Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Land of the Pharaohs... and Mr TR

These past few days since Christmas have been more hectic than the run-up to Christmas itself, as Mr TR and I scavenge the city for gifts to take to the in-laws in Cairo. Not to mention my seemingly never-ending quest to find articles of clothing that are both covering and cool -- something hard to do in the summer, not to mention winter. Thankfully, Egypt won't be nearly as hot in December as it was during our last visit in October 2009, when the thermometer hit forty almost daily and I nearly melted into a puddle of lobster-coloured flesh.

My blogging will be scatty for the next ten days or so while I'm gone. I'll try to drop in with some photos here and there, but blog hopping will be limited. So... happy New Year! A big thanks to everyone for all the help and support this year!

I leave you with some photos of our last trip to Egypt.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Winners!

Hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas! The photo below is me on Thames, on Christmas Day. This time, Mr TR and I biked (yes, biked) from our flat in west London to the South Bank, ducked into St Paul's, hit up a pub for some mulled wine, then biked back home again for a massive turkey dinner.

Now for the two winners of Isabelle Lafleche's book J'Adore New York! The lucky readers are:

Jayne from a Novice Novelist!
Susan Fields!

Congrats, ladies! And if you'd like a little light reading today while your tummy digests, I'm over on Leigh T Moore's blog today! Thank for having me, Leigh.

Enjoy your lazy Monday!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cheer

Thank you for all the comments on yesterday's post! I'll be choosing the winner next Monday, December 27, so there's still plenty of time to comment to be entered in the draw. I won't be posting again until then, so...

Merry Christmas, all!

Have a safe, happy and relaxing festive time with friends and family -- and plenty of cupcakes, wine and whatever else takes your fancy.

I leave you with this Christmas-y video (ignore me) of the Christmas Market in Hyde Park last Saturday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

J'Adore New York by Isabelle Lafleche

This is why I love social media.

Back in September, I was ready to fly back from my two-week vacation in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) to London, except for one thing -- I needed some books for the long plane ride ahead. Nipping into the airport bookstore, I was immediately struck by the beautiful cover of J'Adore New York. Flipping over the book, the synopsis sounded like just my thing:

When Catherine Lambert, an effortlessly chic Parisian lawyer, receives an offer to transfer to the New York office of her prestigious firm, she unhesitatingly accepts. A dedicated follower of fashion and everything stylish, she is determined to conquer the high-flying world of Manhattan law -- and love. Catherine's dreams of glamour fizzle quickly, however, when she is faced with the hard realities of her profession. The pressure of billable hours, the incessant demands of her impossible bosses, the conspiracies of two malicious secretaries and the advances of the lecherous client prompt her to question her career choice. But then she meets Jeffrey Richardson, a powerful client, and her New York life takes on the romance she'd hoped it would -- until an unexpected request forces Catherine to re-evaluate the exclusive world she's chosen for herself.

And... it was just my thing. I loved the insider's view on New York -- the city and the working culture. I loved that Catherine is ambitious, that she's an outsider, and that she works hard in a predominately male word without giving up her femininity. J'adore was a great read, and a few days later I posted my review on Goodreads. Since I sync my Goodreads with Twitter, the review link popped up on my Twitter, too. A few hours later, Isabelle got in touch and thanked me for my review, and I started following her.

And now, a few months on, we're doing a book buzz swap! I'm posting about her book here and over on her blog, she's posting about mine. Head over to say hi and check out her fabulous photos! Oh, and did I mention she's a fellow Canadian? :)

Isabelle has kindly offered to give away two copies of J'adore New York, open internationally! Just leave a comment to enter!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Be Jolly By Golly!

Snow in Kensington Gardens last Saturday.

Today, I'm participating in Jen and Melissa's Be Jolly By Golly! blogfest, spreading the holiday cheer. There's plenty in London these days (unless you're trying to travel) -- a recent snowstorm has transformed the city and made it actually seem Christmas-y!

