Monday, 28 September 2009

Book signing - and story flopping

My signing at Waterstone's on Saturday went well - I sold about a dozen books, which was a definite improvement on another occasion some time ago when I sold one! Several of my customers were lovely friends and acquaintances who had turned up to support me, but I did also manage to chat to lots of people who were browsing in the shop, gave them handouts about my books and websites, and a couple of sales resulted from this. (I've tried four times to insert a picture here, but it keeps crashing the site and I've now lost my patience as well as the will to live, so this will have to go out picture-less!).

Sadly, the good writing news stops there, as today I came home to the news of THREE rejected short stories in one e-mail - a bit harsh, I thought, although would it have been any less disappointing if they'd all been rejected separately? Probably not!

But family news is more promising, with the wedding now only days away, and the bride-to-be has had the plaster cast taken off her wrist today so she's very happy!

I promise to write more on the blog after the wedding!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

I'm going to be at Waterstones!

If any Essex girls (or boys!) are reading this, and you happen to be in or around Chelmsford on Saturday (26th), please do pop in to Waterstones in the High Street between 12 and 1pm to give me some moral support for my first book signing there!

I'll try to explain why this is such a big deal for me.

As soon as my first Sheila Norton book was published in 2003, I did as much as possible to promote my work, especially in my local Essex area. I held my own launch/book signing parties, gave interviews to local papers and magazines, gave talks at libraries, writing groups, book groups etc, and (scarily) had interviews on local radio stations. I even starred in Boots 'Health & Beauty' magazine in a feature about women who had achieved something special 'later in life' (I tried not to feel insulted (!), as it was great publicity, and involved a photo-shoot at a country house in Surrey, being made up and dressed up and given a free lunch. I was terrified by all of it apart from the free lunch!).

All of this had to stop when, after my fifth book, I became reinvented as Olivia Ryan. My publishers wanted the Olivia books to be established in their own right before anyone knew Olivia's identity, so I could only reveal my pseudonym to my family and a handful of close friends. I couldn't tell any of the local shops, papers, etc about my new books or make any public appearances. It was quite difficult and frustrating although I had to trust my publishers that this was for the best in the long run. The exception was my local independent bookshop: I entrusted them with my secret because they had been so fantastically supportive to me - so when they closed down, earlier this year, it was devastating.

With the release of 'Tales from a Honeymoon Hotel', I've been given the go-ahead to reveal my identity - so I've once again been able to appear in the local press, give talks, and have contacted all my local bookshops asking for their support.

Most authors who aren't in the best-selling bracket will know what I mean when I say that it can be quite demoralising looking out for your books in the big book chains, and even more demoralising asking if they're intending to stock them! I'm sure most local branches would love to support their local authors, but are often restricted to what they are told to order by their head offices. So it was with great excitement that I heard back from my local Chelmsford Waterstones, a few months back, that they would indeed like to give me a Saturday lunchtime slot for a book signing.

Yay! At last!!

Now, all I need is Rent-A-Crowd so that I can get one of those mile-long queues in the High Street, like we see when the likes of Jordan are up there signing their books. If they sell out of books, so much the better - they'll have to take orders!

I know, I know - dream on, girl! I've done a book-signing in the past (in a little shop in Leigh on Sea that doesn't exist any more), where the only two copies of the book I sold were to the owner of the shop and the other author sharing my slot!! So I know I'm far more likely to be humiliated by the turn-out than overwhelmed by it! But dreams are good, dreams keep us going - and my dream, this time, is that the event is so successful, Waterstones head office will order mega-loads for all their other branches and I'll get a new publisher offering me a huge contract for the next book.

Or maybe I'll just write a short story about someone who has very exciting and unrealistic dreams!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Real life dramas

My writing continues to be neglected - for all the best reasons. Baby Noah is now one week old - actually I don't think I've recovered yet from the angst and eventual excitement of last Monday, in fact I think my daughter has recovered better than I have!!

Added to which, we've also just had the excitement of Eldest Daughter's hen weekend. I feel very grateful that I was invited on all three of my lovely daughters' hen weekends. I know these occasions are mostly for their own friends, and would not have expected an invite but was hugely honoured. All three of them have been fantastic fun and despite being (very nearly) an OAP, I wasn't treated as an old fogey by any of the girls! On this occasion, we stayed in a big house in the outskirts of Bath.
It was a beautiful place, with lots of rooms, a big kitchen and dining room, big garden with a sauna - just perfect.

On the Saturday night we dressed up the 'Hen', as you'd expect, and as we were going into Bath for the evening, it had been agreed we should all wear the appropriate headgear - bath hats!

Unfortunately during the course of the evening the Hen took a bit of a tumble on the dance floor and ended up with a painful swollen wrist. The next day we made her a sling out of a scarf, gave her painkillers and suggested ice and elevation - all of us convinced she'd sprained it.

When we got home it was still painful so her fiance took her to A&E to have it checked out. It turned out to be fractured - and was put in a temporary cast. My poor daughter was distraught, as the wedding is now only two and a half weeks off and not only was she facing the prospect of getting married with her arm in plaster but the possibility of her honeymoon being postponed. Apparently some airlines won't fly anyone wearing a cast because of DVT risks.

Well, after a worrying couple of days, we've been back to the fracture clinic today and although she's now in a proper cast, on hearing the circumstances, the doctor immediately agreed it could come off before the wedding and be replaced by a splint, which in turn can come off for the wedding ceremony. I feel almost as worn out by the trauma of all this as the bride-to-be does!

