Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Wonderful World of Promotion

Ha. I say that ironically, of course, because sometimes self-promotion can be downright cringe-worthy. I speak from experience, having had to approach bookstores first-hand to stock my London guide book. Luckily the results were generally positive... but still my face flamed and my hands shook (you can read about it here).

But it's great when you see author's promotional efforts -- with unique and innovative methods -- pay off. One recent example of this is the interactive widget developed by author Caroline Smailes for her book Like Bees to Honey. I've seen this everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, blogs... and I quickly became addicted myself!

This is a brilliant example of an author thinking out of the box to generate book buzz! I hope to do a similar thing with The Hating Game, something like this to do with ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends, perhaps? :)

What out-of-the-box methods of book promotion have you seen?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ten for Tuesday: How to Tell You Need New Clothes

I'm going to a conference in a week and a half and I'm becoming increasingly nervous about one thing. No, it's not the big-name authors I'll be mingling with, nor is it meeting the experts whose workshops I'll be attending.

It's my wardrobe, with one question howling around in my head: what should I wear? It's a desperate state of affairs.

Just how desperate?

1. My wardrobe has shrunk down to one pair of Primark jeans and about 10 black Primark T-shirts, along with three or four summer dresses really not suitable for a conference.

2. My knickers have holes and their elastic waistbands have long since snapped. Yes, I have saggy drawers. Sexy, I know.

3. Eight of the ten black T-shirts have toothpaste stains, and my one renegade white t-shirt has a random pink stain down the side (wine?).

4. My socks are basically worn down to nothing on the bottom. No holes - but the soles are pretty much threadbare!

5. My two pairs of summer sandals - bought at M&S for £10 each two years ago - are cracked and battered looking. It feels like I'm walking on concrete whenever I wear them.

6. My one trusty black cardigan (indispensable in England, I tell you) has a massive hole under the armpit.

7. My bras... well, let's just say you really don't want to know. I will say that their stocks have not been replenished for a good three years or so.

I think I'll end on that high note! Some shopping is in order, wouldn't you agree? Wish me lots of luck, and lots of bargains -- because my pounds certainly don't stretch very far!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Today has been a hot and squishy day. With temperatures in London topping 30 degrees Celsius most the weekend and today, writing in the heat of the afternoon has certainly been challenging! The late-afternoon sun pours into my office, making the logistics of writing in shorts whilst sitting on black leather fairly, well... squishy.

I can't complain, though, having spent Saturday lolling in the park listening to the distant strains of Hard Rock Calling. Yesterday we headed out to Twickenham for a BBQ -- and of course to watch the England versus Germany match which had taken on epic proportions. I'm by no means a football fan, but it was kind of fun to watch alongside our German hosts!

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on my photos! You can see which ones I've chosen for my websites: click here and here!

And that's all I've got for today, I'm afraid. The heat has made me rather lethargic (or is that the wine?).

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pimm's O'Clock!

It's Friday, I've finished my rewrite (otherwise known as Draft 2), and while it's only half two, I feel quite certain it's Pimm's o'clock!

Would you care to join me by my favourite tree in Hyde Park, right in front of the Serpentine Lake?

In other news, I shall shortly be posting some extremely egocentric photos from my photo shoot on Facebook -- just send me a friend request if you care to see them. I'd love your opinion on perhaps the top 3; they all look the same to me now!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Afflicted

Athletes can get a lot of injuries, yes. But writers? Sure, sitting at your desk isn't exactly a contact sport. But writers can suffer through their share of physical afflictions, too.

This week, I have been suffering from a full-blown case of desk-contact-dermatitis (don't laugh!). Yes, that's a skin condition that has been created by the constant friction of resting the side of my arm on my desk. It went from rosy pink and a little scratchy to bright red and freakin' itchy! Hubby (who trained as a doctor) asked me: if you feel it getting sore, why do you keep putting your arm on the desk like that? To which I replied: I dunno.

That's not all. Sometimes I sit on the chair so much that my butt and upper thighs literally throb when I get up at the end of the day -- even when I do go for a run at lunch. I'm not sure I ever had this problem in my office life (possibly because I was usually fabricating excuses to go 'consult' (read: gossip with) my colleagues).

And of course there's the inevitable writer's arse. Although strictly speaking I'm not sure that could be called an injury, it's definitely a liability!

What injuries have you suffered from your writing? Please don't tell me I'm the only one!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Screw Work!

On a steamy London night, I braved the sweaty masses on the Tube and headed to the London Writers' Club to hear author John Williams speak about his new book, Screw Work, Let's Play. John has had phenomenal success with the recent launch: he's been featured twice in the Sunday Times and even been named as one of the top six self-help books of the summer. So how does a first-time author get a book deal and become an Amazon best seller?

Here are John's tips. While these are mainly for non-fiction, they can also easily apply to fiction.

1. To get a book deal, just start doing it. Start writing, blogging, doing what you love and having fun doing it. Pick something with tangible results so you can see the outcome, and enjoy what you're doing. A lot depends on timing. Put yourself out there, go to events where there are like-minded people, and talk about what you're doing.