Christmas in London for me is partly trying, partly special. It's trying because I'm miles from my friends and family back home, but it's special because Mr TR and I have formed our own rituals, even though Christmas isn't something he grew up with.

We get up Christmas morning, feast on croissant and bagels, then exchange gifts. Wrapping up warmly, we then head into the deserted London streets (the one day no buses run!) and drive ten minutes to the South Bank, where we stroll along the Thames and over to St Paul's. Coming back, we'll pop into Founder's Arms for a mulled wine, then head home again.

A dab hand in the kitchen, Mr TR always creates a feast for Christmas dinner and after stuffing ourselves silly, we'll collapse on the sofa and cuddle up to watch the Christmas cartoons. Bliss.

Thanks to Jen and Melissa for organising this! Go here to see the list of other participants.

The Serpentine Lake in the blizzard.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Little Help From My Online Friends

I don't usually blog on Saturdays, but I'm just dropping in to say I'm over at Mason Canyon's blog today, talking about how a little help (okay, a lot of help) from my online friends got my novel in the top 25 on Kindle on the day of its release.

Drop by to have a read, if you have a chance.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Let the Other Half Loose!

I'm not the world's biggest fan of Blogfests. They're fun, yes, but often hard work to read through and comment on.

But. When fellow blogger DL Hammons read my post on Mr TR and asked if I'd be interested in co-hosting a Significant Other Blogfest, I jumped. It could just be me and my cyber-stalking ways, but I'd love to read posts by all the people behind our blog personas! Husband, wife; mother, father; friend; pet... let them have the blog for a day.

Here's what it's all about:

We’ve all heard the saying: behind every successful man or woman, there’s someone who supports them unconditionally. Nowhere is that more true than with us writers. Who else would put up with our 2 a.m. wake up calls to solicit opinions of a shiny new idea? Our whiplash inducing confidence swings? The hours upon hours in front of the computer monitor, with nary a grunt or nod when they attempt to disrupt our creative flow? The compulsive need to check email on our Smartphones for that reply we’ve been waiting so anxiously for?

It takes a special person to put up with writers idiosyncrasies, and we believe it's time they had their say! On January 21st, we are urging as many of you as possible to turn over your blogs for one day so your significant others can tell us what it’s like to support a writer. And you’re not allowed to censor or coach them in any way. We want the hard-boiled truth! The good, the bad, and the ugly! For one day we’d really like to see them step out from behind the writer and let us find out a little bit more about you… and them.

We realise this may take some coaxing on your part, but just think how much fun this will be. They have an entire month to organize their thoughts (and emotions). The important part is that they won’t be alone in doing this. No one will be critiquing or judging that day….PROMISE!

Head over to DL's for the famous Mr. Linky to sign up. We’ve also included this nifty badge to use in promoting the event on your own blog, if you’re willing.

Please sign up, then spread the word! This is a chance for your significant other to support you one more way.

Big thanks to DL for the great idea and for putting it all together!

We really hope you'll participate.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reviews: The Results

There were so many great comments yesterday in response to my review question that I thought I'd linger one more day and take stock of the results.

When asked if authors or aspiring writers should be 100% honest when reviewing other authors' work in a public forum, the responses were:

Be honest - 10%
Be objective, but with sensitivity - 39%
Focus on good points only - 51%

Elana Johnson summed up the difference between reading as an author versus a reviewer:
You have to separate yourself from it. You have to draw the line.You're an AUTHOR. Sure you read, but it's not your *job* to honestly review books. In my opinion, authors should only talk about, star, and/or "review" books they love. Show the support, you know? However, if you were a BOOK REVIEWER, that's your *job* to honestly review books, good, bad, and ugly. So I stick with what my JOB is.

Catherine Ryan Howard pointed out that bad reviews don't necessarily make for bad sales:
...bad reviews are awful to read and no one likes getting them, but unless all your reviews are bad, I don't think they hurt sales too much, at least not on Amazon.

Summer commented that in some venues, readers should be able to trust reviews are objective:

I read reviews on Goodreads, but not Amazon. And when I go to those reviews, I want some honesty. Especially if I'm paying for the product...

