Tuesday 23 July 2013

If the literary greats were self-published......

..... and promoting themselves on Twitter!

Part 2 ~ you can find Part 1 HERE
                                Part 3 HERE

Charles Dickens @CDickensAuthor

Writer of novels, novellas and journals
Hopes to see novels made into BBC dramas (fat chance lol)

Blogs at oldcuriosityshop.com

London UK

@CDickensAuthor Feeling a bit peaky today, hope not serious 😷.   Need to finish WIP: The Mystery Of Edwin Drood!   #WritersLife #amwriting


Emily Bronte @HaworthGirl

Author of Amazon Bestseller 'Wuthering Heights'
Blog: siblingrivalry.blogspot.com
Also writes as @EllisBell

Yorkshire lass

@HaworthGirl YAY!  Wuthering Heights now #FREE on Amazon! 341 x 5* reviews!  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wuthering-Heights-ebook/dp/B004UJAOLM #FreeBook #Giveaway #AmReading #Bookworm #FamilyDrama #RomanticSuspense #WriterLift


Bill Shakespeare 💬 @StratfordDramatist

Writes plays and sonnets.
Likes: dark ladies, young men and iambic pentameter
Dramapreneur.  No DMs, please

Stratford, England

@StratfordDramatist  Need some help from the #WritingCommunity for my WIP!  Can anyone think of a good name for a Danish Prince?  Please RT! 


Geoff Chaucer @Chanticleer

Poet.  Alchemist.  Philosopher. Astronomer
Husband, Father, traveller.
Royal connections - honest.


@Chanticleer New #Blog Post!  How a weekend in #Canterbury gave me new inspiration! httw//www.nunspriest.com #MondayBlogs


Dante Alighieri @ilSommoPoeta

Divinely comedic.  
Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta.


@ilSommoPoeta F**k off @AuthorDanBrown.  Stop trivialising my work just to make big bucks, asshole.  


PB Shelley @Bysshe

Writes poetry.  Loving husband 
of Mary @Frankenstein (please follow!)
Oxford grad 

@Bysshe Am considering anthology of #micropoetry
Get my complete works for only 99p! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Delphi-Complete-Shelley-Illustrated-ebook/dp/B00AJ5I60M #traditional #romantic 


James Joyce is drinking 😜  @Dubliner

Novelist.  Poet.
Author of landmark work Ulysses
& a whole bunch of other stuff

In the pub, Ireland #amdrinking

@Dubliner ULYSSES is on #KindleCountdown this weekend.  Hoping to get more beer vouchers.  You won't understand it, but buy it anyway.  


Jane Austen @AuthorJane

Award winning author of light romantic fiction:
A woman of letters

Hampshire, UK

@AuthorJane "A different class" - whoo-hoo!  Brand new 5* review for SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.  Thanks, @TomLefroy!!  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sense-and-Sensibility-ebook/dp/B007SXB498


Dorothy Parker @AlgonquinChick

Poet, critic, short story writer
Some say humourist
I say life's pretty damn tragic half the time

Noo York

@AlgonquinChick Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses ~~~  #quote >>> And it's one of mine, so there :)

Monday 22 July 2013

Deep gratitude.....

..... I found out last week that my first novel, You Wish, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the eFestival of Words 2013 - in the best chick lit/women's lit category.  It's 'women's lit' rather than chick lit, incidentally, though it does have chick lit elements! 

This is the official logo I was sent to display, ha ha!!

I don't know who nominated my book for this, or exactly who decided it should be in the final, but I am very, very grateful to those who did - and to the ten people who have voted for it so far!  If you have read it, too, and would like to vote, here is the site. You do have to register with the site, so it's not just a matter of clicking a button, alas, but apparently it's not too much of a hassle!


Anyway, this is a big thank you to everyone who has bought this book over the past 20 months, and taken the time to give it such wonderful reviews - I appreciate it very, very much indeed.  Oh - here's the book, too!


Monday 15 July 2013

Black Tulip nail polish, white highlighter on the brow bone - and Charlie perfume....

This week it's nostalgia time again - the cosmetics of our youth :)

What was the first item of make-up you ever bought?  Like most little girls I started off trying on my mother's lipstick (Coty, in a gold case) when I was a child, but the first item of make-up I actually owned was a sparkly brown eyeshadow - Miners, I think - from Boots, in 1970 or 71.  My next was a similar one, in violet.  How lovely I must have looked....  