I'm sure this will all find its way into a story before too long ... what a shame I wrote 'Tales From a Hen Weekend' a few years back. Hmm. 'More Tales from more Hen Weekends'??

I've had one short story accepted by People's Friend recently, and one rejected, so my score for the year hasn't changed much! The rejected story has of course been turned around and sent back out again.

Meanwhile ... I'm busy with preparations for my Big Special Birthday party this Saturday, and praying hard that it won't be a cold, wet evening as there will be about 40 people here and we need to open the doors onto the garden or we'll be sitting on each other's laps. And there's yet another exciting piece of news - on returning from the Hen Weekend, my daughters announced that their birthday present to me from themselves and their 'other halves' is: tickets for the Coldplay concert at Wembley this Friday!! I am SO excited - I've wanted to see Coldplay live for ages - what a fantastic present.

What with all the form-filling-in that seems to be necessary for the privilege of becoming an OAP - pension claim forms, forms for the Taxman (over and above the usual annual tax return, which I haven't faced yet), bus pass form (good one, that!), etc, etc, it's probably just as well I no longer have a Day Job, or I'd never fit in the time I need to see my baby grandson!

One more photo of him ....
... and that's me finished on the computer for tonight. Normal service will be resumed after things have calmed down a bit!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

It's a Boy!

Right now, I don't care about whether my stories are going to be accepted or not. I don't even care, right this minute, whether I'm going to get my next book published. And before you faint in shock or ask whether I've finally flipped, take a look at this picture and you'll see why!

This is our beautiful new grandson, Noah George, who arrived safely (and finally! nearly 2 weeks late!) at half past eleven last night. He's my middle daughter's baby - and she was only 6 and a half pounds when she was born all those years ago ... so we were all pretty shocked that Noah weighed in at a hefty 9 pounds, 6 ounces!

Yesterday was the longest day I've had to endure since ... well, since my own three babies were born. In fact I think in some ways it was harder (well maybe not! But emotionally harder) than having a baby myself. Knowing what my own 'baby' was going through, but not being there to help her and wondering, all day, how her labour was progressing but not wanting to keep bothering them with calls or messages - it was, (as even my husband said), torture! And then after we got the good news do you think I could sleep?? The adrenalin was flowing so madly I felt like I wanted to sprint round the block - not that I've ever sprinted anywhere, and certainly not round our block at gone midnight, but you get the picture!

It was a home birth - but because the baby was so late, it was looking like my daughter would have to be admitted to hospital to be induced, so they were very happy that Noah finally decided to get his act together just in the nick of time. We've been round there today of course, and although they're both tired, daughter and son-in-law are so happy and relaxed, that I can see the benefits of the whole home birth thing. My babies were all born in hospital and everything was absolutely fine - I didn't even consider a home birth, but it seems to be encouraged again now.

Sorry this post isn't about writing and sorry I've neglected following everyone's blogs, but I haven't even turned on the computer for writing - only for e-mailing family & friends etc - since yesterday morning, and I wonder how long it will be before I feel like getting back to it! Especially as I'm off on Eldest Daughter's hen weekend on Friday, and then preparing for my
Rather Special Birthday party the following weekend, to be swiftly followed by the wedding 2 weeks after that! Do other families have everything happening all at once like this, or is it just us???

OK - one last photo - here's me with the baby, and I think I look a lot more tired and unkempt than my daughter!! It's very tiring being a new grandmother, I can tell you! I think I need a few drinks tonight to get over it!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Fan mail

I don't get a lot of fan mail. I'm not well-known enough, or successful enough, and I'm the first to admit that most of the e-mails I receive saying someone enjoyed one of my books, are from friends and family who know how much I need the boost!

However ... it does happen. Occasionally, and unexpectedly, I get a response from one of my websites, and I'm always terribly thrilled and excited, probably out of all proportion to the actual event. The thing is, I recognise that for somebody to take the trouble, after reading a book, to look up the author on the internet, browse their website and then go even further and send a message - they must have REALLY enjoyed the book! I treasure those messages, because (sad and desperate though it sounds!), it means there are actually strangers out there who appreciate my work - they're not all friends of my daughters who have been cajoled into supporting me (bless them) or local people in Essex who got curious after reading my 'bit' in the local paper - they're genuine fans! Whoopee!

Amongst the messages I've treasured most, are those coming from abroad, and (this might sound odd) those that still occasionally come in on my Sheila Norton website about my earlier books - because it's so nice to think that they're still being read and enjoyed.

A particularly gratifying message recently came from a 21-year-old, who said she loved 'The Trouble With Ally' (very first book - middle-aged heroine), because reading about an older woman having so much fun, made her feel better about the thought of getting older! Ha! So much for younger readers not liking to read about older heroines!

And best of all (and probably most surprising) are those - like one I received yesterday - from male readers. This nice chap - again commenting on - said that although I described my books as women's fiction, he had loved reading them, and was pleased to see that I'd written some more as Olivia. That was another very satisfying thought - that there are men out there enjoying the books. What a pity we have to categorise all our fiction these days in order to market it!

The only other guy that ever got in touch with me out of the blue was an American, who said his wife had made him read books like mine in the hope of 'making him more romantic'. He wrote to tell me that he did identify with one of my male characters - but didn't like reading about wives leaving their husbands and hoped that wasn't going to happen in my next book. The next book was already written - and I wasn't about to change the plot. So unfortunately, I never heard from him again!