To read all the comments, go here.

Due to a dodgy Internet connection that keeps dropping off, I'm having a tough time returning comments quickly right now. To give myself a chance to catch up ('coz I always feel so guilty when I don't return comments promptly), I've turned off comments on this post, but feel free to weigh in on my previous post and add your opinion to the mix if you haven't already done so!

A quick announcement before I go: Samantha Vérant is holding an Authonomy Splash! Head over to her wonderful blog and see what it's all about.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Karma, Baby!

Mr TR thanks you (subconsciously) for all the lovely comments yesterday!

So on to today's topic: reviews. I've wanted to write about this since even before my book was launched, because it's something I've struggled with and I know others have, too. Reviews are such an important part of the process for authors: too many negative reviews can sink sales, while positive and informative ones can give it a real boost.

As an author, giving reviews can be very tricky indeed. What happens if you agree to give a review and you don't like the book? Should you be unfailingly honest, warts and all?

In my opinion: no. Authors are a community; we should support and help one another. I'm not saying we all need to give each other 5* reviews indiscriminately, but I do believe there is a way to keep your integrity intact and still write a generally positive review. And if you really don't feel you can do that, it's probably better not to write the review.

Believe me, negative words from fellow authors sting far more than criticism from readers. Because it's not just another reader -- it's a colleague who understands how difficult the craft is; how hard it is to even get published.

Really, it all comes down to being nice. Do unto others, and all that. If you slate enough authors' work, do you really think they'll look at yours with an objective eye? It's karma, baby! Karma!

What do you think? And as an author or aspiring writer, how do you deal with this issue?

(I should add that this post was not inspired by any of the reviews I've received!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ten for Tuesday: Mr Talli Roland

Since I enjoy snooping and stalking, I also love getting glimpses into people's private lives. So today, I offer you ten things about Mr Talli Roland. Mr Talli Roland would probably die if he knew I was doing this -- thankfully, he does not nor hopefully ever will read this blog. Or my Facebook page. Or Twitter.

Let the games begin!

1. Mr Talli Roland was born in Algeria to Egyptian parents, then moved to Egypt when he was young. He worked in Saudi Arabia for a year or so, nearly getting his head chopped off due to his atheistic beliefs (slight exaggeration, but he did flee the country in a rather unorthodox way). When he was in his early thirties, he moved to England.

2. Mr TR is a medical doctor but during his early practice, he attended the National Film School in Cairo, where he learned to be a film director.

3. Mr TR is a killer cook and can make roast chicken, dolma, and coconut cookies to rival anyone, even his Mama (but don't tell her I said so). He is also an extremely prolific rice cooker and is well known for his 'mountain of rice'.

4. Mr TR wrote and directed a 90-minute feature film called Anaphylaxis recently at the legendary Ealing Studios. The film was shot entirely on green screen and Mr TR painstakingly taught himself special effects and recreated sets. Yes, it took years. Mr TR now has a bad hip from sitting in one chair for so long.

5. Mr TR cannot stand an empty glass sitting on any surface for longer than ten seconds once it touches said surface.

6. Mr TR has also studied philosophy, has met the Queen, and has a brother who is a judge in the Supreme Court of Egypt.

7. Mr TR is a crazy driver. I shut my eyes and hope for the best.

8. Mr TR has a very lovely 17-year-old daughter who is super clever and recently got all manner of A's and A*'s on her GCSEs.

9. Despite having English as his second language, Mr TR thinks his English is better than mine. Mr TR is wrong.

10. Mr TR is the one who encouraged me to think seriously about my writing and the one who kicks me in the butt when I need it!

And finally...

I love Mr TR.

So there you have it! Ten things you never wanted nor needed to know about my husband!

Anyone care to share about their partner?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Size Matters

Yes, it's this year's Christmas tree, dragged all the way across the North Sea from Norway and already starting to lose its needles. At almost eight feet, it's a big one -- but with our sky-scraper ceilings, size does matter. It needs to be tall or it looks almost comical.

