The Age of Loneliness

age of loneliness

When I was first asked if I would consent to being featured in a documentary about loneliness, I was pretty nonplussed.

Although my wife and I had just split up and I was spending at least part of the week living on my own, I still hadn’t come to terms with my own feelings, let alone being ready to talk about them on camera.

Could I really go on the telly and tell people how bereft I felt?

Who would want to hear my tales of woe anyway?

What would my kids say?

What would my mates think?

Come to think of it, I knew the answer to that last question.

Eventually, after some back and forth with the producer about how my story would be handled, I agreed to mull their suggestion over.

That night, I talked to my boys about the documentary.

‘Are you really lonely?’ Joe asked.

‘Will I be on the telly?’ William wanted to know.

I explained to the boys that, since their mum and I separated, I hadn’t had anyone to share life’s trials and tribulations with, to snuggle up with on the sofa, to cook for.

‘I don’t know about the snuggle bit, but you can cook for us any time you want,’ William reassured me.

‘And you can share life’s trials and tribuwotsits with us too if you like,’ Joe chipped in.

Ah, bless.

The truth is, I needed to talk to someone about my loneliness. I’m not one of those men that find it hard to talk about their emotions. In my case, I am quite prepared to open up when I feel it would help.

My problem was that I didn’t have anyone to open up to. The kids are great but when all’s said and done, they’re teenagers. Their capacity for listening is pretty minimal at the best of times, but it’s non-existent when what they are being asked to absorb is an outpouring of their father’s innermost feelings.

My wife was now my ex so I wasn’t about to confide in her. My mates would have been embarrassed to be forced into having such a conversation and my mother would have told me a few home truths that I wasn’t ready to hear.

So that left me with two options. Either talk to myself or confide in a cool Scottish woman with a camera.

Thinking what the hell. I made the call.

me interview

And I haven’t regretted my decision for one second since.

Sue Bourne is a fantastic documentary-maker. Known for programmes such as Fabulous Fashionistas, My Street and Wink, Meet, Delete, Sue handled the subject matter sensitively.

We had a fantastic time filming my story – a process this blog describes.

celebrity chef

The process even helped me come to terms with my loneliness. Sue got me to open up about how hard I had found the whole break-up thing. She made me realise how much my life had changed over the previous few months.

‘I don’t want to come across as a sad sap,’ I told her.

‘What are you doing about addressing your loneliness?’ She asked me.

Er, good question.

In truth, the answer at that point was not a lot.

Instead of going out, making new connections and meeting new people, I had been hiding away in my study for the previous few months writing Six Months to Get a Life, my not autobiographical at all novel about a man learning to live again after his divorce, and Six Lies, my second rom-com with a twist.

Bennewdoubleposter

Sue’s question made me realise that I would indeed look like a wet blanket if I hadn’t started enacting a plan to rebuild my life by the time the camera crew turned up on my doorstep.

Gradually, over the summer, I forced myself to start thinking more positively. Because I had been able to talk about my recent past, I began to stop blaming myself for my marriage ‘failing’. I learnt to look myself in the mirror without cringing. I grew to like myself again.

Once I felt ready, I signed up with an internet dating site. ‘Half-blind sad lonely middle-aged man with two teenage boys seeks Swedish super model,’ my profile read. Or something like that…

Remarkably enough, by the time Sue and her fantastic entourage turned up armed with expensive recording equipment and almost as expensive sandwiches, I had recovered somewhat from the low point I was at when I agreed to be featured in the documentary. I had met someone new. Sue, you may yet turn out to be my Cilla.

dating couple

Looking back on that difficult time in my life, talking about my loneliness, even to a film crew, certainly helped me in my recovery. As did writing novels that did their best to give people hope that a mid-life crisis is sometimes no bad thing in the long run.

Being in the documentary has raised my awareness of loneliness in its different forms. 19-year-old Isabel who is spending her first year at university, and Emily, a stay-at-home mum in her thirties, will, like me, hopefully find that their loneliness is temporary.

But Bob, a 93-year-old widower, and Olive, who will have received her telegram from the Queen by now, expect to have to live with their loneliness for the rest of their lives.

