Saturday 25 August 2012

The Day I Became an Alien

Imagine the picture: I'm hanging at the bus stop with my crew: Jo, Mo, Flo* and Allan**. We are the Free 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; they all know I am the Chair of a community action group, that is 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 'that 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: 'Last week, I lost all my toolbar widgets! And Google spammed my blog and I had to go into a chat room and talk to a Techie, and then I had to download Chrome 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, the bus arrives. We scramble on board, showing our passes to the cheerful Polish driver.

Nobody sits next to me, all the way into town.

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

Sunday 19 August 2012

Coffee with Carol, Tea with Jane

Juliet Archer
Juliet Archer and I go way back. We first met as dinner ladies at our children's primary school. Then hooked up again when I tutored her son for his A level English. Juliet writes witty modern novels based on Jane Austen plots. Her two books: The Importance of Being Emma and Persuade Me are published by Choc Lit and have received rave reviews and won several prestigious awards.
Persuade Me

Readers of this blog will know that Juliet always leaves a comment - even when I started out blogging, and she was the only one to do so. That is what she's like. If you have not sampled her books, I recommend that you read them. 
A prior knowledge of Jane Austen is not necessary, but does add to the enjoyment. Beloved Husband, who NEVER reads 'romance' (but loves Jane Austen) devoured The Importance of Being Emma. That's how good she is!
The Importance of being Emma

Juliet has chosen to tell you about what we get up to on the Saturdays we meet in town: 

''We meet in the usual coffee shop where, if Carol doesn't know the waitress already, she will do by the time we've ordered. She has a double espresso; I opt for a normal coffee with hot milk, wondering if there is such a thing as 'normal' in these Costabucks' times.

From then on, we share. Toasted teacake, warm and buttery, divided between two plates; family news - particularly our children, now officially adults and moving swiftly through various life stages, and writing: a broad discussion from guest blogs to letters in the local paper and work in progress.

Carol is a shining example of 'Never say never'. A successful children's author, she could have accepted her fate - the widespread culling of  publishing contracts has particularly affected her genre - and resigned herself to a glorious past. Instead, she is taking control of her publishing future and reinventing herself online.

Later, at home, I sit down to tea with Jane. Or rather I drink tea, while Jane (as in Austen) provides food for thought on several levels. First, because I am bringing her six published novels bang up to date, in a series called 'Darcy & Friends'; second, I always learn something from her writing, and finally, she is such good company - like an old friend.

I'm climbing on an already crowded bandwagon: Jane's fame has grown rapidly in the last few decades, assisted by wet shirts and tight breeches, and there's no end in sight to the proliferation of prequels, sequels, modernisations and what-ifs. But this is currently where I find my writing inspiration, and I hope I'm adding something original with fresh, 21st century insights into the hearts and minds of her irresistible heroes.

Coffee with Carol, tea with Jane. Time well spent.''

Juliet can be found at Tweet her @julietarcher or friend her on Facebook

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Ebook Virgin At Large!

OK, so I was going to have a proper online Facebook Launch Party. You know the sort of thing: you get an invite, you accept, and then at a specified time, you rock up online and wonder where all the cake is and who drank the sparkly white wine.

Only, here on what I like to think off as Planet Stupid, it didn't quite happen like that. Instead, I got a text message from Talented Daughter early on the Saturday morning after we'd uploaded Jigsaw Pieces saying 'Your book's on Amazon. Just downloaded a copy.' Bit of a shock, as I thought it would take a couple of days.

This was followed by a second text message: 'I've put it on my Facebook page, and sent the link to yours. Going back to bed.' So that was it. Not so much a launch, more of an escape. After I'd got over the shock, I checked, in case she'd made some sort of mistake, easy thing to do at 8am on a Saturday morning, but no, there it was. 

And when I checked my Facebook page, there it was again. And someone else had downloaded a copy. Which meant that in the space of 6 minutes, I'd made enough money to buy ... ooh, half a small espresso. Which was very exciting.

And the excitement just kept on coming. I tagged Jigsaw Pieces - actually, I put in so many tags that I might just as well have copied out the whole plot into the tag box. I think the only thing I didn't tag it under was 'fairies', although I could have got that wrong.

Following on from that, several kind members of the writing community generously stepped up to the publicity plate, and are recklessly closing their eyes and letting me loose on their author sites, thus saving me from issuing one of those sad ads you see at the back of newspapers: 

Ebook Publicity Virgin 62, GSOH, and cake, needs help, advice, and guest blogs. All offers gratefully accepted.

