Wednesday, 31 December 2014

5 Essential Questions to Ask on New Year's Eve

1. What colour underpants are you wearing?

My Spanish family instilled in me the sensible belief that one must wear red knickers on New Year's Eve. My Colombian husband says the colour of my underpants should be yellow. After a little research, it would appear that it's predominantly Latin countries that seem obsessed with the colour of their new year skivvies, and that different colours are worn in the hope of specific outcomes. Red is for love, and yellow is for money, and both are entirely acceptable. Next problem, how to wear them? According to a Bolivian site I stumbled across, if you wear them backwards all night you're making a wish for a new wardrobe in the new year!

2. What are you going to burn?

I used to think you were supposed to burn your new year red knickers, but I think my Spanish family must have been teasing me, because we never actually did any ritualistic burning of undergarments. Not knickers, but Año Viejo (Old Year) is what I'll be burning with my Colombian family this year. He takes the form of a scarecrow, much like Guy Fawkes. A nice addition to the proceeding is to write down on a strip of paper what you don't want from the last year, and what you want for the new year, and burn that too. Therapeutic, I reckon.
  
3. Is your suitcase ready?

Just after midnight in Colombia people run around the block with an empty suitcase to ensure a year filled with travel. Tonight will be my first experience of this. The best bit about it is you don't actually have to pack!

4. Who is bringing the grapes?

My friends in London were baffled when I asked before one New Year's party who was bringing the grapes. It made me realise I must have spent most of my new year's in Spain or at home with my family. In Spain, people eat twelve grapes, one at each dong of the bell at midnight. The TV presenters televised from La Puerta del Sol in Madrid chatter away until that moment, always looking freezing cold in their glamorous outfits. Eating 12 grapes is a lot more fun when you're a little kid and you can't eat them fast enough and then you get the giggles. If you don't fancy grapes, then why not eat a spoonful of lentils as they do in Chile?

5. Have you scribbled down your New Year's Resolutions?

On 31st December in 1661, Samuel Pepys wrote down his New Year's Resolutions. I think they involved starting back at the gym and giving up drinking in January. Could this hint at New Year's Resolutions being a British tradition? I need at least one! Don't worry, I'm not going to write out a long list here, I'm still working on last year's New Year's Visualisations!


Whichever colour underpants you decide to wear, whether you choose to eat twelve grapes or drink twelve shots, whether your first meal on New Year's Day is lentils or alka seltzer - I wish you all the love, good health and prosperity for the New Year

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Stocking Filling Tips for Christmas!


HAVE A WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS LOVELY READERS AND THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT OVER THE YEAR! 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Temp Book Trailer - the making of...

So you want to make a book trailer for The Temp? That's weird because it's not your book, but I appreciate your enthusiasm! Here's how we did it...  

1. Buy some plastic bananas off ebay 

2. Buy some fluorescent spray paint 

3. Feel bad about how toxic spray paint is then spray plastic bananas anyway 

4. Be married/ friends with someone who thinks spending the day walking from one end of London to another filming bright pink bananas is a perfectly good use of a day... 

5. Muster the courage to hang bananas on Buckingham palace railing 

6. Realise British police are so friendly that you didn't need to muster the courage after all 

7. Ditto for Downing Street 

8. Chase after a Beefeater at The Tower of London (just like in the novel) 

9. Talk gibberish to Beefeater while husband gets correct angle for filming

10. Be friends with a cameraman for creative shots in pub (thanks Pablo!)



11. Get performance poet friend to record voiceover in your living room (thanks Rachel!)

12. Be impressed by husband's editing skills  

13. Reassure patient nephew you'll only be five more minutes then you can play Fifa

14. Add competition details to the description 

15. Upload video to You Tube 

16. Lose at Fifa

17. Start sharing video!

18. Blog about the making of... and post the video on the blog! Here it is ->



 


Thanks for watching - if you enjoyed it please share! 




Friday, 12 December 2014

My First Experience of Making a Webinar

Photo by Yasmin Desai, Monkfeet
Yesterday I had my first experience of filming a webinar. I hadn't planned to do one, but the very persuasive lady at Monkfeet, Yasmin Desai, who had previously booked me for a blog workshop, had asked me if I would be up for it. Monkfeet would be financing it; hiring the room and the production team. It seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

I said I'd do it in February, she suggested the following week. Did I mention I say 'Yes' to everything?

At the slick and spacious Black and White Building in Shoreditch, I was introduced to the cheerful cameramen, Diogo and Phil. I had spent hours preparing a script and writing bullet points up on my computer so I'd be able to use them as prompts, but I still felt like I didn't know what was going to come out of my mouth when they started filming. 
  
