Monday, January 31, 2011

1,400 Thank Yous!

Before I launch into today's celebratory post, I just want to say massive thank you for everyone's lovely thoughts and wishes on my last post about Egypt. We managed to talk to our family a few times over the weekend. Although there were a few dodgy moments, everything seems to be safe now and people are excited for change. Fingers crossed!

So! It's Monday, and I'm in the mood for celebrating! It's possible I've had too many mini Reese's Pieces (thanks, Shannon!), but chocolate-fuelled energy aside, I'm happy. Why, you ask (or not -- I'm going to tell you, anyway)?

The Hating Game has sold 1,400 copies on Amazon UK this month! Yes, 1,400! In January! Since the cover change, the books usually sells between 70 to 100 copies daily and it's in the top 50 on Amazon Kindle (UK) right now. I can hardly believe it!

A HUMONGOUS THANK YOU to everyone who has promoted, bought, reviewed, talked about or commented on anything to do with my novel! It's thanks to all of you that my debut novel has been successful.

Now... let's party!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt: Rising Up

Looking down on the urban sprawl of Cairo from El Mokattam Mountain.

I was going to blog about something else, but today's events in Egypt have changed my plans. If you've read my blog for a bit, you know that Mr TR is from Cairo, and that all of his extended family lives in and around the Nile Delta. When we first met, I knew little about Egypt besides the romanticized notion of Pharaohs, pyramids and ancient tombs. Over time -- by reading authors like Naguib Mafouz, learning about the fate of politicians like Ayman Nour and by visiting the country myself -- I began to learn the reality was anything but romantic.

Despite many western nations supporting the government, the country is virtually a prison. Elections are fraudulent, dissidents are jailed and tortured, and free speech stifled. Unemployment is high and the economy is getting worse. People live in graveyards -- I've seen it with my own eyes -- and children beg in the streets. Yet Egyptians are some of the friendliest and most giving people I have ever met.

As Mr TR and I watched the demonstrations grow in size and strength over the week, I could sense the excitement in his voice. He's pretty much lived his whole life in that country under one dictator and the thought that a new government could come to power in his lifetime is heady.

By cutting off Internet and mobile phone access, the Egyptian government has finally shown its true colours to the rest of the world. Let's just hope the world responds as it should: in support of people struggling to assert their freedom and their human rights.

We haven't been able to reach our family in Egypt due to the communications black-out. Can I ask that you keep them -- and the rest of Egypt -- in your thoughts as the events unfold?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge!

Last April, Arlee Bird set up a fantastic blogfest: blogging Monday to Saturday, using a letter of the alphabet.

And the good news? He's doing it this year, too! This time, Alex J Cavanaugh, Jen Daiker and I are all helping out, as well.

It's simple. There are 26 letters in the alphabet. There are 26 days in April (if you take out Sundays). You would blog Monday - Saturday writing a blogpost with the appropriate letter for that day. April 1 - A, April 2 - B, etc.

So... join in the fun, click the link and grab a badge because April is going to be fantastic. I'll even throw in a cupcake and a glass of wine!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Back Away from The Computer!

I didn't make many New Year's resolutions, but I did resolve to have one work-free day per week. On this day, I pledged to myself that I wouldn't do anything promotional, or any edits or plotting... nothing!

The more things I have on the go, the more I notice how work is flowing over into every minute of every day. There's always one more website to update; one more review to post on Facebook, one more forum to lurk on. Now that I'm starting a new writing project, I need at least one day of head space!

What will I do on this blissfully free day? Read, go out into the big wide world, maybe even splurge on a cupcake or three! I'm a big fan of staring into space. Imagine, a whole day just to stare!

Speaking of time and space, in a desperate bid to catch up on everything, I'm only going to be blogging on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the next two weeks. I'm knee-deep in rapidly expanding check lists and I need a little bit of extra energy to get through it all!

Drop by on Wednesday for a rather exciting announcement (nothing to do with publishing, but everything to do with fun!).

Until then, what do you do to get some space?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Significant Other Blogfest!

It's the Significant Other Blogfest today, the chance to let your other half hold forth on... you! Since I've no idea what Mr TR might say if left to his own devices, I decided to ask him a few questions.

Check out the other Blogfesters here!

Me: Why did you encourage me to get serious about my writing?

Mr TR: I hated seeing someone I love wasting their life (ouch!).

Did (or do) you think I might have a chance to have a successful writing career?

