Saturday, 24 January 2015

Je Suis Katie - Speaking Up For Free Speech



Mark Sparrow is a writer, journalist, photographer and broadcaster. Presenter of Channel 4's Dispatches: 'The Truth About Hospital Food'. He's someone I know from Twitter - one of the friends who ISN'T a fiction writer! Mark uses Twitter to debate and discuss issues. Here's his ''take'' on the Katie Hopkins debacle, and on the way free speech, in his view, is being eroded.


''For some people, freedom of speech is the luxury of supporting causes or people you agree with. In fact, free speech is something we often take for granted but recently I learnt that supporting free speech also means supporting the right of someone you may despise and be totally opposed to speak their mind.

That’s the situation I found myself in a couple of weeks ago when the universally hated Katie Hopkins – she of The Apprentice and now Celebrity Big Brother fame – opened her cavernous mouth and stuffed both her feet in it by referring to a Scottish Ebola victim as a ‘sweaty Jock’. Personally I can’t imagine what sort of mind thinks that spouting such bile is either constructive or dignified. Nonetheless, lacking in common decency or being an idiot isn’t illegal… yet! I was rash enough to tweet this when the offendotrons on Twitter begun calling for her prosecution for racism or just poor taste.

 Unfortunately I have a habit of defending the underdog or simply being contrarian and this came back to bite me on the bum when BBC Radio 5 Live phoned to ask if I’d be willing to defend Katie’s right to free speech live on air. I’m assuming every other commentator in the country had turned them down. This was in the week before the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and free speech was getting a good kicking from all quarters.

So early one Saturday morning I went head-to-head with former Labour minister Brian Wilson who was most robust in his insistence that Katie Hopkins should face prosecution for being racist (the law actually covers nationalities so you can be charged with racism for insulting a Welsh person or a Spaniard) and I had the unenviable task of defending Katie’s tasteless jibe about a ‘sweaty Jock’ who, at that time, was at death’s door in the Royal Free Hospital, in London. It wasn’t an easy task and I didn’t enjoy doing it but my belief in free speech drove me on and I think the interview went well. Afterwards I received some complimentary emails supporting me for doing the media equivalent of cleaning out a cesspit.

That task of defending the right of someone I fundamentally disagreed with to speak freely taught me a valuable lesson. It actually strengthened my resolve to stand up for free speech no matter what. Tragically at the end of that week two crazed gunmen burst into the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and massacred 12 journalists and cartoonists in cold blood.

The reason for the attack was the magazine’s insistence on printing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. In certain sects of the Muslim faith this is a big no no. The world responded with horror and the western world finally realised what was at stake. Suddenly everyone got it, if only for a short while, that our very right to mock, ridicule and criticise religion, politics or traditions was at risk. We finally understood what marked us out as different from the gun-wielding fanatics.

My feelings following the shooting were mixed. I was really sad about the killings but I also felt that we had finally got the message that personal freedom and free speech, however, offensive, had to be available to all. That’s not to say that we should needlessly go around offending people for the hell of it, but that if necessary we should have the right to point out irrational or repressive ideas that endangered freedoms that so many people had died to uphold.

Would I do it again? Well, since Katie hasn't even so much as nodded or winked at me for fighting her corner, I do wonder if I would but then I think about the terrible events of Paris a couple of weeks ago and I realise that I would: without question. Je suis Katie.''

Contact Mark:

Twitter: @MarkGSparrow

Website: http://home.btconnect.com/mark.sparrow/

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Lost in Translations


So, it's farewell to the latest TV Wallander episodes, which confusingly featured a much younger version of the Diabetic 1, and hello to Spiral, fast moving and set in the grimier quartiers of Paris. The Nord-crime fest has been with us for so long that I now seriously believe I can actually speak Scandik ('tak ...alibi..') and I've almost stopped getting snagged up by the sub-titles, except where they are just plain daft.