As I sat in front of the camera, my notes flickering on my computer screen just out of sight, it dawned on me that I hadn't memorised a single line since secondary school.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your... what had Mark Anthony wanted to borrow?

It was tough going. I had to stare into the camera and I couldn't glance at my notes while it was rolling.  My mind kept going blank. I only seemed to be able to remember one point at a time. What I found so easy and natural in a normal workshop environment suddenly became such a challenge. Looking back, I think a bit of heating would've helped my memory! Luckily the camera guys were encouraging and as we were all about to flag, the sandwiches arrived.

I spent six hours in the studio filming a one hour blog webinar. There were moments when I thought, why did I agree to this?, but I'm glad I did it. Every step outside your comfort zone forces you to grow.

That night after the webinar, I found my script running through my head so fluently. I thought to myself, that if we were to film it now, I'd remember it all!

I'm curious to see the end product. I'm hoping Diogo will work some magic when he edits it! If you're interested in watching the blog webinar when it comes out, just sign up to my newsletter. I'll be sure to share it soon!



 


Visit www.monkfeet.com for more info on their affordable evening classes.

Contact Diogo at www.dbpicturehouse.com for more info on making webinars.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

7 Books, 7 Christmas Presents Potentially Sorted

I'm enjoying Foyles' Christmas marketing campaign. I'm all for buying books for Christmas. Books are easy to wrap, don't have a consume by date, don't come with loads of plastic packaging and might change your life, if only for a while...   

Behind each book there's someone who has worked really hard to get those words in a coherent order. Even the ones with the celebs on the front cover. Think of all those poor ghost writers who had to wear a bed sheet  throughout the whole process... 

Books can swallow you up and take you places, a bit like the tube. I was on the tube today but I can't remember it because I was somewhere in 1910, no 1918, no 1947, oh wait 1910 again... if you've read Life After Life you'll know what I mean...    

I've made a Christmas shopping list of books for your friends and family. I've labelled them clearly so you know who to give what... 

1. For the first person to talk about the weather




What I say: 
"Their Twitter account  @soverybritish is hilarious
the book is bound to be too!" 

Ideal for: 
Anyone too polite to tell you they don't like their present!

Warning:
Foreigners may not get it. My husband didn't seem to find it as funny as I did. 



2. For the relative with the biggest book shelf 



What I say: 
"Full of quirky book facts and entertaining anecdotes about book shops from all over the British Isles and beyond..." 

Ideal for: 
People who wax lyrical about the smell of books.

Warning:
Not for people who prefer the smell of a kindle.




3. For the friend who likes a dollop of gory crime with a dash of time travel 


What I say: 
"Most original crime novel I've ever read... a real page turner

Ideal for: 
Someone who would rather be watching an action film than playing charades...

Warning:
Not for relatives of a sensitive disposition. Bit violent. I wouldn't give it to my Gramma.  




4. For the one wishing they had written one of the books you had bought...


What I say: 
"I love Nicola Morgan's no nonsense writing style, every writer aspiring to be published should read this!

Ideal for: 
Anyone who tells you they have an idea for a book.

Warning:
It only works if they write the book. They can't just talk about it.




5. For the relative who might have hoarding tendencies...


What I say: 
"A really moving, beautifully written book about a family falling apart, and coming again to see what went wrong..."  

Ideal for: 
Readers who prefer a slow burn than an explosion of helicopters... 

Warning:
It may cause tear spillage. I was joking in the title. It won't help you if you are a hoarder, because you won't be able to throw it away it's so good. 

6. For anyone getting stressed over Christmas

What I say: 
"I open this book whenever I'm feeling frustrated... I always land on the part I need to hear. It keeps me sane." 

Ideal for: 
Whoever thinks they're missing something.  

Warning:

You will never finish this book. Nor will you want to. 




And finally... 

7.  For the little ones who don't know how to read yet... 



What I say:
"I'm in love with all the That's not my... book, but this one's especially Christmassy!'

Ideal for: 
Poking with sticky hands and dribbling over

Warning:

After 300 reads through, the story may start to lose its charm.

Please add your book suggestions in the comments! We will not let the Christmas Shopping defeat us, will we? 





Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A blogger’s best friend: the editorial calendar

Guest Post by Robin Houghton

A blog is a commitment – once started, it takes time to build up a readership, and a big part of that is being able to regularly produce interesting content. But what about those days when you just can’t think of anything blog about? Or you’re just too busy to blog?

If a blog falls silent it can look abandoned, and readers may turn their attention elsewhere. Not only that, but it will drop out of the search results. But there’s a simple trick for keeping your blog vibrant - create an editorial calendar.

