‘Just for the Holidays’ hits the shelves!

JFTH Ebook cover smallPublication day!

Yes, today Just for the Holidays will be hitting shelves, shopping trolleys and e-readers. It’s the culmination of a lot of work, not just for me but for my agent, editor, publicists, assistants, sales team, cover artist and everybody else who’s involved in the publication of a book. Huge thank yous to every single one of them.

Thanks also to all the lovely readers who buy my novels and make my life as an author possible. Every book’s special to me and it fills me with joy when you contact me on social media to tell me what you thought.

So what’s Just for the Holidays about? It’s about Leah, who’s mad on cars and chocolate but not mad on the idea of a husband and children. She gets roped into looking after her sister’s husband and children with only a Porsche and a pilot to cheer her up.

What else can you expect to find within the pages? France, teenagers, more chocolate food technology, lovely sunshine, a Goth, furry creatures, an unexpected guest and a helicopter.JFTH Blog tour small

If you’d like to follow the blog tour, here’s the schedule.

 

The Wee Book Hoose

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The telephone box transformed into a 24-hour library. Photo credit: Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

If you’ve ever wondered what can be done with an unloved and unused phone box just look at what the community in a small village near me have done with theirs.

Crossmichael Community Council bought the village’s BT telephone box for the princely sum of £1 and turned it into a 24-hour library, now known as the Wee Book Hoose. For non-Scots speakers that translates into The Small Book House.

It’s been a very successful community project in which adults in the village and school pupils have all been involved. I was delighted to be invited to attend the opening ceremony and watch Crossmichael resident, Jean Galloway cut the ribbon and declare what may be the smallest public library in the country open for business.

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Crossmichael resident Jean Galloway cuts the ribbon to open The Wee Book Hoose. Photo credit Allan Wright.  http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

She was then supposed to enter the library but the heavy door proved problematic – I’d forgotten how heavy old phone box doors are – until John Nelson, chair of the Crossmichael Community Council came to the rescue. Jean then entered the library to choose a book and I was particularly impressed by how she homed in on not only one but two of my books!

Both I and another author and publisher, Jayne Baldwin, had been invited to say a few words about reading and we were highly amused when John Nelson in his opening speech mentioned several times how delighted everyone was to welcome two famous authors to the event.

He stopped us from becoming too swollen-headed by telling the assembled company about how his granddaughter quizzed him beforehand on the identity of famous author. She asked: “Is it J K Rowling?”

“Nope.”

“Roald Dahl? Oh, no, he’s dead, can’t be him. Julia Donaldson?”

“Nope.”

At least Jayne writes for children and has more chance of being recognised as a real writer amongst primary pupils than I have. It is as well to keep one’s feet planted in the earth.

The project received lots of support both locally and from further afield from authors who have donated books and sent letters of support. Local bookshops gifted books as well as shops in Wigtown, Scotland’s Book Town. Tesco provided prizes for the winners of a children’s competition.

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Great choice of books, Jean! Photo courtesy of Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

Four competitions were run in the village prior to the opening of the Wee Book Hoose. Young primary children drew pictures of the Wee Book Hoose while older children were asked to think about 101 uses for a phone box and submit a poem, story or art work. Members of the youth club were invited to enter the competition by imagining they have only one phone call to make:  who would they call and what would they say?

Adults were given the opportunity to reminisce about the first phone call they made or received. Community councillor Alexandra Monlaur, one of the main project organisers, judged the adult competition and said some of the entries brought a tear to her eye. She is planning to collect them into a wee booklet.

pb6I’d asked several local authors to donate a book to the library and was delighted by the response. In my brief talk, I told of how reading had taken me from adventures with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to visiting countries I’ll never see, from solving crimes along with fictional detectives (or never quite solving them before the end) to enjoying the tears and smiles of countless ‘happy ever afters’. I ended by saying (particularly directed at the pupils – who were probably still wondering who I was) that any writer will say they were avid readers before they ever wrote a word.pb3

Home baking is elevated to an art form – and I intend to pile my plate as soon as the photographer disappears. Photo courtesy of Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com

The church bakers had been busy and an array of wonderful home baking awaited the guests in the village hall. All the competition entries were displayed around the walls and Jayne and I handed over the prizes to the winners.

It’s a fantastic project, which has really captured everyone’s imagination. Next time you walk by a little-used telephone box think about what a wonderful library it would make.