(This one really rang true for me. I met my publisher as a result of trying to get myself out there to meet other writers. )

2. Write the right book. It has to be fun for you, and it has to feel natural. Make sure your book solves a problem for people. The title and cover are both worth spending time on - make sure they're eye-catching and memorable.

3. Write the book in a way that feels like play, in a structure that keeps people engaged and in a way that works for you.

(I love this point because it's so easy to forget to enjoy writing!)

4. Get a good publisher who can help you structure your book, do a great job editing and help out with marketing.

5. Play your way to market the book. This goes back to networking and putting yourself out there. Due to social media, authors have more control over how they can market their book. Get on Twitter, Facebook, and start your own blog and website -- you don't have to wait until you have a book deal. Give people incentives to sign up for newsletters (etc - extracts from the book), and keep them updated. Use your contracts, colleagues' contacts and have a co-ordinated campaign to drive Amazon sales.

6. The most important: write a good book!

John's website is here and his book is available on Amazon.

The London Writers' Club has a newsletter full of great writing tips; you can sign up here, follow the hashtag #writersclub or WritersClub on Twitter.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ten for Tuesday: Bag Lady

Last the week, the lovely Sangu tagged me to list the contents of my bag. Since they're as much a mystery to me as anyone else, I thought it'd be interesting to have a root through one of them and see just what the heck is in there! I'm way too lazy to clean out my handbags with any kind of consistency so... here goes:

1. An empty packet of Nurofen (ibuprofen). Why empty? Because, like I said, I'm too lazy to throw it out. This packet will provide a false sense of security when I comb through my bag, frantically looking for my fix in the throes of a migraine. I will curse myself, promise to throw it out, and promptly forget all about it. And so it continues.

2. A copy of my P45 from Inland Revenue... from 2006! Yikes. Clearly I'm not organised, as I had no idea this was in here. Nor do I know why!

3. A random roll of sellotape. Hmmm... this could be from when I was a recruiter and I was doing a session at the London School of Economics, and I needed to tape up signs? That would have been three years ago!

4. A memory stick. No idea what's on this one.

5. A membership card to the now-defunct PrimeTime Video store.

6. A receipt for Mango's in Covent Garden, dated 22/0/07. And on the back, written in red pen, directions to a job interview.

7. A receipt for my British Citizenship Test, dated 22/03/2008. I like to collect receipts, clearly. And crikey, that test cost £34!?

8. A letter from my friend Addie in San Francisco, congratulating me on completing my first novel (back in 2008!).

9. Contract of employment for the above-mentioned job interview. *shudder*

10. Four plasters! I had a lot of blisters from my high-heels in those days...

Wow, that has actually been fairly enlightening. And what I have done to get organised? I've chucked it all back in the bag, of course...

I'd like to tag everyone to do this, as it's too hot right now (yes, hot!) to write more. So have fun, everyone, I'm off to get some wine!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Something Old, Something New...

Happy Monday! I'll start with the new first!

I'm not one for posting extracts of work in progress, but I've just started fiddling around with a new idea and I'm excited! So I thought I'd give a little taste of what it's about. The working title is Build A Man, and here's a brief blurb:

Trin Holland dreams of the day when she’s a breaking-news tabloid reporter. Right now, the closest she gets to tabloids is when the Page 3 Girl shows off her booty at the plastic surgery clinic where Trin works. But when heart-broken Jeremy Ritcie walks in the door requesting a complete make-over – and asking her for help choosing his new look – Trin knows she’s got the makings of a tabloid story any editor would kill for.

And now for something old!

This is one of the photos from my recent shoot. More coming once I have the CD... I need help choosing!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sweet Sunday: Take Your Pick!

Welcome to a special edition of Sweet Sunday! Why? Because I've now reached over 300 followers! And being, ahem, rather broke, I would like to show you all some love the best way I know how: with yummy scrummy food!

For the past few months, almost every Sunday I've written about one of my favourite treats. And so, in thanks to everyone who has been reading and commenting, I would like to share them all with you. Please, take as many as you like and enjoy! And the best bit? They're calorie free!

Thank you again for being such wonderful blog buddies.

Let the feast begin!

Start off with a cupcake or three to get your taste-buds going.

Enjoy a bite of blueberry grunt.

Have a bite of my scrumptious wedding cake from Patisserie Valerie.

Go crazy with banoffee pie!

Finish it off with some warm sticky toffee pudding.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Author Interview: Nik Perring

I'm thrilled to have author Nik Perring here today! Nik has recently released the short story collection Not So Perfect.

Having grown up reading Canadian short-story writers Alice Munro and Alistair MacLeod (The Lost Salt Gift of Blood is one of my all-time favourites), I've always been a massive fan of short stories.

Nik's success proves that publishers do embrace quirky and unique writers and that they are willing to publish talented writing (can writing be talented? hm). Read on to find out more!

You’ve gone from writing a children’s story to creating a collection of short stories. Talk us through that journey.

Thanks for having me here!

Um, I guess that’s quite a journey and one that, now I think about it, I was ALWAYS going to make. When I started writing fiction (c 2003) I wrote short stories. And not because I considered them to be easier to write than a novel, but because that length was what felt natural and comfortable.

