The book club is the new pub

book club

As an author, what’s not to love about book clubs? They involve copious amounts of wine, lots of intelligent conversation (some of it even about books), and women.

If the photo above is anything to go by, book clubs also do strange things to your hand too, but we’ll gloss over that for now.

Despite its members being Cambridge graduates, gene therapists, vets and librarians,  those of them that had actually seen a copy of  Six Months to Get a Life seemed to enjoy reading it. Mind you, they did name their book club after a penis, so maybe we shared a similar sense of humour.

I promised the members of Ralph (read Judy Blume’s Forever) that I would blog about my interaction with their book club. Unfortunately I drank so much wine over the course of the evening that I haven’t got a clue what went on. Hopefully the below excerpt from the book club scene in my second novel, Six Lies, will keep them happy. I’m very excited to shout from the rooftops that Six Lies is now available to pre-order on Amazon.

six lies cover for pc w endorse

Excerpt from Six Lies

After talking to Dad about my birth mother, I decided to push my luck and see if I could make progress in my other life goal, reigniting the spark between Lou and me.

Bearing in mind the way we broke up, it was a miracle we were even talking again now, let alone thinking about getting back together. Well, at least one of us was thinking about it.

Before Lou ran off with the book dork, if anyone had asked me what I thought of my marriage, I would have told them how happy the two of us were. Sure, the novelty of each other’s company had generally worn off, but we were happy. We went out together when the mood took us, we didn’t row about who did the washing up and we still laughed at each other’s jokes. Well, she laughed at mine at least.

The first time I can remember even getting an inkling that Lou might not share my view of the state of our marriage was one night when I was watching the football on the telly. ‘Not football again, do you have to watch that crap tonight?’

‘There aren’t any period dramas on tonight, it’s a Tuesday,’ I told her. I wasn’t necessarily sure my statement held true, but the football was tense so I did my best to sound convincing.

‘I don’t want to watch the telly. It would be nice if we could have a conversation from time to time.’

‘We are having a conversation, aren’t we?’

‘No, I’m talking to you and you’re watching the football. That’s hardly having a conversation. We don’t stimulate each other anymore.’

That got my attention. ‘You stimulate me, darling.’

‘Not physical stimulation, Dave, mental stimulation.’

To my shame, I sighed with relief and turned back to watch the Liverpool game.

The next thing I knew, Lou had committed us to attending a book club. She went to the library after work one night and picked up two copies of the Cobham linguists’ book of the month, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

Now I can read a book as much as the next man. There is nothing better than a gripping whodunit or a meaty courtroom drama. But, since studying Shakespeare at school, dissecting the author’s motives for taking the plot in one direction or another has never been my cup of tea. I couldn’t even understand the bloody man let alone critique the development of his characters.

Not wanting to upset Lou, one sunny evening in May, I traipsed along to some double-fronted mansion in deepest Surrey to talk about The Book Thief. Lou and I, along with six or seven middle-aged white women called Emily and Olivia, and one bloke with an unruly beard that seemed to morph at about neck level into a brown cardigan, were shown into a conservatory looking onto a garden as big as a golf course. Feeling irritated that my free time was being taken up by this crap, I grabbed a chair overlooking the manicured lawn. If nothing else, at least I could enjoy the view.

My mood improved no end when Bernadette, our host for the evening, started opening the wine. I fancied a lager. She didn’t have any so I opted for the red. Even the crisps were a cut above those I was used to.

‘So, what did you think of the book?’ my new friend Bernie asked to kick proceedings off. Having given up my evening for this, I was as anxious to express my opinion as everyone else. We all spoke at once.

‘It was remarkable.’

‘Stunningly vivid.’

‘Story-telling at its best.’

‘Fabulous portrayal of attitudes.’

‘A bit long.’

Luckily for me, Bernie didn’t turn to me first. Instead she asked Mr Beard, later to become known as the book dork, why he had found it so ‘stunningly vivid’.

Listening to pretentious drivel isn’t one of my strengths. Mr Beard’s use of phrases like ‘evocative symbolism’ and ‘enlightening soliloquies’ soon had me clamouring for more wine.

By the time Bernie did come to me, I had drunk most of the contents of her two hundred year-old wine cellar and could only just remember what we were supposed to be talking about. ‘It wasn’t the best book I have ever read, Bernie,’ I began.

‘Bunny.’

‘I beg your pardon.’

‘If you must shorten my name, it’s Bunny, not Bernie.’

‘Sorry, Bunny.’

‘Thank you. Now feel free to tell us why it wasn’t the best book you have ever read.’

‘Listen, this book starts off with a load of complete drivel and goes downhill from there. It’s just pretentious bollocks, the author’s up his own arse. I’m sure there’s a great story in there somewhere, but couldn’t the writer just tell it from start to finish in a normal way rather than trying to be clever?’

‘Ah, so you didn’t you like idea of Death as the omniscient narrator of the novel then? And please refrain from using bad language. It offends my sensitivities.’

‘Shit, sorry Bunny.’

