Tag Archive | Tips and Hints

Top Tips for Book Signings – A Light Hearted Look

Sunday saw me at my first (and only) book signing at my local Waterstones branch. I chose this one for two reasons: it’s in a humongous shopping mall that’s always busy, plenty of free parking and close to an intersection of two major motorways; and at the moment the store is promoting local authors and you don’t get much more local than me at only 10 minutes’ walk away! The staff were wonderful, so friendly and helpful but it took a great deal of courage for me to go in and ask if I could use the store for my debut! I like to learn something new each day and having gone through the experience, thought I would pass on my top tips, the do’s and the don’ts for book signings.

1) Don’t pick a day when major sporting events are on television. In my case, the Wimbledon final and the British Grand Prix. The first couple of hours were busy, time flew by and books sold. Come 2 o’clock, the store was pretty much deserted.

2) Although very much out of our hands, try to pick a day that you know will be wet. The shopping malls and stores are always much busier at weekends when it’s raining. Or in my case, rain was forecast but they got it wrong again – the afternoon was bright and dry and mild.

3) Wait until all the furore over the latest current best seller has died down or else you won’t get so much as a glance. In my case, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy at discount was flying off the shelves, stacked at the entrance to the store, thus few ventured deeper into the bowels of the shop where my table was in the fiction section. I should have written a sex novel, even badly, and had a husband who was a PR manager. My book, Every Step of the Way, is set in West London in the locations where I grew up. Guess what? The author of Fifty Shades also comes from West London apparently. From my home town! Perhaps we know each other? I will have to find out… I wonder if her husband would be my PR manager too if I ask.

4) Don’t stagger in with extra copies of your book in case the store run out of stock. Be realistic. I didn’t and I was. I left my extra copies in the boot of the car, just in case some miracle might happen. It didn’t.

5) Do rally the troups, cajole, plead, beg and persuade, or in my case bribe with offers of a free lunch, family and friends to come into the store, preferably all at the same time. This creates a queue at your table and a crowd gathered around you. Great stuff – people are always curious and nosey and want to see what is going on, see what they are missing. Worked a treat. Thank you everyone who came in to say hello, take photos, buy the book. I love you dearly. Family – where the hell were you? Oh yes, I forgot. Most of  mine live 80 or more miles away, some even further afield, abroad. So, dear family in Spain. I am in need of a holiday and some sun. Can you arrange a book signing for me there? P…l…e…a…s…e…

6) Do contact your local paper in advance to tell them, particularly if they have previously covered you writing the book. They love a follow on story. … Except in my case. They didn’t and still haven’t returned my calls or emails. Shame on you.

7) Do approach people in the store with your book, it creates more sales and interest. Oh heck! When the manager told me this, I nearly fainted and backed out. You see, I’m a shy, nervous person who finds it exceedingly difficult to strike up a conversation with a stranger. My mum told me never to talk to strangers and it’s sort of inbred in me. The crowd around the table helped to spark interest. One or two did approach me later. The rest, I plucked up the courage and approached. “Hey, I love  your dress, where did you get it from?” “Are you here to buy anything specific or just browsing?” “Do you read historical fiction?” “Interested in the 1950s?” “Have you read this great book set in London and the West Country?” I felt like a shop assistant, particularly when someone approached me (smile, Kit, here comes another sale…) and asked if I worked there and could I tell them where they could find a book about some Russian or other. A teddy bear was thrown at my feet by a child in a pushchair. A friendly smile from me as I gracefully bent to retrieve and hand back the discarded toy, all the while thinking this is a good way to begin talking to the parent about my book. Well, it would have been if it had been a woman. “No sorry, love, I don’t do books. I’m here with the wife. She’s at the till buying Fifty Shades of Sex or whatever it is. I keep telling her she spends too much on books.” Oh well, foiled again.

8) Don’t drink copious amounts of tea or coffee or gin beforehand to calm the nerves else you’ll need to leave your table at frequent intervals and miss potential sales.  A swift coffee when I arrived and no food passed my lips all morning because I know what my body is like under stress. Too much detail? Okay, I’ll move on.

9) Don’t get your hair stylist to cut your hair a few days before the big day, particularly if they are zealous with the scissors. I looked like Ellie from Ice Age… still, I suppose I am that old. A bit of a relic, or is that wreck?

10) Whatever you do, enjoy yourself. It was a great experience, and as a writer, there was plenty to observe and note mentally. All good research material to use in a book one day. And you never know, I might one day be back there signing another new novel.

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A Serious Case of Writer’s Block

Is there such a thing, or is this a term used by writers who know they want to write, know they must write, but are frightened to put pen to paper or put fingers to the keyboard? We all go through a phase when nothing seems to come into our heads, and the mind and page remain blank.

Writing is a habit, one is easily broken by distractions of life and home cutting in. You set yourself tasks, allot your precious “writing time” into your busy schedule yet nothing spills out. Or you reach a point in your current WIP, often in the middle when the plot and story sag, or in my case droop, and you don’t know how to move it forward. It’s happened on numerous occasions, particular when I haven’t been able to work on one of my books for a long time. Artists also experience this self-same thing so, obviously, it must be some electrical brain impulse thingy hard at work blocking the brain stems from creativity. So what can we do to get the right synapses working again?

In the many years I’ve been writing I’ve developed a few  ploys to jump-start the creative juices so thought I would share them with you. They may not work for you, but in all cases, it doesn’t matter what you write, it can all be totally incomprehensible and probably end up being deleted but at least you are writing, and writing is all about habit. Or you may find, as I have, that magic scene you were searching for comes alive. The missing part to get from B to C materialises. Or you find you really need a new dress to wear to next week’s party.