I used to get those Biba lipsticks, in the black cases, too - oh my my poor little fresh 16 year old face with awful dark make-up - you won't be told at that age, though, will you?  It probably looked all right at the time, but over the years I find I wear less and less.

Me in 1977, aged 18

I hoped to be able to provide loads of pictures of the make-up products of yesteryear, but, alas, there were not many to be found.  However, if you are a similar age to me you may enjoy some of these cosmetic memories.

Remember when Rimmel nail polishes looked like this?  I had one called Black Tulip (really dark plum sort of colour) and a horrible see-through pink....  The ones in the top right hand picture were the posher frosty ones I could never afford.

I remember, with my friends Ruth and Pam, sitting on the steps of The Odeon cinema, Northampton, on a Saturday afternoon in 1973, painting our nails sparkly
blue and green from the Miners 'irridescent' range (and who the hell has school friends called Ruth and Pam these days?).

We used to believe all this stuff about what would make us beautiful, too. Advice like adding an egg to our shampoo, or using egg whites as face-packs ...  and did lemon juice really make your hair go lighter?  The one that I find the most amusing, looking back, was the shampoo Protein 21, which was supposed to mend split ends, complete with a TV advert showing them kind of glueing themselves back together, and a picture of actress Jane Seymour saying that she used it - sure she did. ;) 

Another product was something I couldn't find a picture for, though it appears to still be for sale, albeit with less outrageous claims: Helancyl

It was quite expensive; the kit came with this mitt thing (the one I bought, in 1979, was a lot more clumsy looking than the one in the picture above); this you filled with this magic Helancyl potion, which was released through holes in the mitt.  In the bath or shower you massaged your fat bits with it, and it was supposed to break down the fat cells.  Even at the time, I thought, nah, that can't be right...

I loved skin care products, as did my sister; I remember her telling me once that she had her priorities right because she had £1.50 left in the world and spent it on a bottle of Vichy skin toning lotion.  I'm so glad that my mother always instilled into us the importance of moisturising - it really does pay off. As one who drank and smoked for far too many years, I am sure my skin would be a lot worse if I hadn't slapped on the Astral/Cream E45/Nivea every night when I was younger.  Okay, you might have to wait 20 years to see the rewards, but please, if you're a 25 year old soap and water girl, start now! 

Do you remember Anne French cleansing milk, Inecto beer shampoo, Cream Silk and Breck conditioner, Ponds Cold cream - what were your teenage beauty products?

Well, if it was good enough for a Charlie's Angel...

Nothing takes you right back to years gone by like a smell, does it?  My first perfume experience was a range of colognes made by Rimmel in the 1960s; I remember there being lily of the valley and muguet, but I couldn't find any pictures of them.  I have to thank Alex Johnson, @oxfordnovelist on Twitter, for reminding me of my next attempt at smelling like a glamorous grown up lady - Aqua Manda by Goya, which I believe is being re-launched...

Just the sight of the bottle reminds me of one night, around that time, when I got a sachet of fake tan free in a magazine.  I was about 15.  I put it all over my face before going out to some disco, and thought, hmm, I don't look any different, so I slapped the whole lot on.  I didn't know that it took several hours to show....  I looked at my face in the mirror at about 9.30 that evening, and, I kid you not, it was as orange as the orange on the Aqua Manda bottle!  Thank goodness it was dark!

In 1975, of course, there was Charlie.....  to my great disappointment, when they re-launched it a few years ago it didn't smell the same :(

When I was 17 I wore Yardley's Je Suis...

.....moving on to Fidji by Guy Laroche when I was about 19, then Giorgio in the 1980s. 

Do you remember Tramp by Lentheric, Azuree by Estee Lauder, Gingham - and Babe??!!

The perfume that just screams the late 1970s was this one:  Vu by Ted Lapidus - just look at the packaging.  It comes straight out of the film 'The Stud', doesn't it? You can just see it being squirted on by Fontaine Khaled (aka Joan Collins), and the girls in Legs & Co, can't you?

Many smells later, I've finally settled on Guerlain's L'heure Bleue ~ itself one that's been around for years; it was first made in 1912.

Going back to the "they must think we were born yesterday" school of marketing, does anyone remember Ayds, those bits of fudge you were supposed to eat to stop yourself being hungry - which were swiftly withdrawn from the market in the early 1980s - wonder why? ;D  

I hope you've enjoyed this little bit of nostalgia, and I'd just like to leave you with this - how many of these chocolate bars do you remember?

