It should also be free on Kobo and AppleBooks but hasn’t appeared on either site yet. Not sure why. Hang on in there if you use either of those eReaders as it should appear free on both very soon.
So why is this my choice for #MondayMotivation? It was always there on my wall as a reminder of having written two of my books – a proud achievement in itself – but now it gives me motivation in reminding me of the time I reached #15 in the USA!
Somebody pinch me! Eeeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!
Have a fabulous week.
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.
Today is National Teddy Bear Day; a day that celebrates the history behind the teddy bear. Do you know the history? It’s quite a fascinating story.
Stuffed animals had been around for some time and this even included stuffed bears with Steiff including a bear toy in its 1894 catalogue although it was more reminiscent of a grizzly bear than the cute and cuddly teddy bears we think of today. So how did a stuffed grizzly bear – possibly a bit scary-looking – morph into what we more commonly know as the teddy bear today. It was actually the result of a bit of clever marketing in the early twentieth century…
The president of the USA at the time was President Theodore Roosevelt (in office from 1901-1909). In November 1902, Roosevelt visited Mississippi to work on a tricky political situation around boundaries between Louisiana and Mississippi. Roosevelt had a reputation as a rugged hunting/shooting/fishing type so, to help him relax between difficult negotiations, a bear-hunting trip was organised on 14th November (yeah, I know, but do bear in mind [excuse the pun] that we’re talking nearly 117 years ago and these things were viewed very differently back then). Anyway, it was all going a bit wrong and, as the day drew to a close, the President hadn’t been successful. Keen to end the day on a high, the hunters chased and stunned a small black bear and tied it to a tree so that the President could shoot it. Argh! But don’t panic. It does end well because, even though it obviously didn’t bother him to shoot one of these beautiful animals in the wild, he refused to shoot a captive animal and demanded they, “Spare the bear!” So the bear was cut loose. Hurrah!
News of fair play was all over the papers and a cartoon by Clifford K Berryman appeared in the Washington Post with the clever caption “Drawing the Line in Mississippi” which linked to his political reasons for being there as well as drawing the line against killing a captive animal.
A Brooklyn-based Russian couple, Morris and Rose Michtom, were shop-owners and fans of stuffed bears. Delighted by the story, Rose made a jointed bear from soft fabric and put it in the shop window alongside the newspaper cartoon. It sold immediately and so did many replicas. Rose called the bear ‘Teddy’s Bear’ and it’s alleged that Morris wrote to the President asking permission to use the name, receiving a hand-written note giving his permission. Aww. I love that.
The story goes that Roosevelt wasn’t a very sentimental person (possibly not surprising given the “rugged man” image) and didn’t actually like teddy bears, but the publicity did him no harm and the teddy bear as we know it now went from strength to strength.
I could go on and on about the history of the teddy bear because I personally find it interesting about how any product gets developed and has such amazing longevity, but I’ll stop there for now. If you want to read a little more about National Teddy Bear day and see Berryman’s cartoon, click here.
As followers of this blog will know, I’m an arctophile which means I’m a friend/lover (collector) of teddy bears. I love real bears just as much and I hope to go and see polar bears in the wild for my fiftieth birthday in a few years’ time.
As a young child, I had a teddy bear: the aptly named Big Bluey because he’s big and he’s blue. He was a Christening gift and he sits in my office watching me write. His fur is a bit squashed and he’s been repaired at the seams a few times but he’s not doing too badly for a 47-year-old.
I was probably in my mid to late-teens when I really started to really like teddy bears. I don’t know what specifically prompted it but suspect that it was Forever Friends bears being everywhere at the time. I absolutely adored them (and still do).
Over the years, I’ve had all sorts of bears and bear-related gifts from friends and family: stationery, ornaments, tea-towels and pretty much anything you can think of. The scariest gift was an upright vacuum cleaner cover my mum once bought from a craft fair. It was a bear in a dress (the dress covered the upright part of the cleaner and the head rested on the handle) and I’m afraid I don’t have photographic evidence of it but it was definitely scary although it gave all the family a good laugh.
My fascination with proper collectible bears didn’t come until I was in my late-twenties. I’d heard of Steiff but had never seen one. My boyfriend of the time took me into a specialist teddy bear shop in his hometown of Lincoln and it changed my life. At first I was astonished at the price tags. Used to paying £10-20 for a plush teddy bear, prices started at an eye-watering £50 and that was for a small, cheap one. I left the shop muttering that I wouldn’t pay that sort of money for a bear … but returned to it later because I couldn’t stop thinking about a Dean’s bear called Scruff who’d caught my eye. I winced as I handed over £70 but that little bear has bought me so much joy and has lasted way longer than a pair of shoes or a handbag of that price might have done.