I have seen the final cut of the film, which is being broadcast tonight at 10.35 on BBC1. It features people of all ages, from a variety of backgrounds. It is beautifully shot and expertly edited, with the various vignettes woven into a moving account of loneliness in twenty-first century Britain.

Although I admit to feeling a bit sheepish about how my friends are going to react to The Age of Loneliness, one thing is for sure. I don’t regret being involved in the project. Loneliness is something that will affect most if not all of us at some point in our lives.

Being lonely is nothing to be ashamed of.

Ben

The worst radio interview ever

radio interview

‘That was Adele’s fantastic new single. Now I’m really excited about our next guest. I’ve been a big fan of his for ages. You’ve gotta love his books. And, ladies and gents, he’s got a new one out today. If it’s as good as the last one, we’re all in for a treat. Give it up for the one and only Ben Adams.’

‘What a great intro. Thanks Chris.’

‘Nick.’

‘Shit, sorry Nick.’

‘This is going well, isn’t it. I must apologise to anyone who was offended by Ben’s language. Ben, it’s lovely to have you on the show. I’m a huge fan. Six Months to Get a Life was a hilarious book. And now you’ve got a new one out… Is that your phone?’

‘God, sorry about this Chris. I mean Nick. It’s my son. Hang on a minute. Joe, what do you want, I’m live on the radio. An emergency? What sort of emergency? Well, how am I supposed to know where the bloody remote control is? Sorry about that, Nick. I’ve turned it off now.’

‘Kids eh, who’d have em. So, you were going to tell me about your new book.’

‘Yes, my award-winning second novel is called Six Lies…’

‘Award-winning? Has it won an award already?’

‘Well, not exactly, but it’s just a timing thing. Anyway, let me tell you about it. Dave Fazackerley is not in a good place. He has just buried his mother. His wife has left him for a librarian and neither his band nor his career as a City Banker is progressing smoothly. The only thing keeping him sane is his close relationship with his life-long role model, his father.’

‘Sounds intriguing, Ben.’

‘But all this changes when, the day after his mother’s funeral, he sifts through the condolence letters piled up on his doormat and finds an envelope addressed to him in his mother’s artsy hand. The letter reveals a secret…’

‘Oh, we need a drum-roll.’

‘That sounds more like the travel news jingle to me.’

‘Sorry, wrong button. Back to the secret. Do tell.’

‘Biologically-speaking, his mother isn’t his mother.’

‘Was that your stomach?’

‘Yeah, sorry. I had a kebab last night and it’s been repeating on me ever since.’

‘We’d best get back to the book I think. So, it’s like that programme Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall present on the BBC? Long Lost Family?’

‘Er, no, it’s nothing like that. Their families don’t have rows in supermarket isles, drummers throwing hissy fits, drunken pub quizzes, book dorks, Virginia the virgin or their best mate’s kids taking the piss, sorry micky, out of their sex lives…’

‘Wow, sounds great. Right, the producer’s giving me the evil eye. Time to play another record. Ah, I see where we’re going with this one. Nice link.’

‘Let me guess, ‘Paperback Writer’?’

‘No. ‘Shaddup You Face’.’

six lies cover for pc w endorse

And now for the boring bit…

Thanks to Debbie, my publicist and new best friend, my books are getting lots of really exciting coverage at the moment.

I’m doing the rounds of radio studios around the country. Fortunately, the above wasn’t a transcript of my appearance on either Radio Newcastle or Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. Hopefully, my chat with Allison Ferns on BBC Sussex this lunchtime won’t be anything like this either.

My diary is chock-a-block between now and Christmas. There’s more radio banter, an article for a national newspaper, some magazine work and a few personal appearances (get me!).

The BBC documentary I was involved in is being shown during the first week of January. There is talk of something even more stellar in the near future. I’ll blog about that in due course if it looks like comeing off.

Finally, for the writers amongst you, after a chat with my publisher, we have decided to make the e version of Six Lies available exclusively on Amazon for the next three months. By enrolling it in KDP Select, I am giving those who have signed up to Amazon’s Unlimited subscription service the opportunity to download my book for free. My thinking is that I might get more early reviews by going with this approach.

If you have views on KDP Select, or if you have any great tips on how to avoid messing up a radio interview, I would love to hear from you.