‘Bernadette.’

‘Bernadette.’

‘Did you even finish the book?’ the book dork chipped in.

‘Of course I finished the f***ing book.’

‘What happened then?’

‘He died.’

‘Who died?’ Lou jumped on the bandwagon.

‘I don’t know, the bad guy?’ I hadn’t finished the book. I hadn’t got beyond the pretentious introduction. Lou didn’t utter a word to me as she drove us home that night.

And that was the start of the ignominy that was to escalate when I witnessed the book dork kissing my wife at New Malden station a few weeks later and then conclude with him turning up in his Ford Ka to help her move her stuff out. ‘What, are you taking one pair of knickers at a time?’ I asked when I saw what make of car he drove.

‘I’m not taking my knickers,’ my soon-to-be ex replied, ‘I won’t be wearing them much.’

Six Lies is released on 23rd November.

Writing is better than sex

Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her
Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her

Earlier this week, a fellow writer chap I met on twitter gave me a piece of advice that, quite frankly, gave me the heebie-jeebies. ‘To succeed as an author,’ he told me, ‘you need to prefer writing to sex’.

‘You’re joking?’ I replied. Surely no one in his or her right mind prefers writing to sex?

‘Nope,’ he told me, ‘I’m not joking. Writing is my life. I perk up when I develop a good plot, I get excited when my characters interact and I practically orgasm when I spin a great twist.’

My first reaction was to get straight onto twitter and unfollow the weirdo. Block, block, block!

But just as I was about to hit that blue button, I had a thought. What if he’s right? What if all successful authors shun the bedroom in favour of the study? Maybe they really do prefer alliteration to allure, epithets to erogenous zones, foreshadowing to foreplay, imagery to intercourse. sucking their pen to sucking… I’d better stop there.

Authors can be pretty solitary, selfish characters, right? They are slaves to their keyboards for days on end. I have read countless stories about writing widows and widowers. My twitter friend must be right. If you want to make it as an author, you have to love writing more than you love sex.

love typing

Coming around to my friend’s way of thinking was a thoroughly depressing experience. Instantly, I thought I might as well chuck my laptop out of the study window, dust off my CV and get myself a proper job. Being a red-blooded male, I haven’t got the love it takes to become a successful author.

Or have I?

As I was trying to find the key to undo my study window lock, another thought took hold. I really do love writing. I might even be able to convince myself that it is better than sex.

  • Writing lasts longer than sex. I have been known to write for eight hours in one stretch. Making sex last for eight minutes would be an achievement worth celebrating.
  • I can write more than twice a day without fear of letting myself down. You’ll forgive me if I don’t dwell on the comparison here.
  • People pay me for my writing.
  • I enjoy making people laugh. I occasionally manage it through my writing. If someone laughed at me during sex, I’d probably get a complex.
  • I’ll be able to show my grandchildren my books on Amazon…

Hold the bestsellers list, there’s hope for me yet!

And now for some real news…

Six Lies cover screen

My second novel, Six Lies, is being released by SliverWood Books on 23rd November.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has asked if they can convert my debut romp, Six Months to Get a Life, into a talking book for those with sight impairments and unable to access normal print and online books. They normally only convert bestsellers. It’s a real honour to be asked and a thrill to be able to give something back to such a large community. I can’t wait to hear the narration.

My third book, the one set in a primary school, is the reason I haven’t updated this blog as often as I should have done. I’m utterly obsessed with it and can’t put it down. I’d almost go as far as to say writing it is better than…

Happy writing!

Ben

Crowdsourcing a title for my third novel

staffroom

The last three months – the time since I gave up my well-paid job to become an author – has been a hectic time for me. There’s been The Ashes, day-trips to the seaside with the kids and the dog, catching the rays in the garden, internet dating, champagne receptions and filming for a BBC documentary. Oh, and the occasional bit of writing too.

Those of you that have read my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, will know that I am big on characters and how they strive to negotiate their way through life’s many challenges, snatching the occasional bit of romance while negotiating the devastation, heartache and carnage that more commonly surrounds them. (Six Months… was recommended as a ‘great holiday read’ on BBC Radio 5’s Thursday night book club a couple of weeks ago – #honoured!)

My second book, Six Lies, continues the theme, following the lead character as his wife runs off with a librarian and his mother confesses from the grave that she wasn’t his mother after all. I finished Six Lies over the summer and it has now entered the sausage machine that is the publishing process. Hopefully it will be ready to consume in late November, to coincide with the airing of the BBC documentary.

I have even had an idea for a third book. In fact, my brain hasn’t switched off since I thought of the concept a week or so ago. I can’t wait until September when I return from my holiday and can really get cracking on the story.

My third book will definitely bring more of the same romantic comedy, farce and fun dialogue that I love so much. It is going to be set in a mythical primary school in Wimbledon. I know already that the senior staff will be under threat of losing their jobs if the school doesn’t improve during the course of the school year. Obviously, the key protagonists will also have their fair share of personal challenges, with alcoholism, unruly offspring, love triangles and the occasional politician making an appearance. An overbearing Head with her own issues and a new Governor will combine to keep everyone on their toes. Can you tell how much I’m looking forward to writing this book?

