Wednesday, April 26, 2006

First solo flight.

Tonight I'll be doing my first public solo reading (I've read on my own in private many times) at Hornsey Library in Crouch End (from 7pm-8.30pm if you're in the area).

I've got my lucky shirt on, as well as my lucky jacket, lucky trousers and lucky underpants.

Oh, the book I'll be reading from is this one.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Auto-google trap.

I've decided there's a huge potential market in people who google themselves. With that in mind, today's posting is simply a list of names, designed to lure the individuals in question to my plog. They will then click on their name and go straight to my amazon page! Cunning hey?

John Smith, David Brown, Rita Jones, Jennifer Davies, Digby Porter, Peter Haughton, Carmel, Jon Carter, Denise Clarke, Jonny Geller, Adrian Wallace, Big Tony, Andrew Norton, Neil Gaiman, Jeremy Tatchell, Spider, Ian Botham, Gina Lindsay, Beyonce, Susan Knight, Susan Lewis, John Updike, Huggy Bear, Theo Wilson, Lamar, Ruth Sitwell, Ed (Teddy) Sutherland, Mariella Frostrup, Tray Bentham, Alex Garland, Suki and Tuki, Shoot Malloy, Chantal Dubois, Rick Hartwell, DBC Pierre, Lulu,Tommy Allan, Megan Childs, Frances Hartley, Gotham Simpkins, Steve Naive, Mike Cornwell, Patricia Reed, Bruce Egmont, Danny Devito, Tom Junor, Martin Meyer, Vidhu Kapoor, Pete Chancellor.

Okay. Time to sit back and wait for the amazon ranking to soar.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Try WriteWords for free.

WriteWords is a UK writers' website "offering support, advice, must-read interviews and articles from top writing names, as well as inside info on the latest writing jobs, opportunities, competitions and news. Not to mention the liveliest and most successful writers' community on the net."

They also have a reviews section, which is well worth checking out.

Full membership is £35 a year. Personally I think it's worth it. I've met some great writers there, such as Emma Darwin and Jim Younger, both of whom came along to the Goldsboro Books launch bash. (Watch out for those names, by the way. I have a feeling they are both going to be very big.)

You can try it for free for a week.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The words every author longs to hear.

I've just come back from a trip to my local bookshop, Prospero's Books in Crouch End. I was actually browsing with intent (to buy, honest), but Mary the manager came up to me and said, 'Your book's doing very well, you know. We've sold out twice and are expecting the third order in this morning. That's ten copies, which is very good for a hardback.' (Over a time scale of two weeks since publication.)

There's now a gap in the window because she sold the copy that was there this morning.

Naturally, I bought a book. It seemed the least I could do. I especially wanted to dispel any impression that I was there checking up on shelf dominance and the like. Which of course, I wasn't.

At Mary's recommendation, I picked Malcolm Bradbury's 'To the Hermitage'. It's described on the cover by Auberon Waugh as 'the funniest book ever written'. That's some puff.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Confessions of an out-turner. (Or is it turner-out?)

Yeah, sure, I've done it. I've been in bookshops, found my book on the shelves, spine-out, and turned it round so the cover's showing. I'm not proud of it. But you do what you've got to do. I did it in Waterstones in Manchester. And I did it in Borders on Charing Cross Road. I've only got another 3,898 retail outlets in the country to go.

Actually, I won't have to do it in Foyles, because they have a lovely big display unit proudly flaunting the Macmillan New Writing titles near one of the doors. It's a three-sided unit, which we share with a display devoted to Samuel Beckett and another headed 'BESTSELLERS'. If you approach it from a certain direction, you could be forgiven for thinking that the latter heading refers to all the books on the unit. Who knows? Maybe it does. I've no idea how many copies you have to sell to be considered a bestseller in hardback these days.