Ben

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

I’ve been a full-time writer for two months now and…

dog writing

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now will know that, at the end of April, I gave up ‘work’ to become a full-time author.

The last couple of months have been really busy for me. I have been meaning to reflect upon my experience but, ironically, I have struggled to find the time. Now that my second book, Six Lies, is with my editor, I have suddenly got a bit more space to reflect upon my decision. Hence this blog.

Has my decision been the right one for me? Well, to answer that question, let me revisit the hopes and fears that preoccupied my mind as, with some trepidation, I took my resignation letter up to our HR department a few months ago.

My main reason for resigning from my day job was the pull of writing. After penning my first book in the early mornings and late evenings of 2014, I wanted to give myself the space to write more often, and for longer. With work and my boys keeping me busy, I was struggling to fully immerse myself in my characters. My writing was lagging behind my ideas.

In the two months since I have been a full-time writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of being master of my own destiny. My routine has been to start tapping away at my keyboard once the boys head off to school, and then to carry on until either my concentration begins to wain or my German Shepherd, Albus, deposits his rugby ball on my brand new laptop. If I am lucky, I can write until lunchtime. I then have a break and walk the dog, before going back to writing, or possibly editing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Albus

I have been quite productive in the last couple of months. Six Lies is now complete in draft form. My editor is hopefully reading it as I type. My aim is to work on her comments before we jet off to Turkey for a not particularly well-earned but nevertheless much looked forward-to holiday towards the end of August.

Had I still been fitting my writing around my work life, I would never have finished Six Lies so soon. It wouldn’t have been as good either. The best thing about being a writer is immersing yourself for hours on end in the minds of the characters you are creating. Writing full-time gives me the space to do that.

My main fear about giving up my day job, the fear that physically made my hand shake as I handed my note to Minal from HR, was that I would find the writer’s life too solitary. I am a sociable person and love debating the merits of Dan’s latest beard trim or Rebecca’s latest board report (quick double-check I got the names the right way round) at the tea point.

It is early days yet, but, at the moment I can safely say I am loving my new life. Before I gave up my job, I did muse about ruses like writing in coffee shops full of people to break up the monotony, or travelling with my laptop to friends’ houses and writing with them while they work from home. But, if truth be told, I haven’t needed to go down that route. Writing isn’t lonely. It’s completely fulfilling.

You can’t get lonely when you are in your characters’ heads. You can’t get lonely when you’ve got a TV crew filming you for a documentary about loneliness. You can’t get lonely when you are training for a 100+ KM walk. You can’t get lonely when the cricket’s on (you can’t get much work done either, mind). You can’t get lonely when you have tried internet dating for the first time and you have met… Actually, I’ll keep that one to myself for the time being.

Now that my second book is in someone else’s hands, I might begin to think differently about my routine. I need to keep up the momentum in my writing journey. I need to develop my author platform (yawn). I need to get out there and sell myself (gulp, I’m off to a champagne reception in Knightsbridge in a couple of weeks). I need to write more Huffpost blogs. This stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me as the novel writing, so it will take more effort. Will it keep me interested until my holiday, or will I begin to miss the human contact when I am slaving away? Only time will tell.

The other obvious fear I had when I was on the sixth floor of my Smith Square office clutching my life-changing letter was that I was throwing away a reliable and undeservingly high salary in pursuit of my dream. In common with Greece , my long-term economic prospects were uncertain.

To be frank, my finances are still uncertain. My first novel, Six Months to Get a Life, is receiving great reviews. Chick Lit Central loved it when they read it. But, no matter how hard you look, you won’t as yet find my name on the best-sellers list.

When I gave up my job, I vowed to give my dream every chance of succeeding and not to bottle it and get another job too soon. I am resolutely sticking to that plan. When I am back from my holiday, I intend to start work on a third book. My second book will be published in December. I will throw all I have (the kitchen sink, the dog and my limited imagination) at publicising my work. Hopefully, I will be able to coincide publication with the airing of the BBC documentary but we shall see.

Then in the new year, I will take stock. If my sales haven’t increased to a financially sustainable level, I will either sell a child or look for a new job. I may even do both. If I have to take up paid employment again, I won’t consider the whole experience to have been a waste of time. I will feel proud of myself for pursuing my dreams. As they say, you regret what you don’t do more than what you do do (they put it much more eloquently than that, but that’s the best I can do before breakfast).

