Monday, 18 September 2017

The Stress of a Book Signing...

Preach it, Blanche.
There are many brilliant things about not marking books and planning lessons anymore. For sure. Knowing you have four sets of thirty books to mark before the following day as you take your tea-plates to the sink, is the worst feeling. But what to do with all the extra time? Without a job that seeps into all your gaps, there's time for some Interesting and Exciting activities. This could be anything from taking up paragliding to watching five-year old Netflix releases that everyone else has stopped talking about. It could be anything. For me, something that falls squarely into both the Interesting and Exciting category is a book signing and this is exactly where I went last Wednesday. 

Marian Keyes was at Waterstones in Manchester. She chatted away about all sorts for things and then signed copes of her new book, The Break. It was great but more of that in a minute. First, let me explain the stresses that fill my head when I think of a book signing.

I have no experience of book signings as an author. The nearest I've got was a Weight Watchers' meeting in April. At their request, I sold copies of Carry the Beautiful to six of my friends. They all insisted I sign them, and with a mixture of mortification and extreme pride, I did. I suppose it made a change from talking about how much I love mashed potato. But sitting at a desk, signing your name repeatedly and chatting to thousands of fans over the course of a promotional period, has got to be knackering. It must be amazing to see so many people buy and intend to read your book, but I'm guessing hugely overwhelming and scary as hell too. I felt all those emotions with my six fellow WW women so God knows how bigger the extrapolated feelings get.

Enough of the authors' experiences though. Spare a thought for the queuing fan. Marian Keyes' signing was the fourth such event I've been to since I had time for a life. Before last week I've met Caitlin Moran (twice) and Armistead Maupin and the problem is always the same. When face to face with a person whose writing has given me comfort, whose characters have inspired, taught and entertained me, whose words have settled into the most private places in my brain, nothing that comes out of my mouth sounds any good. I'll be clearer. Anything I have ever said to an author at a signing makes me sound like a tit.

Think about it. This is the big moment. The moment I've queued for up to an hour to experience. I've had all that time to work something out. Something pithy and intelligent. Something witty. And then the moment comes and I blow it. The first thing that pops into my head spews out of my mouth and it is gibberish. Utter shite. It's then that I know the dream is over and I won't be going for post-signing drinks with my new best mate that day. I won't have wowed my author-hero standing in front of my with the power of my sparkling personality. Let's examine the evidence for the prosecution...



8th October 2011
Cheltenham Literary Festival - Caitlin Moran


What I Wanted to Say: You write like you have reached into my head and found all my deepest thoughts. Your books are hugely reassuring and make me feel like I'm not the only person who thinks like I do. Thank you.
What Actually Happened...
Caitlin: Hi
Me: I REALLY LIKED YOU ON NEWSNIGHT WHEN YOU TALKED ABOUT PUBIC HAIR.
*Hangs head in shame as Caitlin gamely talks about her recent Newsnight appearance*

12th February 2014
Liverpool Museum - Armistead Maupin


What I Wanted to Say: Long before I visited, I felt like I'd been to San Francisco because of the vivid and colourful way you describe your town. The reason I chose to spend my 30th birthday there was because of the beauty of the characters you created and the depth of their stories, hooking me in since I was a teenager.
What Actually Happened...
Armistead: Hello
Me: OH GOOD. YOU'RE LEFT HANDED.
*Goes bright red as Armistead signs his name and smiles despite my randomness*

14th July 2014
Nottingham Playhouse - Caitlin Moran


What I Wanted to Say: Last time I met you I ballsed it up. I wanted to tell you that your opinions and the confidence with which you share them, show me how to be stronger and braver and to share my own opinions in the face of adversity. 
What Actually Happened...
Caitlin: Hello.
Me: I'M THE ELDEST OF SEVEN CHILDREN.
(This sort of makes sense because she is the eldest of eight. She high-fived me immediately, making me unsure as to whether I had made a total tit of myself this time, or not. Let's just say not.)

And so to Marian. She was utterly, utterly lovely. Exactly the same as she comes across on her weekly Short Fillums and her newsletter. Warm, engaging, sincere and funny. Her new book was the focus of the interview - it's about a couple that have a six months break in their marriage along with the inevitable fall out it causes - but wider topics covered included feminism and activism, reproductive rights in Ireland, the horror of the current global political environment, and social media. There was a Q and A session at the end, and then the signing took place.