My collection grew and then I took my interest to the extreme when I packed in a well-paid job as a Graduate Recruitment and Development Manager, moved from Reading to my roots in North Yorkshire, and opened a specialist teddy-bear shop of my own. (The boyfriend was no more at this point).
I ran Bear’s Pad in Richmond, North Yorkshire (not the one in London) for nearly 2 years and it was such a joy to be surrounded by teddy bears and bear-related products every day. I had some wonderful regular customers who shared my passion, but also had some shockers:
The woman who allowed her daughter to urinate on my carpeted floor instead of taking her to the public toilets then made out it was all my fault because I hadn’t let her use my staff toilet (which I had no insurance to let customers use and would have meant clambering over my stock and past my safe so that wasn’t going to happen)
The many occasions where I arrived on a weekend to find somebody had vomited in my doorway so I had that to swill away before opening up
The seemingly lovely man who distracted me by asking me to get a large bear down from the top of the display shelves, saying he’d return later with the cash. In the meantime, his accomplice slipped behind the till and tried to empty it. Fortunately I’d locked it but that didn’t stop him stealing my mobile which was on a hidden shelf below the till
The local woman who made it her mission to go around all the independent shops and tell them they were going to fail because all independents did sooner or later
The parents who’d send their kids to “play in the bear shop while mummy goes on the tanning beds” in the shop opposite
The various others who’d damage or shoplift
Ooh! I just had an unexpected rant there! Back to National Teddy Bear Day…
I met my husband a couple of months after opening Bear’s Pad. We met online and, as we lived a couple of hours away from each other, our first date was in the small market town of Helmsley. I took a small jointed teddy bear with me and decided that, if I liked my date, I’d give him the bear to remember me by. Yeah, soppy. I did like him and I did give him the bear although I was gutted to discover recently that he’d completely forgotten this! Rude! The bear – Hermann (named after the German manufacturers) – became our holiday bear, going away with us on all our holidays with a little backpack we got off a cheap doll. Hubby knew Hermann was our holiday bear but had completely forgotten how he came to be in his possession. Men, eh?
When we married, we had a Cherished Teddies bride and groom on the top of our cake and plush bears on the top table.
Bears have remained a strong theme and influence for me. My book, Bear With Me, is inspired by my experiences of having a teddy bear shop and learning how to make artist bears, although you don’t have to like teddy bears at all to enjoy it as the teddy bear shop (called Bear With Me) just happens to be the setting; bears aren’t the main theme.
In every book I write, I ‘plant’ a bear. It is usually there to give the protagonist comfort and is often a reminder of the past. Sarah in Searching for Steven turns to her childhood bear, Mr Pink, for comfort. Elise in Getting Over Gary hurls her bear, Marmite, across the room because he was a gift from her husband who has just betrayed her. In Callie’s Christmas Wish, a musical bear is a valuable link to the past for octogenarian, Ruby, and, in Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, Carly gives her sister a bear purchased from Bear With Me to convey a special message. A picture I bought of a bear and the words ‘Be Brave’ inspired part of the storyline for Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe. These teddies and collectible bears certainly have some power!
Some people don’t get why a grown adult would love teddy bears but I can’t see my interest ever waning. I don’t buy many plush bears anymore, tempted though I might be, as I don’t have the room. Over the years, I’ve given about 20 binbags full of teddy bears to charity. I find it so hard to say goodbye but I tell myself that they’ll go to loving homes! I have a cabinet in the office full of collectible bears and a few others spread around the room. It’s not possible to feel down when surrounded by their pudgy faces and outstretched arms, waiting for a cuddle.
My plush bears have certainly given me comfort over the years and, as I say, they’ve changed my life. If I hadn’t bought that first collectible one, I wouldn’t have opened a bear shop, I wouldn’t have met my husband, and I probably would never have finished writing my first book.
Happy National Teddy Bear Day. Why not give your teddy a cuddle and thank him or her for being there for you over the years?
Did you know that yesterday* was National Hug Day aka National Hugging Day? No, me neither! Well, that’s a lie because obviously I did know it is otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. What I should probably have said is that I hadn’t heard of it until it was mentioned on my local radio station that morning. There seem to be national days for everything and I suspected it was one of the many invented recently to jump on the bandwagon. But I was wrong. It’s actually been around since 1986! Yes, you read that right: 1986. The year that John McCarthy was kidnapped in Beirut, work finished on the M25, we piled to the cinema to watch Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and Nick Berry’s “Every Loser Wins” was the second best-selling single of the year in the UK (The Communards with the far more respectable “Don’t Leave Me This Way was number 1). That’s a long time ago!
I did some research and apparently it was invented in the USA by a bloke called Kevin Zaborney who felt that Americans didn’t express their feelings enough and should hug family and friends (and even strangers) even more because of the sense of well-being this gives. Awww. Nice idea. Here’s the munchkin and me having a nice hug on a holiday in the Lakes.