Friday 12 July 2013

Detective Visibility and The Mystery of Amazon Categories....

......  I've read a bit recently about getting my books more visible on Amazon, because we all know that 'discoverability' is one of the best ways to get people reading your books, right?  

I know that genre charts are massively important, probably THE most important thing in this.  The trick is to find categories that will be searched for by book buyers, but are not too extensively populated already.   Both my last two books, Dream On and Full Circle, got to about 2000 in the chart at their highest point, but were not in any genre charts because I'd chosen massively over-used things like contemporary fiction, so I knew I had to sort that out before I did the 77p promotion for them this weekend.  

Dream On and Full Circle are both centred around two things: musicians wanting to hit the big time, and love relationship/parenthood tangles.  In Dream On my character Janice is a single mother; the book features much about her day to day life.  In Full Circle, three of my main characters have small children - the fatherhood thing is one of the central themes.  In this book the subject of alcoholism is also prominent, but I couldn't find a fiction category that deals with this...

.... and, furthermore, there is, apparently, no such Amazon genre as 'rock fiction'.  I researched the subject of categories quite extensively, and eventually found the perfect one for Dream On - lad lit.  Dream On has as many reviews from men as from women, virtually all of whom loved the rock band bits, saying that the banter between the men is so realistic (pssst!! - the two other main characters are women!!).  Marvellous, thought I - really relevant to my book, and not highly populated - a real 'Eureka!' moment!  I emailed Amazon.  No, can't put it in lad lit.  Why not?  Because that category exists for Books but not for Kindle Books.  Okay.....

Now, this is interesting, and something that might be useful for us all to know: Amazon explained to me that the categories you see books in, on the books' own pages, aren't necessarily their own standard categories from which you can choose to place your book.  They are decided by customer search; what the customer put in the search facility, and how often your book is clicked on after such a search.  Which explains a lot, I think.  Like why my psychological drama You Wish sometimes enters the 'occult' chart....  at no point have I chosen 'occult' as a genre for that book. 

You may have read in a certain best-selling book about visibility that all you need to do is identify the category and chain leading to it, and email Amazon to ask for your book to be put in it (eg, Kindle>Fiction>Mystery>Victorian); I don't know if this was ever correct, but it certainly isn't now.  Amazon assures me that it doesn't work like this.

After further extensive research I identified two other perfect Kindle fiction categories that would apply to aspects of both books - please note: I made sure they were both for fiction, and specified that the books should be in the FICTION categories first and foremost.  Thus:   Single Parent for Dream On, and Fatherhood for Full Circle.  I emailed Amazon with my requests. 

I am happy to say that both books are, this morning, in genre charts.

Dream On is in Non Fiction>Parenting & Families>Parenting
Full Circle is in Books>Health,Family & Lifestyle>Families & Parents>Fatherhood

I give up.....

(I just hope that people are intelligent enough to read the blurb before going to purchase a self-help book about parenting and ending up with a philandering wannabe rock star getting hauled onto the Jeremy Kyle show....)

Saturday 6 July 2013

A short story about schadenfreude....

Kiss Your Past Goodbye

The month was April, the year was 1973, and I'd been revving up for Angie's eighteenth birthday party for weeks.  It was going to be a fabulous do.  The venue was this dead posh hotel on the outskirts of town - Angie's father had money, and no expense would be spared for his darling daughter.  I'd sneaked thirty quid out of our savings for an extra special new dress - not from Etam or Chelsea Girl, where I usually did my clothes shopping, no; this time I went to a select little boutique called Flirt, and the dress was a dream.  Floaty, wispy clouds of pale blue, a handkerchief hem, a tight waist with a tie back.  I felt wonderful in it.  My little sister said I looked like a princess.

I hadn't shown it to Jack yet.  I wanted to knock him dead when he came to pick me up.  Mum was going to help me do my hair in loose, shaggy waves, and I planned to have it falling over my shoulders so that when I opened the door to him, in the dress, he would be stunned speechless.  I wanted to make him proud of me.  I wanted to make him gasp "WOW!" and fall back in amazement.