There was a bit in the last series of The Bridge where Martin, the gloomy can't-keep-it-in-his-cargoes 'tec met up with his son.
Martin: Hi.
Son: Hi.
Subtitles: Hi....Hi.  Someone in the sub-title department was clearly having a laugh.

I don't know how you react, but I also find heartening to realise that there are countries where people exist in a sort of 24 hour low-level gloomy twilight, speak languages in which the consonants vastly outnumber the vowels, and spend all their lives killing each other or plotting political coups behind the scenes. Maybe that is why Annie, the heroine of my ebook Jigsaw Pieces, originates from one of the Scandi countries. I'm a closet gloomster with hidden psychotic tendencies.

I hold my hands up at this point and confess that of all the countries featured in the Nordic Noir dramas, I have a particular fondness for the Danes, because they have translated one of my books into Danish.  Rodt Flojl (the o's have little lines through them, can't work out how to do it, sorry) which is the Danish version of Red Velvet, one of my children's books, has been available in Danish bookshops since 2001.

Interestingly, Rodt Flojl, the translated version, is at least a third longer than its English counterpart Red Velvet. Don't know why. Complete mystery. Maybe I have more to say in Danish. Sadly, I also don't know what it is, but every now and then I receive a royalty cheque.
Tak.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Blackberries in December

It has been indicated by several wiser, tho' not necessarily older friends that if I intend to maintain my successful presence on social media, I need to get myself up to date, gadget wise. Apart from the laptop, I also need the sort of mobile that does 'sent from my phone' stuff. As most of you know, I have a cheap Nokia rubbish phone, recently updated from the previous cheap Nokia rubbish phone when its back kept falling off and had to be held on by elastic bands.

So, ever eager to please, not to say gullible, I went recently to the XX shop (not sure whether I can advertise, so pretend you don't understand that last bit), and asked the 14 year old behind the counter whether I could Tweet and access my emails on my current mobile. Showed him mobile, and when he had stopped laughing, he pointed me to the sort of sleek, scary looking devices I should be using and proceeded to explain how they worked.

 I stared at them for a while, making 'Uh-huh... mmm' noises indicating (erroneously) that I understood every word of his explanation. Do they not do subtitles for the bewildered in these places? He then told me how much one of these scary devices would set me back. At which point I left on the basis that I'd have to Tweet 24/7 to sell enough books to fund the purchase of it.

Interestingly, this also coincided with the internal school exam season - I work as an invigilator at a local secondary school. It's better paid than stacking shelves at Asda, and you get a nice green lanyard with your name on it and a card to activate the car park barrier, though sadly, my boss has not yet bought into the concept of a high-viz jacket with Invigilator on the back in raised studs. One of those, and I could do door work in the evenings. (''If I say you're not coming in, sir. Then you're not coming in. Do not mess with me. I'm an Invigilator.'')

Anyway, halfway through a recent exam, someone's mobile went off. Crime of huge magnitude. I took the box of collected mobiles outside, located the offender (a Blackberry, it was locked) and took it apart to make it stop. I was watched doing this by one of the ground staff. 'Look here,' I remarked, waving the offending item. 'A Year 11 with a Blackberry.'  He replied: 'You want to check out Lost Property; they've got a whole drawfull of them. Got some of those new iPhone 6 ones too  Kids just lose them, and their parents buy them another one.'

I am trying not to go down the logical pathway on this, because I am, at core, an honest person, but oh my, it is very tempting .....

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Stranger Than Fiction

Another week, another of those 'stranger than fiction' events that dog my footsteps like a small persistent child in wellies. I'm walking to Tesco for the paper: it gets me away from the addictive lure of social media, and I encounter three old men (think extras out of 'Last of the Summer Wine') leaning on the parapet of Batford Bridge, putting the world to rights.