By the way, I couldn't resist going back into Borders to see if they'd pushed my turned-out copy back in. My heart sank, as I couldn't see the cover - or the spines - on the shelf where I'd found them. I could only imagine that they'd decided to remove the books altogether to punish me for my cheek. But then I spotted the cover on another shelf. They'd rearranged the shelves, presumably to fit in new books, and moved me along a bit. In the process, they'd turned all my books out (there were about 6 copies, I think). It seemed that whoever had stacked the books liked the cover enough to put it on permanent display. My cunning ploy worked!

Now, where did I put my list of UK book shops.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Mighty Organ.

Good to see The Bookseller (a.k.a. the organ of the booktrade) last week covering the Macmillan New Writing launch with a nice shot of the first six authors, together with Mike Barnard, founder of the imprint.

The brief snippet that ran reported Macmillan c.e.o. Richard Charkin's blog attacking "the literary agents and critics of the of the company's no-frills New Writing imprint after none turned up to its Thursday launch" (quote from The Bookseller). If you read Richard Charkin's blog, you will see that what he actually wrote was "As a matter of courtesy we invited every journalist, literary agent and commentator who had written on the subject and expressed concern to a debate on new writing at the London College of Communications and to the party."

Strange how The Bookseller glossed over the mention of "journalists". Perhaps it had something to do with their own journalists' non-appearance at both events, despite being invited.


My friend Jane, who used to embarrass me by shouting out 'Local Author!' at every opportunity, has now shortened it to just 'Local'. E.g., this morning she greeted me casually at the bus stop with, 'Hello, Local.'

She's finished the book, which she said she enjoyed. She described it as 'very innovative' and added she'd never read anything like it. All good, as far as I'm concerned. She's in a reading group and the last book they discussed was Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, so she is used to the unusual, I think.

When we were on the bus she proceeded to quiz me on various details of the story. It was quite strange for me, like being interviewed by Mariella Frostrup in a very public place. Jane's not a shy person and enunciates her questions very clearly. I spotted people turning round to have a look at us now and then. If I was self-conscious, Jane certainly was not.

She admitted she was in a slightly unusual position - dare I say privileged? - being able to quiz an author on the bus about a book you've just read. From my point of view, I really appreciated it, as I was able to understand the nuances of her reading experience. The most gratifying thing was that I really had the sense that she had engaged with the book and the characters, enough to want to know more about what happened to them outside the text of the book. I suppose it's a classic reader reaction: to be interested in the bits a writer chooses not to include, or spell out.

One of the words she used was 'gripping'. I was happy with that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I'm paired with Neil Gaiman.

Or at least I was the last time I checked my amazon page.

Mind you, that was ages ago. At least as long ago as it took me to craft this little plog entry.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm on ebay.

Go on, put a bid in.

It's a signed copy, no less, so I'm thinking it was one of the collectors who turned up to the Goldsboro Books bash. They're asking £24.99. Good luck to them, I say. At least it isn't a review copy gone astray. Or stock knocked off from the warehouse.

Mind you, you can get an equivalent article straight from Goldsboro Books for the original RRP of £12.99.

I'm also in the bookshops. Waterstones in Manchester, for example. Which was where I was on Saturday. They had two copies tucked away, spines out, on the shelves. Rachel pulled one out and put it on the 'Contemporary Classics' table that was all-too-temptingly nearby.

"You can't do that!" I cried, hurriedly replacing it on the shelf. In my haste, I think I may have inadvertently turned it so the front cover was facing out. Next time I'm in Manchester, I'll try to put it back properly.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Lost my virginity.

Did my first public reading at the Pan Bookshop on Fulham Road on Friday. It went well. I entered a strange zone of calmness. No shaking. No sweats. It helped to have the book to look at. The audience was great. They laughed in all the right places. I had the sense they were hanging on my every word. Don't know if they were or not, but that's how it felt.

It helped too to be part of the MNW posse. There's a real camaraderie growing between us now, I feel.

Another reading type thing tomorrow night, at Goldsboro Books, 1, Cecil Court. Come along if you're in the area (Leicester Square). There will be champagne and I have a feeling it will be good champagne.