My list of fun anecdotes to include within the story is growing longer by the hour. A number of twitter friends have tweeted their ideas too (@benadamsauthor), for which I am very grateful.

But one thing I am struggling with is a working title. Some authors will tell you that the title comes to you after you start writing a novel. This may be true, but I always find that if you can get the title right to start with, it helps you shape the subject of the story. Hence me striving to come up with a good title upfront.

I am trying to conceive of something that captures the daily grind of working in a school while also drawing the rom-com reader in, something that hints at hilarity in school improvement while also appealing to the chick lit lovers out there. The four options on my notepad at the moment include:

Who Left Their Bra in the Staffroom?

The Staffroom

It all happens in the Staffroom

[insert school name] a la Waterloo Road

None of these ideas exactly hits the spot that I am aiming for. They don’t excite me as much as the thought of writing the book itself does.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Will my children like my girlfriend?

dating couple

I’m going to deviate from my normal blogging about my writing journey. Everyone needs to play from time to time, right?

I’m not one to brag, but allow me to gloat for a while. I went on a date the other night. It was with Eliza from Adelaide. Eliza is my age, but she’s lively, chatty, wears cool clothes and loves ‘hip’ music. If anything serious comes of our dates, Eliza may well party me into an early grave.

But we need to negotiate a few big hurdles before we get anywhere near that far. According to Eliza, there’s my taste in music, my dress sense, my dancing and my inability to be coherent after two glasses of wine. To be fair to Eliza, sometimes I struggle to be coherent before wine.

According to me, there’s Eliza’s use of her bragging rights whenever the cricket’s on.

None of those hurdles, except for maybe the last one, is insurmountable.

The bit I will spend more time worrying about is whether Eliza will get on with my children. Would they like her? Would she like them? What would she say when I inevitably phone her and tell her I can’t come out to play because Boy One is ill, or because I’ve got to take Boy Two to football?

You see, I’m a single dad.

Or to put it another way, I’m a dad with significant childcare responsibilities who would very much like not to be single for ever.

I separated from my wife just over a year ago. She has some issues which, from time to time, prevent her from being the mother that she would otherwise be. Our two teenage boys spend much of their time with me.

I love my boys to bits. I love them being with me, but I also miss adult conversation. In fact, with my boys being teenagers, I miss any conversation that doesn’t sound like a grunt.

My days are filled with domestic chores, from explaining the point of soap through to washing school uniform. As an added bonus I even iron it sometimes. I supervise homework and I break-up the fights. I probably start some too.

Occasionally, when I fancy a break from the routine and can find a respite carer (the boys won’t tolerate ‘baby-sitter’), I engineer myself a night out.

To start with, I wasn’t very active on the dating scene during these occasional nights out. All too often I would end up drinking with my married mates. But gradually my need for the odd bit of intimacy, rather than just hearing about my mates’ intimacy with their respective wives, pushed me to reconsider my stance.

It took me a while to convince myself that I was allowed to date again. I didn’t want my boys to think I was betraying their mother. Or, worse still, trying to replace her.

Being someone who likes to build a consensus before I act, I canvassed the views of the people who mattered most to me before I started dating.

‘You shouldn’t be dating yet,’ my mother offered, ‘it’s far too soon.’

‘You haven’t been dating yet?’ my friends asked, ‘has it fallen off?’

‘You shouldn’t bother,’ my sons mocked, ‘no woman will want you.’ Thanks boys.

In the end, a few months ago I chose to ignore my family’s advice and braved my first date. It was with Sue from Essex. She was attractive, intelligent and sophisticated. Probably too sophisticated for me.

We went out a few times together. We got on well. I was thinking of inviting her round to dinner with my boys, but I suddenly had a vision of awkward silences at the dinner table. Sue was a womanly woman, into make-up, fake eyelashes, enhancements and nail polish. My sporty boys would have been petrified of having to talk to her.

After a good deal of agonising, I opted not to continue seeing Sue from Essex. My mates called me an idiot.

Dating after kids is a different world from dating before kids. No longer does my date have to impress my mother over Sunday lunch before the relationship becomes serious. Now, I care more about whether she impresses my children.

What are the implications of this for me going forward? I will probably end up dating a young-sounding cool woman who doesn’t do rules and discipline. Someone who likes ‘alternative’, whatever that means. Someone from a cool place.

Someone like Eliza from Adelaide.

Update on my writing…

Six Months to Get a Life is my not autobiographical at all tale of a man’s struggle to come to terms with life after divorce. Will Graham Hope get over his ex? Will he continue to be a great dad to his kids? More importantly, will he ever have sex again?

The book continues to receive great reviews. I was interviewed on local radio a few days ago. The audio will be added to my website in the next couple of days.

Now that I am a full-time author, my second book, Six Lies, is progressing well. It would be no exaggeration to say that I am really excited about it. The aim is to finish a first draft by the end of June.