After I’d had a few published I developed an interest in children’s literature and ended up writing a children’s book (again because that felt natural – I think there’s pattern developing here...!) which was published in 2006. What’s interesting to see now is that the children’s book isn’t so much a short novel but a series of linked short stories which just happen to be called chapters!

A year or so after the children’s book was published I returned to short stories. Again that felt the natural thing to do. And at some point in 2007 I discovered the short story collections Leading The Dance, by Sarah Salway; Willful Creatures, by Aimee Bender and The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God by Etgar Keret – and in reading those I knew exactly what I needed to do: write the stories I always wanted to.
So I did. And here we are!

What is about the short story that makes it so appealing? Have you ever written (or would you ever write) a novel?

I say this a lot (so apologies to those I’ve taught or to those who’ve read me talking about this in other interviews): I firmly believe that stories are as long as they are. Some are long (ie novels) and some are short. The most important thing, as a writer, is to tell the story in the way it naturally should be told – and length is a big part of that.

So, yes, I wouldn’t not write a novel.

I must say though that I’m not sure I’d have the patience to write something so long. I do like that the first drafts of short stories can often be written very quickly (and yes, that’s forgetting the weeks of editing them to make them good!). Another thing I find appealing is that short stories tend to be about moments and they’re often as long as the moments they’re telling; and like those moments, which are often so short, they can, if done well, stay with you for a long, long time.

I know nothing about flash fiction. What is it? Why do you think it’s so ‘trendy’ right now?

That’s okay. We can still be friends! Flash fiction, or short-short stories are simply very short stories. They’ve been around for a long, long time (see: folk and fairytales and fables). Vonnegut wrote them, as did Hemingway. Kafka wrote some truly wonderful ones. O Henry did and Ray Bradbury did too. Among others.

I think the internet’s had a lot to do with their growth in popularity. They can be read quickly and for free which, I think, is a brilliant thing because it’s exposing people to them; and people have to read them to know if they like them or not. And it would appear that a lot of them do.

They’re also the perfect size for the way many of us live. They don’t take all that long to read so can be consumed on the go.

I like that they’re trendy – it’s not something I’m associated with very often at all!

You’ve done a great job promoting ‘Not So Perfect’. How do you balance that with your writing?

Thank you! Err, to be honest, I’ve not. Not really. I made the decision a while ago that when the book came out I’d take a break from writing so I could be available to promote it as best as I could. And I think that’s a good and healthy thing because it means I’m able to concentrate on answering fabulous questions like these without worrying or feeling guilty about neglecting this story or that. And as I’d been writing non-stop since 2007 I thought I was due a bit of a break!

What’s one thing you wished you knew about publishing before you got published?

That publishers are on your side. And that you really, truly, honestly CAN write the book you want to write.

I’ve seen so much bad advice over the years: ‘publishers don’t like books of xyz length’; ‘publishers don’t publish short story collections’; ‘publishers don’t like books written in the first person/present tense/about this, that or the other’ and mostly it’s utter nonsense.

Fact: publishers like good books because good books (usually) sell. So while it’s important to know the market, audience and the industry, the most important thing any aspiring writer needs to do is write a bloody good book – and be prepared to realise that that might take them a few attempts.

But yes, publishers DO love good books.

And finally: donuts or cupcakes (you must choose one!)!

Well, now – that IS a tough one. Depending on what was inside the donut (it’d have to be filled with something tasty) it’d be donuts every time. Though I must confess to being particularly partial to cookies and muffins. So, yes, donuts please – that’s very kind of you to offer.

And thanks so much for having me here!

Thank you, Nik! Nik has had a rather trying week, so please show him some comment love! :)

Nik Perring is a writer, and occasional teacher of writing, from the north west of England. His short stories have been published widely in places including SmokeLong Quarterly, 3 :AM and Word Riot. His debut collection of short stories, NOT SO PERFECT is published by Roast Books and is out now. Nik blogs here and his website is Nik also tweets here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sleepyitis: A Sufferer Speaks

Sleepyitis: a condition known to affect writers in varying degrees of severity, resulting in the urge to nap frequently during the daytime hours. Sufferers are not physically tired but may experience similar symptoms: heavy eyes, drowsiness and lack of ability to form complete sentences.

Since Monday, I have been a victim of sleepyitis. I start the day with the best intentions, but come 11 am my eyelids are heavy and I'm gravitating towards the bed.

Nothing has changed: my prose is as scintillating as ever, my characters practically leap off the page (har har). I'm eating properly (chocolate cake aside), getting a good night's sleep, exercising at lunch (yes, it's true!) and drinking plenty of water. I chug my espresso each morning with grim determination that today will be the day I don't succumb. Yet I cannot seem to keep my eyes open!

Please help me: how do you stay awake during bouts of sleepyitis?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: The Dating Detox

I know chick lit isn't for everyone, the same way vampires and werewolves aren't for everyone. But, like any other kind of novel, there's a definite art to writing chick lit, and Gemma Burgess has got it.

Awhile back, I posted the wonderful trailer for the book. It was such a great teaser that I started reading the book that afternoon!

