Saturday, 24 June 2017

My Love of Hedgehogs

A book about the friendship between a
mouse and a hedgehog
If you're a long-term follower of The Picture Book Den then you'll know I love hedgehogs. So much so that I've been rescuing them (on a very small scale from a 6' x 8' shed in my back garden) for the last 25 years (Herts Hogline). They're so much a part of my life that they even creep into my writing. In fact my first picture book 'A Book For Bramble' was inspired by them. I've also written a great many non-fiction magazine features about hedgehogs and this year they star in my latest collect of 8 retold traditional tales (Hedgehog of Moon Meadow Farm) and my latest picture book written as co-author with hypnotist Chris Caress called 'Harvey's Big Sleep.' 
A picture booked aimed at helping
children to sleep

As I write this post and if you're reading this within a couple of weeks of my pressing the publish button, I'm hand rearing six hoglets. So rather than tell you something about picture books I've decided to do something a little different. I'm going to turn you all into hedgehog geeks, so you'll know exactly what to do to help our dwindling hedgehog population. Quick fact: hedgehog numbers in the 1950s-60s were an estimated 30 million. Today that has plummeted to 1 million (a faster loss than the loss of the world's tigers). So here are a few ways you can help our hogs:

Just a few days old. For scale
that's a fifty pence under one of them.    
  • If you have a pond with steep sides then fit a ramp.
  • Keep netting at least 15cm (6") off the ground.
  • Leave out food and water. This can be special hedgehog food, tinned cat/dog food (non-fishy flavours) but NEVER bread and milk. To avoid cats eating the food buy or make a feeding station.
  • Always check under hedges and in long grass before cutting.
  • Pick up elastic bands or hair bands, cut up and put into a bin. These and prickles don't mix well.
  • To avoid hedgehogs making a nest in your shed/garage, stable or tack room keep the door closed at all times.
  • Do not use slug pellets; find safer alternatives.
  • Always check a bonfire before you light it.
  • Provide shelter by buying or making a hog home
  • Hedgehogs out during the day are highly likely to need medical help a.s.a.p. so contact British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advice.
  • Never treat for fleas; pet flea solutions are lethal to hedgehogs.
  • During autumn and winter small hedgehogs (under 600 grams) are too small to hibernate, so need to be rescued.
As this is the height of the breeding season the BHPS provide the following advice on nesting females and hoglets:

If you accidentally disturb a nest, try to restore it quickly and without too much fuss.  Check with a piece of screwed up piece of paper to see whether mum is returning, they all react differently, some move the babies over several days, a few have been known to kill them whilst others just abandon them.  If the nest is in a place where it cannot be left, catch the mother before the babies as she will be the most mobile.  Place her in high-sided box with some of the bedding from the nest and then slip her babies in with her.  Contact the BHPS to find a local contact who can advise and if necessary take in the family.  Do not release them somewhere yourself as the mum is very likely to abandon them, given the amount of disturbance she has endured.

First taste of puppy food
Last but not least if you're concerned about your local visiting hedgehog, need advice or find an orphaned, sick or injured hedgehog, contact the BHPS (01584 890801)  they can give general advice and perhaps details of a local hedgehog rehabilitator that you can contact.

If you've reached this far, thanks for reading and please do share this far and wide. Hedgehogs need as many friends as they can get.



Now for a blatant plug:

My latest collection of short stories featuring Hedgehog is available on Amazon in eBook format and as a paperback.

Hedgehog of Moon Meadow Farm

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

At Last My New Book - Coyote Tales Retold

I don't normally plug a book but that's exactly what I'm doing today. The reason is I've been working on this book for over a year and it's just so nice to see it up and selling on Amazon. It features a traditonal trickster character, Coyote. Unlike my picture books 'Coyote Tales Retold' is aimed at the older reader and at the moment is only available as an ebook. However you don't have to have an ereader (Kindle) to read it. By simply downloading a free app (the link for this app can be found on the right hand side of this page) you can still download and read on your PC or Mac.