The book club

bus ad

My ears were burning last Tuesday evening. By all accounts, a bunch of women were sitting in someone’s front room, eating cheese carrot sticks, drinking wine and talking about me.

More specifically, they were talking about my book, Six Months to Get a Life. My baby was the book of the month at the Chelsea Court book club.

Unfortunately, the book group meeting clashed with my eldest son’s birthday. After studying my conscience, tossing a coin and even trying to convince my son that he was actually born in August, I eventually gave in to my paternal instincts and reluctantly sent my apologies to the book group organiser.

Instead of a trip to the south coast to talk about the book, my extended family and I toddled off to a lovely steakhouse in Wimbledon.

I spent the first part of the evening trying not to think about the book group meeting. The literary ramblings refused to be shut out altogether though. At one point, I literally closed my eyes and envisaged the conversation taking place somewhere on the south coast.

‘The standard of writing’s appalling,’ Hilda might have muttered as she bit into her fifteenth cheese straw.

‘Yes, and the language is so vulgar,’ Olive agreed as she topped her glass up.

‘It’s worse than Jeffrey Archer,’ chimed in Lucinda from the kitchen doorway. ‘Pass me an olive, Olive.’

An impromptu chorus of happy birthday brought me back to my immediate surroundings with a jolt. Judging by his face whilst he was being serenaded, it rapidly became the birthday boy’s turn to imagine he was somewhere else. Anywhere else rather than being embarrassed by his overly affectionate family.

eldest embarrassed

As our family celebration continued, I managed to banish thoughts of the book group from my mind. My extended family and, more importantly, my son, had a lovely evening.

It was only when I woke up the next morning that I once again remembered the book group.

The organiser had promised to let me know what her band of friends made of my book. I checked my emails and was pleased to discoverer that she had emailed me late the previous evening once the group had gone their separate ways.

As I read the email, I gradually began to relax. By the time I had got to her goodbyes, I was positively beaming. The feedback was really positive. Hilda, Olive, Lucinda and their friends had thoroughly enjoyed the book.

In particular, they had enjoyed reading about divorce from a man’s point of view. They found the relationship between Graham and his sons to be real and evolving. They enjoyed the banter between father and sons too. The group could all apparently imagine seeing the book adapted for television as a mini-series . Two of them apparently took it away on holiday with them (to Eastbourne, or am I prematurely ageing the Chelsea Court book group?) and said it was perfect holiday reading.

The book group did comment that it would have been useful if I’d have published a set of book club questions to accompany the book. I will certainly look into this, as another group will be discussing Six Months to Get a Life in the coming few weeks.

One of the girls in the group apparently thought it was a shame that I hadn’t gone into more detail about the sex (obviously more of a Benidorm girl). I am currently writing my second book, Six Lies. I might try being a bit more explicit in that one, but I’m not sure it’s me.

I love receiving feedback on my work. I have received some good coverage on other people’s blogs during the past week or two. There are more reviews scheduled to be released next week.

What next for the book? Six Months to get a Life isn’t exactly setting the bestseller lists alight yet. I am still looking for that spark of magic that will propel me onto the radar of readers across the land. It will be featured on a couple more blogs over the next few weeks. There are some other significant conversations taking place too that might help. More of that in the next few weeks.

Have a great week.

The Last Rose: Wendy Clarke

My blog is all about writers and their journeys to becoming published authors. Normally I talk about my personal journey, but this week I am excited to introduce you to a different story. The story of a friend and fellow author I met via the internet’s thriving author community.

Wendy Clarke writes a great romance tale. Her first book, Room in Your Heart, is a collection of captivating stories that cannot fail to make you smile. In the interview below, Wendy tells me not only about her author journey but also about her latest projects.

If you have got a question you would like to put to Wendy, feel free to post it. I know that Wendy will be checking in here from time to time to respond.

Wendy Clarke      My interview with Wendy Clarke

Ben) So that we can get to know you a bit before we start, I’m going to fire a few quick-fire questions at you. Starting with your favourite author?

Wendy) Ann Weisgarber

Ben) Your favourite film?

Wendy) Life is Beautiful

Ben) Your favourite food

Wendy) Chilli con carne

Ben) Your favourite tipple?

Wendy) Red wine

Ben) You are a romance writer. What’s the most romantic place you have ever visited?

Wendy) Venice… oh, and the little Greek taverna on the island of Samos where my husband proposed to me.

Ben) And what’s your ambition as an author?

Wendy) To see my novel published and on bookshelves.

Your writing

Ben) Seeing your novel on bookshelves is my ambition too. Is your novel your latest project?

Wendy) I have got a few projects on the go. I have just finished putting together my second collection of short stories called ‘The Last Rose’. The theme is family and friendship and all the stories in it have previously been published in national magazines.

The Last Rose cover

Alongside this, I have been finishing my latest serial for The People’s Friend and have recently started writing my first novel.

Ben) You write lovely, atmospheric short stories. What are your top three tips for people who want to write short stories?