Jack and I had been together since we were fourteen.  Met him at the bus stop, where all the third and fourth year flirting went on.  We just clicked.  Ever since then we'd been JackandZoe, and our friends looked up to us, as if we were older and more sensible. We were the established couple.  We weren't running around having disastrous dates or making fools of ourselves over people, or facing the shame of being the only one at the disco with no-one to dance with - we always had each other for the slow dance, because we were JackandZoe.  I was fair and pretty, Jack was tall, dark and handsome.  We were born to be together, the perfect couple.  I was safe, I didn't have to worry about how far you should go on the first date, or losing my virginity to some idiot who would dump me straight afterwards - I had Jack.

Lots of people (mostly our older female relatives) expected him to put an engagement ring on my finger soon, but we didn't want to jump into marriage - no, the plan was to go travelling straight after our 'A' levels, and for this we'd been saving for eighteen months.  When I was younger I'd wanted to go to university, but Jack said travelling would be a much better education for us both, so I didn't even apply. We hardly ever went out, putting every penny of the wages from our Saturday and holiday jobs into the travelling fund - which was why Angie's party was such a big event.  Even though we had great times ahead, we were bored with staying in all the time.  Jack had seemed so restless, irritable, in the last few months, and I hadn't got properly dressed up for ages.

"Oh, wow, you look fantastic!" Jack said, when he arrived.  "Bugger the savings - that dress was worth every penny!"  

Something was missing, though, something in his eyes.  I couldn't work out what it was.  Whatever it was, it was missing all the way to the hotel in Dad's car, and it carried on not being there all the time we were wishing Angie happy birthday and sneaking vodka from my handbag into our coke because we weren't old enough to get served - back in those days it was easy to get alcohol in the pubs when you were under eighteen, but Angie's Dad was hovering by the bar keeping a check on everyone.

We didn't stay joined at the hip all evening, not like some couples - we didn't need to.  The wonderful thing about being JackandZoe was that we could have fun doing our own thing all evening, larking about with our friends, but still have someone for the slow dances, someone to go home with.  We even danced with other people - never the slow dances, though.  That was an agreement we had - and we had this other thing we did, too, when we were at a party.  We'd be talking to other people but we'd blow kisses from over the other side of the room.  

That night, I danced with my girlfriends - and Craig, and Stu, and Paul.  It was just as I finished dancing to Bowie's Jean Genie with one of them (I can't remember which) that it happened.  I'd looked over and seen Jack dancing with two of my friends, Pam and Suzy.  They were mucking about together, the three of them, and I knew Jack was a bit drunk - he'd had more of the secret vodka than me.  I caught Jack's eye and blew him a kiss, but he just turned his head, as if he hadn't seen me.  I knew he had.  My dance partner melted away as soon as Jean Genie finished, and the DJ put on something slower: Me and Mrs Jones by Billy Paul.  I looked over at Jack; I wanted to dance with him, because it was one of my favourite records.  Pam had melted away, too, leaving Jack and Suzy.   

And Jack, my Jack, was dancing the slow dance, but not with me.

I didn't do anything, I just stood and watched them.  They were talking as they danced, laughing, it wasn't like they were smooching or anything, but he had his hands on her waist and she had hers round the back of his neck and he was looking into her eyes, not mine.  She was very pretty, Suzy; I wondered if he fancied her.  Inside I was torn apart with rage and jealousy, but I said nothing.  I didn't want to make a scene at Angie's party.

The next day he came round to see me as he always did on Sunday afternoon, but he was later than usual.  We went straight up to my room; he had something he needed to tell me, he said.  I felt sick with fear, really sick.  Had he kissed Suzy, something like that?  Had he done more than kiss her?

No, he said.  

It was much, much worse.  

He wanted to call it a day.  Finish with me.  Pack me in.  End our relationship.  

You can imagine how I felt, can't you?  I was in a terrible state, crying, begging him.  He had a wall around him, though.  I couldn't believe that nothing I said would make him change his mind - but he admitted he'd been thinking this way for a long time.  Reckoned we'd got together too young, and everything had gone stale.  

"But that's only because we're saving up!"  I said.  "We've got loads of money now - we could spend a bit, have some fun!"

It wasn't the saving up and staying in, though, he said.  It was because he didn't want JackandZoe anymore.

"I did enjoy dancing with Suzy," he said, "but not because she was special, just because she was someone different.  Someone not you."

