Monday, May 31, 2010
Forget about equating writing with financial reward. You need to write because you love it, not because you want that contract and a place in the bestseller charts. The first should help with the second, but writing is one of those jobs that pays nothing for a very long time, and the sooner you come to terms with this, the better you'll feel about continuing your work.
And I had to smile, because this is such a great piece of advice and something I constantly struggle with. Leaving the corporate world and my own income behind and relying solely on my husband was a giant step. At the time, I didn't realise just how huge it was. My eyes were set only on getting published. I didn't think about what would happen after I got published. There was no need to, because I'd be making money then, right? I'd at least be able to buy my luxury hair conditioner again rather than the cheap non-name stuff (this was a giant sacrifice at the time, I can assure you)!
Because here I am, two published books later, and I can assure you that my hair is still slathered in Tesco's conditioner rather than my lovely Aveda one. I still fret over whether I can really afford that dinner out with friends. And I'm into my overdraft just to attend a conference in July.
I know, I know: poor me! I am so grateful and proud to have those two books published, and a novel on the way. And with one just out in November and the other released this month, my books are selling relatively well, too: sales are increasing month by month! So it's not that I'm not on my way. It's just that it takes a long time, and a lot of work, for the profits to start showing.
For the past two and a half years, I've worked every day from 8 am to 4 pm - a regular work-day (and often on the weekends, too). If I was to take the profit I have made so far from my published books and divide it by 30 months... well, let's just say it would not even buy me a cupcake a week!
Writing is hard work, and it's the rare author who can live from the profits they make. So yes: forget about equating writing with financial reward. Write because you love it, and don't lose sight of that -- even if your hair does fall out of your head!
(Thank you to everyone who added The Hating Game on Goodreads yesterday! Mwah!)
Sunday, May 30, 2010
If you're unfamiliar with these little pleasures, churros are a Spanish treat usually eaten for breakfast. I call them my market treat, because whenever I brave the crowds at nearby Portobello Market, I always make sure to reward myself with a cup full of steaming churros. It's the perfect combo of crispy and chewy.
Happy Sunday everyone!
(A small announcement before I sign off: massive thanks to Alexandra Shostak for putting The Hating Game on Goodreads! If you're on Goodreads and you feel so compelled to add it to your to-read shelf... it would be lovely! Right. Announcement over.)
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
However, when I read Wasted by Nicola Morgan, I actually felt compelled to write about it. There's something so unique about the voice that it's almost hypnotic. It's been awhile since I've read something that drew me in quite like this.
Here's the blurb (from Amazon.co.uk):
Jack worships luck and decides his actions by the flip of a coin. No risk is too great if the coin demands it. Luck brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life. But Jack’s luck is running out, and soon the stakes are high. As chance and choice unravel, the risks of Jack’s game become terrifyingly clear. An evening of heady recklessness, and suddenly a life hangs in the balance, decided by the toss of a coin. In the end, it is the reader who must choose whether to spin that coin and determine: life or death.
The book moves between Jack and Jess, following them as their lives intersect and twist and turn depending on the flip of Jack's coin. It's a fascinating concept, but what really made this book interesting for me is the omniscient narrator who is so present it's almost like another character, watching and reporting on Jack and Jess' every move and thought. It's creepy and spellbinding at the same time. As the reader, you feel just as much under the control of this narrator as Jack and Jess.
I made the mistake one day of delving into this book before an afternoon nap that I really wanted to take. I never got the nap, but I did finish the book!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
So when the lovely Caroline Smailes invited me to the London launch of her new book Like Bees to Honey, I jumped at the chance to go. Like the true social coward I am, though, I dragged along my husband with me so I could talk to him if no-one wanted to talk to me.
Luckily, I knew some online friends were going: DJ Kirkby, for one, and Carol from Not Only in Thailand, so I hoped they'd provide a few friendly faces!
The lovely Carol from Not Only in Thailand gets her book sighed by Caroline.The night quickly blurred into a flurry of meeting Twitter and blogging folk like Liz Fenwick (whose website I stole these photos from - hope you don't mind, Liz!), Sue Guiney , @beecee, @katheastman and the very cool @themanwhofell, whose book my husband bought! I do think that name-tags (can you tell I have a dork inside me fighting to get out) are definitely in order, as Twitter photos cannot be trusted and I missed out on meeting loads of people, namely @GKateB, the author of the Dating Detox, whose book is next on my list to read!
My husband and I (with our heads thankfully cut off so you can't see how sweaty our faces are - it was hot!) wait to get our book signed.