I join them, as you do if you're me. We stare at the River Lea sauntering under the bridge in an insouciant manner, and the shoals of tiny fish butting against the flows and eddies. There is a companionable silence. Then one of the oldsters remarks, 'Saw you in the paper the other week.' I concur. He did. I was. The local press ran a nice little puff for my new novel Honour & Obey, with some added extras about my writing life in general, and my campaign to save our green space.

'Didn't know you was a writer,' he continues. His two companions swivel round and study me narrowly. A pause. 'You don't look like a writer,' one of them observes cautiously. See, I bet that never happens to you. I bet you just rock up to wherever you're going, and everybody goes, 'Yup. Writer.'


Ebook cover used as avatar on Twitter.
Apropos of what a writer looks like, or is supposed to look like, I know there are many people on social media who deliberately choose pics that resemble their younger selves. Which must make for interesting times when they have to attend a function, or meet a fellow Twitter mate. 

Mind, who am I to point the finger?
When I joined Twitter, I used my cover of Jigsaw Pieces as my avatar. A lot of writers do similar. I then acquired numerous young male followers who flirted with me. Fairly outrageously.

For a while I remained undecided whether to put them out of their misery, or just go with the flow. Eventually I gave in and replaced the cover with a picture that resembles the ''real me''. But it was with some reluctance, because it's quite nice to be thought of as youthful, with cheekbones you can hang off and attitude. And of course inside, that's exactly how I am!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

How (not) To PLan A Novel

Whatever we write, be it short story, play, novel or poem, we all go through the same initial process: Planning. There are more ways of planning a piece of writing than there are pieces of writing - please read on quickly as I'm not sure this analogy works.

It is said you are either a ''planner'' or a ''pantster''. As the world's weirdest combination of the two (more anon) I don't think I am in the slightest degree qualified to lay down the law on the Hows and How Nots. Nevertheless, given that my lack of expertise has never stopped me piling in and sharing my ignorance, and several people who've read my two Victorian crime novels  have asked me how I went about it, here's what I do:

Thinking: Every book I've ever written has started in the same place. Inside my head. I spend an inordinate amount of time before starting, and during the writing process just mulling over ideas for story development, or characters. Many of them will be discarded. Sometimes I do this lying on my bed, sometimes I go for a walk, sometimes I carry the story around whatever I'm doing. But however it happens, nothing begins without a lot of thinking taking place. No notes are made at this stage. The thinking will recur regularly right throughout the writing process.

After a lot of cogitation, I progress on to:

Sketching: This is where I might make a few notes on paper. More likely I will write up small sections of the book, or small pieces of dialogue that I quite like. I know the names of the main characters (secondary ones get named as they appear). At this stage I usually have a couple of ''pages'' at the end of a file named ''new book'' with phrases or descriptions that I think I might incorporate.

When I think I know, very roughly, what I might want to say, I progress to

Researching: For Diamonds & Dust, Honour & Obey and now Death & Dominion I visited London and took pictures of the areas I thought I wanted to use. I went online and searched for original documents (there are loads on various Victorian sites). I transferred the entire contents of 3 local libraries' Victorian history section to my TBR pile (rotating as necessary). And I read every novel written in the period that I could -- frequently skimming to get a sense of it.

At this stage, I have a couple of random pages of notes, some online, a pile of downloaded articles, and books with bits of paper and bus tickets poking out of them. Again, researching is not a finite process and will change as I write and need to find out different things.

And now, I start:

Writing: I always do this the same way. I write the end. Then I write the opening section. Then I write a bit more of the opening ... a bit more of the end. Then I kind of join them up. Yup. Weird. And AT NO STAGE do I ever have a clear idea of the overall structure of the book or what is going to happen next. It's like fast downhill skiing in the dark.


No serious pre-plotting is ever done. None. No story arcs. No narrative graphs. No cards files. Nothing. The story evolves as I write it. And I write in short episodic sections, rather than chapters, tracking the story through a host of different characters. It's a spirally way of doing it rather than a linear one. I think it makes the story far more pacy and exciting - certainly for me as the writer, although it is sometimes like herding cats as bits of plot wonder off into the long grass and have to be rescued.