Jack did go travelling that summer, but not with me; he went with two friends of his older brother.  I didn't even realise until after he'd gone that he'd taken half of my share of the money, too; I was too upset at the time to pay much attention to the balance in our joint account.  I was too upset to concentrate on my 'A' levels, too, and I only passed one - but that didn't matter, because I wasn't going to university anyway, was I?  I'd given that up because I was supposed to be going travelling and having wonderful life experiences with my wonderful boyfriend. Instead, he took my five hundred pounds and I spent the summer crying.

Only two weeks after he left me I saw him with another girl, and I just stood there and burst into tears in the street.  People came up to me and said "Are you all right?" - which was well meant, but I wanted to scream at them if I was all right I wouldn't be standing here blubbing, would I?  He finished with that girl soon after, I heard, then took up with another, and another, became a bit of a Jack The Lad, in fact, before he went away to Thailand and India.  I was a mess, for months.  I didn't know what to do with myself, with my time, I had no idea how to behave as someone on my own.  Just Zoe.  Everything I'd done and thought was part of us - when Jack left me he'd taken away my whole life.

That was in 1973.  I was seventeen.

I'm fifty-seven, now.

I saw Jack, only the other day.

Oh, but first let me give you a brief account of my life, post Jack.  It took me a long time, months of despair and blank, grey, lonely misery, but eventually I got a grip. I re-took my 'A' levels the next year, then read English at university after which I started a career in journalism.  The London journo scene of the late 1970s was a non-stop party, and I was right in the middle of it.  I had a colourful love life (sometimes blissful, sometimes disastrous), a hell of a career, and I married twice; I have two sons, and two beautiful granddaughters.  My second marriage has been very happy, and we live in Dorset, on the coast.  Richard is the editor of a local paper, and I still do a little journalism - I have regular colums in a couple of national women's magazines.  Life is pretty damn good.

Ah, yes - I was going to tell you about Jack, wasn't I?  Yes, I saw him last week when I travelled back up to the Midlands for a school reunion.  I never expected to see him there, not for a moment - back in 1973 he couldn't wait to leave.  No, I was just going there to see 'the girls' - I'd lost touch with everyone when I went to university.

I didn't notice him at first, but Suzy pointed him out.  Poor Jack, he didn't look very well.  Whereas I have kept my figure and like to maintain as youthful an appearance as possible, he looked as if he'd stopped caring about anything like that many years before.  His dark hair was grey and thinning, his handsome features bloated and sallow, and his once lean frame carried several surplus stone.  
Suzy had remained in our home town, and she wasted no time in dishing the dirt on my first love.  

He'd returned from his travels around the time I went off to university, completely skint and with no way of paying me back the money he'd taken, of course.  A few months later he got a girl called Barbara pregnant.  The mid 1970s in provincial, lower middle class Britain was a very different world from nowadays; out of wedlock pregnancy was considered shameful, and Barbara had a battleaxe of a mother.  Within months Jack had become a reluctant husband and father, and even more reluctant assistant manager at his new father-in-law's stationery wholesalers.  Within five years he was a father of three - but still just an assistant manager; apparently Barbara's father considered him a bit of a layabout.  He'd accepted his lot and, unable to abandon his children, relieved his frustrations by regular visits to the pub.  Suzy was just one of the women with whom he'd had affairs over the years.

"Not that he's had any for quite some time," she said, "but that's only because he's not getting any takers - well, look at him!  Barbara's the same - I think they must sit in front of the telly every night and eat and drink away their sorrows!  Of course, he's depressed - well, he took over the stationers when his father-in-law died, but he's run it into the ground.  They're having to re-mortgage their house - at their age!  It's a rotten shame, isn't it - gosh, aren't you glad he dumped you, now?  I know it's ancient history, but still, doesn't it make you feel like saying, ya boo sucks? Hey, shall we go over and talk to him?  Go on, let's!  Oh, I didn't say, did I?  You look absolutely a-maz-ing.  More like forty than nearly sixty!  How on earth do you do it?"

We laughed, and as we did so I had that feeling when you know someone is looking at you.  I glanced up.  Yes, it was Jack.  He must have been thirty feet away but we stared at each other for something like, ooh, all of ten seconds, and do you know what I did then?  I blew him a kiss, just like we used to, across a crowded party.  He returned it, awkwardly, as if he had not been used to making such gestures for a long, long time, and I saw a cloud of sadness pass over his face; he looked as though he was remembering something, something that hurt him to think about.  Then he turned away, and a few minutes later I saw him leave.

Thank you, karma, I thought.  Shouldn't have nicked my five hundred pounds, should he?

~~ ** ~~