It may sound a bit over-the-top to have an editorial calendar for a blog with just one editor/contributor. But trust me, it’s time well spent. The principle is just this: plan ahead and you’ll never run out of content. Here’s how to get started.

1. Decide on a realistic posting schedule for your blog, based on what you want the blog to achieve, your priorities and your resources. 

2. Draw a grid on a sheet of paper, or open a blank spreadsheet document. Across the top, label the columns ‘week 1’, ‘week 2’ and so on –  just do one month (4 weeks) to begin with. 

3. Down the side, label each row with a ‘type’ of blog post. Think about the blogs you enjoy reading. Which posts are the ones you always click on, or share? Useful information – ‘ten top tips...’? Reviews of books, or events? Opinion pieces on something topical? Keep going – thinking about who you want to read your blog.

4. Now go through each week and select two blog post types for that week, bearing in mind both your own agenda and also anything topical or seasonal for that week.

5. And that’s it - a month’s worth of blog posts all planned out. The following month, copy and paste (rather than overwrite) the previous month, so you keep a record of everything you’ve blogged about. 

6. Don’t feel you have to write every post yourself – maybe a blogging buddy would like to contribute a guest piece now and then.  Or on platforms like WordPress or Tumblr it’s easy to reblog someone else’s blog post – it all spreads the love!

Set time aside for this process at the beginning of the month (or do it every three months if you’re up for planning that far ahead). Over time you’ll know which are the most popular posts and you’ll do more of that ‘type’. Like all forward plans, allow yourself some flexibility. But with a calendar in place you’ll never be stuck for ideas of what to blog about.

Guest Post by Robin Houghton

Blogging for Writers, published by Ilex Press (UK) and Writers Digest Books (US) November 2014, is Robin’s second commissioned ‘how to’ blogging book. Available from all good bookshops and online.


Robin Houghton has over two decades of experience in marketing and communications, formerly with Nike, then running her own business Eggbox Marketing since 2002 specialising in online. She now works primarily with writers and publishing industry professionals to help them make the best use of social media. Robin writes blogs on social media and poetry and has been a guest blogger for a number of sites including Social Media Today and MarketingProfs. She is a published poet and a commercial copywriter for web and print, and an experienced trainer and conference speaker. Her first book 'Blogging for Creatives' was a best-seller and resulted in two more commissions, 'Blogging for Writers' and forthcoming in 2015 'The Rules of Blogging (and How to Break Them)', both published by Ilex in the UK and Writers Digest Books in the US.



US Cover


Follow Robin on Twitter: @robinhoughton

Connect on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/robinhoughton

Social Media for Writers (blog and email newsletter) 
www.socialmediaforwriters.co.uk

Buy the book in the Writers Digest Shop 
or from Amazon UK




Wednesday, 19 November 2014

5 of the Best Things to Receive in the Post

5. Actual Letters 
It's quite rare to get a proper letter these days, isn't it? In the olden days, my friends and I used to write letters to each other as often as a character from a Jane Austen novel. Nowadays the top 3 things to pass through my letter box is a) fast food menus b) letters from estate agents c) bills for the previous tenant. Booooooring.



4. Flowers 
Yep, it's a classic. I don't think I've ever actually been sent flowers before, only given them face to face. Don't feel sorry for me though, a blog reader once sent me socks after I complained about cold feet. The only downside of getting flowers is having to locate a suitable vase. Mine are never quite the right size!*

(*don't let this minor problem put you off sending me flowers) 



3. Letter from your hero
I was only a fan girl for a brief moment in the 1994 when I etched E17 into my pencil case with my compass. Obviously I would have been thrilled to hear from them, or of course, the Spice Girls. It's got to be a great feeling to get a letter from someone who you look up to!  



2. A Baby 
It would be pretty alarming to get a baby in the post, but it would be much better than the traditional delivery method, which I've heard is both painful and gruesome. I work in an osteopathic clinic part time, and I reckon most of the women who go for treatment would be perfectly fine had their baby been delivered in a jiffy bag!


1. PROOF OF YOUR NOVEL 
Nothing compares to the feeling of having your book printed and bound in your hands. Yesterday I received the first paperback proof of The Temp. I have danced around the living room and now I'm mostly stroking its shiny cover. I absolutely love it and I hope you do too! 








... and I can relive the moment it arrived, forever, with this vine video!





Thank you post men and women out there. May your days be filled with sunshine and friendly dogs,  may everyone's letter box open smoothly and and without snapping back on your hands, or scratching you with that broom like fringe thing they put to keep the draft out... oh, and may you deliver all those pre-orders of The Temp as soon as you can! 






Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Dealing with Your Inner Demons

Cartoon by C3LTICFURY


A demon is trying to convince me to give up writing. His name is DORONTOTHOR, demonic leader of paralysing uncertainty and creator of the doubting whispers. 

I prefer to call him Dennis. It seems to take the wind out of his sails. 

Dennis usually appears when I'm feeling tired, hungry, premenstrual, or when I've run out of matching socks and there's no food in the fridge, or when the only tea bag left in the house is a herbal one (ie. smells nice, but tastes of cardboard).

Dennis pretends to be my friend at first, pretends to be interested in my welfare... 

Demon: So, how's The Temp selling? 
Me: *shrugs* can't say yet. 

Demon: Well, what's its amazon ranking? Wow... 250,000? Not exactly Harry Potter then! 
Me: It's not the winning but the participation that counts. 

Demon: If you say so. How long did it take you to write again? 
Me: I think it's best not to dwell on the past. 

Demon: How's the publicity going? 
Me: Well, my grandma gave out some of my promotional postcards to a few people in church yesterday! 

Demon: Those postcards that cost you £65? 
Me: Yup. 

Demon: Those postcards you bought for a talk which paid you less that £65?
Me: I needed something physical! With an ebook it feels like you're promoting thin air sometimes. 

Demon: But you didn't even leave the cards out on the book stand at the talk, did you? 
Me: It was awkward... The book stand was run by a bookshop owner and they don't like ebooks, do they?  

Dennis can really ware me down sometimes. The other day, I lay awake in bed and I thought, alright what would I do if I didn't write? 

1. Clean Oven 
2. Clean Fridge 
3. Clean Washing Machine 
4. Clean Underneath Oven, Fridge and Washing Machine 
5. Consider decorating flat 
6. Decide not to decorate flat since it's only rented and we might move 
7. Become a social butterfly 
8. Get another job to fund social butterfly activities 
9. Think about how much I miss writing while doing new job I had to get to earn money to fund social butterflies activities 

I'm going to show Dennis the list when I see him next. 

Demon: Blablabla...

In other news, my blog is a candidate in the UK Blog Awards 2015 and the public voting has now opened! If you've ever enjoyed my blog, it only take a moment to vote, and every vote makes a huge difference... 

Demon: You're being too pushy. 

Me: You want to see pushy? 

*pushes Dennis off cliff*

Me: That's better... now where we? Oh yes, please vote! 


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Guest Author: AL Michael - Driving Home for Christmas

It's November and I think it's almost safe to talk about Christmas. It's definitely chilly enough. From here to March, you'll find me wrapped in a duvet-like jacket, grinding my teeth while the husband wonders around in a short-sleeved t-shirt, declaring it's still too warm to put the heating on. 

But this isn't the time to talk about my faulty body thermostat, we have a guest!

Today, AL Michael, author of The Last Word, is on the blog as part of a blog tour to celebrate the release of her new novel Driving Home for Christmas.


THE BLURB 



Megan McAllister is home for Christmas…
whether she likes it or not!


Christmas is about family…and for Megan family means two people: herself, and her daughter Skye. It doesn’t mean her parents who, ten years ago, saw her pregnancy as anything but a miracle. And it definitely doesn’t include her irresistible ex-boyfriend Lucas Bright.

So ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ has never been top of Megan’s festive playlist. But for Skye, she knows she needs to spend the holiday season with the people she’s left behind. She can do this. Even if the thought of meeting Lucas under the mistletoe still has her feeling like she’s drunk one-too-many Snowballs!

But somewhere between the hanging of stockings and the crackle of wrapping paper, Christmas starts to sparkle. And Megan begins to wonder if family could be bigger than her and Skye after all… 



THE MINI Q & A

What three words would best describe your new novel, Driving Home for Christmas?

Nostalgic, bittersweet, hopeful.

Was it strange writing a Christmas novel over Summer? How did you get in the mood?

It was ridiculous trying to write a Christmas book in July! Sitting in flipflops and dreaming of icicles! I started scanning Pinterest for Christmas craft ideas and just focused on all the things I used to get excited about at that time of the year. Mainly food and booze. I can get excited about a turkey sandwich and a glass of baileys anytime in the year!

Your main character isn't looking forward to Christmas because of a tricky relationship with her family. What's Christmas like for you?

Christmas for me is...complex, I guess? When we were kids my mum made it this amazing over-the-top Idyllic Xmas. And she still does, really, it's just that when you get older and see how much money and effort and time goes into it, you're not sure it's worth it for one day. I think when there are young kids in the family it'll be crazy fun again. So now Christmas is about chilling out, eating great food with my massive family and then vegging out on the sofa! 