This time I was determined. I really wanted to use my two minutes at the front of the queue to convey to Marian Keyes how much I love her writing, how accessible it is whilst simultaneously tackling huge issues accurately, how much I am drawn to her unabashed feminism twinned with embracing all of femininity, how funny I find her tweets, how her way with words is poetic and lyrical, how I admire her positivity and cheeriness whilst dealing with all that life throws... I could go on and on but I had to be succinct. The moment was approaching. So...


13th September 2017 
Waterstones Manchester Deansgate - Marian Keyes

What I Wanted to Say: All of the above and more.


What Actually Happened...
Marian: Hello there.
Me: THIS YEAR WILL BE MY FIRST STRICTLY.
Marian: NOOOO. YOU WILL LOVE IT. YOU WILL LOVE IT! IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE, I PROMISE YOU. I PROMISE YOU. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

OK, so it might have just been my imagination, but I am pretty sure Marian Keyes spoke to me in capital letters. Proper mofo massive ones. Usually it is only me that does that, but I really think she did it back. And even though I didn't say a word of what I was planning, it didn't matter. It felt good. She didn't smile politely and busy herself with the signing. She replied in capital letters! Maybe I've broken the 'Curse of the Book Signing' once and for all. Maybe I was witty and eloquent. Or maybe I was just lucky to be talking to someone that was kind enough to be enthusiastic about the nonsense I gushed.

However it went down, I walked away feeling happy and inspired, and made up that I got to meet an author whose novels I have loved for years. And the best bit is, now I get to read her book.

 
Have a lovely week, folks.



Monday, 11 September 2017

Tales of a Feminist Aunt and Godmother...

A few months ago, you may remember I went on a mini-pilgrimage to Gay's the Word bookshop in London for the day, in search of the recently-erected Mark Ashton blue plaque. How's that for a long-winded opening sentence! You want to refresh your memory? Click here. Anyway, I spent a lovely half hour or so browsing away, feeling the urge to spend far more than I had planned.


It's weighty and stunning!
The first book that I picked up was a cracker. In the kids' section, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls jumped out at me. It was a month or so before my niece's 4th birthday and it was the perfect gift. It was one of those gorgeous hard-backed story books - the kind that have the word 'compendium', 'treasury' or 'anthology' attached. It was solid and tactile, and filled to the brim with beautiful illustrations. It also had decent feminist chops. Every page contained a mini-biography of a remarkable woman from history. The stories outlined their triumph over adversity and beating the odds no matter what. It was a concerted effort to redress the gender bias that much formal history perpetuates but in a child-friendly and accessible way. Many of the featured women I'd never heard of, but some I had - Simone Biles, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malala Yousafzai - from the present day to hundreds of years before. It felt the ideal present to give to my niece, who combines a deeply inquisitive, factual nature with worshiping at the altar of the Disney princess. I did my Feminist Aunt thing and bought it for her and according to later feedback from my sister, she loved it. All good so far.


Coco
Chanel
Balkissa
Chaibou
Michelle
Obama
But despite it's marvellousness, one thing bugged me. A tiny thing really, and not one that stopped me from purchasing it. I just wish they hadn't used the word 'girls' in the title. Even though it was qualified with 'rebel', implying it was reaching out to girls that didn't conform, it still niggled. Even though it was providing those same girls with top notch female role models, I wished it hadn't felt the need to be labelled so definitively. It hit a nerve.

I have a real issue with labelling things for 'girls' and 'boys'. Whether it's books, clothes, toys or anything. It's illogical. The time it gets logical is when, if we use clothes as an example, puberty strikes and trousers and tops need to be different shapes for female hips and male shoulders. That's when gendered clothing becomes a necessity. Until then, it's just what society has deemed is appropriate, regardless of how the individual child feels. It's stereotyping, it limits choice and it's encourages the harmful myth that boys behave one way and girls behave another. A myth that has been explored in Robert Webb's recent book, How Not To Be a Boy.