It was fun alternating between my Talli-Marsha identities, as I tweet from two accounts, but I fear as the night went on and my fluid intake increased I became less responsive to either name! By half-nine my husband and I stumbled out and back to the Tube, happy to have made the journey north.
So what does go on at book launches? A lot of wine/ Maltese beer (at this one, anyway), some very nice people, and a very good time!
(Stay tuned for a review of Like Bees to Honey, right after my review of Nicola Morgan's Wasted)
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
1. Twitter. The duck-and-dive nature of Twitter really makes it ideal for a few prime minutes of procrastination fun. See what's going on around the world, with loads of other procrastinating writers! I have three (yes, three) Twitter accounts just to, you know, maximise the enjoyment.
2. Facebook. Catch up with people you haven't talked to since high school and probably never will, even though you're Facebook friends! I've got two FB accounts - one for writing and one for personal use - and one FB Page for my 24 Hours travel guides, so I can play around for hours!
3. Google Reader. Not blogging - because I know once I delve into that world, I won't come out - but I like to check my Google Reader through the day to see what pops up!
4. Watching people rifle through the rubbish bin outside. This is surprisingly good entertainment! See what treasures lurk under the sandwich wrappers!
5. NovelRank.com. Oh Lordy, how I wish I'd never found out about this website where you can track sales of your books and look at handy-dandy sales charts and figures. I can easily obsess over it, checking it at least three times daily.
6. The Daily Mail online. You can't help but love The Daily Mail, where everything somehow seems to cause cancer and teenage pregnancy. Green tea? Causes cancer. Nick Clegg? Causes cancer. Faulty Tube system? Teenage pregnancy.
7. Staring into the fridge. I think sometimes if I stare long enough, food might actually appear.
8. BonsaiKittens. An oldie but goodie. Just how do they get those kittens into those jars?
9. Looking at my to-do list. This isn't exactly a fun one but is guaranteed to waste at least five minutes. Want a break? Scan the list, do nothing, then go back to work. Mission accomplished!
10. Staring at my husband. He always makes fun of me but I frequently get up out of my chair, walk over to him, stare for a good minute or two, then walk away. Why? I dunno!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sweltering in the +30 C sun.
I can't tell you how odd it is to write 'sweltering' in the UK, because we rarely get to 'warm' here, let alone 'swelter'. I am exaggerating... slightly. Winters are are relatively mild, and summers are much the same. Honestly, you can pretty much wear the same wardrobe all year round, and it's actually quite good writing weather. Who wants to go outside in the cold drizzle when you can wrap up all cozy and warm and watch others suffer from the comfort of your window?
So when the mercury rises above +25 C, all hell breaks loose. People strip off, exposing flabby white bits and mismatched sandals with yellowed toe-nails. The sun becomes an enemy and all the talk is of a summer dry spell, or even worse -- the dreaded hose-pipe ban (don't ask)!
I don't really care much about any of that. But I do care about getting my pesky edits done. And that's hard to do when the sun is shining in the window of my Victorian terrace home -- the large window, in fact, that doesn't actually open! And no, I don't have air conditioning. I don't know of anyone in the UK who does! I have all the other windows open, letting in the welcome sounds of the drilling, drilling, drilling next door, but I'm still sticking to the chair.
Please tell me: how do you stay cool enough to write in the summer? Should I just give up and go for Pimms?
(FYI - I'm well aware of the irony that I'm complaining about the sun, after months of complaining about the rain!)
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Isolated chapel driving through Gospel Pass in the Black Mountains.
Lots of biking and footpaths, with all signs in Welsh, too!
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The Southbank is the cultural heart of London, with the British Film Institute, National Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall all within metres of each other. But more than that (for me, anyway), it's where I first met my husband, where he proposed last year, and where we got married a few months later. Monday was the anniversary of when we first met in a blind date six years earlier, so we grabbed a bottle of champagne and headed down to the river in the early evening sun.
The National Theatre at dusk.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I swear, by the time I'm sixty, I'll barely be able to bring myself upright! I'll have to spread all my reading material out on the floor and type with my toes.
Back in my corporate days, I had my office ergonomically designed. But even that didn't seem to make a difference to my errant posture. There's just something so comforting about learning close to my laptop screen, as if the proximity to my brain will enable diffusion or something. Soon my head is going to be fused to the screen.
Does anyone else have a posture problem? And what do you do to solve it?
*(I'm going to be slightly MIA as my parents are visiting this week. I'll try my best to post here and there and visit blogs while I can, though!)