The book contains eight retold traditional Coyote tales which have been enjoyed for generations by the first peoples of America. Whilst researching these stories I discovered that it was traditional to enjoy them during the winter months only, hence its release in October.

The book contains the following stories:

  • Coyote, Bear and the Four Seasons
  • Coyote Places the Stars
  • Coyote, the Dancing Mice and the Old Elk Skull
  • Coyote, Mouse and Elk
  • Coyote Helps Mouse Fool Owl
  • Coyote, Fox and the Fishing Hole
  • Coyote and Turtle Outwit Beaver
  • Coyote and the Stranger
To purchase from the UK Amazon site click here
To purchase from the US Amazon site click here.

I hope you enjoy!


Friday, 28 August 2015

Book Authors Resale Rights (BARR)

I recently stumbled across an old news piece (16/06/14) released by the ALCS (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society) stating they had teamed up with Book Barn International (a second hand book seller) were launching a pilot scheme that would compensate authors when a second-hand version of their book was sold. This system is known as the Book Authors Resale Rights (BARR) and basically pays a small percentage of the sale price to the original author.

At present authors receive nothing on the resale of their book even if the book is still in print, which obviously means they're losing income from sales of their books when sold new. This collaboration between the ALCS and BBI will mean authors will receive an income from second-hand books sales alongside their regular payments from the ALCS.

I must admit it has always been a niggle of mine that under certain circumstances film makers earn when their film is watched, actors receive repeat fees, composers and musicians earn when their work is sold. Yet the hundreds of thousands of second-hand books sold each year earn the writer nothing, even though the copyright on these books is often still owned by the author. 
Out of curiosity I visited Amazon to see how many second-hand copies of my last two picture books were available. I discover there were 5 paperback copies and 4 hardback copies of Dog Did It  for sale and 7 paperbacks and 1 hardback of Bad Manners Benjie for sale. I know we’re not talking huge numbers here. However many authors including myself have seen income drop by 29% since 2005. It is also a stark reality that only “a handful of highly successful authors make a very good living; for the majority, earning from writing falls well below subsistence levels" and nearly 90% of writers now need to earn money from other sources other than writing. Unfortunately I’m one of those 90% so every penny earned from the sale of my books really does count.

In a recent update (30/07/15) William Prior, founder of Book Barn International states "I have tried to persuade Book Barn International’s competitors to adopt BARR. They all tell me they see the justice and point of the scheme, but either their accountants or their commerciality won’t sanction it." Come on folks without us you wouldn't have a product to sell and without our small slice of the pie many of us may have to give up writing in a bid to find an alternate way of making a living. 

To round off this post I urge everyone to source (when ever possible) their second-hand books from Book Barn International and show your support for the BARR system. Also if you have any family or friends who have sway with any second-hand book sellers support the cause and have a chat with them, see if you can talk them into putting 'justice' before profit.   

Last but not least I'd like to thank William Prior for his continued fight on our behalf.     