So on my blog today, I want to talk about hugs. But not the snuggling each other variety. I want to talk about the teddy bear variety. Afterall, the strapline of my blog is “Writing, Reading, Stationery, Life, Chocolate & Bears” and I haven’t yet devoted a post to bears.
You may or may not know that a collection of teddy bears is known as a hug. Isn’t that just adorable? And I have an exceedingly large hug. I’m what’s known as an arctophile which is the official name given to someone who collects teddy bears. I don’t think it’s as warm and fuzzy a word as it should be but it could be worse.
As a child, I liked bears. But I also liked dolls, lego, and colouring books so I wouldn’t say bears stood out as “my thing”. When I was in my mid-teens, I started to like bears more. I’m not really sure why. I had quite a few plush bears and I found myself drawn to them in shops. It became known I was a bear-fan and gifts started to become more and more bear-themed. When I bought my first house, my plush collection was huge and my house was strewn with teddy bear pictures, salt and pepper shakers and placemats. I drew the line at the rather scary teddy-bear vacuum cleaner cover my mum once bought me, though. It looked more like a giant mouse in clothes and started to give me the fear so it disappeared!
It was only when I hit my thirties that I discovered that there was a world outside plush teddy bears and I started my journey to becoming a true arctophile. We probably all have at least one rubbish relationship in our past and Dave (name changed to protect him; not that he deserves it) was mine. But I’ll always be grateful to Dave for one thing; back in 2001 he introduced me to my first collectible bear. He took me to a gorgeous bear shop in his home town. I’d never heard of Steiff or Dean’s or any of the other bear companies but, as I gazed round the packed shelves, I was in awe. Gorgeous faces stared back at me with “pick me” eyes.
Then I looked at a price tag.
Oh. My. Goodness! £70 for a bear? £150 for a bear? £300 for a bear? What?????!!!!
But it’s only when you start exploring the world of collectible bears that you appreciate the history, artistry and materials that go into them and you get it. You really do.
I walked out that shop that day having fallen in love with a particular Dean’s Bear (oldest UK teddy bear manufacturer) called Scruff but there was no way I was paying £70 for a bear. We walked round the city, had some lunch, walked back towards the car park … and straight into the bear shop. Scruff became the first member of my collectible hug and I’m sure you can see why (although hubby is the photographer in the family; not me!)
I slowly added to the hug (with those prices, it’s not exactly a regular purchase). In 2002, I finally realised that the only value Dave brought to my life was that he’d introduced me to collectible bears and we parted company. Phew! I then completely changed my life. I packed in my job, moved back to the north, and opened a teddy bear shop. Obviously.
Being surrounded by bears and bear-themed products (stationery, cards, bags etc.) was a dream come true. The challenging part was not taking them all home to add to the hug! I was like a small child at Christmas every time a delivery arrived, particularly for collectible bears. You see, I had reps for the plush bears I carried (mainly Gund and Russ) but all my collectible bears were ordered from a catalogue which meant opening a Steiff, Dean’s, Robin Rive, Hermann Teddy Original or Merrythought delivery was a very special moment. I know it probably sounds really sad to anyone who isn’t a teddy bear lover but I’d line them up on the counter and gaze lovingly at them before finding a new home on my shelves and in my glass cabinets.
Quite often the shop would be empty and I’d stroll around and have a hug and a squeeze, or turn the head slightly on a collectible bear to make him even more appealing.
I hate to say it but I had my favourites. Sometimes the adoration was immediate but sometimes they grew on me the more I caught their eyes. I’d say to them, “If you’re not sold in three months, you’re coming home with me.” The only problem then was that I’d have a mild panic attack any time a customer started showing interest in them, hoping they wouldn’t leave the shop yet knowing that I needed to make the sale to stay afloat. Munchie (the fluffy one above) and Caramel (to the left) are a couple of examples although I promise that the names had nothing to do with the decision to bring them home, despite my sweet tooth!
I attended a bear-making workshop at a (sadly now closed down) teddy bear shop on Elvet Bridge in Durham. I made my first bear there. Meet Mark Elvet (named after my husband and the shop location). I made another one from the same pattern who I called Cinnamon Brown then I attended an advanced workshop where I experimented with spray-dying their noses. I called my bear Mustard Green. But I sold both of them. I wanted to keep them but I decided to experiment and see whether a customer would love my bears. They did. They sold. They joined new hugs. My only regret is that I never actually took photos of them. This was just before everyone turned digital so snapping away at everything simply didn’t happen.
When I closed the shop in 2005, a lot of the bears sold. It’s rare that collectible bears are reduced so the sale brought in a lot of interest. A few of my favourites may have slipped into the hug somehow pre-sale (no idea how that happened) and a few other unloved ones joined them when they hadn’t gone to new hugs by the time I locked the doors for the last time. They may have been unloved by the general public but they weren’t unloved by me!