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Fast forward twenty-odd years or so. I'm standing in the local Tesco's, clutching a £10 note in my hand. I'd used up the other £9 and I had £1 remaining for the all-important dessert (because I couldn't go back home without one, naturally). Scanning the shelves, my heart sank. Everything was at least £2 -- but wait! What was that? Four éclairs for a pound? I grabbed the packet. They looked rather forlorn, pushed back on the bottom shelf, but éclairs were better than nothing. Or so I thought.
But oh, OH! When I bit into the first one after dinner, I remembered straight away why I liked them so much. The rich cream, the light pasty... and the chocolate! Perfect!
Please forgive me, éclair. How could I have forsaken thee, for so long? Never again, my love. Never again.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
And now may I present: Blenheim Palace. The birthplace of Churchill, it's about an hour outside of London and definitely worth a trip. I took these photos on a visit there last year. It's as beautiful as it looks. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I'd love to get your opinion on it! The novel is firmly chick lit and we hope the cover gets across the genre as well as the general 'theme' of the book. Can I implore you to cast your vote in the quick poll below? Any thoughts and feedback also appreciated!
Thank you and a virtual cupcake (or glass o'wine -- or, who am I kidding, both -- to you!)
Free Online Surveys
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
If you fancy winning a copy of the book, brilliant book blogger Scott Pack is doing a giveaway today on his blog, Me and My Big Mouth. Head over and write something in French in the comments section (Google Translator's helpful!) and he'll pick the winners on the weekend.
The debate over Paris’ best bakery rages on, but Poilâne is a definite contender. Opened in 1932 by the young Pierre Poilâne from Normandy, Poilâne’s bread has stood the test of time. Baked in a wood-fired oven the same way they always have been, the traditional sourdough loaves were so popular Salvador Dalí once ordered a whole bedroom made out of them! Bite in to see if they live up to your bread expectations. And if you love the bread so much you can’t live without it, never fear – you can take away a cushion shaped exactly like a Poilâne loaf and fill your head with sweet bread dreams. Poilâne: www.poilane.fr
If the heady smell of roasting coffee beans doesn’t get you, one look at the quaint, coffee-bean stuffed interior will lure Café Verlet has been giving caffeine-starved Parisians their coffee fix since 1880 and it couldn’t be more different from its chain-gang neighbours if it tried. Choose from a menu of coffees from the Yemen to Brazil, or splash out for a rare gourmet bean from Australia. No matter what you go for, you’re sure to leave here with a buzz! Café Verlet: www.cafesverlet.com
Napoléon and his hat parted ways at Café Procope, said to be Paris’ first café The young officer couldn’t pay for his meal and his beloved hat was left as collateral. It’s still there today, displayed proudly behind glass. Founded in 1686, Procope attracted everyone from Voltaire to Robespierre, all there for the drink of the hour: coffee. Just make sure you can pay the bill or you might lose your hat, too! Café Procope: www.procope.com
The crêpe may have its roots in Brittany, but it’s the stuff of legends at Chez Josselin. Located close to the Montparnasse train station (with a direct train to Brittany), this tiny crêperie is nestled amongst a whole host of other restaurants selling the national dish. Bretons coming to Paris for work settled around the train station, and restaurants set up shop to serve their crêpe cravings. The best of the bunch, Chez Josselin is cosy, cluttered and fast! Choose a dinner crêpe (with savoury filling, called galette) or satisfy your sweet-tooth with a traditional sugar crêpe. Either way, you can’t go wrong at Chez Josselin. Chez Josselin: 67 Rue du Montparnasse
Housed in a twelfth-century prison complete with a guillotine that served its purpose well, Le Caveau des Oubliettes is a night-spot with ambiance to spare. Grab a drink in the pub upstairs then head down to the caveau – which used to be linked to a nearby prison by underground tunnels – for some free jazz. Today, the sweet sounds of music echo around the small room but centuries ago the room reverberated with the screams of tortured prisoners. Keep your head and avoid the rush down the narrow stairs by getting there at least thirty minutes before the music begins. Le Caveau des Oubliettes: www.caveaudesoubliettes.fr
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
And I've tried everything to stop things from going wrong. Schedules. Lists, ad nauseum. But even when I make a list and read it -- over and over again, sometimes staring at it for hours -- things don't seem to be getting done. I'm crossing items off. I'm working my way through. But somehow, some way, pesky little items slip through my soggy brain and fall by wayside.
There's only one excuse. My mind has gone missing. Declared itself closed for business. Holed up with the politicians while they debate coalitions and cupcakes.
Yet how I can remember to buy wine and éclairs, while forgetting the milk? Why can I write blog posts no problem, yet anguish over edits? Is it selective brain functioning? Has only a select group of neurons decided to shut down?
