Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The X Factor

Another September, another season of the X-Factor. It's the UK version of American Idol (except Simon's a lot nicer). Every year I watch the progression of hopefuls through to the climax, and every year I cry while watching.

My cynical self knows - and is annoyed - that every contestant seems to have a tale of woe. A broken home, a childhood chock full of bullying, a loved one whose dying wish was for so-and-so to audition. And yes, the parade of people braying 'I want this so bad' does get irritating.

But every year there is one story that stands out, one contestant guaranteed to make me bawl (it's the Susan Boyle factor). This year, it's been Scott, a 21-year-old autistic man who didn't leave his house for years. Watch the clip here.

(I wish I had something more interesting than television programmes and adverts to blog about but really, that's about the extent of my extra-curricular activities right now!)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Life is Now Complete

I may have been known to utter, once or two, several sort of snide remarks about our new London mayor. Maybe some comments about his hair, or something.

But I retract all of that in glorious technicolour. Because today, Boris Johnson, our esteemed Mayor of London, gave me a blurb endorsing my book (24 Hours: London, in case you didn't know).

I sent his office off a review copy about three months ago now. When I didn't hear back, I just chalked it up to being caught up the the slow-moving cogs of bureaucracy -- or even thrown away in a rubbish bin in City Hall somewhere.

But two weeks ago, I got an email from a very helpful press officer who said he'd just been passed my letter, the Mayor would be happy to comment, and could I please send another review copy? It being Friday night, I danced around a bit, texted my publisher, then had a big glass of wine. Of course I knew this didn't mean we'd: a - get a comment in the next month or two; or b - get a comment we could actually use (I feared it might be too generic to even have any punch).

Two weeks passed. The press officer reassured me he was on the case, but I was starting to fear the worse. Who knew what dangers and delays lurked in City Hall?

Then, half an hour ago, I got the email. With the blurb!

London Mayor Boris Johnson says:

This is a nifty guide for Londoners and tourists alike. There are some brilliant tips whether you have just a day to spare, or much longer to enjoy what the capital has to offer. London has some of the most famous landmarks and attractions on earth, so use this book to discover some of our city's less well-known delights.

My faith has been restored! My life is complete!

OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I am pretty damned happy right about now. Yes, my cynical self knows that of course the Mayor of London is keen to promote his city, and himself. But hey, if he does so by endorsing my book, hopefully boosting sales (and maybe credibility, depending on political persuasions), who am I to complain?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Into the Jungle

Amazon certainly named their site well. It is like a jungle out there.

I've spent the past few weeks or so making forays into the foliage, trying to understand how the Amazon rankings work. And the answer? There is none. Books rise and fall, seemingly on a whim. The top sellers may stay put, but those mid-list seem to be at the mercy of... aliens? Intelligent ants? Who knows?

I need to put together a plan of attack; something to navigate the jungle.

If anyone's charted the route, please hand me your map!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What? Tuesday?

When you don't need to leave the house to go to your job, the days tend to blur together -- especially when you work on the weekends, too! I can't believe it's already Tuesday. The weekend passed in a blur of Paris research for the next in the '24 Hours' series, X-Factor (yes, I am a sucker for the show) and sun. September is such a great month in London; the sun actually makes a prolonged experience and everything is crisp (except for the air on the Tube).

My days lately have been divided up into three parts - the first part of the morning for my fiction, then Paris research, then book promotion for 24 Hours: London. I think I've got over my initial cringe factor fear. I had to, anyway! And I have to say that people have been very helpful and the response has been positive (thanks Scott, Toni, Mike and Tim!). Although I think I'm a pretty good writer (pride cometh before a fall, I know), it's always hard when you put yourself out there to be judged, even if it is a non-fiction piece. And who knows, maybe next week I'll get a nasty review or something, but for now I'm happy people like the book!

So what's coming up? Well, the book is launched October 30th, so now I'm busy trying to garner reviews and quotes etc. I've posted out some promotional postcards to 50 independent bookshops across London (God love VistaPrint!) and I'm printing up some more. It's full steam ahead! You may even see me outside a Tube or train station doing a spot of book busking (I'm exaggerating but hey, might be a good idea).

And... I guess that's where the week went!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Glued to My Seat (or Not)!

Tonight master magician Derren Brown threatens (or promises, whichever way you look at it) to glue viewers to their seat using subliminal mind control.

Can he really do it? I'm certainly going to tune in to see if I can be mind-controlled! Then again, it doesn't take much to stick me to my seat. Put a glass of wine in my hand and some Friends on the telly, and I'm pretty much done.

Tune in tomorrow to see if he's successful! Ah yes, my life is exciting!

UPDATE: Well, I wasn't glued to my seat. Neither was The Man nor a friend we watched the show with. Some people who watched the show apparently were, though.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Autumn without the Dread

It's definitely autumn now in London. Leaves are turning that boring shade of brown, the skies are grey and the park is emptied of its summer tourists.

Back in Canada, Fall (Autumn, whatever) was not one of my favourite seasons. I loved the vibrant oranges and reds; I loved the smell of dried leaves and that crunch underfoot. But I did not love that a long winter of ice was crouching around the corner and that I wouldn't see leaves again for another six months.

In London, though, I know that long winter isn't waiting. There's no snow, no ice. I can run outside all year round without freezing the hairs in my nose, and the grass here stays green. Spring will start mid-February and by the first of April, the trees will be sprouting. I can enjoy Autumn without having to brace myself for what's coming.

Bring on the brown leaves! Bring on the grey skies! Bring on Fall in London.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

When a Little Means a Lot

So many times in the publishing world, it's easy to wonder if your email is working. You send out queries -- nothing. You wait. And wait. Still nothing. You get a book deal, you write the book, then you send it out for review... and still, you wait. Granted, the book's not due out until the end of October, but you hope that someone might respond. This book is the best thing since sliced bread. Or: The writing is reminiscent of a young Hemingway.