Other things that have changed since I quit my day-job:

  • My lunches. I eat far less over-priced sandwiches and far more salad-based stuff. I do drink more coffee though. The post-lunch graveyard shift would quickly turn into an afternoon nap if it wasn’t for my fancy coffee machine.
  • I eat breakfast, or at least a mid-morning snack. I could never manage breakfast before the morning commute.
  • I am spending a fortune on dog treats to keep Albus from distracting me.
  • I have knocked my eldest son off the top spot in my dog’s affections.
  • I am getting a suntan. There is nothing quite like having lunch in the garden.
  • My kids hate not being able to come home from school and raid the fridge ‘without me knowing’.
  • I haven’t polished my shoes for two months.
  • I am forgetting the art of looking busy when really I’m just not. Or maybe that’s what this blog’s all about…

Happy days!

Ben

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.

‘No sex please, we’re British’

Why didn’t I write a book years ago? My foray into the literary world is bringing me new experience after new experience. I am learning so much, and from so many people.

As we get closer to the publication of Six Months to Get a Life, this week has been super-busy. I have been writing blog interviews (more on that next week), working with my publicist to pitch articles to national and international publications and websites, and having conversations with international dating experts on a radio feature to be aired in a couple of weeks. What do I know about dating? I sat at my laptop writing ‘Six Months…’ because having a book to write gave me a good excuse not to have to venture out on dates.

But this week’s blog post is about something entirely different.

I have had the absolute pleasure to have been exchanging emails with a reader. Yes, an actual reader! My new friend, who I met via this blog, is DanaBee. Dana lives across the pond from me, somewhere near Denver, Colorado.

Dana and I exchanged a few messages via this blog, via Dana’s own fascinating blog and via twitter. To cut to the chase, Dana offered to read and review ‘Six Months…’

I have been fortunate this week to have received a few really good reviews, some of which have been posted on Goodreads. Most of those reviews are from people like Dana – people who I have met via my writing journey. One of them was from a personal friend. That is probably bordering on unethical, but don’t worry because she only gave me 4 stars. Sue, you can buy your own wine next time you visit…

Dana genuinely enjoyed the book and wrote a rave review. But that isn’t the reason for mentioning her.

While she was reading, Dana jotted down a list of ‘Britishisms’ that she hadn’t heard before.  Dana’s list made me chuckle.

When I wrote the book, I had no idea that anyone would actually read it, let alone people from another country. Had I been more savvy, I would have either got a US editor to proof the book, or maybe even brought out a slightly adapted US version. As I didn’t do either of those things, my stateside friends will have to struggle through the handful of Britishisms.

For Dana’s benefit, but mainly just because it makes me smile, here I interpret the Britishisms that Dana picked out.

‘I am definitely punching above my weight’ – doing better than I have a right to expect to do. Or to put it another way, a not very attractive man dating a supermodel…

‘I really need to pull my finger out’ – the US equivalent adds ‘of my ass’ at the end. We Brits, with our stiff upper lip and our polite manners, wouldn’t dream of saying such a word. It’d make us choke on our cucumber sandwiches.

‘I am not sure they give a monkeys about our relationship’ – Again in the US the word ‘ass’ is sometimes added. In the UK we might say ‘give a monkey’s uncle’. Don’t ask me why.

‘They will take the piss forever’ – As Dana pointed out to me, ‘piss’ is an interesting word. We say things like ‘take the piss’ (meaning take the Michael (or is that another Britishism?), and ‘piss off’ (go away). In the States, the word is used more to denote anger – ‘I am pissed at you’ (Brits might say ‘browned off’). And then, of course, there is urine. Best to move on I think.

‘I sent him away with a flea in his ear’ – I gave him a good telling off.

In Dana’s excellent review, she also commented on my conservative treatment of any rumpy pumpy (that’s sex by the way Dana) in the book. My friend, while I watch Crazy, Stupid Love, you should watch ‘No Sex Please, We’re British’.

What surprised me most about Dana’s list was that she didn’t mention cricket…

Have a great week. I am off to make a pot of tea and watch the rugger. None of those big girls blouses playing football, or should I say soccer, for me.