Mr TR: You're talented and clever, and I knew you'd make it (I didn't pay him, I swear!).

How do you think my attitude towards my writing has changed, since I started?

Mr TR: From the first day, you had the right attitude: committed, respectful of your time writing, conscious of the fact that you're your own manager. What has changed is your awareness of the world of publishing, particularly in the last year or so.

How do you think you help me with my writing ambitions?

Mr TR: By two opposing acts: either nagging you (or pushing you to commit to some idea or project) or by shutting up and being silent and letting you do your thing (these are his words exactly. Yes, MR TR speaks like that).

How has writing full-time changed me?

Mr TR: You are definitely a happier person since you started pursuing your dream. Still as gorgeous as ever, and as nice as all Canadians (Mr TR thinks Canadians are very nice). You watch less telly and drink less wine (if you think I drink a lot of wine now, you should have seen what I consumed when I was teaching!).

Anything else to add?

Mr TR: Yes. I love you (awwww!).

Thank you, Mr TR! And thanks to everyone participating in the Blogfest, and to DL for organising it! I'm waaay behind on blog comments this week, but I'm going to try to catch up this weekend, so please bear with me.

Dealing with Eurekas

Eureka moments are one of the best things about being a writer: that excitement you get when a new idea hits; the surge of creative energy.

But before you go off and write 80,000 words in a fit of mania, slow down for a second and ask yourself these three questions.

1. What's different about this idea? Has it been done a zillion times before?

2. Is there enough potential for conflict to carry this idea through a full-length novel?

3. Does this idea fit in with my genre of writing? Is it the type of genre I'd want to first be published in? Does it even fit comfortably into a genre?

When I get a new idea, I try now to let it sit for a week or two before I go back to it -- long enough to let the fervour die down, so I can examine it with objective eyes. If, after answering those three questions, I still feel excited, then I go for it!

How do you deal with new ideas?

Significant Other Blogfest Tomorrow! Drop by to see what Mr TR has to say about my writing (among other things!).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taking a Lesson from Trashy Tabloids

I'm about to jaunt off to my lengthy bi-monthly session at the hairdresser. It's the high, high price one pays for platinum hair -- quite literally. Although I'm not so keen on the amount of time it takes to slather burning bleach onto my scalp and snip my errant ends, I do love perusing the trashy magazines. It's my one chance to catch up on the cultural ongoings of this great nation. No one does tabloids like the Brits!

Writers could learn a thing or two from tabloid writing. Say what you like about such news outlets -- you have to admit, they're never boring. With punchy, rhythmic language, every word counts. Every sentence brings you deeper and deeper into the story, and just when you think you know what's happened, POW! They hit you with another twist.

They're in, they're out, and they leave you with a definite emotional reaction. What more could you ask for (facts aside)? Perhaps I've found a new calling. Move over, Piers Morgan!

Do you read the tabloids? Come on, admit it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Reluctant Video Star

There's nothing more cringe-worthy than watching yourself on video, is there? Last weekend, Mr TR bought a new video camera and, to test it out, he decided to shoot a small video. With no other victims and under great duress, I grudgingly agree. Here's the result! Hope you enjoy watching more than I enjoyed starring.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Getting it Right

Happy Monday!

You may have noticed that the cover of The Hating Game has changed. Yes -- again. Late last week, I had a conversation with my publisher, who told me that while the book was selling well, she still didn't feel it was reaching its target market. One of the biggest worries was that that the sinister-like red and black cover was turning off prospective female buyers who might think it was more crime than rom-com.

So we took the plunge and made the change. And guess what? Sales jumped almost immediately. On the first day after the change, I sold almost four times more copies a day than usual, and the trend is continuing.

Once the initial launch momentum had worn off, The Hating Game usually fell anywhere from around 350 to 600 in the UK rankings, depending on the day. Since the cover change, it's been between 150 to 200. It's still early days, but it's pretty safe to say the new cover is having the desired effect.

That's the great thing about Kindle. If something isn't working, then it's easy to change. Would it have been better to have all this figured out, pre-Kindle publication? Well, yes.

But better late than never!

Reminder: Significant Other Blogfest this Friday!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview with Gemma Burgess, Author of 'A Girl Like You'

Today, I'm very pleased to welcome Gemma Burgess to my blog! Her first book, an anti-romantic comedy called The Dating Detox, was a hilarious, warm-hearted read. Gemma's just released A Girl Like You, and I can't wait to get my mitts on that one.