Wendy) 1. If you want to write for a magazine, make sure you read the guidelines carefully. 2. Try to think outside the box a little – editors are inundated with submissions so make yours stand out by being a little different. 3. Check your story has a strong ending. I’d also like to add another one: write from the heart – if you don’t love your story, nobody else will!

Ben) That’s a theme in my advice too. If you aren’t happy with what you are producing, then no one else will be happy when they read it. What, for you, are the essential elements of a great romantic tale?

Wendy) Your reader has to like and sympathise with your main character. Their emotions also need to be believable. Look deep inside yourself for memories of your own of love and loss and use these to make your characters’ emotions come alive. A great romance doesn’t necessarily have to end happily but there should always be hope or a sense of moving on.

Ben) What’s the nicest compliment you have been paid on work you have published?

Wendy) People have said some wonderful things in their reviews for Room in Your Heart but I think the greatest compliment was when my friend told me that my stories made her cry.

Your writing journey

Ben) What made you start writing?

Wendy) I started writing three years ago when the private school I was teaching in closed down and I was made redundant. I felt anchorless and had no idea what I wanted to do.

I was very lucky in that I had recently got married and my husband was very supportive, telling me that I should take my time to think about the future. It was my brother who suggested that I enrol in the online creative writing course he’d just completed – after all, I had been an English teacher. So I did.

Little did I know how much I would enjoy it – so much so, that I did a second course and when it had ended, I felt bereft! My tutor suggested I try writing for magazines and, with nothing to lose, I thought I’d have a go. I was very lucky to have stories accepted quite quickly and now I have sold over a hundred!

Liking a challenge, I then decided to try my hand at writing a serial. This was more difficult as I had to show the editors at The People’s Friend a synopsis first which meant I had to plan the whole thing out – something I’m not very good at! Luckily they liked the idea and I found the longer length fun to write. I have now written a second one for them.

Since then, I have joined the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme as I am in the early stages of writing my first romantic novel… so the journey is still continuing.

Ben) Other than the decision to write full-time, what was the most important decision you took in your writing journey?

Wendy) It may well be the decision to write the novel… but whether that decision will turn out good or bad is yet to be seen.

Ben) I’m sure it will be good! Can we get a sneak preview?

Wendy) I don’t want to jinx it by giving it away. Let’s just say, it involves two sisters, a beautiful Greek island and a mystery… oh and of course there’ll be romance in there too!

Connecting with Wendy

I hope you have enjoyed hearing from Wendy. I certainly did. If you would like to connect with Wendy directly, she has a great  blog, or you can find her on twitter @WendyClarke99 or on Facebook.

The Last Rose is available to buy on Amazon. The stories in this collection explore the intricate family relationships of thirteen ordinary people. In them, we discover the sorrow, love and joy that is shared… but not always spoken.

Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

I love writing.

When I’m writing a new book, which is pretty much all of the time, I get obsessed with my characters. I take them to bed with me. I wake up with them too. It’s like having a wife but without the sex. On second thoughts, it’s like having a wife.

I’m so in love with writing but I hate the fact that I have to fit it in around other inconveniences like my day job, life admin and my children. OK, maybe the children aren’t that much of an inconvenience. Give them a bottle of cider and the Xbox and they’re happy.

My day job is such an inconvenience. Would you believe it, I have to be there all day. Whose idea was that?

Work pays the bills, but it doesn’t satisfy my writing addiction. It isn’t where I want to be.

I am seriously considering becoming a full-time author. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be a rational decision. My first book is doing well but it has only been on sale for a month. Never mind paying the mortgage, my income from my writing is barely enough to pay the milkman yet.

But my heart keeps beating faster than my head can shake. Why should I let practicalities like shelter and food stop me from pursuing my dream? They say you’ve got to be single-minded to be an author, right?

I would love to be able to write when I want to write, rather than when the kids are in bed or when the boss isn’t looking. (If my boss is reading this, then obviously the last aside was an example of my ‘creative writing’ skills).

But could I write all day? What would being a full-time author feel like? Would steam surge from my laptop keyboard as I knock out novel after novel? Or would I get bored with my own company, want to murder the daytime radio presenters for endlessly repeating themselves and be off down the pub by lunchtime?

There was only one way to find out.

Last week, I booked the week off work, cleared my diary and packed my boys off on a ski trip to Italy with their school mates. The dog and I had the house to ourselves. My aim was to significantly progress my second book, ‘Six Lies’.

This is how I got on.

Friday

Saw the boys off on their ski-ing trip, went to the pub after work to celebrate my week off and came home via the chip shop. Incapable of writing. Number of words written: 0.

Saturday

I can’t be creative with a hangover. Watched the rugby, checked latest sales figures for Six Months to Get a Life on Amazon and shunned Valentine’s Day in favour of Match of the Day. The FA Cup provided me with all the romance I needed. Number of words written: 0.