I'm starting this week off with a few links to get us all in the Monday spirit! First off, I'm over at Len's, talking about my next novel and answering other great questions! I had the pleasure of talking to Len ON THE PHONE last week and I can tell you that she's every bit as nice as she comes across on her blog.

Next, for everyone who's still stumped on what to get me for Christmas, check out Chick Lit Reviews to see what's on my list!

For the writer in your family, why not purchase some editing? Jessica Bell has more info here.

And finally, head over to Facebook where I'm running a little giveaway. All you need to do is send me ( a photo of The Hating Game loaded onto your device (computer, phone, Kindle, etc) and I will enter you in a giveaway for books and treats! Closing date: this Friday.

Happy Monday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Behemoth

Next week I shall return to shorter and fluffier posts involving all manner of sugary goods, I promise. But today I'm going to talk about something any writer, published or not, can't avoid: Amazon. Here are a few things I've learned:

1. If you or your publisher is going to run a promotion on Amazon, give yourselves (and Amazon) plenty of time! Prospera uploaded my Kindle file on 15th November, just in case there was an issue with the file, pricing or cover. Everything seemed fine, until a few copies were purchased and the bloody thing still didn't have a sales rank -- after a week (usually it takes anywhere from 30 mins to 24 hours for a rank to appear). Cue much stress, hair pulling, and back and forth with the Amazon team as the date for the Splash grew ever closer. Happily, it did get fixed a few days beforehand, and I was so thankful we'd planned ahead.

2. No one really knows how Amazon calculates the sales rank, but a few copies sold in a short period of time have the ability to move you up the rank faster than those same copies stretched out over a few days, for example. You need to keep selling at that pace, though, to maintain your rank or better it.

3. Clicking on tags relevant to your product help your product come up in searches. The more clicks you have, the more 'relevant' your product appears.

4. (a third-party website which lets authors see how their novels are selling on Amazon) might be accurate for hard-copy sales, but it's not accurate for e-book sales. When compared with the numbers my publisher forwards me, it's out by a lot.

5. On Kindle, covers matter. A lot of books sell through the 'Others Customers Bought' towards the bottom of the page, where the book covers are displayed as thumbnails. If your title isn't easily readable, it could impact your sales. You may have noticed my cover changed recently... and that's why!

There you have it! Anyone care to add anything?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Web Splash: How I Organised It

Yesterday, I wrote about how and why I came up with my Take On Amazon Web Splash. Today, I'll talk about the logistics of organising it.

(A little explanation for those joining me after the fact: The Hating Game is my first novel, published by small press Prospera Publishing. To help promote it, last week I organised a Web Splash to see if I could hit the Amazon Bestsellers list. It worked!)

First things first: I had to decide what exactly I was trying to accomplish. Although my stated objected was obviously making the Amazon Bestsellers list, my primary objective was getting my book top of mind and helping to spread the word about its release, to 'prime the market' for the upcoming paperback.

Next: timing. Starting the campaign three months before the actual release felt right. I could have an initial big push around the beginning of September, then have another reminder in October and encourage more people to sign up. Come November, with only one month remaining, I could do a final big push. The key here was to slowly build momentum without bombarding people with too much Web Splash information.

Markets: With the timing decided, I needed to think about who I was trying to reach and how I was going to reach them. I had two main target groups: people who would help spread the word (social media contacts) and people who would buy (readers), with a lot of crossover between the two. I planned to reach these groups through:

Blogs - My main point of contact with people who might help spread the word. I posted periodically about the splash and set up a dedicated page on my blog with all the information, along with a sign-up form powered by Google Docs. I chose Google docs because you can copy and paste all the info from the Google spreadsheet right into Excel, which helped me keep track of all those who had signed up and their details (email addresses and blogs).

Facebook - Facebook fan page, friends, family and other writers. In October, I set up a Facebook event page so people who weren't on blogs and/ or Twitter could keep up to date on news, too. I also provided ready-made Facebook status updates for people to post.