As I write, I also revise in the light of the direction the story is taking. The whole thing takes about a year. And then I have to go back and edit. So that's me. Chaos and madness.
How do you plan ....?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Follow Me: A Cautionary Christmas Tale

'You know what? You can stick this stupid job!'

And with that, my career as a medical secretary came to an abrupt end. I marched out of the office, head high, my heels clicking on the polished wooden floor. No more being ordered about by underbright oversexed Registrars. No more ticking off for wearing too much lipstick or bright red nail polish in front of patients. Finish. End. Gone.

Over the next few days, I revelled in the freedom and the absence of wage-slaving. I shopped for clothes. I bought lovely underwear at Agent Provocateur. And I thought a lot. About my life, my future. I was nearly 32, unattached though with several loose connections. I was bright, witty, and a total charmer. When it suited me.

I spent some time staring at my reflection in my mirror. My russet curls, my emerald eyes, the sprinkle of rusty freckles across my cheekbones. I thought about my ability to turn men's heads as I strolled by in the street, carrying my takeaway latte.

It seemed a shame that so much talent should go to waste on another boring job. I knew I was too old to become a model, and with the best will in the world, I had no intention of entering that dubious exploitative ''alternative'' world of modelling.

I was lying in bed one night, when the idea came to me. Belle de Jour. If Brooke Magnanti, an academic could pose as a call girl and make a shedload of money writing about it afterwards, why couldn't I do something on similar lines? Maybe I could even make money on the way.

And that's how @DoctorDiva was created. Early next morning, I went on Twitter and set up a fake account. I spent some time writing my bio, carefully selecting all the things that I knew would attract a certain type of male to my site. The professional ones with good incomes. I put that I liked Opera ... and also jazz ... I liked theatre and art exhibitions ... I liked Romcom films and fine dining. I added a bit about writing a novel: the thing about a good lie is that it always has to contain a modicum of truth.

I uploaded a couple of selfies - me smiling to myself, my red hair half-covering my face like falling autumn. Me staring at the camera with my head on one side. Cute. The classic poses. Then I went live. After five minutes, I had two followers. Both male. And that's when the fun began. In the months before the run-up to Christmas, I posted lots of tempting pics: me in the driver's seat of an Alfa Romeo. Me wearing a black beret. Me in a cocktail dress with spiky high heels.

I'd watch and see when the men who followed me came on line, then respond to one of their tweets. I had a good degree, I was very bright and I knew enough about politics and the media to sound convincing ... and of course there was always the doctor thing to give me credibility.

 It didn't take long before I had all my followers eating out of my little red nail polished hand. Every time a man sent me a flirty or suggestive tweet, telling me I was gorgeous and stunning and they'd like to meet me, or similar stuff, I cut and pasted it into a folder.

Soon it was time to move to Phase 2. I opened an Instagram account. I got a friend to take a lot of, let us call them 'artistic' pics. I suggested my followers might like to check me out on my new site. Most of them sent me a request at once. One click and there they were.

It is said that everybody leaves digital footprints all over the internet. You just need to know how to find them. My speciality was in IT - yes, my talents were completely wasted as a medical secretary. But I was very good at tracking people down online. Before long, I had the addresses and mobile phone numbers of most of my followers.

Then it was merely a matter of contacting them, and suggesting a 'reasonable compromise' to stop me forwarding their flirty tweets and my naked pics to their girlfriends or wives. Meanwhile, the novel was coming on in leaps and bounds. I quickly found a publisher, and several newspapers were already interested in doing interviews with me.

And now it is Christmas Eve. I sit at my brand new laptop, a glass of vintage champagne at my elbow, wrapped in the beautiful cashmere shawl I could never afford before @DoctorDiva was created. I go on line. Oh look - your partner has just followed me. Mmm ... nice. I like his avi: blue eyes that crinkle at the edges, finely chiselled jawline, the face with just a hint of stubble. I think I'll follow him back.