To you (you know who you are) I say a massive 'thanks'. To everyone else, I say: please check the sad ad! Better still, download Jigsaw Pieces and read it for yourself, because as you can see, I am to self-promotion what fish are to cycling. Proof: I have reached the end of another blog without telling you anything constructive about the story, like who Billy Dunne really was, and how I became, temporarily, a World War 1 poet. Another time, I promise

Meanwhile my series of Great Guest Blogs continues with my very good friend, writer Juliet Archer. Do not miss her!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

The Ebook has Landed

''This year Amazon has launched the technology to ensure that self-publishing a novel is now only marginally more complex than uploading a Facebook update.'' (Good Housekeeping, Sept 2012 pg.63)

Pain comes in many forms. There is physical pain, mental pain, emotional pain. To which let me now add another category: Amazonal pain. Yes, we (Designer Dave and I) did it. We finally uploaded Jigsaw Pieces. My very first ebook. Ta-daa, roll of drums, waving sparklers in the air, but boy was it tough.
Very, very tough.

So bad did things get, that at one point we found ourselves transferring my entire Google account, including my password, to DD's email address. We do not know why we did this. It had no relevance whatsoever to uploading the book to Amazon. Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, I can only put it down to the red mist of madness that descended upon us over the two days it took to achieve upload.

Yes, of course it goes without saying that the writing community rallied round and tried to help. It gathered outside our cage and tossed virtual buns through the bars. We needed to download this platform; we ought to file everything here. Or there. Or somewhere completely different. We needed to indent by a certain specified amount of pixels.

Ah, the pixels. They were a thorough nuisance from the start. I ended up envisaging them as small malevolent wispy things in pointed hats and curly ankle boots. Not sure why they were there, or what exactly they were about, but apparently without a sufficient number of them, nothing could go forward. They appeared to be the digital equivalent of the Lib Dems.

The trouble was that, helpful as all these suggestions were, as was all the stuff we downloaded from various sites, they could not fix the primary problem, which was, in a word: us. Two picky perfectionists determined to bend a second-rate system to our exacting requirements.

So have we finally done it? We think so. You will be the ultimate arbiters of course. One caveat: if you use the cheap version of Kindle, the title and author is slightly offcentre. PLEASE don't tell us. Similarly if you find anything else amiss. Family members and pets have only just emerged from their hiding places, and I am relearning how to use words of more than one syllable.

Sadly, I now realise I have got to the end of this blog post and have not told you a single thing about the actual story. Nor any of the amazing stories behind the story. Another blog, I promise. Meanwhile, why not download Jigsaw Pieces and read it for yourself. It will make all our pain worthwhile.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Sue Moorcroft is my guest

Sue Moorcrof: A  pensive moment
Sue Moorcroft is somewhat of a polymath (no, not a mathematical parrot!) She is a writer of short stories, a novelist, a teacher of creative writing and article writer. She also writes a regular Formula 1 column and is judge for Writers' Forum. Sue is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner. 

She is also a really good self-publicist, which is no bad thing. Hearing that I was offering guest blogs to other writers, Sue seized the opportunity of a lifetime to favour us all with her witty observations on life. Her blog is entitled: Ten ways to cheer me up.
Take it away, Sue:

1. Ask for a multitude of copy documents. Insist you haven't received them and ask for them again. Then ring back and say you have them all - hooray! You don't even have to apologise. If you have them, I forgive you.

2. Arrive to fit my carpets, on time and with everything you need. Make a lovely job of it. Don't mark my walls.

One drink good; two drinks better
3. When I advise you of my holiday dates, hold back all the work you have for me so I have the illusion of being able to relax whilst I'm away.

4. Reply to my emails, especially anxious ones, promptly - even if you're trying to take six weeks off over the summer.

5. If you're a weather forecaster, tell me that the sun is coming. Be right.

6. If I save up for something special, ensure that it works when I get it home.

7. tell me that you have read all of my books and you didn't buy them second-hand.

8. Tell me you enjoyed my books and are buying them for all your friends for every birthday and Christmas,. (or that you've mentioned them to your movie producer friend and he wants to make them into films. That's good too.)

9. Bring a bottle of ice-cold pinot grigio and tell me funny stories in the sunshine when we drink it.

10. Love my favourite authors as much as I do.

Sue can be found at She blogs at Friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.