Twitter - I posted updates here with links to the blog sign-up page every once in a while, but I didn't get tweeters to 'sign up'. I see Twitter as more of a spontaneous thing; people don't need a formalised process. When they see others retweeting, etc, they might opt to retweet too. Luckily, this worked for me and many people jumped in to help spread the word. The only things I did do ahead of time were provide tweeters with a ready-made status update to cut and paste, and encourage people to use the hash tag #TheHatingGame so people could keep track of what was going on. If you're on Twitter, you can still see how well it worked by searching for #TheHatingGame.

Goodreads - I created an event and send out invitations to all my friends. I didn't get much of a response on Goodreads but it didn't really matter. My point was mainly to get my novel's title out there.

Review websites - I found out what sites reviewed my genre and liaised with them well ahead of time to make sure they knew about my book and what I was trying to accomplish with the Splash. It made sense to ask for their support, as these sites all want to help promote the genre. A big thanks to Chick Lit Reviews, Chick Lit Club, Chick Lit Shorties, Novelicious, Novel Escapes, Trashionista, Girls without a Bookshelf, Books for Teens, Writing in the Bath and One More Page for all their help (if I've missed anyone, I'm sorry!).

Email Lists - Don't forget your family and friends, writing organisations, and basically anyone you think might be interested! I sent out an email to all my contacts two to three days before the Splash. Remember, if you have a Google or Hotmail account, you will be limited to how many emails you send daily. If you have a big contact list, you'll have to stagger your emails.

It's important to give people choice. Some people who participated may not have done so if I only offered the option to blog about it - by integrating more social media, I definitely got more people on board.

Keeping people informed: Using newsletter service Constant Contact, I sent out three emails over the course of three months. One in October after the first wave of people had signed up; one in November, a week before the Splash, with all the relevant information to post; and one after the Splash to say thank you. In each email, I provided links to my Facebook, Goodreads, website and Twitter and in the final email, a link to sign up for my Newsletter.

Phew! I think that's it. Hope that's helpful - feel free to ask any questions!

Coming tomorrow: What I've learned about Amazon!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Web Splash: One Week On

Hard to believe it's been a week already! Now that I've calmed down a bit, I thought that I'd give you a little rundown on why I decided to do the Web Splash (Part I) and how I organised it (Part II).

I've been asked a few times why my ebook is launching ahead of my paperback. Quite often traditional author launches have a hard-cover launch to generate buzz for the coming paperback. Launching my ebook first is really the same concept. Also, the more sales and publicity the ebook generates, the easier it becomes to convince booksellers to take it in-store.

As I mentioned before, the great thing about ebooks is that there are no distribution issues. Anyone, anywhere can buy them! With that in mind, the internet seemed a perfect tool to help spread the word. Yes, I could have waited until the paperback to make a big deal, but with limited distribution I'd be hard-pressed to encourage readers in the US, Canada and other countries to give my book a shot.

With my publisher, we discussed a critical issue when it comes to ebooks: price. Larger publishers appear to be doing themselves and their authors no favours by pricing ebooks higher than hard copies. Yes, it may drive paperback sales in the short term, but in the long term, the author may lose out. However, we didn't want to price the content too low. There are varying opinions on how low is too low, with some publishers giving away books for free. I'm definitely not against this and I think it can certainly help drive publicity. But for the time being, we decided pricing the book at £1.90/ $2.99 seemed just about right. And with Christmas coming and Kindles set to tip the market in favour of ebooks, December 1 made sense as a launch date.

Watching marketing strategies employed by other authors, I'd learned that driving sales on one day can make a massive difference to rankings. Still, I wasn't about to ask everyone to buy my book on a particular day -- it just seemed a step too far. But I could ask people to help spread the word about my book and hopefully get some sales in the process. All I need was a catchy name and something everyone can relate to: the little guy (me) versus the big guy (Amazon).

And so the Take On Amazon quest was born!

Tomorrow I'll talk about the logistical issues of organising the splash on blogs, Facebook and Twitter -- and what the results are like one week on. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section! Happy Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

You Know What Freud Says...