1)      Put on some music. Your favourite CD. Music is mood enhancing. Music retrieves memories. Both of these can inspire. Not working? Then write about the actual words you are listening to. Write down the lyrics. Write your own lyrics to the melody. They might not make sense, but somewhere there will be the prompt, that little spark that turns on the word gush.

2)     Turn everything off, open the window and just listen. Listen to the sounds in the street, those around you. Can you hear bird song? Traffic noise? People talking? Something else? Write a few sentences about what you can hear. Now, what can you see? Again, write it down. Next, smell the air. Is it sweet, damp, of mown grass, or full of  bbq fumes? Imagine what’s going on and write it down.

3)     Open the wardrobe door. Look at your clothes. Pick out your favourite outfit or dress or pair of shoes. Imagine the place where you would most like to wear it. What you would like to happen. Whom you would like to meet whilst in that sexy little red number? Imagine your heroine in the outfit. Would it suit her? Would it be her style? If not, what would she like to wear, and why.

4)      Too cold, wet or windy to have the window open? Then what can you hear indoors? In your writing room. A clock ticking? The hard drive on your computer whirring? What memories have you of clocks? Computers? The neighbours arguing? The kid across the road battling hell out of his new drum kit? Can you recall a funny instance concerning any or all of the things you can hear? Write it down. Create a scene. Unblock the mind.

5)      Turn on Google Images. Type in where you would most like to be in the world. Look at the photos that come up and then imagine yourself there. What would you be wearing? Why are you there? Are you meeting someone?

6)      Write the last scene of your novel and work backwards to where the lull in the middle is.

7)      Take a book from your library, preferably one you haven’t yet read, more preferable, one you are liable not to read. Write the second-to-last paragraph out. Then, using this as an opening gambit, write what happens next. Or, if you prefer, write a scene leading up to this final paragraph.

8)      Open any page in today’s newspaper. Pick one article or one leader. Write your own slant on it.

I bet you haven’t got writers’ block now. I bet your thought processes are flying quicker than you can type after just one of these exercises. I hope I’ve given you a few ideas that will work for you. Do tell me about it or of any tricks you have to fire up the imagination.

Everyone Cries at a Wedding

Everyone loves a wedding but why do we cry at them? Me, I’m usually blubbering the moment the bride walks in and my niece’s recent wedding proved no exception. At least not for me. In fact, her wedding ceremony, all very relaxed in a Berkshire country hotel a few weeks ago, had everyone reaching for hankies and tissues before the register was signed.

As a bride, Jenny looked stunning, but then again, she looks lovely no matter what she wears. The groom’s face as she came in was a picture by itself, as was seeing my other niece in a dress for the first time in goodness knows how many years, as one of the bridesmaid. The second bridesmaid was Jenny’s 7-year-old daughter, Keira. Mothers-in-law, both dressed in turquoise, grinned happily, fathers beamed proudly and orange tulips in posies and buttonholes sparkled in the late March sun.

The registrar announced the groom’s father wished to give a reading. I think everyone was surprised when told it was to be the poem Us Two from A.A. Milne’s Now We Are Six. We were even more surprised when he called Keira up help him. It transpired in the months leading up to the wedding Keira and her new grandfather had been secretly rehearsing the piece. How she managed to keep it secret all that time amazed everyone. With actions and expressions, inflections and with feeling, it was word perfect and a pure joy to watch.

Now even my husband, a rufty-tufty ex rugby player, is not moved to tears easily but even he was reaching into his top pocket for a handkerchief. As was the groom, all the ladies and all the other men in the room. The registrar also had a tear or two in her eyes.

Bangers and mash and onion gravy, no starter, followed with profiteroles went down a treat as the wedding feast with copious wine. Cupcakes formed the wedding cake. Speeches were before dining. Kept short. Brilliant move.  All in all, a lovely, memorable weekend. The hotel staff were courteous and helpful, the deluxe bedroom we had couldn’t be faulted, the breakfast the next morning the best ever. There was just one little dampener the spoil the day. Those who know me know I am not a mean person, far from it, but I positively blanched at the bar prices being charged. “You’re having a laugh?” my husband said, reaching for his wallet.  Sadly the barman wasn’t. “That’ll be £8 per glass, sir!”

Enough to make me cry all over again.

Tip of the Day

Love cut tulips but find they always droop after a day or so. Add a copper coin to the glass. For some reason I know not what, it keeps them upright. Simples.

TIPS OF THE DAY

Gardening:

Beware the dreaded lily beetle is already on the prowl in South West England.

These pesky things are an absolute menance and ruin not just lilies, they like any of the lilium family and frequently attack crocosmia, day lilies and hyacinths. The little blighters contrary to belief can fly. Their young look like black blobs of sticky excrement, which is exactly what it is. They cover themselves in their own poo to hide from predators. I don’t like using any chemicals or sprays in the garden, particularly as we have a large koi pond but I’m afraid I rage war on these creatures. I use a systemic insectide, one especially made for lily beetles. Their method of escape is to drop to the ground and burrow into the soil if they see so much as a hand spray near them. I’m just not quick enough to catch them any other way.

Kitchen:

Never run out of fresh milk again. Milk freezes very well so always keep several pint bottles of fresh milk of the sort that comes in plastic bottles. Milk freezes well. It does look yucky when frozen but returns to normal and thaws swiftly. Other than that, you may have to buy a cow.

Arty Things:

Do you ever find the plastic caps on your tubes of paint break, becoming useless long before the paint’s run out. If by strange chance an empty tube still has it’s cap in tact, thoroughly clean, scraping out any conglomeration of paint on the insides, and keep as spares.

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