What would be in your ideal stocking?

Ideal stocking presents- benefit cosmetics, pens, sparkly nail varnishes, lots of clementines and chocolate coins!

This is your third novel and you're still only 'twenty-something', what's your secret?

I've always wanted to be a writer and once I got a little encouragement from people who wanted to publish me, I just ran with it! Now it's actually starting to feel normal! 




THE EXTRACT 
December 2004

Maybe they’ll be merciful, Megan McAllister thought as she hung Christmas decorations onto the same Christmas tree they’d had every year since she could remember. Old Piney spent the year out in the garden, and was cruelly uprooted every December and brought into the sweltering heat of the living room, with the log fire crackling, almost as a warning of what happened to bad trees. It was starting to look like it was suffering. It wasn’t the only one.
Maybe they’d see it as a Christmas miracle, and look to the kindness and understanding of the people of Bethlehem when she told them. But she doubted it somehow.
She was meant to be off to Cambridge, to read English. She was meant to go off and do great things. She’d only just got her head around the idea of being independent, leaving their little village for a proper town. Leaving Lucas behind. And now…well, none of that really mattered any more, did it?
She paused, looking at the decoration she’d picked up. A red clay hand imprint, heavy and solid, with ‘Megan’s first Christmas’ marker-penned across the front.
Oh shit.






Or, Visit www.almichael.com to find out more about the author and her books!




Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Kilburn Literary Festival - something for everyone!



The first ever Kilburn Literary Festival is starting this Thursday. There's everything from family friendly writing classes to erotic fiction master classes  to award winning authors to TV and Radio personalities!

You'll find me raving about social media at Develop Your Author Profile - Blog and Tweet your way to Success on Saturday 1st November. I will be squeezing as much practical advice possible in one hour, and sharing with you what I've learnt over six years of blogging and using social media. I'll help you avoid making my mistakes and give you the confidence to get started if you haven't dared dip your toe in already! If you've already got a blog but have lost your blog mojo, I aim to get you excited about it again!


The one hour workshop will cover:
  • Why Blog?
  • Case Studies of Successful Blogs
  • How to create Engaging Content
  • Set up & Design Basics
  • How to use Twitter effectively
  • Case Studies of Successful Twitter users

Couldn't give a monkey's bottom about blogging? No problem! Instead, head over to one of the many other workshops on offer, listen to prose & poetry readings, or show off your literary knowledge at the Pub Quiz on 4th November!


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Happy Endings In Fiction - Would Opening a Shop be Yours?

Why do so many chic lit novels rely on a shop opening for their happy ending? It always makes me wonder if the author has ever worked in a shop.
            

The other day I had to put a book down because the main character, the owner of a brand new cafe, had just taken her first twenty pounds and wanted to splash out on a celebratory dinner. 

Twenty pounds! I scoffed. Twenty pounds wouldn't even cover the dinner let alone her rent, rates, overheads, stock...

I was brought up in an independent shop. It was hard work and it always felt like we were on the brink of a crisis. Sometimes we'd have a whole week where all we sold was a discounted picture frame and a light bulb. We'd start to think of desperate measures to get the cash flow going. We'd redo the window display, use shoe polish to write a big SALE sign. We didn't have anywhere near the resources chain shop have.    
            
In fiction, opening a shop is much simpler. A business savvy (and gorgeous) bloke will always pop up out of the blue and be moved by the heroine's superior product (chocolate truffles more chocolaty than all the chocolate in Belgium) and want to invest, or at least, help her make a proper business plan. 

But so what if shop-opening-inspired-happy-endings aren't realistic? It's fiction and I love a bit of escapism as much as anyone. Whatsmore my brother seems to be fulfilling his dream by opening a skate shop. Just because it's not my idea of a happy ending, doesn't mean it's not yours. 

But before you open a shop... consider these pros and cons!


PROS AND CONS OF OPENING A SHOP:

THE CONS


1. 
Your Income isn't Guaranteed












2. You Have to Open on Saturdays



3. Customers Know about the Internet













THE PROS 

1. You are the Boss










2. You Can Wear What You Want















3. You can write a blog about working in your shop and then get it published... 

Buy Shop Girl Diaries 

I do still get nostalgic about Saturday afternoons in my shop when the local Salsa addict and my cousin would come around, and we'd drink rum and dance salsa, stopping occasionally to sell and pack up a lamp. Working with my Mum was also hilarious. I couldn't have written Shop Girl Diaries if I hadn't started seeing the funny side of shop life... so, although opening a shop wouldn't be my happy ending, I'm glad I got to be a Shop Girl for a while.  






What about you? Would opening your own shop be your happy ending? 



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