Sunday

Went for breakfast in Raynes Park with a friend. We arrived too late for breakfast so had lunch instead. Took the dog for a walk. Cooked a chilli. Checked book sales. Number of words written: 0.

Monday

Wrote during the morning, with short stops for putting the washing on, taking the dog out, eating everything I could find in the fridge and checking for new reviews of my book on Amazon. Got a couple of good lines in, including ‘your forehand is better than your foreplay’. Met another author via twitter. Ended up buying and reading her book. Thoroughly entertaining and highly distracting. A good day, finished off with a few pints in the Earl Beatty with the best man at my wedding. At least I’m still talking to him. Number of words written: 700.

Tuesday

Took the dog to have his balls cut off. His creative juices will never flow again. If it’s any consolation Albus, mine didn’t flow today either. Instead, I read the rest of ‘Being Sarah Chilton’. Very funny. Number of words written: 400, approximately 50 of which were spelt wrongly on account of my errant laptop’s habit of not registering random key impressions. Ggggrrrrrr.

Wednesday

Had to stop the dog licking his wounds all day. Eventually, gave him to my ex and went to meet friends in North London. Number of words written: 27.

Thursday

It is impossible to write with a hangover. Recovered, and went to meet another friend to give him a signed copy of Six Months to Get a Life for him to give away as a raffle prize in his work raffle. Number of words written: 0.

Friday

Started training for this summer’s British Heart Foundation charity London to Brighton walk. Trudged 15 miles through the Surrey countryside, followed by a few pints in the pub. Staggered home (dodgy hamstring / dodgy pint). Number of words written: 400, but they were all drunken emails that I should probably not have sent.

Saturday

The boys came home.

What have I learnt from my experiment? Being a full-time author is going to be good fun, but don’t expect my productivity to go up very much.

Update on Six Months to Get a Life

My debut contemporary fiction / romance novel is keeping me smiling. The reviews have continued to flood in. And as an added bonus, most of them are positive too.

Ten words that keep me writing

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I love dinnertime with my boys. It’s about the only time of day the three of us communicate with each other. Last night’s dialogue was fairly typical as these conversations go.

‘How was school,’ I asked as we sat down to eat.

‘Fine,’ William replied. Joe nodded as he chewed his slow-cooked beef.

‘What was the most exciting thing that happened today?’

‘Nothing,’ Joe offered. William shook his head as he chewed his slow-cooked beef.

‘What are you up to after dinner?’  With both boys now intent on chewing, I decided to continue the one-way conversation by telling them my plans. ‘I’m going to write a blog post sharing the ten words that kept me on the straight and narrow during my writing journey.’

‘God, dad, now that you’ve written a book, you suddenly think you’re Philip Shakespeare,’ Joe exclaimed.

‘William,’ I corrected.

‘What,’ said William.

Silence is indeed sometimes golden.

Since I’ve been writing, I have been surprised at the amount of people who have asked me for tips.  I’m hoping they aren’t after my advice on who’s going to win the 3.40 at Cheltenham. My knowledge of horse-racing is pretty much on a par with my eldest son’s knowledge of The Bard.

I hope they aren’t after tips on how to construct the perfect sentence either. I wouldn’t know a split infinitive from a misplaced modifier, or a conjunction from a conjunctivitis. My English teacher once wrote ‘at least you are good at maths,’ on my end of year school report.

I readily admit that I’m no expert on writing, but I am the world’s leading expert on my writing process. So I am going to share the ten key words that I pinned on my office wall at a very early stage in my writing journey. They won’t tell you how to write, but they do tell you how I stayed on track whilst writing my first novel. I would hazard a guess that most writers will have a similar list somewhere, even if it’s kept in their head rather than on their wall.

  • Focus

What’s your goal? Mine was to write a great novel, one that people would want to read. It wasn’t to chat to people endlessly on Facebook or Twitter. It was to write. Those dreaded personality tests tell me that I am a completer-finisher so maybe the focus bit comes naturally to me. Or maybe I’m just selfish in pursuit of my goals.

  • Belief

I have always dreamt of being an author. Dreams aren’t enough though. You need to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself then your readers will notice. Writing is a lonely pursuit. You don’t get instant feedback on your work. You have the occasional bad day. You are likely to give up if you don’t have a deep-seated belief in your own ability. My belief in my ability might prove to be misplaced, but the important thing to me when I’m writing the book is that I have such a belief.

  • Passion

If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, then a) you won’t make time for it; and b) your readers won’t be convinced when they read it. Being passionate about the process of writing isn’t enough. You must be passionate about what you have to say when you write. There were days when I knew I still had my passion for writing but wasn’t passionate about the chapter I was writing. More often than not, that told me that I needed to re-work something within my novel. It didn’t put me off though. I just saw it as part of the process.

  • Pride

I told myself that if I’m not proud of what I produce then it isn’t good enough to share with an audience. Some writers constantly share draft chapters with their peers. I didn’t. This was partly because I didn’t know any other authors when I was writing Six months…, but it was also because I am my own harshest critic.

  • Flex.