And a wee plug for the photographer Allan Wright http://www.allanwrightphoto.com who has recently published a superb book of landscape photos in homage to Dumfries & Galloway.

What makes authors smile?

As Julia Andrews once sang…. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens and so forth.

Brown paper packages too – if they have books in them.

I’ve been smiling a lot this week. Authors are like everyone else when it comes to things that make us smile. Lunch with good friends, finding exactly the right birthday card for a family member, progress on my knitting project. In my case, watching Say Yes to the Dress on TV. (If you haven’t watched this – you really must. It’s my secret guilty pleasure.) All these things, and more, make me smile.

But this week has been full of ‘authorial’ smiles. Those are very special. As a rule, we authors can be a tad insecure. Especially about our work. There is often more tearing out of hair than smiling involved in writing a book. But… we do have our moments.

So – what are these mysterious things that make an author smile? Here are my top five.

Seeing a very small number next to your new book on Amazon is a smile worthy event.

1. Publication days.

Letting go of a book you have spent months working on can be hard. I always wonder if it’s any good. Will my readers like it? Are there any things I could have improved? Are there any (heaven forbid) typos or spelling errors or grammatical errors? The answer to the last question is… possibly. Sometimes one slips through the reading and re-reading that goes into a book before it’s published. But…. despite all those fears. Publication days are wonderful. This week my 9th book was officially published. I smiled. A Lot.

 

 

2. Reviews.

Hard on the heels of publication day is the breathless wait for the first reviews, and more obsessive checking on Amazon. When that first review comes – and it’s good. The sigh of relief is quickly followed by a broad smile. Someone likes my book! My characters have found new friends. Definitely smile worthy. Think about that and if the urge strikes you – please do reviews for your favourite authors. They are important to us.

These had me reaching for my handkerchief.

3. Messages from readers.

Up there with a five star review are messages from readers. Authors are pretty easy to find. Websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter make it easy to send a favourite author a message. I send messages to some of my favourite authors when I’ve enjoyed their book. When I get messages from my readers, it is quite possible that I get a bit misty.

This came from one of my Aussie readers. He sent me a screen shot of him ordering my book How cool is that!

4. Planning a new book.

Thinking about a new book is always fun. There are so many possibilities. I sit at a desk with computer, notebook, sketchpad, coloured pencils and a cup of tea. I doodle while my brain goes into overdrive. Then I Google the things I am thinking about – just to make sure they really are feasible. Research is important and can be so much fun. I love it when I stumble across something when researching and realise there’s a whole plot strand there.

My desk in book planning mode…. and yes that IS a Dr Who pen with a TARDIS on the end of it. How could anyone write a book without one?

5. And something very exciting and super secret that I am not allowed to even hint at yet.

I promise I will tell all as soon as I can.  There is one other thing that always always always puts a smile on an author’s face. It usually involves an email. I had one of those emails this week – but I can’t tell you anything at all about it. Not yet. I can almost hear you gnashing your teeth and wanting to know more. Guess what – that’s another thing that makes an author happy – putting a reader on the edge of their seat, desperate to know or read more.

Stay tuned – there will be more news coming soon.

The Fine Art Of Book Promotion

Hooray, finally, it’s out!  Our short story collection – LOVE, LIES AND OTHER DECEPTIONS – is for sale on Amazon, birthed perhaps with more of a raspy mumble than a shout.  Oh, we’ve mentioned it in our newsletters, blog posts, blasted a multitude of tweets on Twitter, posted the news on our personal and professional Facebook pages and offered it at a special launch price of 99 cents.  Our review team has received advance copies and so far we’ve garnished five reviews, happily all 5 star.  And so off goes another book baby into the big wide world.

Which begs the question – how do you get your book noticed? When our first novel, How To Survive Your Sisters, was launched by Arrow, the publicity department handled everything, arranged radio interviews and a Daily Express two-page spread.  We had a brief glorious taste of the celebrity author life, flowers from editor and agent, champagne launch parties. We sat outside Waterstones signing copies as Lorraine’s American (and born salesman) husband, Gary, dragged unsuspecting passers-by over to our little table.  Alas, the whole thing coincided with the stock market crash and despite good reviews, our sales, although respectable, could hardly compete with the massive despondency that hit the publishing world that year.