Please come back, neurons. No more lists, I promise!
(PS - The still-working part of my brain wishes to thank you all for the lovely comments yesterday! General consensus seems to be in favour of cupcakes!)
Monday, May 10, 2010
I'm so excited to finally be going to a writer's conference this July -- the wonderful Romantic Novelists' Association is holding their annual gathering this year in London. Since I don't need to pay for travel or lodging, this means I can just about afford to go (thanks, overdraft!). Now here's where I really start stressing: how will I spend three days milling around with people I don't even know?
I need your help. Should I:
a) Bring trays of cupcakes and distribute them at random, hoping people will pounce and speak to me in the process?
b) Get completely sozzled so I don't care if no-one talks to me, I can have my own party?
c) Wear a T-shirt that says: I'll give you £10 if you talk to me?
d) Pretend I'm an agent so I can be popular?
Any other options I've missed out on?
Sunday, May 09, 2010
It's the perfect way to end a rich meal: the lemon filling and light pastry base cleanses your palate, leaving you wanting even more. I have been known to buy a pie-sized tart, pick it up, and demolish it bite by bite (although I probably shouldn't be so eager to share that).
It's the kind of thing that's so good you take another bite before you've even finished chewing the one in your mouth!
Lemon tart, I love you!
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Talk about flower power!
Friday, May 07, 2010
Nicola is an author you can't help but admire. She's had over 90 books published and persevered for years to break into the industry. She also dispenses incredibly useful and forthright advice at her blog, Help! I Need a Publisher. A self-described 'crabbit old bat', I have to admit I was slightly nervous at meeting her. Did she smile? Should I bring her chocolate to placate her? And what footwear would grace her tootsies?
I felt like I was blind dating. With every crabbity-looking woman that passed by, my lips formed an eager half-smile. Finally, a woman approximating Nicola's photo appeared and I stood to greet her. She wasn't crabbity-looking in the least -- what a disappointment! Sadly, I didn't get a chance to check out her shoes, as I was too busy chatting away. She's lovely, easy to talk to, and gave me some great advice. We talked about Twitter, steampunk, eReaders and more, and when she left for her train I was sorry to see her go. But I've got my copy of Wasted and I can't wait to delve in! I'll be doing a review once I'm done!
Is there an author you'd like to meet? Or an author you've already met who's helped you on your way?
(Thanks to everyone for all the lovely comments on my interview with Jen! And welcome all new followers!)
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Thanks so much, Jen!
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Stephanie at Bah to Cancer has just announced a wonderful initiative where, for a £2 donation to a cancer charity, you have the chance to win loads of wonderful books. Head over to check it out, along with some great author interviews. Stephanie's defeated breast cancer and a she's brilliant blogger, too.
Update: Stephanie has just told me the contest is open to non-UK residents, too.
Next up, the wonderful Kim Franklin and TJ Carson tagged me with this and it looked so fun I couldn't wait to do it!
Question 1: Where were you 5 years ago?
Teaching hooligans in a local comprehensive
Trying not to become an alcoholic by drowning my sorrows each evening
Trying to write each evening but failing miserably
Desperate for sleep!
Question 2: Where would you like to be 5 years from now?
Still in London
With an extra wardrobe so I don't need to rotate my clothes every month!
I'd love to have a cat for added writing distraction
On the Times bestseller list (one can dream, right?)
(This probably doesn't count because it's not for me, but I'd love my for husband's first film to still be released and playing regularly in cinemas around the world!)
Question 3: What is (was) your to-do list today?
Ugh, do you really want to know?
Outline new idea
Talk to publisher re: launch activities for my non-fiction title next week
Write a pitch for media
Blog and check out other blogs
Drink wine and eat! (OK, it's not on my to-do list but it should be!)
Question 4: What 5 snacks do you enjoy?
Question 5: What 5 things would you do if you were a billionaire?
Do loads of print runs for my books, then buy them all so I could make the bestsellers list!
Make a cupcake a day mandatory for all schools
Make books out of candy so kids want to read more
Buy my own vineyard in France
Seriously: I'd love to introduce more literary schemes to help improve children's reading skills
Now I'm supposed to tag five people:
India Drummond (I will stalk you if you don't do this!)
May Day Writer
Monday, May 03, 2010
Right! Next batch!
And finally, Ann from Inkpots and Quills passed the From Me to You award on, where I must reveal 7 true things about me.
So here they are!
1. I used to be able to perform up to 15 back handsprings in a row. Age and cupcakes have now caught up to me.
Thanks again, everyone!