As a project manager by profession, I always have a plan. When I wrote Six Months to Get a Life, I started with an outline structure. Very quickly that structure began to constrain me, so I wrote ‘flex’ on the wall and ditched the structure. From then on, I planned a little, wrote some, re-planned, wrote, received a thorough edit, re-planned, re-wrote, added, took away, finished, re-read, rejigged, reread, dotted I’s, had it proofed, crossed T’s, re-read, added commas and ultimately pressed ‘send’.

  • Smile

For me, this was one of the most important words I kept coming back to when writing Six Months… Writing about divorce and single-parenthood had the potential to be a dour process. If the writing process wasn’t making me smile then it wouldn’t make a reader smile. Unless it’s a physics textbook, a book is meant to be enjoyed. If I wasn’t smiling at least occasionally when I was writing, then my little finger on my right hand started getting fidgety with the delete key.

  • Breathe

Sometimes, when the writing wasn’t flowing or when it was flowing but it was just uninspiring, I would force myself to switch my laptop off and go for a run, walk the dog or even try and initiate a conversation with the boys. I would do anything other than write. Usually a break was what I needed. Forgetting about my work for a while would recharge my creative juices, such as they were…

  • Perspective

My writing might feel like the be-all and end-all for me, but it isn’t. Really it isn’t. OK, if truth be told, I struggled with this one. I am ever so slightly addicted to writing. When things aren’t going right, I am grumpy. I often found myself looking at the word ‘perspective’ and thinking ‘it’s easy for you to say…’

  • Learn.

All authors will want to learn. Some go on expensive courses and week-long retreats. Those activities may work. I wouldn’t know; I didn’t try them. I learn most from my mistakes. The simple truth for me is the more I write, the more I improve. I was so determined to be focussed that I didn’t spend hours reading others’ thoughts on how to write. Some might say I should have…I did learn a massive amount from my editor so I am not completely relying on my own experiences.

  • Celebrate

Just seeing the word on the wall would spur me on towards my goal. ‘Think of the launch party,’ I would tell myself on the odd occasion that the motivation to write wasn’t there. And what a launch party it was too.

What words would you pin on your wall to keep you on track?

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Six Months to Get a Life: update

After a sedate start, sales of my debut rom-com / contemporary fiction / ‘lad-lit’ / ‘chick-lit’ novel have picked up. It was actually No.1 in some obscure category on Amazon on Monday.

Reviews have been coming in thick and fast, and they have been overwhelmingly generous too.

I have some promotions planned for late February and March, and a couple of radio interviews will air then too, so fingers crossed. Belief.

What have JK Rowling and I got in common?

We are both published authors.

As of today, I am as much an author as JK Rowling. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is now just as much of a book as War and Peace, Jane Eyre and No-one Ever has Sex on a Tuesday (yes, that is a real book – I haven’t read it yet but I want to).

How do I feel? In a word, proud. The months of plotting and re-plotting, of furious typing, of shunning social events and my children in favour of spending time with my leading characters and their shenanigans were all worth it, just to experience this feeling of pride. ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is immortal. The e version will exist forever. That is quite a humbling thought.

I also feel hugely excited. Not at the prospect of the money pouring in as people queue up around the block to buy the book (!) but because they will be investing their precious time in my book. It might sound a bit conceited, but I know most of them will enjoy it. I am excited that I will be making people I have never met before smile and maybe even laugh out loud on their way to work, while they are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room or wherever they happen to be.

To ‘proud’ and ‘excited’. I must also add ‘grateful’. Without wishing to appear like I am rehearsing for my Man Booker prize-accepting speech, I do want to say a huge thank you to the many truly inspirational people I have met during the course of my ‘author journey’ (have I ever told you how much I hate that phrase. I just can’t think of a better one). Wendy Clarke and T.O.Weller have both offered me advice along the way, as well as providing me with some much needed exposure via their excellent blogs. Wendy, I am still smiling now after dropping in to your Facebook chat the other morning!

Yvonne, Nicki, Gareth and Dana are all people I have never met before but would now willingly buy lunch for if I ever did meet them. I am sure there have been others too who I will have just offended because I haven’t mentioned them by name.

My boys don’t read this blog (it doesn’t mention Fifa 15 enough for their liking) so I won’t bother droning on about them except to say that they have inspired me in the way they have coped with our real-life changing circumstances. They were a major influence behind the feel-good factor in ‘Six Months…’ Perhaps somewhat fittingly, my eldest is off school, ill, today. We all cope with these situations somehow, don’t we? Essentially, without getting too deep and meaningful, that’s what ‘Six Months…’ is about. Well, that and a bit of a love interest…

Proud, excited, grateful… And apprehensive. I am now the ‘star’ of a US podcast on dating. The word star is in inverted commas for a reason. Billed as a ‘podcast for men’, the ‘chick whisperer’ (oh my God, I can’t believe I am mentioning it by name) is, without doubt, the most ridiculous interview I have done to date. I am so British and reserved. Talking about dating to a raw steak-eating US podcast host isn’t something I do every day. That’ll teach me for writing a HuffPost blog. I just hope they are right when they say that no publicity is bad publicity. If you listen to it, please feel my pain…

Other book promotion I have undertaken has been much more satisfying. I think I will get a mention in the Sunday Express Magazine this coming Sunday. That one will be good for me, although it takes a more serious angle to the angles I normally use to promote my book.