                                                                    Finis

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Cancer Clear and Very Grateful



As some of you know, this time last year, I was diagnosed with DCIS ( ductile cancer). It was picked up at a routine screening and meant I spent either side of Christmas as a patient on the cancer unit at the Luton and Dunstable University Hospital - I cannot praise the staff and my consultant enough.

At the time, I was told I should have further follow up treatment: 3 weeks of radiotherapy. I was reluctant: I don't believe in unnecessary medical intervention, and I trusted my surgeon when he said he had removed all the cancerous cells.

Friends piled in on either side of the argument. I listened, but made the decision not to go forward, even though the consultant told me there was a 70% chance of the cancer recurring. My daughter was about to give birth; it was important that I should be there for her, not wiped out by some treatment.

I also prayed. Some of you also know I am a Messianic Jew. I don't ram my faith nor my personal beliefs down anybody's throat, nor go on about it. But I am. And I felt strongly that I was being told to trust and go ahead with my decision despite the facts.

Yesterday I went back to the hospital for the first of 5 annual checkups. Given the dichotomy of my decision and those ''facts'', you can guess how the days before the appointment felt. So many conflicting emotions: I now have a little granddaughter. My writing career seems to be having a late bloom. Was all this about to come crashing down around my rash ears?

No, it wasn't. At the end of a scan and an ultrasound, I have been declared free from cancer for another 12 months. The news is slowly seeping into my subconscious which has been overthinking and catastrophizing for the past week.

The chances of being 'free' from cancer, given the odd were so stacked against me are not only an amazing relief, but a witness to ''other'' things than can come into play. Sometimes, I think we have to go with our ...instincts, gut feelings, God-breathed advice. Call it whatever suits you. I know what I'd call it. And I am grateful.







Friday, 12 December 2014

THE PINK SOFA meets Teagan Kearney


The PINK SOFA is proud to welcome Teagan Kearney as its last guest before Christmas and is very grateful for her popping in early to help decorate the Writer's Attic. The Sofa would like to take this opportunity to thank ALL its lovely guests over the past year, wish you all A HAPPY CHRISTMAS and remind you that there is still a bicycle, two non-matching gloves, a cracked iPad and a packet of crisps in the Lost Property box on the landing. Over to you, Teagan:


''Thank you, Carol, for the invitation to have a seat on your scrumptious pink sofa. It is an honour, and yes, thank you I shall certainly partake of the delicious fare provided. Mmm ... these chocolate brownies are irresistible. I’ve known Carol since I ventured onto Twitter, and I always enjoy her posts. Carol writes a clever, humorous blog full of sharp witticisms about life, growing older, her grandchild and her writing, so I’m delighted to be here.


Okay, well I’m here to talk about my writing, and myself - as you requested a bit of bio. So if you’re sitting comfortably, let’s begin.
Once upon a time, (no numbers, I’m allergic) I was born in Highgate, north London, and when I was seven we moved to south London.  My parents were Irish, (mother from Dublin, father from Donegal) and I was one of three with an older brother and a younger sister.

            And I’ve always been an avid reader. An early memory connected with reading is from when I was around 8, and my sister 6. We were walking to the local public library by ourselves for the first time; naturally I was in charge. I remember a sunny day with a clear blue sky, and it must have been springtime as we were wearing the new red and white striped hats my mother had knitted for Easter.

Two plaited pieces of wool hung from the crown of each hat; the plaits were of different lengths and each sported a red and white bobble at the end. These bobbles swung as we turned our heads. As we walked, we would look ahead and turn quickly towards each other, laughing in delight at the swing and thump of the bobbles as they hit our heads. We giggled and relished the sense of adventure at being out by ourselves.