Next one after that is on April 26th at Hornsey Library, Crouch End. It was going to be the 25th, but there's another Unison strike that day. I wouldn't want to make anyone cross the picket line.

(Thanks to Will from MNW for the photo.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Some pics.

  • This is from the launch party. Okay, I'm the one holding his mouth all funny. Next to me on the right is my wife, Rachel. On the left, is my brother, Nigel. Next to him is a lady called Claire (or Clare), who told me she was the reader who recommended my book for publication. Thanks to Ewa from MNW for the picture.

  • Also from the launch party. This is me signing a copy of Taking Comfort for Sam Grosser, author of Another Time and Place, which will be published by Macmillan New Writing in November. Nigel again, looking on. Thanks to Sam for sending me the picture.

  • The book in the window of Crouch End's favourite bookshop, Prospero's Books.

  • The window display at the Pan Bookshop, Fulham Road.

  • Me and Cate Sweeney, author of Selfish Jean, in front of the Pan Bookshop window. We're about to do our first ever public reading, which may explain why we look so nervous, not to say terrified.
  • Friday, April 07, 2006

    The Guardian ate my plog.

    Actually, they just agreed to run the post I would have put here today in their culture vulture blog.

    Publication day.

    Today, 7th April, 2006.

    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Spotted this.

    Nice, supportive mention for Friday's reading at the Pan Bookshop in the Londonist literary list.

    "It's a good week -- Macmillan is pledging to publish unknown authors..."

    "In a publishing world where the big names are celebrated regardless of the quality of the writing associated with them, we find Macmillan's effort truly refreshing."

    It's Friday 7th, 7pm, Pan Bookshop, 158-162 Fulham Road if you're interested and in the area.

    Jonny Geller is a big yellow wobbly cowardy custard.

    Actually, Jonny Geller is a big famous literary agent. But he failed to turn up for a conference yesterday at the London College of Communication on the subject of new writers, with specific reference to the Macmillan New Writing initiative. He's on record for saying that it didn't have a hope in hell of succeeding, or something.

    I had an interesting question I was dying to put to him. But it will have to remain unasked, apart from here on the plog:

    "Mr Geller, you are well known for negotiating huge advances for your writers. Which excites you more: a manuscript from a marketable writer (eg a famous journalist) that's cynically written but easily placeable and for which you are certain to get a 6 figure advance, or a manuscript from an unknown that has genuine literary merit, but will be difficult to place, and might only ever get a nominal advance?"

    Or maybe I would have gone with Charlie Williams' suggestion: "How do you do that spoon bending trick?"

    So why didn't he show? I think he heard that there were going to be a lot of MNW writers there and was frightened he wasn't going to get out alive. Silly man. You couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch of people.

    Launch party tonight, by the way. There's a rumour Jeffrey Archer is going to show. I shall let you know.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    The Spectator reviews North.

    There was an excellent review of Brian Martin's novel North in the Spectator last week. You can read it here, if you're prepared to register your email address and make up a memorable password.

    I've read the first forty pages of North myself. No, I'm not turning in to the Grumpy Old Bookman. It's just that we were all sent samplers of each other's books, and infuriatingly that's as far as they went. Let's just say I'm looking forward to picking up where I left off when I get the book itself. Beneath the surface elegance, there's a real sense of something evil lurking.

    Oh, almost forgot to mention, North is book of the month at Goldsboro Books.

    Saturday, April 01, 2006

    Writers' spouses.

    It's been alleged that Dan Brown's wife practically writes his books for him. Whilst I can't quite count on that level of self-sacrifice from Rachel, I can usually rely on her for precisely the kind of emotional support I need, in any given situation.

    This morning, for example, I announced in a near hysterical panic: 'Shit! It's April!' The significance of this remark being that this is the month that Taking Comfort, my debut novel, comes out.

    'You do realise,' said Rachel calmly, 'that you're being a bit of a girl about all this, don't you?'

    Ah, well, hmmm... I suppose she has a point.