Lynne Garner

Monday, 20 April 2015

Mixing Story Sacks With Picture Books

We all know (I hope) that reading stories is an invaluable experience for young children. It helps them develop a wide range of important skills including developing their listening and communication skills. But many people seem to stop there with picture books but introduce a story sack to the equation and the learning opportunities expand hugely. A story sack offers opportunities for active, involved, cross-curricular learning. They help bring stories to life and offers practical ideas that support the differing interests and learning styles of young children.
So what is a story sack? 
It's a large cloth bag containing a picture book with supporting materials that stimulate language activities and make reading a memorable and enjoyable experience.
How do you make a story sack? 
Simply find a cloth bag to serve as the sack (even an old pillow case will do) and fill with some or all of the following materials (remember to keep appropriate for the needs and abilities of your child).
  • A copy of the book
  • A CD or DVD of the story, if you can find one (link below to my first picture book A Book For Bramble
  • Related non-fiction books e.g. for my book A Book For Bramble you could explore the life of mice and the other creatures that appear in it - rabbits, squirrels, owls and various bugs etc.
  • Models of characters (soft toys are ideal) and objects from the story for example from my book The Best Jumper you could include (for older children) chunky child friendly knitting needles and wool
  • Activities or games relating to the story - often renaming a favourite traditional game will help you achieve this for example a noughts and crosses game can be easily changed if you use images of the characters as counters
  • Themed art and craft items - Pinterest can you your friend here
  • Linked activity cards - see below
Activity cardsAn activity card lists ideas for things to do based on the book, this could include questions, for example using my book Bad Manners, Benjie! you could ask:
  • What was your favourite bit?
  • What bad manners did Boris have?
  • What good manners did Benjie have?
Or why not write a single activity on a piece of paper, fold it up and place in a jar or small cloth bag. Mix the ideas up then encourage your child to close their eyes, pick one, unfold the paper and read what the activity is. Then complete the task or activity it suggests. Your child can suggest these ideas or you could create your own as a surprise. Activities could include:
  • Enjoy a themed crafting session
  • Make up a song or poem based on something that happens in the story
  • Enjoy the same activity the character did in the story for example go to the park just like Boris, Benjie and Dog did in Bad Manners, Benjie!
I hope you can see what fun you can have with a story sack and this post has given you a few ideas. If you have a few ideas I've not included above please do share.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Few Blogging Tips

I teach a number of writing courses that encourage students to earn money from their writing. As part of their marketing campaign I always suggest that writing a blog can be a good option. The reasons I give are the very reasons I blog. They include:

  • It provides you with the opportunity to exercise your writing ‘muscle’
  • Blogging doesn’t cost you anything apart from time – so can be a cost effective marketing tool
  • It allows you to create your USP by proving you know your subject – great if you want to impress an editor
  • It enables you to reach a worldwide audience and market yourself and your work, even when you're asleep

Now when blogging there are things you should do and things you shouldn’t. What follows are a few tips that will hopefully help you create a blog people will want to visit plus a few tips on blogging etiquette.

What you should do when blogging:


Don’t just use it to sell, sell, sell. Write something of interest; create a blog that is useful and provides information, just as I’m hopefully doing with these tips. However remember a blog can be used as a marketing tool and include a link here and there. Be honest you don’t get anything for nothing. As a reader I’m more than happy to gain from someone’s knowledge with the only cost to me being the odd link here and there (which I don't have to follow if I don't want to).  


Include images of anything related to the blog content, you or your work. It makes the page look more enticing and allows you to ‘hide’ a little advert - hence the picture of my latest book – see point one.


Don’t moan about your in-grown toenail, how bad your day has been or what you plan to have to lunch, people don’t care. I refer you back to point one, so write something of interest or of use. 


Ensure you proofread and edit, make the work the best you make it. This will prove you care about your work and hopefully encourage an editor to contact you and offer that book contract you’re looking for. As someone who is an Indie publisher it also proves to possible readers of my work that I can string a sentence together.   

What you shouldn't do when blogging:


Use it as a tool to send spam. 


Steal someone’s copyright (words and or images). You’d be annoyed if it were to happen to you.    


Don’t be rude, cruel, incite hatred, say anything that can be considered libellous, encourage someone to break the law or say something you know is untrue. It damages your reputation, will lose you readers and may lose you work. This also goes if you're leaving comments on a blog post. What you write reflects on you and once your reputation is damaged it can take a long time (if ever) to repair that damage.      


Don’t share information that is personal to you or anyone else.


Don't claim to have done something you haven't or be something you’re not. There will be at least one person who will know you're stretching the truth and will let the world know. As with point three it will simply damage your reputation and people remember.  

Although writing a blog may not directly earn you money you may find you get commissions based upon your on-line presence. I know a couple of my writing friends have and I gained a commission from a US magazine from one of my crafting themed posts. 

I hope you’ve learned a little from this post and I’d love to know why you blog.