I was all set to go today for Ten for Tuesday. Truth be told, though, after spending hours measuring the washing maching -- and don't let anyone tell you that's not fun -- I no longer possess the mental fortitude.

So I leave you with this YouTube clip, featuring an epic slip of the tongue yesterday by the legendary BBC radio announcer James Naughtie.

Have you ever fell victim to a Freudian slip in public? And if so, how did you recover?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Now What?

With the big week behind me now (and what a week!), what's left of my mind now needs to focus on what's next. With everything that's been going on, I haven't had much of a chance to focus on writing. But I was able to have my next title approved: a romantic comedy called Watching Willow Watts.

I'm loathe to talk about it too much right now since I know you probably have Talli fatigue (I know I do), but let's just say it involves YouTube, Marilyn Monroe and a cute English village overrun with crazed fans!

Along with Willow, there are various other projects in the works, including a royal wedding edition of 24 Hours London (gotta cash in on the Royals somehow, right?). And I'm really looking forward to my upcoming trip to Cairo for some fun in the sun and lots of clueless nodding as I attempt to look like I'm understanding my in-laws and their Arabic.

So it's busy times ahead -- just the way I like it! Now that I've come out of my book-release-induced cocoon, tell me: what are you up t0?

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sweets, Treats and Champers

My brain is still on happy happy overdrive, so please feel free to join me in stuffing (and drinking, but I won't go into the finer details on that one) myself silly!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thank You - and Results!

What an amazing day yesterday was for me -- and all down to the help and support of people on Twitter, blogs and Facebook. An enormous thanks to all who spread the word about my debut novel and what I was trying to accomplish. As a fellow blogger, I know posting something like yesterday's post often receives low comments -- and as a reader, I realise it can get quite tiresome seeing the same thing again and again. So... thank you!

I'm thrilled to tell you that I made the Amazon Kindle Bestseller Top 100! More than that, actually -- I made it into the top 25! My best rank was number 24. (which I reckon has many more books and therefore more competition) came in at number 460 on the Kindle list, a number I'm ecstatic about, too.

One of the craziest moments of the day was when my publisher sent me an email with a link to the Amazon Movers and Shakers -- I was at number 1, ahead of Dickens (!) and Sophie Kinsella!

I'm not ashamed to admit at several points, I actually welled up at how many people were supporting me. If you followed the hashtag #TheHatingGame, you could see friends and complete strangers buying, retweeting, tweeting --- even one amazing tweeter @PamReader live tweeting as she read my novel!

And then when I hit the blogs! I was so chuffed to read all the wonderful comments and posts about my novel. I tried to make it around to everyone (and I'm still trying; please bear with me!), but by the end of the day, I felt like I'd run a marathon trying to keep up with everything and around midnight I collapsed, stuffed full of celebratory cake (courtesy of my husband) and pizza (courtesy of the local takeaway). Big thanks also to my parents who organised a wonderful bouquet of flowers to be delivered!

A few people have asked me if my Web Splash met my expectations. The answer? No. It didn't. It was so much better than I'd anticipated. Without a doubt, it was one of the most exciting days ever, and quite honestly I couldn't think of a better way -- or better people -- to spend my novel's birthday with.

Thank You.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Hating Game Web Splash!

Hard to believe the day has finally come! I am so excited -- and so grateful for everyone's support. Please drop by Twitter (hash tag #TheHatingGame) to keep an eye on the Amazon stats and to get your virtual champers and assorted munchies!

UPDATE - As of 1 p.m., The Hating Game was number 32 on Amazon UK Kindle and number 25 in Fiction! I'm into the Top 100! Starting to move on, too. I can't say thank you enough!

15:35 GMT - Now number 25 on Amazon UK and in the 1700s on! Wooo!

22:30 GMT: Number 25 on Amazon UK and 591 on!

Thank you a trillion and one times for helping me with this! It sounds cheesy but I really feel like you're all behind me, and it's a fantastic feeling.

So without further ado, I bring you THE SPLASH!

Help my debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more. Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?