Here's the blurb, courtesy of Amazon:

If you can't date anyone nice, don't date anyone at all...Dating is a dangerous sport. So after her sixth successive failed relationship, romantically-challenged 20-something Sass decides she's had enough. The Dating Detox is born. No men, no break-ups, no problem. The result? Her life -- usually joyfully/traumatically occupied with dates, clothes and vodka -- is finally easy. Chastity rocks. No wonder nuns are always singing. Everything falls at her feet. Especially men. Will Sass break the rules? Why does fate keep throwing her in the path of the irritatingly amusing -- and gorgeous -- Jake? Will she ever roll the dice and play again? Or is a love-free life too good to risk losing? For the post-Carrie Bradshaw, post-Bridget Jones, post-credit crunch generation of singles, life isn't beautiful, a bitch, or a beach. It's a party.

I'm a big fan of writing in the first person, but it's something I've sometimes found difficult to both read and write. But Gemma balances the main character's internal dialogue with external events so well I never felt trapped within her POV. Indeed, Sass is so lovable that I actually developed a girl crush on her half-way through the novel and I felt rather bereft when I closed the book on the lovely Sass at the end. Every woman can likely relate to Sass' dating disasters, and her wonderful combination of intelligence and determination to change her life made this such a readable book. If you do like chick lit, I recommend it!

Gemma Burgess tweets as GKateB on Twitter and blogs here. The Dating Detox is available on Amazon UK or The Book Depository.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ten for Tuesday: Through My Window

Thanks to everyone for all your lovely comments yesterday! The photographer should send me some proofs on Thursday, so I'll post a few for your perusal. But only if they're good!

I like to look out the window. A lot. It's where I turn when my mind needs to puzzle something out, worry, or just go blank (which happens a lot). It's a good thing, then, that I live on such an interesting street! Here are some of my top window-gazing sights.

1. The red zippy car. This perfectly formed mini-car appeared one day on the sidewalk, zipping by pedestrians and honking, perturbed, at anyone who dared get in its way.

2. The Gaza protest. Back in January 2009, our street was flooded with a stream of protesters who marched to the Israeli embassy. Although the street doesn't look too busy in the photo, the stream of people went on for a good four or five hours.

3. Horses! Apart from the dozen horses that go by every morning at 7:30 am, there are a variety of other horses that head down our street on their way to Kensington Gardens.

4. A shouty man in a sailor's cap. Yes it's true! He turns up about once a week, randomly abusing passers-by.

5. People trawling for treasure in a rubbish bin. People walk by it, stare, then start poking around inside. I have watched this for years, wondering what on earth is inside that magic bin! And then, one day a few weeks ago, the bin disappeared. I am bereft.

6. Screamy bloke. This man appears a few times a week, usually early in the morning. He screams, then runs, then stops and walks normally for 50 metres or so. Then he repeats the routine. I can hear him doing this the length of the street. And there's nobody chasing him.

7. Lady with florescent tights. This is a woman who works in an antique shop across the street -- and she's well into her eighties. While her skirt and top are always sensible (and usually black or brown), her tights are always florescent green, pink or blue! Kudos to her, I say.

OK, so I don't have ten. But really, don't you think these are enough characters to occupy one small patch of London land?

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Picture is Worth 80,000 Words

Or so I hope, anyway!

Anyone who's friends with me on Facebook (just send a friend request if you're on FB!) knows I was in a slight tizzy yesterday. Why? I had to have some photos taken. Photos of me. AS much as I love to look at lovely photos of myself, the actually taking and making of said photos strikes fear into my unphotogenic heart.

I have two photos I've been using whenever anyone asked -- for my websites, blog interviews and the like -- but the time had finally come to expand my professional photo portfolio. With my rather limited budget, though, my main concern was finding a photographer who had enough skills to ensure I would appear half-way decent in the finished project.

Scouring Gumtree, I came across a Polish photographer, Grzegorz Lepiarz, whose work I loved. I feared he might be out of my price range, but I fired off an email and yay! We struck a deal, and agreed to meet up at his studio at the wonderfully eccentric Debenham House in nearby Holland Park.

Now the tizzy began in earnest: what to wear? How to do my make-up (and not injure myself in the process)? And the most important question of all: how to make sure my hair co-operates? I really must give a giant shout-out to my husband who patiently gave his opinion on countless outfits, drove me to and from the studio location, and even had a lovely lamb stew waiting when we got home!

After a hasty appointment at MAC make-up down the street where I had my face painted with various shades of pastels, I carefully dressed in my chosen outfit and drove off to Debenham House.

What a wonderful location for a photo shoot! It was early evening, the sun was gleaming off the tiles, and the beautiful surroundings -- along with Grzegorz -- helped put me at ease. Worth £29 million and built in 1906, the house is (according to a property website):

a mixture of the Arts and Crafts movement, neo-classical and Byzantine styles. Glazed tiles are used extensively inside this ten-bedroom, five-bathroom house. Some depict peacocks, eagles, flowers, galleons and mythical beasts. Many may have come from an assignment originally commissioned for the Russian czar's yacht Livadia, built in the 1870's. In addition, there is a covered walkway from the road, a front garden laid out in a formal Dutch style and an Orangery in the back garden, where there is also a croquet lawn and a coach house with two-bedroom suites.