This gal would have
been unimpressed
with modern day
clothes labelling.
This is an issue that is close to my heart. I was a girl that liked and wore 'boyish' clothes pre-puberty. (And post too, as far as I could.) Except they weren't boyish, they were just clothes that I liked. The majority of my wardrobe was made up of hand-me-downs from the neighbours, so I don't know if I'd have been able to find 1980s shop-bought-clothes with ease. I suspect back then, I would. I think it was easier thirty years ago. These days, when I look around kids' clothes shops, I have no idea what the eight year old me would have chosen to wear. I suspect, it wouldn't have been from the 'girls' section. Last week John Lewis incurred the wrath of the Twitter trolls when they announced they would be ditching girls and boys labels on their clothes. It seemed a very sensible decision to me - a top becomes a 'girl's top' when a girl wears it, not when it has been displayed in the girl's section - but some people took great offence. Apparently it is MOST important that clothes are labelled correctly so boys and only boys wear tops with diggers, pirates and dinosaurs on them. Otherwise the worst might happen and a girl might accidentally wear one and then where would we be. Uh-oh. Cue the end of days. Yeah, Twitter got a bit silly last week. 

So back to books and that pesky 'girls' label. I am lucky enough to have been a reader of adult fiction before the invention of the phrase 'chick-lit'. (It's such a horribly dismissive term. Chick-lit - bleugh. I'm not fussed on the label 'women's fiction' either but at least it's vaguely respectful.) Before the late '90s it seemed it wasn't a thing and books were books. I spent my teenage years in the early '90s reading novels by Rosamunde Pilcher, Virginia Andrews, Sue Townsend and Mary Stewart. Not once did I choose them because we were all girls together. I chose them because they were on my parents' bookshelf and the blurb on the back looked good. (By the same criteria, I read the entire Dick Francis back catalogue, too.) But then in 1996 Bridget Jones' Diary came out and along with it, the marketing idea that there were now books just for women and that they were somehow less than. (The term 'chick' manages to convey that perfectly IMHO - excuse me while I vom.) I was doing an English Literature degree at the time so all this passed me by at first. I was full of the joys (and I'm loaded with sark here) of Webster, Marlowe and Milton and didn't pick up a book of my own choice for three years. When I finally read for pleasure again, the book shelves had changed. Suddenly there was a section for the laydeez. Women's Fiction was there in big letters. There was no Men's Fiction section, obviously. Men's books were all books. It was only the fluffy lady stories for us delicate creatures that had been segregated. It made me cross. It's not that I disliked every book that booksellers labelled for my sex or gender (some of them were cracking reads) but I did balk at the categorisation of them. It was unnecessary. 

The trend of categorising female authors' work as chick-lit has calmed down in recent years - by booksellers and publishers anyway. Not so much in real life though. Repeatedly, when someone asks me what Carry the Beautiful is about, I begin my spiel. 
'It's a woman looking back over her life and wondering why she isn't as happy as she thought she'd be, so we flash back to her University days and see how the past has impacted the future.' 
Most people (a mix of men and women) say 'Oh, it's a women's book then.' And I smile through gritted teeth and explain that books are for everybody and no, it's just a good story that both men and women would like if they happen to like novels like mine. I reference Nick Hornby, David Nicholls, Marian Keyes and Lisa Jewell as being vaguely similar to my style and inside I scream at them for being duped by a society that tells us we are supposed to like something based on the contents of our pants. That everyone with a vagina is instantly predisposed to like pink fluffy clothes and pretty things whilst everyone with a penis is supposed to automatically wear blue and take part in rough and tumble shenanigans with all the other penis owners. And then I fake-smile again and deep breathe for a bit until I'm less angry at the ridiculousness of it all and the damage that stereotyped ideas of gender can bring.

So, yeah. Where was I? Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls? Oh yeah, that. It really is the most beautiful book. Filled with positive role models and life-affirming stories. I've just bought a second copy - one for my football-loving, boundlessly energetic Goddaughter. I imagine it won't be the last. I just have to make sure I write 'Books Are For Everyone' on the inside cover each time I give it to someone and then I can sleep soundly.

Have a lovely week, folks.



Monday, 4 September 2017

Cancel My Ten O'Clock and Get New York on Line Two...

I will, Michelle, I will!
Well after all the gadding about and shenanigans last week, it's back to work. And the thing is, I couldn't be happier. The start of September means the official end (in my head, at least) of all that sweaty weather, as well as providing a motivational surge that the back-to-school feeling brings. I'll be honest, I'm a lot happier about the back-to-school feeling than I was when I was a real life staff member of a real life school. September brought more mixed emotions then. Mainly panic, stress and the dread of knowing in just a couple of months I'd be screaming multiple verses of Christmas carols at children in an attempt to force-teach an excessive number of songs within a week whilst trying to complete Very Important end of term assessments at the same time. *Sighs, looks into distance, starts smoking, pours a stiff drink, ponders narcotics* Sorry about that, where was I? Yeah, regardless of how the routine takes shape, the fact remains - once September hits, the days are renewed with vigour and purpose once more. Woohoo and hurrah for that.