You may also find me on a few more blogs over the next week or two. Get me, I’m banging on about myself again…

I am also having a party on Friday night. I am feeding and watering my friends, and then not letting them out of the house until they have bought at least fifteen copies of my book each, for their mother, their neighbours, their friend whose birthday is coming up in March, that woman over the road who is feeding their cats while they are on holiday etc. etc. I might even make them write reviews while they are there! Ah, reviews… Hopefully they will come flooding in over the next few days.

What’s next for me? Who knows? The book is on sale now. It hasn’t by any means jumped to Number 1 on Amazon. It did reach number 7 in some obscure sub-category for a while. There are a number of ways things could go from here. I am not going to do pessimism today. Being optimistic, people who read the book will love it, share it with their friends who, in turn, will love and share. Sales will go up gradually over a period of weeks and months and by the summer Six Months… will be selling nicely although not spectacularly.

Being even more optimistic, my publicist will find me some more significant exposure and, so long as I don’t mess it up, things might start happening at an accelerated rate. But please, no more American dating shows…

My brush with celebrity status

I was going to blog about new year’s resolutions, but as someone who had a few pints in The Ramblers Rest in Chipstead about 36 hours into ‘dry January’, I am probably best to steer clear of resolutions. That topic is so last year anyway, don’t you agree?

Instead, I thought I would bang on about my progress in promoting my book, ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ and my brush with celebrity status.

In the run-up to Christmas, I was frantically working through my list of potential reviewers for the book, emailing this devoted group of people, trying to convince them one by one to read and review my book rather than ‘Having Sex with Vampires’ by D Ranged or ‘Community of Death’ by Di Stopian. Shortly before midnight on 23rd December, after sending my one hundred and eightieth review request email, I turned off my computer and re-joined my family in Christmas land.

My festivities were fantastic, except for some not particularly community-spirited hackers who stopped my boys from going online to kill people and steal their cars. How inconsiderate of the hackers.

I returned to ‘author world’ the day after Boxing Day. As I sat down at my computer, I was pleasantly surprised that a) my backside still fit on the computer chair despite the recent over-indulgences, b) two top 100 Amazon reviewers had agreed to review ‘Six Months…’ and, c) my publicist had arranged for a journalist from an internationally renowned website to interview me. There was even talk of a television interview too.

Every author dreams about a big break. Could this have been mine?

Over the next few days I locked the kids in the front room with the dog, the Xbox and a couple of tins of chocolates while I marshalled my thoughts in advance of the interview. What unique insights and killer lines could I share? I prepared as I would have done for a job interview. Anticipate the questions, think of some examples and get some good one-liners in (I wouldn’t advise going overboard on the one-liners in a job interview but one or two show personality, don’t they?).

The day of the interview came. I tried to avoid mentally dreaming about my newfound fame (is an interview in a national paper enough to get me a place on I’m A Celebrity?) and instead concentrated on rehearsing a few pre-prepared lines.  It was only a phone interview but I dressed up for the occasion, using the rationale that if I looked good, I would feel good and therefore sound good too.

The phone rang at the appointed hour.  After introductions were made, the journalist broke the ice with a nice easy one. ‘Can I ask why you split up with your ex?’

She rapidly followed that up with ‘Are you dating again,’ and ‘What do you think it will be like having sex with someone different after being married for, like, ever?’

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is about a dad who seeks to sort his life out following his divorce. There are some similarities between the book and my life, but essentially the former is fiction whereas the latter is fact. I repeatedly explained this distinction to the persistent hack, but my answers seemed to be falling on deaf ears.

‘What’s the best chat-up line you have used in the past few months,’ she tried.

‘I haven’t used any chat-up lines.’ My frown must have been visible down the phone line.

‘OK,’ she sighed, ‘what’s your attitude to internet dating?’

By this point, I thought I had better up my game slightly so I at least tried to give her an answer. ‘Well, before I met my wife I thought about trying it, but I chickened out in the end.’

‘Why?’

‘Because internet dating is for extroverts and perverts,’ I told her, ‘I am only one of those things so I gave it a miss’.

‘I met my husband through the internet,’ my ticket to national celebrity told me before hanging up. There goes my celebrity status.

Let’s end this blog on a positive and admittedly slightly self-congratulatory note though. Fanfare please. My book is available to pre-order on Amazon and other book sites. I felt very proud when I first saw the ‘buy’ page.

The early reviews, or at least the ones I have had sight of, are extremely positive.

And I read a tweet today from someone I have never met nor even communicated with before, who told me that she had pre-ordered the book and was thoroughly looking forward to reading it. Maybe my early marketing is having some success.

Happy new year to you all.