However you describe it, it was simply gorgeous and I could hardly believe I was lucky enough to have my photos taken there! I just hope I do them justice (gulp!).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sweet Sunday: Blueberry Grunt

Today's Sweet Sunday is in honour of my Nova Scotian roots: blueberry grunt! You have to love a dessert with 'grunt' in its name.

Lots of gooey blueberries, plenty of sugar and some very yummy dumplings, all baked together and served up with a helping of cream.

Oh, my mouth is tanging already (and I don't care if tanging is a word or not, it's the perfect description for what my mouth is doing!).

Gotta get some grunt!

Happy Sunday!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Author Interview: Gary William Murning

I'm delighted to welcome author Gary Murning to the blog today! Gary's first novel, If I Never, was just released last year. I'm particularly happy that Gary shares my view on writer's block, a term which (I'm sorry!) never fails to irritate me. So... welcome Gary!

Tell us about your journey to publication.

In many ways, my story is quite typical. I wrote for many years before achieving publication. I started writing seriously when I was about twenty and whilst I didn't expect anything to happen overnight, I don't think I could ever have truly envisaged it taking quite as long as it did.

It was a long haul and I'm often asked what kept me going. The simple answer, I suppose, is that you get encouragement along the way. I came close to publication/representation many times -- so I knew by those reactions that you I at least have a chance. I kept rolling the dice, so to speak.

Nevertheless, acceptance came when I least expected it. The recession was upon us, If I Never had been submitted many months before and almost forgotten about, and I decided to just work on something that I'd been wanting to do for quite a while -- a large project that I'd been putting off. I'd made up my mind not to think about submitting anything else until after the recession was out the way... and then I heard from Tom Chalmers at Legend Press; he liked If I Never and wanted to discuss it with me.

What is your writing routine like? Do you have a certain number of words you strive for each day?

Yes. I always like to write 1000 words a day, five days a week. I start at about 9 AM and my 1000 words take about one hour to one and a half hours, depending on how demanding that particular scene is. Once that's done I'll do a little editorial/proofing work before moving on to other aspects of writing -- researching future projects etc.

Have you ever encountered 'writer's block'? If so, how do you get past it? If not, how do you keep things flowing?

I always end up getting in trouble when I discuss writer's block! I'm afraid I'm not all that keen on the term -- or, rather, the obsession that some writers seem to have with it. I never intend to sound impatient when the subject comes up... but invariably it seems I do!

The reason is, I think, that, quite simply, I love writing -- even when it's a pain in the behind. I approach it very much as I would any other kind of work. I plan and prepare, stick to my tried and tested routine, and do my damnedest not to allow anything to distract me. Not always easy, I'll admit, but working this way I've never experienced writer's block -- in all of my 20 years writing novels.

That's not to say that it's always easy, of course. Sometimes I find (though this doesn't happen that often these days) that I have to write three pages of not very good stuff in order to get to where I need to be. And I think that's possibly the best piece of advice I can give. Don't be afraid to write a few thousand words of rubbish. Free associate on paper, if necessary, but don't just walk away from the computer thinking "I'll try again tomorrow". It's fatal, in my opinion.

How do you balance your writing with your promotional efforts?

Fairly well, I think. It's been a pretty steep learning curve -- and I did work myself a little too hard to begin with -- but now I think I have it about right. I usually spend a couple of hours, 5 PM to 7 PM, networking online, making new contacts, doing interviews and, also, having a little fun. Something I feel is really important. Interacting with people, talking about books in general and other things, these for me are perhaps the best ways to promote what you do.

What was one thing you wish you knew before you started down the path to publication? What would you tell other aspiring writers who hope to be published?

Funnily enough, this is something I've just been discussing another interview. My answer was that I wish I'd known I wasn't deluding myself! And thinking about it again, now, I still think that would have been nice -- especially early on, when I was more prone to self-doubt than I am now!

And following on from that, I think I'd have to say to those aiming for publication that this is perhaps the biggest obstacle they will face; self belief, or, in some cases, the lack thereof. You have to do conquer that, as much as any of us can, and know that, generally speaking, good, published writers aren't generally speaking born. Whatever some people might tell you, the vast majority of us don't pop out of the womb brimming with talent. We develop our abilities over time and if we allow self-doubt to hold us back we'll never realise our full potential.

The one piece of advice that really kept me moving forward when I first started out came from my then literary hero, Stephen King. King insisted that anyone who wrote just 100 words a day, every day, would, with time, become a good writer. This made it seem incredibly attainable and definitely contributed to my ultimately securing a publishing contract.

Thank you, Gary!

About Gary:
Gary is a novelist living in the northeast of England. His work, largely mainstream fiction, focuses on themes that touch us all — love, death, loss and aspiration — but always with an eye to finding an unusual angle or viewpoint. Quirky and highly readable, his writing aims to entertain first and foremost. If he can also offer a previously unfamiliar perspective or insight, all the better.