Since then, the additions to the collections have slowed but there’s always room for one more. And another … and another. Because, let’s face it, bears like to hug and the more of them there are squeezed up close together in my bear cabinet, the more hugs they get from each other!
I know it’s no longer National Hugging Day but, if you missed it yesterday, celebrate it today instead. You’ll feel great 🙂
I’d love to hear from you about your hugs or your teddy bears. Please click on the comments box and share. I’ll do some more posts about bears and the shop over the year as well as writing ones.
* Slight confession: I planned to post this yesterday on National Hugging Day and I prepared the post during my lunch break at work … then somehow saved it to my work PC instead of my USB stick so I had to retrieve it today and post a day late!
Have you ever got something you really, really wanted? Something you’ve longed for years and years? How did it feel?
On my wish list for the past eleven years or so has been “to become a published writer”. My husband and I have often joked about this making us millions and us moving to a huge grand “author’s house” in the countryside but that’s not why I wanted to become a published writer. Don’t get me wrong, it would be very lovely thank you, but the real reason is the one I’d expect many other writers to cite: I have stories to tell and I want people to read them.
On September 1st, I took a step closer to my dream. I awoke on a dark Monday morning and checked my phone like I always do. Typically this results in cleansing my inbox of Groupon deals, Nectar points info and some freegle messages. But September 1st was not a typical Monday. Because sitting there in my inbox was an email from a US-based publishing house. And they wanted to publish my book.
I’d dreamed of this moment for a long time but this wasn’t quite what I expected. I’d imagined “the call” being exactly that; a phone call coming through on a dreary day and lighting my life. I hadn’t really imagined an email and especially not one with a “but” in it. You see, they wanted my book but they felt it was a bit long (it was 100k words) and wanted to know if I’d be prepared to cut it. I wandered round in a bit of a daze as I got ready for work. I didn’t feel excitement; I just felt a bit numb. Was it because I couldn’t believe I’d finally got the call? Was it because the call was an email? Or was it because there was a “but”? I’m not really sure.
I emailed them back saying of course I’d consider a reduction in words but how much and what sort of guidance would they give? Plus, would they be interested in the other two books in the series? The wordcount cut concerned me as I’d already cut my novel by 32k words and felt that it couldn’t lose much more without starting to lose the story. Cue anxious several hours (damn time delay!) before a reply came back saying that my editor loved series and would be delighted to offer me a 3-book deal and not to worry too much about the word cut as she loved it all so much that she was struggling to see where to cut words. Phew! Finally, excitement set in. Telling my immediate family was thrilling; especially telling my parents because my mum was beside herself. It was lovely to hear how proud they were of me for working so hard at my dream and never giving up. I also made an announcement on Facebook. I was away in a hotel with work and it was a joy to sit back and watch the likes and the congratulations messages flowing in.
A template contract was sent to me, I sought some advice on it, and several emails were exchanged about the content and size of books 2 and 3.
Then Black Friday hit.
I picked up an email from my editor to double check that all the books were about 100k and to tell me she wanted them to be 80k instead. A 20k reduction? One fifth? Twenty per cent? Look at it whichever way you like, that was a hefty reduction and I’d thought the word count didn’t matter. Especially as the offer was for eBook only where surely the size doesn’t matter quite as it does with paperbacks (and the costs incurred).
It got worse.
There are two threads in my stories; romance (obviously, given that romance is my genre) but there’s a secondary theme of friendship and it’s really important to me that the stories I tell contain both. My editor wanted to check there definitely was a romance in book 3 as it hadn’t come out strongly in my summary and she also said that the friendship had to be a background story with the focus being on the romance. I panicked. Big time. You see, before I’d had the offer, I’d made the decision to go indie. Part of the reason was that I couldn’t bear the waiting times to hear news from some publishers and part of it was so that I could get the control; tell the stories I wanted to tell, with the covers I wanted on my books, the pricing and timescales I wanted and so on. I knew I’d not be able to resist a publishing deal if one knocked on my door as a foot on the ladder to getting my name known but I also wanted to be sure the deal was right. And there were some alarm bells ringing that this one may not be quite right after all.
I emailed back and expressed my surprise at the significant wordcount reduction. I also outlined where the romance came into book 3 and asked it if it was ok. An email came back the next evening saying the romance was fine and not to worry about the wordcount. Again. But we’d been there before. My contract would be with me by Friday 19th September.
But on Wednesday 17th September, another email arrived. It would seem that publishing deals are like buses because this email contained another offer from a completely different publisher. This was a publisher who could offer me a deal for a print version of my book as well as an eBook but who presented a risk because they were new.
So what did I do? Come back later in the week and I’ll let you know!