And yesterday, someone did respond! The inimitable Scott Pack, no less, former head buyer at Waterstone's and currently a publisher at The Friday Project. Scott writes the blog Me and My Big Mouth, a mixture of book reviews, opinions, and all in all, a very interesting read (wow, lot of commas in that sentence!). If you haven't come across it, I'd highly recommend taking a look.

I'd sent him a PDF of my book, along with some cover art, thinking I probably wouldn't hear back. I was shocked when I saw his email address in my Inbox, along with some nice words about the book's concept and an offer to mention it on his blog -- along with running it in a giveaway contest!

Yippee! I thought as I typed a response. His next email knocked me back though: he didn't think the cover was strong enough to reflect the contents. A few more cover designs later along with some very helpful additional input from Scott, and we've come up with one that looks professional, eye-catching, and that we think will sell.

So... a giant thank-you to all those out there who extend a hand to new writers struggling in the shark-like world of publishing! Seriously, a little can really mean a lot.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Cringe Factor

Sunday already! Where has the weekend - never mind the week - gone?

I'm 20,000 words into my new novel, and trying to kickstart the promotion machine for 24 Hours: London. It definitely needs to be revved up a gear, but I'm finding it all slightly embarrassing. I'm learning it's hard to promote yourself (or your products). I used to work in PR, so I should find it easy. I had no problem ringing up the media regarding gigabit ethernet or semiconductors (really exciting stuff). So why do I find this difficult?

I need to get over myself and my (relatively false) modesty - because I do think it's a good book and I am proud of it! - and spread the word.

But if anyone out there has tips on how to promote your book without the cringe factor, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Year Review

September seems much more like a new year than January ever does. So... it's a good time to recap what I've done in the past (almost) two years, since I've left the wonderful corporate world to focus on writing.

Drafts written: 5 (four fiction, one non-fiction)

Books completed: 3 (2 fiction, one non-fiction)

Books published: er... none (yet - but one to be published next month!)

Rejections received: I am certainly NOT going to count them but let's just say there's a sizable pile

Wine consumed: On a good day - one glass; on a bad day - half a bottle. Luckily I don't have many bad days!

Weight Gained: Surprisingly, I've lost weight since I've left the corporate world, although I'm sure I move less (some days I barely leave my desk). It's a mystery but I'm certainly not complaining!

Money earned: What? You can earn money writing?

Job satisfaction: 100%

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Two Years Old! Someone Once Told Me

It's been around for two years and rightfully so. Someone Once Told Me is a great idea. I first blogged about it about a year ago, then became a part of it myself!

Check it out for some random daily inspiration.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labo(u)r Day

It's a shame we don't have Labor Day here in the UK. We do have 'Bank Holiday Monday', always the last weekend in August, but somehow that doesn't have the same ring. Labor Day is the perfect demarcation between summer and fall, vacation and school; the official signal that it's time to get your head down and work.

I was interested to see why the UK doesn't celebrate the holiday so I turned to my old faithful friend, Wikipedia. Surprisingly, Labor Day originated in Canada in 1872. An American later witnessed the annual event and decided to import it to his own country. The first American labor day was held in 1882; looks like the idea never caught on in England.

What can I say... all good ideas originate in Canada!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

24 Hours: London - The Promotion Begins!

As I may have yammered on about a few thousand times or so, I have a book coming out! 24 Hours: London will be available UK-wide on October 30, 2009, and in Australia and New Zealand just in time for Christmas!

So is this just what the world needs, another guide book on London? Well... yes! This is a different take on London -- an around-the-clock guide to what's on, when. Awake at five? How about some outdoor fishing in the heart of the city. Want to climb a castle? You can do that, too. Or if you can't sleep, head on over to East London for a 24-hour beigel shop.

Intrigued? (Please say yes!) Well, every day until the book launches on October 30, I'll be posting a top tip on a dedicated blog to the wonderful city of London (and of course my book)! Click here to go there! You can follow the tips on Twitter, too. And please head over to the 24 Hour City Guides Fan page on Facebook (because right now I have only one fan - me!).

And don't worry, I'll keep you updated!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Wonderful World of Rejection. And When, Heaven Forbid, It's a YES!

Sometimes I'm so engrossed in my own rejections - and yes, I've a stack now - that I forget it can be just as hard to break into other industries. Over the past few months, The Man has been submitting his first feature-length film to festivals around the world and receiving his fair share of that dreaded letter himself.

He made me laugh the other week when he told me his new strategy. When he receives an email, he doesn't read it. He just hits 'Control F' - for 'Find' and types in 'regret'. As soon as the computer locates the word 'regret' in the email, he knows he's been rejected. He doesn't even read the whole thing!

I used to pour over every word, trying to decipher a hidden meaning. Until I discovered the hard way - through every writer's friend, Google - that a seemingly personalised rejection letter was, word for word, exactly what loads of other rejected writers had received. Now, I scan such letters, add them to my stack, and move on. It hurts less and less, but as the letters add up, it sometimes makes you wonder if it'll ever happen.

But it can!

Saturday night, pre-X-Factor (yes, big Saturday night, I know). I was in the kitchen, covered with flour, rolling out the dough for our pizza, when I heard a whoop and the thump of footsteps running over to me. The Man grabbed me and danced me around, flour and all -- he had received an ACCEPTANCE to the Sao Paulo International Film Festival, one of the top 50 film festivals in the world, according to Variety Magazine.

He - we - were walking on air for the rest of the weekend. It can happen, after all!