I make calls like this on a daily basis.
In readiness for the new writing year, I've been sorting out technical things. Things like 'admin' and 'accounts'. Things that have been on my To Do list for months. Honest to God, it's like I've turned into Ken Masters, running Leisure Cruise in a pastel jumper. (Follow him on Twitter!) I'm proper business these days. Tell Toyko I'm in a meeting. I'll have that cappuccino to go! In all seriousness, the 'admin' is minimal but it still has to be done. I was in the advantageous position prior to writing, in already having an accountant that did my self-assessment stuff each year. I didn't do anything other than sign a few forms when I was told to. But now? Now I have invoices! Now I have receipts! Now I am responsible for paperwork! Frigging hell! It's all so silly too. I'm not JK Rowling. No, I know, it's easy for me to forget that too. But I'm not raking in the cash. I never assumed I would. I am, however, seeing a trickle of pennies come through each month that can pay for a nice meal out now and then. But even though it is buttons I still have to be rigorous with my accounts. I have to be on it.


Me and my filing.
BUY BUY SELL SELL!
So, for anyone who reads these posts in order to glean insight into their own self-publishing journey, first of all, jeez,you really shouldn't, and secondly, I'll add a bit of detail about the financial side of it all.
  • Amazon make you complete an online tax questionnaire so that you don't pay tax on US sales twice. It is less complicated than it looks so don't be put off.
  • It is not necessary to set up as a Limited Company when you self-publish. Sole Trader status will be fine unless you end up selling a gazillion copies. 
  • Likewise, a business bank account is not necessary when it's a small publishing enterprise.
  • Creating paperbacks is an expensive shebang. For a £7.99 book*, the writer/publisher gets 86p.
  • Ebook royalties are better. Around 50% of the price goes to the writer/publisher. Plus there are less costs in setting them up too. 
  • Whilst income may be low, expenses are tax deductible - from printer ink to ISBN costs.
  • Both Ingram Spark (paperback providers) and KPD (ebook providers) pay royalties around 90 days after sales. 
  • There are a shed load of ways you can spend money on a book in order to improve sales. Marketing companies, books on how to sell books, competition entry fees - some are worth it, some are not. Choose wisely.
  • All of the above is based on my own UK experience. I imagine other countries are a whole other kettle of fish.

So there we are. Now I've printed and filed all my paperwork since April, I am feeling unencumbered and ready to crack on. I'm still on track for draft one of book two to be completed by Christmas, as well as being ready to begin writing Tilda#2 this time next year. Now all I need to do is concentrate on gin-soaked business lunches, adding shoulder pads to my tops and leading hostile takeovers of the board. Now hold my calls, damn it. I'm flying to Geneva at noon.

Have a lovely week, folks. 

*There are lots of variables that affect cost such as cover size and page count. The price quoted is for a 8" x 5" novel with 324 black and white pages with Ingram Spark's 2017 prices.


Monday, 28 August 2017

What Would Tilda Do?

I like to think I left you all on a cliffhanger last week. Where has she been? What will she have been doing? What excitements have the past week delivered? I can defo hear you thinking this. Or is that just, who are you and why are you eating all that cheese?

As I said last Monday, this week I was going on my holidays. Mostly this was because I wanted a break but it was also an opportunity to scout out locations for Tilda's next adventure. If you haven't read Carry the Beautiful yet, then firstly I am slack-jawed at your bizarre life choices, but secondly, I am going to avoid giving away any major spoilers. So. Any sequel can go in a wide variety of directions, but one thing is clear - Tilda has a specific personality. She likes routine and order. She has lived a life of quiet conformity, not outwardly questioning much but inwardly thinking a lot. Her next chapter (or collection of chapters) won't necessarily focus on her entirely, but she will still be about. And this week I decided where that 'about' will be. So folks, the past few days I have spent in...are you ready?...Aberystwyth!



Aberystwyth
Now, you might be thinking, but Aberystwyth is just a town. It is like Warrington or Stockport or Salford? There's nothing special that defines it. No? Ya reckon? Only a bloody massive bay running through the length of it! Honestly, Aberystwyth is the loveliest place. As someone who dreamt of being by a coastal view for an entire marriage, Tilda would so love being there.

