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

Can writing be a sociable activity?

Elephant house coffee shop

Two weeks from now, I will be a full-time author.

Becoming an author has been a long-held dream of mine. To be more specific, it became my lifetime ambition once I had realised that I wasn’t any good at football and couldn’t see well enough to drive a train.

From May onwards, I will spend my days pecking mercilessly at my laptop keyboard, concocting the masterpiece that will be my second novel.

When I told my mother that I was giving up my well paid job to become a professional author, she nearly choked on her cornflakes. ‘But you’ve only sold 27 copies of your first book,’ she spluttered.

How very dare she.

She wasn’t pacified when I had corrected her on the numbers. Or even when I told her that Six Months to Get a Life, my debut novel, had received yet more heart-warming reviews and praise on twitter over the past few days.

‘It’s not just about the money,’ she came back with, ‘you’ll go mad sitting on your own, writing all day.’

My mum has a point there. I love being with people. Sharing experiences, sharing views, sharing stories and sharing pizza is, for me, what makes me tick. I am a sociable person.

I can’t wait to be a full-time author, but the solitude of a writing life does worry me a bit. And being a single dad doesn’t help with the potential loneliness either. Will I spend all day writing, and all evening cooking, washing and supervising homework, with no adult company other than my friends at the supermarket checkout to keep me sane?

Obviously, I am determined that the answer will be ‘No.’

Over the past few weeks, I have spent some time looking in to a whole variety of ways of keeping myself sane while I write. It’s not as though I want to chat all day, but having the odd conversation with an adult every so often would be nice, even if I don’t get to share their pizza.

Being sociable online during breaks in my writing is one way I will reduce the feeling of isolation. I do enjoy engaging with fellow authors on sites such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and with my small but growing reader-base on Facebook and Twitter. No doubt a bit of twitter banter during the day will spur me on.

But online sociability is no substitute for actual vocal chord-exercising conversation.

So how will I meet ‘real people’ during my writing day?

My dog, Albus, will demand that I take him for a walk at least once during the day. Last week, he brought a rugby ball in from the garden and deposited it on my keyboard just as I was getting to the climax of a tense scene. Walking the dog normally results in at least some interaction with real people. But saying things like ‘Sorry my German Shepherd ate your Labradoodle’ or ‘he’ll leave you alone in a minute,’ isn’t necessarily the sort of interaction that will make me feel good about my life. I’ll need more than a dog walk a day to improve my sense of wellbeing as an author.

A number of my friends work from home. There’s Pete the musician. I might need headphones for most of the day but I can cope with that. Or there’s Barry the civil servant. He watches the cricket – I mean works from home – regularly. There’s even Ed, my politician friend. He’d be good company but his talk of long-term economic plans, austerity and ‘hard-working British people’ might get a bit monotonous after a while. The one advantage of Ed is that he won’t grill me on where the money’s coming from to fund my lifestyle.

I am not sure whether Stephen King would approve, but so many authors have talked about establishing a routine in which they regularly write in a local coffee shop. J.K. Rowling apparently started writing Harry Potter in the coffee shop pictured above.

Whether or not such authors form a relationship with the proprietor or with fellow customers, this sounds like an idea worth exploring to me. The caffeine will certainly stimulate my creative juices, as might the comings and goings in the café. ‘Cheeky Monkeys’ on Grand Drive, you can expect a visit from me in May. You never know, I might meet the odd yummy mummy in there too, but let’s not digress.

I am also intending to join a writing group. Until recently, I hadn’t realised that writers gathered together just to write. But a bit of internet research tells me that they do.

Groups like the London-based ‘Write Together’ organise sessions for authors to gather together, work on their own writing projects for a few hours and then socialise, should they so wish. ‘Write Together’ advertise the get-togethers to their members via www.meetup.com. Meetings take place in a variety of venues, from cafes to coffee shops. Meeting likeminded authors would be a tonic for me, and I can see how being surrounded by fellow authors would spur you on to work harder. It may also piss me off if my fellow scribblers all seem to be typing more than me though.

If you have other ideas on how I might write in company, I would love to hear from you.

Ben

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?

cover final (1)

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.

‘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?

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.

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

The panic is on: top things to do before you publish your first novel

‘Six Months to Get a Life’ is being released on 21st January.  How exciting. The countdown has started!

Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that my countdown has started. My challenge over the next 50-odd days is to get others in on the act too. To quote the modern vernacular, I need to create a buzz, to get the chattering classes chattering, the blogosphere blogging, the commentators commenting and the twits tweeting.

For your amusement, but mainly for my own project planning processes (once a project manager, always a project manager), I have jotted down a bunch of things I need to do over the next six weeks to get my book noticed.

This may sound strange, and isn’t something I am ever heard to say in my day job, but if you think there is something I should add to my to do list, then feel free to add it via a comment…

  • See my publicist. Get them on the case with all the big fishes.
  • Get on the case myself with the slightly smaller but arguably even more important fishes. This weekend I will dust off my painstakingly compiled database and pitch the book to those lovely blog people who might review it. I have developed a nice 2-page pitch that includes my cover, a photo of me (apparently it is the thing to do), my book blurb, author bio and a few other facts about the book.
  • Practice my signature for when I am sitting in Waterstones in Oxford Street signing a gazillion copies of the book. I am not even sure there is a Waterstones in Oxford Street but why let practicalities get in the way of a good dream?
  • Consume everything I can about free and paid for book advertising. Make some decisions, start placing ads and then apologise to my kids because there is no money left for Christmas presents. I can always blame Santa.
  • Keep working on my social media profile. I had my first disagreement with someone on twitter this week. They questioned how I had managed to get so many followers in the six months or so that I have been on twitter. They insinuated that I had bought my followers. I haven’t. When I replied saying that ‘maybe people follow me because I say interesting things’, she stopped following me. Oh well, move on.
  • Work out what a ‘blog tour’ is, and get some. And some author interviews. I hear Paxman isn’t too busy these days.
  • Look at giveaways. My inbox is constantly bombarded with Goodreads promotions so why shouldn’t I clog up other people’s inboxes from time to time?
  • Get the champagne in.
  • Hurry up and think about practical things to do on launch day. Do I have a big event at a bookshop or even a local bar/restaurant, or do I go for an entertaining, quirky Facebook/twitter launch party? The Royal Albert Hall or my hall? I like the pub/restaurant idea, but particularly with the book being called ‘Six Months to Get a Life’, I would feel pretty embarrassed if I spent loads of money on a launch party, only for it to turn out to have the same attendees as my family Christmas lunch. At least I am cooking for ten this year I suppose.
  • Practice dealing with disappointment when I am not asked to do a book signing event at Waterstones in Oxford Street. No, stop it. Be positive Ben.
  • Get to know book selling sites that I have never visited before. I am an Amazon man when it comes to buying books, but after careful consideration of the facts, and then tossing a coin because the facts were inconclusive, I have opted not to go for the exclusive Amazon-only KDP Select option. Instead, ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ will be available from all good ebook websites, and maybe some bad ones too.
  • Buy everyone I know a book token for Christmas.
  • Get some more champagne in because the first lot will no doubt be drunk over Christmas.

What have I missed? Seriously, I would love to hear your ideas.