The back roads we took were fairly empty, and as we passed a piece of rubble strewn waste ground we looked up. And there, flashing through the sky we saw a shooting star. In the middle of the afternoon. We were stunned into stillness.

‘Quick,’ I whispered. ‘Make a wish.’ For that instant the world was silent as we prayed for our secret desires to be fulfilled.
Fast forward a few years, and at around thirteen, I read through the local library’s shelf of fairy tales from around the world; Egyptian, French, Russian – from every nation. By fifteen this morphed into an early foray into Dennis Wheatley (a huge spider stayed in my memory long before Shelob appeared). In later years, French and Russian writers captured my attention, as did science-fiction (books passed on by my brother), and fantasy. I fell in love with Lord of the Rings, and re-read it three times.
        
          I blissfully misspent my teenage years and early twenties, and I’ve lived in several countries over the years. As an adult I studied for a degree with the Open University, (in my opinion it’s a brilliant institution) majoring in modern and post colonial literature and film studies. I’ve had several careers and ended up teaching English Literature, an excellent way to study the works of great writers, especially as I enjoy critical analysis.
            
            What drew me to writing? At 11years old I won a prize for my age group in an all London junior schools poetry competition. During the first English lesson at my new secondary school, the English teacher called out my name and awarded me the prize. This teacher had great hopes for me; sad to say, I sorely disappointed her during my school years. But the fact that someone had noticed my writing when I was young, made an impression on me.
           
                 Years later out of nowhere a story jumped into my head, and I just had to write it down. Life took over and nothing came of the writing, until a decade later when I had an idea for a black comedy, and decided to write a screenplay. Which I did, and it horrified my middle class writing group. And then I wrote a fantasy novel, and blithely sent the first draft off. The reply that sticks in my mind is the one that said - What? No map? When I look back at these early efforts, I shake my head and have to laugh at my ignorance.  
          
                    I came to a point where I took writing more seriously, and returned to studying with the Open University. After two and half years of writing courses I gained a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and made some great friends along the way. I love studying, and contemplated doing a masters in something literature or writing related, (sometimes think I’d be an eternal student if I could) but I had to decide whether to continue studying or have a serious attempt at writing. And as all life has an end point, I plumped for the writing thing.
            
            And now here I am. I’ve somehow completed and published two novels, which continues to astound me. I wrote the first chapter of One Summer in Montmartre, my debut novel, as a writing assignment, and returned to finish it after several years as the story stayed with me. My second novel, just published, Tatya’s Return, is the first in a trilogy and is a paranormal thriller/romance.
           
            I’ve always had itchy feet, and my travels have taken me to many interesting places, but I’m now happily living in the scenic county of Aberdeenshire. I don’t know if it’s the writing which satisfies me so much or not, but I’ve put down roots and seem to have come to a full stop. Of course, it may just be the pull of the granite holding me here!
            Well, thank you, Carol. I’m stuffed with cake and cookies (can you ever have enough cake and cookies?) and it’s time to take my leave. Thank you for having me – it’s been a pleasure to visit.''



Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Day I Became An Alien

Imagine the scene:

I'm hanging at the bus stop with my crew: Jo, Mo, Flo* and Allan**. We are the Freedom Bus Pass Gang; twice a week we gather at 9.35am to wait for the 657 bus to take us into town. (It used to be the 620 but Uno, the bus company, recently changed it to the 657 and now it comes 8 minutes later. No don't ask, because we don't know either.)

The crew are OK about the fact that I write letters to the local paper as they all know I am the co-founder of Harpenden Independent Partnership and chair of a community action group trying to stop the local town council from selling our urban green space to a developer. Thus I fire off a lot of what I like to think of as wry, witty, urbanely Swiftian epistles which always get published in our local paper.

This is because the editor knows my stuff will generate rude responses from people with humorectomies and irony bypasses who live in the posh bits of town, and see no reason why our urban green space shouldn't be covered in tarmac and Tesco School of Architecture housing because hey, it isn't their urban green space. Over the years I've developed quite a following, and am apparently referred to colloquially and locally as 'the redhead who writes those letters'.