Gary was born with a form of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and whilst he has never thought of himself as a “disabled writer” it is nevertheless fair to say that his disability has in many ways contributed to his fairly unique perspective. If you’d like to know more about SMA, please click here. His first novel, If I Never, is published by Legend Press and is now available from all major bookstores.

You can order Gary's book from Amazon by clicking here. Electronic version for Kindle and other e-readers also available here. For more information and two free sample chapters, visit Gary William Murning Online. You can also connect with Gary's Twitter and his Facebook fan page.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mouse in the House

I know I said I don't do many book reviews. But, well, I had so much fun reviewing Nicola Morgan's Wasted and Caroline Smailes' Like Bees to Honey that I figured, why stop there? So today I bring you: Mousetrapped!

After visiting Disney World several times, I've had an odd fascination with Orlando. The endless plethora of box-like outlet malls, the wide streets that go on forever with no centre in site, and the crowds of squishy short-wearing tourists -- it seemed like a town plunked down solely to feed its exotic Disney neighbour. So when I won a copy of Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard's Mousetrapped, I couldn't wait to delve in.

Three big dreams, two Mouse Ears and one J-1 visa. What could possibly go wrong in the happiest place on earth?

When Catherine Ryan Howard decides to swap the grey clouds of Ireland for the clear skies of the Sunshine State, she thinks all of her dreams – working in Walt Disney World, living in the United States, seeing a Space Shuttle launch – are about to come true. Ahead of her she sees weekends at the beach, mornings by the pool and an inexplicably skinnier version of herself skipping around Magic Kingdom.

But not long into her first day on Disney soil – and not long after a breakfast of Mickey-shaped pancakes – Catherine’s Disney bubble bursts and soon it seems that among Orlando’s baked highways, monotonous mall clusters and world famous theme parks, pixie dust is hard to find and hair is downright impossible to straighten.

I love reading about behind-the-scenes work-life stuff (yes, I'm that pathetic!), and I wasn't disappointed: Catherine writes with wit and humour about her time in Orlando, and you get a true sense of what living in a town dominated by a massive theme park really feels like. The book includes lots of information about other facets of Disney and Florida -- including Celebration, the town created by Disney -- and provides a wonderful account of a space-shuttle launch.

Ireland v Disney: who comes out on top? You'll have to read to find out!

Coming up tomorrow: an interview with author Gary Murning.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

To Job or Not to Job

It's been one of those days where time just hasn't slowed down enough to let me get done everything I need to. GAH! In the midst of my editing, article-writing, letter-typing and post-officing exploits, I wondered: how on earth would I do all this if I had a full-time job?

I am in awe of writers who have all-consuming jobs like teaching. I've blogged before how teaching pretty much drained me of my energy and (remaining) sanity. But I know I'd find even a regular, 9-to-5 gig challenging to fit around my writing life. I need the mental space.

On the flip side, lots of writers don't give up their day jobs even if they can, citing the importance of separating writing from income.

So I ask you: are you a full-time writer? Would you be, if you had the option? Why or why not?

(Fellow Prospera writer Nicky Schmidt has revved up her blogging efforts over at Naked in Knightsbridge. She's hilarious -- check her out if you get a chance. )

(I'm doing a guest post on my travel series over at author Nik Perring's blog today. Stop by if you can!)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ten for Tuesday: Honest Scrap

In a fit of efficiency, I just received this award yesterday and I'm going to pass it on today! How's that for non-award-hoarding! Many thanks to the wonderful Neurotic Workaholic, who gave me the Honest Scrap award.

Here are the rules: I have to list 10 facts that aren't common knowledge and pass it on to other bloggers. Being the ego-centric writer that I am, I'm going to make the 10 facts all about me! Just because I can!

1. I dye my hair when I'm bored with my life. In some of the most boring jobs I've had, I've gone from red to brown to blonde and back through the cycle again. The number of times I dye my hair is directly related to my level of boredom.

2. I have a tattoo on my back. It's the Chinese symbol for 'journey'.

3. I love love LOVE bread! I know I go on about cupcakes and the like, but a world without bread is not a world I want to live in.

4. I lived in Poland for two years and I absolutely loved it.

5. I'm originally Canadian and I just became a British citizen last week! God Save the Queen and all that!

6. I once tried to write a YA novel and I failed spectacularly.

7. I used to play the flute in a gypsy orchestra -- it was tons of fun and if I had the time I'd go back and do it again.

8. I am the world's worst sleeper. I can't remember the last time I actually slept through the night -- I'm constantly waking up at all hours.

9. My husband and I met on a blind date through the Internet! *gasp!*

10. I just wrote the first chapter for a new novel!

So there you have it. Gosh, I was struggling there - I should call these the Most Boring Facts! Anyway, I'm going to pass this on to:

Kittie Howard
Fran - hey, how about 10 Tenby facts? :)
Gina Leigh Maxwell
Sarah Callejo

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Shut Up. Please.

Ah, summer. The sweet sound of birds singing, the dulcet ringing of drilling, the musical noise of builders burping. Oh, how I love the wonderful cacophony of sounds that drift through our open windows -- not! With each and every one of my neighbours seemingly embarking on a renovation project this summer, I am about to lose my mind.