I am pretty chuffed with that blog post. What do you think?

All I want for Christmas is…

A rest.

Actually, there are lots of things I want for Christmas, but ‘a rest’ is certainly near the top of the list.

‘More time’ would also be high up there. With five weeks until my book joins the millions of others on Amazon’s metaphorically creaking shelves, I have certainly been burning the candle at both ends. My internet usage of late has probably been on a par with that of the entire population of a small nation, as has my coffee consumption. After a day’s work, I come home, feed and vaguely interact with the kids (I talk, they grunt, I shout, they slam doors), and then I sit down for a few hours of hard slog with the aim of promoting my book.

I won’t bore you with the intricate details of this week’s admin, but it is all being done with the aim of shoving ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ under the noses of avid readers of that sort of thing on or as close to 21st January, the book’s launch date.

Other things I want for Christmas include bloggers agreeing to review the book, and opportunities to guest post or post author interviews in places frequented by discerning readers. Actually I might be a lot of things but I’m not a snob – the readers don’t have to be particularly discerning. I am having a good amount of success in this respect, but call me greedy if you like because I want more!

For Christmas I want my publicist to produce the killer press release. You know, the one that persuades The Daily Mail, The New York Times and the Wimbledon Village Women’s Institute to shout about my book. I am talking to my publicist this afternoon. I have had a few thoughts about headlines. What about ‘Six Months to Get a Life’: the best work of fiction since The…’ (no, let’s not go there, I might lose half my readers!) Maybe I had better leave it to a professional.

I would actually like a physical copy of my book for Christmas too – my author services partners are still working on it, so I haven’t felt it in my sweaty palms yet. I have lots of marketing ideas to pursue once I have the book to play with.

Oh how I envy my sons. They wrote their Christmas lists last week. ‘Dear Santa,’ my eldest wrote, ‘I would love an X Box with the latest Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto games.’ He is fourteen – you can see we have brought him up well. He went on to list other things he would like, including a rainbow and a unicorn. I am not sure why he wants a unicorn but I reckon he was really after the pot of gold, not the rainbow itself.

Sure, the pot of gold would be nice, but it isn’t top of my Christmas list. If thousands of people read ‘Six Months…’ then I will make a few quid, but what I am really after is the knowledge that people like my writing and are prepared to give up the time in their busy lives to read it. I crave the feedback.

Although come to think of it, the pot of gold might enable me to devote more time to my writing, which would be a present as valuable to me as anything anyone could give me.

My youngest son has got his own youtube channel. He wants some video recording equipment for Christmas. I might actually stump up for that, on the condition that he makes me a video book trailer. I have shied away from making one myself but I would be more than happy if my son, or even Father Christmas, feels minded to produce one for Christmas.

Other things I could do with for Christmas are a tech-savvy brain (or a PA), a new wardrobe in preparation for all those TV appearances and book signings (I quite like the cut of Lewis Hamilton’s jib – I wonder who his tailor is) and/or a celebrity friend or two who could say nice things about ‘Six Months…’ to their millions of followers.

A nice bottle of Rioja would be good. Oh, and obviously world peace and an end to suffering.

I have been a good boy this year, more out of circumstances than choice, but the big man doesn’t need to know that bit, does he?

What do you want for Christmas? Whatever it is, I hope you get it.

Ben

Divorce, sex and Six Months to Get a Life

A year or so ago, my life, and the lives of others close to me, went through a period of upheaval and change. I went from being part of the typical family unit to living with my parents and having to reinvent family relationships, routines and dreams.

Put the violins away. Out of adversity comes opportunity (God that sounds corny!). I had to think positively, otherwise I might have crumbled, fallen apart or even sunk to the sordid depths of watching soap operas all night with a can of strong lager in my hand. Wait. Rewind. What was I doing last night?

Anyway, to cut a long and personal story short, I coped. I got through my change in life circumstances, as did those close to me.

The single most important thing that helped me through my challenging time was a decision I took one wet Sunday afternoon when the kids weren’t with me. I decided to pursue my dream.

No, not the dream that involves Madonna and Kylie Minogue, but the one that I have had since Kylie was in her dungarees as a teenager in that Australian classic, Neighbours. Sorry, I am back on soap operas again.