Our third novel Looking For La La was also our first self-publishing venture.  Boy, were we innocents!  It was only when our agent asked us where were the reviews, where were the blog posts, that we realized we had to take control of our destiny.  Luckily that book had an interesting back-story, based on a lipstick-imprinted anonymous love postcard Pam’s husband received through the mail and which Pam, like any dedicated author, had promptly used as inspiration for a murder mystery. We contacted all the chicklit sites and started a whirl of interviews and blog posts.  We also put ‘La La’ out on free, joined a zillion Facebook ‘free novel’ sites, redid our web page, started developing a Twitter following. Our previously undiscovered novel shot up the Amazon charts and we became much more media savvy, not to mention befriending some wonderful bloggers who still support us today.

Recently though we’ve been questioning which efforts produce results and which aren’t worth the time. Does anyone pay attention to those ‘free book’ Facebook groups except for other authors hoping to promote? We don’t think so. Is it really worth paying for any promotions, except, of course, for the highly-competitive Bookbub? Some things you do because they’re fun, like Lorraine’s party for a hundred plus friends to launch To Catch A Creeper, where everyone dressed up as cat burglars and had a whoopee good time, although with all the alcohol consumed, not too many remembered to buy the book. Professional book tours provided a hell of a lot of action but also a lot of work, writing endless original and witty copy. And when sandwiched between a YA vampire story and a slice of steamy erotica, you have to question if the audience you’re reaching is the one you want!

Still we can all agree that promotion is important and glowing reviews most important of all. But how to get them? We just finished a free stint of our novel Million Dollar Question with over 20,000 downloads.  Will that lead to a jump in sales now that it’s back at full price?  Or a slew of new readers?  When we find out, we’ll let you know.

‘My next book’ – all three of them

Question: which of these statements is true?

Answer: they all are.

How can that be? Because what constitutes ‘my next book’ depends upon the context of the conversation.

  • Just for the Holidays – ‘is my next book to be published’. (18 May 2017 in ebook, paperback and audio, if you’re interested. And you can order it here.) This is also the next book to be promoted, which will involve me in writing blog posts, social media, radio interviews etc.
  • Give Me Till Christmas – ‘I’ve just sent my next book to my editor’. (9 October 2017 in ebook, 2 November paperback, audio tba. I was a little shocked to be told last week that you can order this, too.) This will be the next book to be edited. Structural edits first (ironing out all the plot lines that aren’t quite working etc.); next come line edits (minutiae and punctuation etc.); finally the proofreading.
  • The Summer of Finding Out – ‘I’m just about to begin researching and planning my next book.’ (Scheduled for Summer 2018) This will be the next book to be written, in between the promo of Just for the Holidays and the editing of Give Me Till Christmas.

In case you’re wondering, I am no special case. Many novelists work in this way. Personally, I love it. I choose to see it not as a pressure but as an affirmation that I’m a commercially published author. I don’t groan when I’m asked to do promo because whoever has asked me is helping me to sell my books. I don’t go into a huff when I receive my editorial notes, line edits or proofreading because we’re all working to produce the best book I can. (That sentence is grammatically incorrect on purpose – a team works to produce my book. How cool is that?)

Lest you think I’m polishing my halo, there are things I don’t react well to – spurious interruptions, people wasting my time unnecessarily, unreasonable people etc. etc. Here’s a recent example:

Phone rings. I answer. It’s the bank, asking to speak to another member of my household, one who is out of the house during the working day. This is the fifth time in two days that they’ve called with the same request. The first four times, I pointed out politely that the person is not here because he doesn’t work here but I do. Please, could the bank stop these calls? They’re interrupting me. On the fifth occasion, I’m half way through a difficult scene and my temper snaps along with the thread of what I’m trying to write. I find myself rising vertically from my chair. ‘Look! I keep telling you that he doesn’t work here! I DO! Look in your records for his daytime number and RING HIM THERE! It’s DAYTIME! I’ve told you and told you and told you this and you persist in interrupting me! I’m self-employed and I’m TRYING TO DO MY JOB! Why don’t you GO AWAY AND DO YOURS? And if you’re stupid enough to ring here again with the same request I’m going to take all my money out of your bank and put it somewhere else. Plus, I’m going to speak to your supervisor and tell him or her that you’re stupid! Right?’

And, you know what, she didn’t ring back and I was able to get on with my next book.