And a massive congratulations to her -- she's just signed a book series deal with St Martin's Press in New York! Not only that, her awesome Dating Detox trailer has now reached over 25,000 hits. You can read more on her blog.

Gemma did me the favour of reading through The Hating Game pre-publication, and she did wonders at soothing my pre-pub nerves. She's every bit as lovely and funny as you might expect from an author who writes such wonderful novels.

Right, I've done enough gushing, so I give you... Gemma!

1. Your second novel, A Girl Like You, has just been released. Was it easier or harder to write than your first?

Both. Harder, because I was worried that the nice reviews I had for The Dating Detox were a one-off, and well, the first was just a bit of fun, the second was suddenly 'real'... Easier, because, well, the more you write, the better you get at it! - same goes for plotting, dialogue, characterisation...

2. What are three things you must have to make your writing day a good one (e.g., tea, vodka…)?

Coffee, a large bottle of still water, and nice nails.

3. What’s one thing you wish you knew about the publication process before you got published?

Two things: that it's very, very slow, and that you have no control over your cover so it's not worth stressing about.

4. What’s your favourite word? Least favourite?

My favourite and least favourite words are the same; when I go through my writing, I find certain words everywhere, and curse myself for having such a limited and predictable vocabulary - soupcon, awesome, seriously, dude... Actually, I didn't use dude much in A Girl Like You, as it didn't suit the main character. But I used it a lot in The Dating Detox.

5. If you had to choose between a cocktail, ten minutes on Twitter, reading a few pages of a novel or a bite of cake, what would you choose?

You had me at 'cocktail'. Twitter is fun, but not as fun as a cocktail. I like my novels in big chunks. Ditto cakes.

About Gemma:
Gemma Burgess wrote her first book, The Dating Detox, when she and her sister discussed the difficulty of had finding a comfort read with cojones. Her second book, A Girl Like You, is inspired by her experiences of learning to navigate the bastard-infested waters of the London bar scene after a long time in a relationship. Gemma grew up all over the place and now lives in Notting Hill. Find out more at or follow her on Twitter at @gkateb.

Thank you, Gemma! Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bodice Rippers, Hunky Heroes and Secrets

Over the Christmas holiday, I spoke to The Times (and by default, The Daily Mail) about the enormous popularity of romance novels on Kindle. The reporter asked me if I thought it was due to the fact that on Kindle, you can hide the cover of your novel in a way that's just not possible in paperback form.

I reckon that's part of it. There is indeed an unfair stigma attached to romance, and riding the Tube with your sexy cover displayed for all the local pervs to eye up might attract some unwanted attention. Plus, there lurks the stereotype of the spinster getting her kicks through such books. And it doesn't help when the article itself used cliched language like 'bodice rippers' to describe romance novels; someone please tell me how that's romantic?

The bit the reporter didn't include was this: romance novels are fast-paced, entertaining and well plotted. They're as difficult to write as any genre, and as enjoyable. That's why romances are so popular, and always have been. And with the low prices available on Kindle, the masses are pouncing on them yet again.

So this brings me to my question: have you ever wanted to buy a book, but were turned off by a childish/ too feminine/ embarrassing cover? And if you have a Kindle, would you consider buying that same book now?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rain, Rain and Rain: I'm Home!

After two glorious sun-drenched weeks in Egypt, I returned yesterday afternoon to an equally rain-drenched London. But that's okay -- as much as I loved the break, it's so good to be home. Granted, I have about a zillion emails to deal with and lots of work to do, but I'm more than ready to dive back in!

I've also imported about half the cinnamon stock of Cairo (you would not believe how good the cinnamon is there), along with 3 kilos of sweets, so there is plenty of fuel to keep me going.

Some rather nice things happened while I was gone. Chick Lit Reviews listed The Hating Game and Watching Willow Watts on 'Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2011', while Trashionista named The Hating Game as one of its Top 10 of 2010! On his blog today, James Garcia Jr has a rather nice review of my novel, too.

All that and I was quoted as a 'bestselling romantic author' in The Times and The Daily Mail! I'll be talking a bit more about that tomorrow.

Maybe I should go on vacation more often! What's new with you? What have I missed?

Friday, January 07, 2011


I've just returned to Cairo from two amazing days in Alexandria. Fresh fish, beach, palaces, Roman ruins... Who could ask for more?
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Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Cairo! Here's how I spent the first day of the year. Wishing everyone a fabulous 2011!
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