My dream, since my school years, has always been to write a book. No, that’s under-stating it. Not just to write any old book, but to write a best-selling novel that thrusts me overnight into the public eye, alongside Rowling, Grisham, EL James (er, maybe not her), Cornwell and the other members of the literary glitterati. Even as a teenager I knew that it wasn’t enough for me to produce a book. I had to produce one that people other than my mother would read.

So, back to that wet Sunday afternoon in March. I got my laptop out, plugged it in, made a cup of tea and sat down to write. I drank my tea, got up and made a sandwich, sat back down and ate it. I thought some more, did some head-scratching and maybe a bit of chin-stroking too. Eventually it was tea time.

What to write? I love crime fiction but I don’t know the first thing about police procedures, forensic science or how the criminal mind works. So that was that genre out of the window. I am not a big fan of horror or sci-fi. And I don’t even know what dystopian fiction and steampunk are, so that’s them ruled out too.

‘What do I know about’, I asked myself in a frustrated tone of voice. Can you have a tone of voice when you say things in your head?

Eventually, in a eureka moment to rival the day that Einstein bruised his apple, the idea came to me. I know about relationships, or at least how to mess them up. I know about family. I know about the impact of the break-up of a long-term relationship. I also believe I know how to make people laugh (and cry). Why not stick all of that into a pot and stir it up?  And that’s when ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ was conceived.

The act of conception was slightly different from other acts of conception you might be familiar with, but after a lot of sole-searching, a fair bit of fiddling around and a few false starts (actually maybe there is more in common than I first thought) the moment was just as sweet.

I wrote the book over the course of the Spring and Summer. It was good therapy for me. Inventing Graham Hope and his friends and writing about his escapades made me smile. I loved writing the dialogue. Being a writer is fantastic. Unlike real life, you get ages to think up the perfect put-down lines.

I signed up with a company who have held my hand, and sometimes dragged me kicking and screaming through the editing and production process. Until today when we now virtually have a physical book to waive around. We have that elusive publication date. The 21st January is getting closer. My excitement is mounting.

I wanted to recap my author journey here in this blog. I am not recommending that everyone going through a relationship break-up writes a book. I am not even recommending that everyone who has gone through such a life-changing event buys my book (although it would be nice). I am just telling you how much the whole process has helped me through a difficult time.

And my regular readers have stood side by side with me on this journey. Lots of people have commented on this blog. Virtually all of them are people I do not know personally. You should know that your contributions have meant a lot to me. The whole process of writing the book and this blog has reaffirmed my belief in my own writing. It has given me hope that, one day, I might achieve my dream. I am under no illusions, there is still a long way to go. It isn’t as if this blog gets millions of hits a day. Even thousands would be nice. But I am at least on the road.

Update on my marketing activity…

Since my last blog, I have continued with my quest to gain reviewers for my baby, with a good response from bloggers. I have entered a sort of mini-competition on Jo Michael’s excellent book blog, with the aim of gaining more reviews and maybe some sales too.

I have also received more positive feedback on the book from another reviewer I have never met before. Her email made me smile so much that I was tempted to order a frame for it and stick it on my wall next to my Madonna poster circa mid-1980s.

My book has been sent off to an indie site that issues quality badges for books it recognises to be of a high standard – a sort of kite mark for Indie books. There’s confidence for you!

And finally, my publicist is preparing the press release for ‘Six Months to Get a Life’, to be sent out in January ahead of the book’s launch. She asked me if there were any quotes in my book that I thought would fit into the press release. I am currently re-reading it for the fifty-seventh time to find some pithy one-liners. The ones that make me smile most, but aren’t probably suitable for inclusion on a press release, are:

‘It’s been a while, if you know what I mean’… Graham Hope on his sex-life.

‘Graham has a big ego and a small dick. I wish it was the other way round.’ (Graham’s ex on Graham).

‘I was in my comfort zone even if my erogenous zone wasn’t seeing much action.’ I am not telling you who said that. You will have to read the book to find out!

I would love to hear what you think of my ramblings. And if you would be interested in reviewing the book, let me know. I will be sending review copies out to those who have already volunteered before Christmas.