My 'research' (and I use the term loosely) has mostly taken the form of wandering around and taking photos. I checked out a couple of specific locations I might name, and took notice of signs that gave me info about the place. (No booze on the prom, for example.) I also invented a new holiday game. Yeah, no mess! I categorised every activity or pastime in which I partook, between 'Something Tilda Would Do' and 'Something Tilda Would Not Do'. This provided me with MUCH FUN. So much so that I share my categorised activities below. You are SO welcome.



TILDA WOULD...
...TAKE A BOOK TO A COFFEE SHOP ON A FREE AFTERNOON.

TILDA WOULD NOT...
...TAKE A BOOK TO A BAR ON A FREE AFTERNOON AND DO SOME DAYTIME BOOZING.

TILDA WOULD...
...WALK ON THE WELSH COASTAL PATHWAY.


TILDA WOULD NOT...
...GET SIDETRACKED TAKING SELFIES AND IGNORE THE VIEW.

TILDA WOULD...
...TRAVEL ON A CLIFF RAILWAY.

TILDA WOULD NOT...
...REWARD HERSELF WITH A MOFO OF AN ICE CREAM WHEN SHE GOT TO THE TOP. FRIVOLOUS.

TILDA WOULD...
...EAT TAPAS WITH A GLASS OF WINE FOR HER EVENING MEAL - ONCE IN A WHILE, OR ON A SPECIAL OCCASION, ANYWAY.

TILDA WOULD NOT...
...EAT CHIPPY CHIPS FOR LUNCH, JUST BECAUSE. ARE YOU MAD?

TILDA WOULD...
...SIT AND WATCH THE SUN SET AS OFTEN AS SHE COULD.


TILDA WOULD NOT...
...FINISH WATCHING THE SUN SET AND THEN GO TO THE LATE NIGHT TESCO AND BUY A BAG OF HOBNOB NIBBLES TO EAT IN ONE GO ON THE WALK BACK.

So there we are. The few days away provided me with fresh air and sea breezes, plus the space to think about what can happen for Tilda and chums next. I also drank my body weight in alcohol so that was good. It's back to the normal routine now, without a sea view, mid-week wine, or a Hobnob Nibble in sight. Booo to all of that.

Have a lovely week, folks.



Aaaaand relaaaaaxxx








Monday, 21 August 2017

Holidays Are Coming, Holidays Are Coming...

Hey, how is everyone? All tippety top? That's marvellous. I'm light of heart and free as a bird right now. Why's that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. Today I am going on holiday.

I say holiday because it is in lots of ways, but it is also a research jaunt. Yes! I'm doing research. It is definitely NOT a made up writer-reason to have a few days away by the seaside on my own, jibbing off real life for a bit. Not all all, no sirree. It's totally legit.

Fizzy wine and a jumper. It's all you need.
The book I'm planning out at the moment will be set in a coastal town. If you've read Carry the Beautiful you'll know Tilda, our hero, likes the coast. She's all about the outdoors and the hills and the valleys. I'm not so much about any of those things but I do like a good beach. Not a sunbathing, sweaty, slapping-on-the-factor-50 type of beach. No, I prefer the type where you walk along in the howling wind wearing a jumper before getting chips on the prom. That's where me and Tilda converge. I don't think she's got much time for the Algarve either but a blowy beach is right up her street.

So I'm jetting (driving) off and getting away from it all, to get a handle on the type of location the next instalment can be set. In all honesty, as research goes it will be brief. I will take some photos, walk around a bit and reacquaint myself with a Welsh seaside town I already know quite well. Then half an hour later, when the research is over, I will be chilling the frig out. It is likely I will spend significantly more time doing that if I'm truthful.

So, now on to the exciting bits. Let me share my holiday reading.

First of all, Friend Request stood out as soon as I saw it. This is because my sister had the very same idea for a book many years ago. Sadly she didn't get any further than that so here is Laura Marshall's actual finished book. Confession: I started this yesterday. Reading holiday books before a holiday starts isn't really on. But still, that's what's happened. Soz. So far it is easy to get into, grippy and intriguing. I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

Next up is Edward Docx's Let Go My Hand. Disclaimer: I am distantly related to Ed Docx. He wouldn't know me if he fell over me but I've read most of his books and much of his journalism to date. (This long read is well worth a look, although the text is firmly in NSFW territory.) The reviews of Let Go My Hand have been consistently decent so I can't wait to get stuck in.