I live in a row of Victorian terraces that backs onto another row of Victorian terraces, parallel to ours, with only small gardens in the middle. This means we have a perfect conduit for all the sounds of the neighbourhood to travel, ricochet and echo their way up and down the red-bricked exteriors of the buildings, straight to my ears. Even without the constant drilling, it can be a bit trying at times.

There's the neighbour who lets his dog out three times a day to bark, endlessly, at God knows what. There's the American couple who live somewhere nearby, having a BBQ in their courtyard each and every day the sun makes an appearance -- nearly smoking us out of the flat. The family torturing their children with French lessons; the birthday party with 50 screaming kids; the graduation do where for some reason, they just couldn't seem to stop playing Deacon Blue... and on, and on.

Add tooth-jarringly-loud drilling to the mix and you get one crazed writer! And so to my drilling friends all around the block: please, I beg you, have mercy. Co-ordinate all your drilling to the hours between 10 and 12. Then let me have the rest of the day in peace. Deal?

I thought not.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Sweet Sunday: Creme Cake

It's warm and sunny, and really what could be better than spongy vanilla cake filled with fresh Chantilly creme and topped with fruit? It's like a little bit of summer in your mouth.

This photo is an actual slice of my wedding cake last August. My husband and I decided to buck tradition and go with a cake you could actually eat... and enjoy! So we went 100 metres down our street to Patisserie Valerie and ordered up a goody. It was delicious.

Right. I must have cake. NOW!
Happy Sunday!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Something for Saturday: The Dating Detox Trailer!

The Dating Detox is on my eReader, next in line to be read, so when the author Gemma Burgess (@GKateB) put out a Twitter call for people to host her new book trailer on their blog, of course I responded!

I'm glad I did. The trailer is amazing -- very professionally done, and it certainly accomplishes its goal of making you want to know more! It has some great London scenes and reminded me of a sort of updated Bridget Jones. I can't wait to dive into the book later on today!

If you're not in the UK, you can order the book from Karen Jones Gowen's new favourite site (hehe!) , The Book Depository.

(Note: If you're having streaming issues, it's probably best to turn off the HD.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Interview with Soon-to-be-Published Author India Drummond!

I am so thrilled to have an interview today with friend and writer India Drummond, who has just signed a contract to have her novel Ordinary Angels published!

India and I 'met' through our blogs and Twitter -- over a year-and-a-half ago now! Through phone calls and emails, we've shared the pain of trying to get published, lots of laughs and a little (OK, quite a bit) of snark, too. India gives the best critiques ever, and she's been so helpful to me in my own journey to get published. I've read Ordinary Angels and I think she has a hit on her hands!

Here's the blurb:

Most of Zoë’s friends are dead, but she doesn’t mind because they died long before she met them. Then one Tuesday night an angel takes her salsa dancing and turns her world upside down. Grim reality closes in when she discovers a body in her company’s boiler room and Higher Angels accuse her best ghost friend of murder. Knowing she’s the only one who can stand against them, Zoë resorts to lying, stealing and summoning. In the end, getting blood on her hands forces Zoë to question herself.

You’re an American living in Scotland writing about angels. Tell us more about how you got to Scotland and the paranormal!

I moved to Scotland nine years ago after marrying a Certain Highlander. We'd met a few years before when we had been working at an American company on their Y2K project (remember those?) and became good friends. A few years later we got back in touch, found we were both single, and he said the single most romantic thing I've ever heard uttered: "I can't let you go again." (Awww!) Actually, the kernel of the idea of Ordinary Angels came from him. He was saying to me one morning after a rambunctious bout of mischief (you have to watch those Highlanders... very mischievous), "What?!?! I'm a perfect angel!" And I replied something along the lines, "Yeah, some kinda crackhead angel you would make." This silly moment made me think about what angels would be like if they were real. The story unfolded naturally from there.

You’re going to have your first book published. What was the process to get there, and what’s it about?

The road to publication has been fraught, as it is for most authors! I had my share of rejection from agents, and then I started doing the math. I realised that most agents want celebrities, people with huge platforms, or experts in a field because they need a book to be a super-seller before they can make much money. Remember they're making 15% of a paperback's 5-10% royalty. That's why a debut author with no sales record is such a risk. So after banging my head against that wall with requests for partials and even fulls that would get "almost, but not quite" replies, I decided to look at smaller presses that would take submissions without agents. This year I sent to three publishers, one of which was Lyrical Press. They offered me a great contract, their authors love them, and their standards are really high (judging from their books I have purchased and read for myself), so I know I made the right choice!

What’s the one thing you found most frustrating about the journey to publication? And what’s the best thing once you have a signed contract?

The biggest frustration by far is the uncertainty. Is my work any good? Am I wasting my time? I felt like the school dork asking the class president to the prom... over and over every day! I can't tell you how great it felt to get a "Yes!" The best thing about having that contract is the surge in confidence it gave me. Making it over that first hurdle told me I could jump all the ones to come. Since receiving that contract, I've really been feeling energised and inspired on my current works-in-progress.

Describe your writing space.