As I’ve mentioned I teach a few writing courses I thought just in case anyone was interested I'd included links to three of my courses that start on the 7th March 2015:

See what I did there? 

Monday, 8 September 2014

My seven tips for marketing your ebook

In a blog post I wrote for Authors Electric last month (Retelling Tales - It's Been Done Before) I hinted at my latest book. This month I'm pleased to announce my latest ebook featuring the rogue that is Brer Rabbit is now available for download from Amazon (UK - USA). The book contains eight retold tales all based on the original tales collected and retold by Joel Chandler Harris.

You may be wondering why I'm telling you this. Well using my monthly slot on Authors Electric was one of the ideas I had to help me market my new book. I also had other ideas and wanted to share them with you (so I wasn't just marketing at you). So here they are:

I've placed a blatant plug on my personal Facebook page and my author Facebook page.

I've decided to give Wattpad a go. If you've not heard of it basically it's a library you upload your work on to and people can download and read for free.  Some people choose to place entire books on there, a chapter at a time. Some like myself upload part of their work (in my case just one of my short stories) in the hopes someone enjoys their work so much that they are then willing to pay to read further work. I have no idea if it'll work but I'm happy to give it a go. In the first 24 hours my Brer Rabbit story was read by six people. I've also uploaded a story from my Anansi the Trickster Spider collection so I can see if the sales increase -  I'll let you know in a few months if Wattpad appears to pays off.

I've let the 449 people on my LinkedIn network know my book is now available to purchase. I also intend to let a few of the groups I'm a member of know about my new book. One of the groups has 3,774 members - so a quick mention can't hurt.

As you can see I've also blogged here and intend on blogging on my website and post on our company website (all my ebooks are written under the banner of Mad Moment Media).

I read somewhere that Pinterest has 70 million users, with 80% of those being women and apparently 70% of Pinterest members using the site as inspiration for their next purchase. So I'm going to create a Brer Rabbit themed board which will hopefully raise the profile of my ebook and even create a sale or two.

I've added the book to my author page on Goodreads. I'll be honest I've done very little with Goodreads, so over the next couple of months I'm going to learn as much about it as I can and try to discover if it can be used as a marketing tool. If you have a Goodreads author account and also wish to experiment then here is their official link that provides information on how you can use it to market yourself and book.

Last but not least I'm going to create a 'proper' email signature. It's something I've never done (I've just been lazy) but I send 100s of emails per month. Apparently it shouldn't take long and I never know it may lead to a sale or two.

If you have any other ideas about marketing then I'd love to hear them, so please do share.


P.S. If you fancy reading a Brer Rabbit story or an Anansi the Trickster Spider story then just follow the links.

Monday, 9 June 2014

How Teaching Is Helping My Writing

The few days ago I was talking to a friend who has just started a new job, which she's loving. She'd come to the conclusion that in her previous job she reached a dead end, hence the move. Once we'd talked about her new job she asked me how my writing was going. "I just don't have time," was my reply.

She was surprised and asked me why. So I explained that at the moment I'm teaching so many writing courses that I only  have time to scribble ideas in my note books. She then asked if I felt my old 'job' of writing had reached a dead end. After thinking for a moment I realised that teaching is an extension to my writing. I love to teach new writers the tricks I use and they often teach me a few new tricks. I also realised that although I'm not writing the teaching provides me with the opportunity to bounce ideas off of people I would never normally come into contact with. So my teaching is laying down the fuel for the writing I will do during the periods I don't teach, namely the holidays.

So rather than my writing reaching a dead end I feel a little time away from it is giving me the chance to build on my library of ideas, which I can then use to fuel my writing when I return to it.

So my advice is if you feel you've reached a dead end with your writing take time away from it and refresh your writing battery. It's working for me.



P.S. If you want to hone your writing skills check out my on-line writing courses (and the others) run by Women On Writing:
How To Write A Children's Picture Book And Get Published
Five Picture Books In Five Weeks
How To Write A Hobby-Based How To Book