Ben

My website isn’t twerking: new author, new extract

Generally, I love self-publishing my book. There is definitely something to be said for being in control of your own destiny.

But over the last fortnight, I will admit that there have been times when I frankly yearned for some great white knight corporation to come and take over the whole bloody process.

Firstly, I have had website issues. www.benadamsauthor.com looks pretty good now, with my bio, some good imagery, my book blurb, links to this blog and a contact form. But for ages the website was misbehaving. At one point it somehow ate this blog site. Hence the gap between my last post and this post.

And then there’s Facebook. I couldn’t join groups or really interact with people when I was logged on as my author page, so I now have a facebook profile too. And then there’s Goodreads. I now have a Goodreads author page, from which you can already add my book to your ‘to read’ list, even though it isn’t out until the new year.

I should now be posting witty and original content on my ‘author platform’ but all I feel like doing is pulling all the plugs out, turning off the wifi and crawling under my duvet for a rest.

In fact, that’s exactly what I am going to do. Instead of ranting, I am going to give you another taster excerpt from ‘Six Months to Get a Life’. I haven’t published an extract for a while so allow me to be lazy (a sort of ‘here’s something I prepared earlier’ post) just this once! I hope you like it.

For those of you who have joined this blog late, you should know that the basic premise of this book is that Graham Hope is trying to rebuild his life after his divorce…

‘So, do you really want to know what happened last night? Can I just tell you I made a fool of myself and leave it at that?  No, I thought not.

OK, we went for a few beers in the Raynes Park Tavern. I was fine with this bit of the evening. I held my own in the banter stakes and even managed to have a few quick conversations with women (‘four pints of lager please.’ ‘OK, coming right up’). Things went downhill rapidly though when we moved on to Wimbledon for part two of our evening’s entertainment.

I hadn’t been to a night club in years so I hadn’t even given a thought to dress codes. I had a row with the bouncer who told me I couldn’t come in wearing trainers.

‘They aren’t any old trainers, they’re f****** expensive trainers,’ I protested. Actually I would have been quite happy if the bouncer had sent me home but Dave slipped him a tenner and he let me in.

The club was as bad as I had feared it would be. The music was thump, thump, thump; the average age of the clientele was about fifteen (even with us there) and the strobe lighting did my head in. I know this is making me sound old but it is just the truth. Night clubs and I just do not mix.

I did my best to stay at the bar with Andy but even Andy ended up dancing. The traitor seriously let me down. Eventually Dave physically manhandled me on to the dance floor.  Dave, Ray and Andy had managed to infiltrate a group of mature women out for a good night. I use the word infiltrate deliberately. To me the dance floor felt a bit like a war zone, with people parading their weapons, ready to engage the enemy at the slightest opportunity and eventually move in for the kill. I just worried I would be caught in the crossfire.

I did my best to wobble from foot to foot in time to the beat and once I had mastered that bit I even threw in the odd hip jerk or two.

Drinks came and went. Women came and went. Until eventually I looked around and realised to my horror that my mates were nowhere to be seen. They had deserted me. They should be shot. The woman dancing closest to me was looking at me with intense but slightly unfocussed eyes. To my untrained eye, her dancing was no better than mine. This bolstered my confidence further, to the extent that my dance moves became a bit more exaggerated. Suddenly I thought I was Michael Jackson.

I was concentrating so much on my ‘moves’ and on the woman opposite me, who by this point looked like she was about to topple over, that I didn’t notice the ring of people encircling us. I was just about to move in for some hand to hand combat with the lovely drunk woman when Dave tapped me on the shoulder.

‘Mate, what the hell are you doing?’ he asked.

‘P*** off mate, I am in here,’ I replied, somewhat irritated at being thrown of my stride.

‘You’re twerking.  Men don’t twerk, especially fat blokes.’

It was at that point that I noticed the ring of on-lookers laughing hysterically and pointing at me. It was also at that point that my dance partner threw up all over my shoes. I got my coat and exited the battlefield with my white flag raised.

Where did last night get me? It reminded me how easy being married is. It got me poorer, it got me embarrassed and it got me a hangover. And it got me in trouble with my parents because for some reason I left my sick-encrusted shoes on the kitchen table.