I have a PC in a home office I share with a Certain Highlander. I tend to get up early in the mornings, so I have a couple hours to myself before he comes in and starts bothering me. (I swear it's what he lives for!) Recently, though, I did get a new laptop, and I've enjoyed the mobility. Now I sometimes write in the living room or the bedroom. I'm not as pernickety about these things as I used to be. The more I write, the more naturally it comes... no matter where I am.

What are you working on now? An epic on sheep farming in the Scottish Highlands?

Sorry! No sheep in this one. Will have to work some into a story sometime. I have to admit, I love the sheep. So adorable! I have a few projects that I've been tinkering with, but the one that is getting the most attention is a romantic sci-fi called Wildings. The blurb will go something like this (although it's still rough, I admit): The Overlords have captured Avid, a rogue human, and discovered he has a psychic ability which makes him incredibly valuable in their society. They send him to be trained by Rain, a telepathic slave who is both repulsed and fascinated by the Outland barbarian. He must somehow convince her to give up everything she's ever known and to help him escape before it's too late.

And finally, a question of utmost importance: cupcakes or donuts?

Ooh, that's a tough one! I'm such a tart for pastries. (I know... bad pun. Sorry!) I'd say I'd take either, as long as it came with sprinkles.

Thank you, India, and CONGRATULATIONS! If you can, please hop over to India's blog to say hi!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Like Bees to Honey

A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of going to Caroline Smailes' launch of her third book, Like Bees to Honey. Although I hadn't read her previous novels, I'd heard such good things about her writing that I had to buy this book.

Here's the synopsis from Amazon:

Nina, her son Christopher in tow, flies to Malta for one last visit with her aging parents.

Her previous attempt to see them ended in tears. Disowned for falling pregnant while at university in England, she was not allowed into the house. This will be her final chance to make her peace with them. But Malta holds more secrets and surprises than Nina could possibly imagine. What she finds is not the land of her youth, a place full of memories and happiness. Instead she meets dead people. Lots of them.

Malta, it transpires, is a transit lounge for recently deceased spirits and somehow Christopher enables her to see them, speak with them and help them. And, in return, they help Nina come to terms with her own loss. One so great that she has yet to admit it to herself. Like Bees to Honey is a story of family, redemption and ghosts. It is a magical tale that will live with you long after you finish reading.

I read books usually before I go to sleep, so this struck alarm bells. I didn't want anything too ominous or depressing, something that would keep me up all night staring into dark corners and imagining shapes. But Caroline's spirits are nothing like the ghouls in fairytales: these are spirits who are just as real as humans, with their own anguish over not being able to touch the ground or missing out on reality TV (Jesus, in particular, seems to harbour an obsession with telly!).

This is such a beautiful book - unique and unlike any I've ever read. A former linguist, Caroline plays with language and sound to fully immerse you in the world of the main character, a woman who goes to Malta to seek respite from her grief. You breathe the dust of the island and feel the cracks of the pavement almost as if you were there. It's vivid, lyrical writing that wraps around you much like the spiritual inhabitants of the islands themselves.

You can order Caroline's book through Amazon UK or from The Book Depository, with free worldwide delivery.

Coming up tomorrow: an interview with an author who's just signed her FIRST CONTRACT! Yippee!

(I will try my best to get around to everyone's blog tonight but I seem to have acquired a pounding headache over the course of the day thanks to some lovely drilling by my neighbours, so please excuse me if I don't make it over!)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Going Commando - or Not?

Working at a desk in the comfort of my own home, wardrobe has fallen to pretty much the bottom of my list of concerns. Oddly, though, footwear seems to have risen in importance. I'm not talking stilettos and ankle boots, though. I'm talking slippers and the one thing in this world I could not live without (besides wine): socks.

This may not seem like such a burning issue. But when your tootsies are jammed under a desk, in front of a very large and oh-so-drafty Victorian window, foot-gear becomes critical -- even in the summer.

I've tried a two-sock combo, layering a woolly outer-layer over a pair of thin trouser socks. I've tried a sock/ slipper combo. And I've even tried tucking my trousers into my socks (horror, I know - but in my defense it was cold!). But still, I struggle with frozen feet by the end of the day.

So I'm curious. What's your preferred foot-gear for writing? Do you go commando (ahem, bare foot), or do you prefer to smother your toes with fleecy goodness?

Never let it be said any topic is too trivial for this blog! :)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Thakn Yuo!

Thank you for...

  • Putting up with my numerous typos on your comments - I am the world's worst typer and I admit I'm often too lazy to proof read!
  • All the wonderful comments on my post yesterday. I hesitated before posting it because I didn't want people to think I was whinging about being published. I'm so thankful for everyone who responded with understanding and support.
  • Anyone who added The Hating Game to Goodreads!
  • Whoever the people were who pre-ordered The Hating Game on Amazon UK! Wow, I was stunned to see that it already had a sales rank and pre-orders! Thank you so much.
  • For giving me fantastic awards! I have been the worst hoarder in existence but I appreciate each and every one.

And finally, thank you for...

  • For taking the time and to read and comment on my blog. I'm so grateful for you all!