But the crew also know that there is a darker, more perplexing side to what I do, known as 'The Writing', words usually uttered in the same cautious tone of voice that one might use for other words like 'shark' or 'cockroach'. Thus it is that Jo eventually plucks up courage and asks, 'How's The Writing going then, Carol?'

And that's when it happens. Without even thinking, I sigh deeply, roll my eyes and say: 'Had to cancel my Facebook launch as I lost my Wifi. And then Google spammed my blog so I had to go into a chat room and talk to a techie, and I had to download an app to sort it out.'

There follows a long silence that hangs around in the air in the way that bricks don't. The crew study the ground carefully. Then Flo murmurs, 'Didn't understand a word of that, sorry.' And Allan agrees. And Jo and Mo step away from me as if I might infect them with whatever I've got. And then thankfully for all concerned, the bus arrives. We scramble on board, showing our passes to the cheerful Polish lady bus driver.

Nobody sits next to me all the way into town.



*   Names changed to protect their identity.
** This is his real name.





Saturday, 29 November 2014

So You've Published A Book?


Last Tuesday, the sequel to Diamonds & Dust came out. It's called Honour & Obey (I'm into linked titles) and if you cast your eyes to the right space bar, you can see it. I'm into linked covers too. If you click on either cover, you can read a free sample. It would be easy now to sit back and preen. Many writers do. The book is out. Let the sales start.

Oh no they won't!

Writing a book and getting it published, by whatever conduit you use, is only the start. To get any sales, you have to make people aware of your masterpiece. In this blog, I'm exploring some of the ways I use to promote my work, because unless you are out there, loud and proud, nobody will notice you.

1. Social Media: I've blogged before about how to use Twitter; you can read it HERE. And about using blogs to enhance your digital presence - read it HERE. Suffice to say that most of my sales come from Twitter. And practically all come from people recommending the books to other readers, and that comes from me chatting, interacting and posting funny stuff. In other words, I'm a friend first, an online character second, and a writer selling books third.

2. Press Releases: The local press are (usually) delighted to receive a press release, a publicity pic and a free copy to review.

2a. Press Releases: Anywhere your book is set will be delighted also.

3. Local Radio: Contact them via Twitter, phone them up, arrange to do a studio interview. Listen, I sound like a 15 year old mainlining helium, but I still do it.

4.National Press: Will be interested if you have a brilliant backstory, particularly if it involves abuse, or hardship. Also if you earned shedloads of advance shekels or you are very very photogenic. I haven't cracked this one yet. Maybe you will.

5. Literary Festivals: Everybody's doing it. Local library will have contacts of yours. Get in touch. I did the first St Albans Literary Festival this November. I ran a workshop on how to get published ... ooh, and I had some books on a side-table.

6. Signings: Local bookshop is worth approaching. If it's Waterstones, good luck.

7.Talks: WI - you have to audition and be approved, but it's worth it. Local book clubs/writers' groups are also worth contacting. If you write YA or childrens' fiction, schools are always keen to have a visiting writer. Make sure you get paid - the Society of Authors has recommended fees.

As you now see, there is a lot more to being a writer than merely writing. Writing is the ''easy'' bit! And lest you should eye your mainstream published brethren and mutter 'bet they don't have to do all this' - YES THEY DO! Big publishers are very selective about who they spend their publicity budgets promoting. If it ain't you, you will still have to do the legwork. I've spoken to some ''famous'' names, and it is so.

Finally - make sure you are registered for PLR - Public Lending Rights: that's the money paid by libraries every time your book is borrowed. You can register at www.plr.uk.com. Every little helps.

If I've missed out your favourite publicity medium, then please mention it in the comments. Congratulations on being a published author, welcome to the club. Now get out there and sell!