Lastly is The Power by Naomi Alderman. It was displayed with the label 'If you liked The Handmaid's Tale you'll like this'. This concerns me. I LOVED The Handmaid's Tale when I read it twenty years ago. It felt like one of those crazy 'imagine if the world was like this' novels that can be scary or amusing or thrilling. Now it feels that the world really is like that and it depresses me no end. I've avoided Handmaid style novels and the recent TV series because it's all so 2017. The difference with The Power is that the novel depicts a horrifically oppressive society against men. Honestly, I know this is still bad, but if I can picture the controlling male shocker currently on the nightly news having his fictional rights curbed in a book, it might just make me feel less fed up at the state of everything.

Blimey, that got heavy quickly. And today is a flippety gibbet, floaty schmloaty kind of day. It's holiday time! I'll feedback on the research when I'm back next week. For now, have a lovely week, folks. I know I fully intend to.



Monday, 14 August 2017

Bring on Bogo Pogos and Tina Sparkle...

I am not a fan of reality TV. 
Apart from a couple of specific exceptions (more of those in a minute) I avoid all examples of the genre. People judging other people just doesn't do it for me. Not one bit. And I completely despise the type of show that puts together a montage of the worst contestants/auditonees/humans for the baying public's amusement. (You all know who I mean, yeah?) Even the beloved and innocuous Great British Bake Off bugged me. Mel and Sue were brilliant and lovely hosts, but ultimately someone had made a cake. It was a cake that someone had made. There is no down side to a cake. Stop finding a downside, Hollywood, and be grateful. Eat it, say thank you and shut up.

I'm not a fan of early
evening blood sports.
I said I had exceptions. A couple of years ago I watched a series of The Voice. This was purely because Boy George was announced as a judge. Despite my dislike of the format, I ended up getting sucked in and eventually, irrespective of Boy George, I actively looked forward to each episode and the progress of the contestants. No one was humiliated, criticism was constructive and it didn't feel like it was tapping into the baser aspects of human nature by being gladitorial rather than supportive. It was nice. When the next (Boy George-less) series started, however, I was happy to leave it be, having done my time. 


The other reality show I like (no, I LOVE) is RuPaul's Drag Race. Now more or less mainstream, it has elevated the art of drag to a much wider audience than before. Whether that is a good thing or not, depends on your point of view. (There has been some criticism that drag is, and should continue to be a subversive attack on the establishment and therefore can never be mainstream. Alternatively, it's been praised for it's up front and centre LGBTQ presence in a country where the current political situation reminds us that hard-fought rights cannot be taken for granted.) Regardless of the debate, I am IN. Drag queens fiercely competing for the prize, whilst having each other's backs. Lipsyncing, runway presentations and performance art. Skills such as make up artistry, costume design, stand up comedy and dance. It combines trashy TV with a profound understanding of the need for solidarity in the face of adversity. Sigh. It's totes amazeballs and ev.

But still, why go on about all this, I hear you ask? What has triggered a reality show blog post this very day? Well, here's the thing. In January, I made a new year's resolution. I promised myself that I would try to broaden my horizons. I decided that the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen, would be the first year that I watched...Strictly!

I am assuming it will be exactly
like Strictly Ballroom every week. 
I know. I know. It's so not me. Saturday night judgey-ness and a results show on a Sunday too? Far too much commitment surely? But here's the thing. My Saturday night social life schedule is greatly reduced these days due to old age, so I'm usually in the house near a TV. And in the past, as I've been watching Beverly Hills Cop for the millionth time, I have seen my Twitter feed being stuffed full of joyous appreciation, witty commentaries and die hard passion regarding the dancing people that the rest of the world has been watching. I've had no idea who most of them are or what they are doing and yet Twitter's been having a weekly party because of it. And it's always so positive! Ed Balls brought joy to the world with his Gangnam Style in so many more ways than he managed when he had actual power in Government. At least that's the way it seemed from the gaspy adoration from my timeline. No one laughed at him, but laughed with him. He was living life large and people were loving him for it. Yet I missed it all. I wasn't there. I was probably re-watching something on Netflix. So enough is enough. The time has come and I am ready to join in.

Craig (?) approves of my TV plans
At the time of writing, there has been a contestant reveal each day. I have taken a smidge more interest this year (what with it being my first time and all) but other than a quick glance, I've been mostly in the dark about who they are. Until Friday. On Friday it was revealed that Richard Coles is contestant number 5! This has upped my excitement levels massively. I am a long time fan of Richard Coles. The fact that he is an Anglican priest AND he used to be in the Communards already blows my mind. Then there are his talking head appearances on the most interesting of documentaries. He contributed to How to be Bohemian with Victoria Coren Mitchell in 2015, a sumptuous feast of a series to devour, and then more recently, he appeared on Queer as Art for the BBC season of programmes marking the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. Basically he rocks and I cannot wait to see what he does on Strictly

My one stipulation of my new Autumn/Winter Saturday night viewing, is that it has to be kind. I have heard on the grapevine that Len (?) has left and there is a new judge this year. I need them to be nice and encouraging not cruel and cutting. I need the editors to show the progress and effort put in, not the mistakes and humiliations for an attempt at cheap comedy. And I need Twitter to keep up the party atmosphere every Saturday so I feel like this huge life change has been worth it. Is that all right with everyone? Thanks in advance.

Have a lovely week, folks.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Let's Just Write First Drafts Forever...

Writing a book is easy! Except when it's not. OK, there's loads of hard bits, but the first draft - the time when you can type any old nonsense because you know it will all get taken out at a later, unimaginable future time - that's the easiest bit of all.

Exactly what I look
like at the moment
I'm currently in the middle of the first draft of book two, and what a jolly old time of it I'm having. I sit in my usual Costa place (back wall, soft leather bench seat, individual table) and crack on with churning out the words. They come reasonably easily - not least because at this stage I simply don't care how terrible it all is. With no quality control, getting words on a page is the sole aim. 
Contemplating the ease
of a first draft in Costa.

If this were the sum total of all that was needed I would be laughing. I could write first drafts of all kind of things. I could branch out into non-fiction! Textbooks on subjects about which I haven't the foggiest could be my bag. First drafts are great. 

What follows a first draft is a whole other ball game. Second, third and eventually fiftieth drafts can be wearing. Forcing your eyes to begin the umpteenth read through, or knowing there's something wrong around Chapter 15 but you can't figure out what, are definitely the non-fun parts of the process. Then allowing people to read it for the first time is perhaps the scariest feeling ever. And when you hear something positive from the carefully selected people you've asked, the relief lasts only seconds. The immediate thought is then, 'But they would say that because they know me and are being nice.' This results in never fully knowing if what you're putting out into the world is any good. Self-doubt hinders everything.

Waiting for feedback is intense!
But even all that isn't the worst part. The worst part is most definitely the marketing. This is where I am up to with book one. Carry the Beautiful has been out for four months. So far everyone who knows me that is likely to buy it, has done. My weekly Facebook and Twitter links to the Amazon page have reached everyone they are going to reach. So I need a game plan. The trouble is, I haven't really got one.

I've gone down a self-publishing route - Ingram Spark - that means in theory, I can walk into any bookshop, convince them my book should be stocked, and they have the means to order it through their bookselling channels. If I'd gone with other Print on Demand companies, that wouldn't necessarily be the case. Except the thing is, I have to convince people in bookshops to stock it. I have to pitch. I have to sell. This is something I absolutely don't want to do. It's not that I don't think it's good enough. I think the complete opposite to be honest. It's a cracker! A curl-up-on-the-sofa-can't-put-it-down-stay-up-all-night-page-turner. Obviously I'm biased but even so. It's gripping and funny and well-written (hell yeah!) and moving. But I'd so much rather the world worked that out for itself instead of me having to shout about it. It's just the way I prefer things.

Look how well my
baby suits sitting on
a bookshelf.
I am working on this though. If you follow me on Twitter, or like the Carry the Beautiful Facebook page you'll have noticed I post screen shots of good reviews. I know, the brass neck of me! It's not who I am at all. But retweeting praise is the first step to becoming the cocky self-promoting, bookselling machine that I need to be. Perhaps at some point I will go on an all-dayer round town, and when I'm tipsy enough not to care, go and have a natter with the poor sod on the till in Waterstones. That could be one way of progressing. Maybe? Hmmm, maybe I'll give that one a swerve. In the meantime however, I'll keep going with the weekly tweets and Facebook posts, and screen shot the reviews. Let's take this slowly, everyone.

Have a lovely week, folks.