The day starts with a pasty and ends some tears…

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and all I can think of are pasties. Not because I work at Greggs, but because the BBC Radio 5 presenter is updating all us early risers on the latest British Government VAT disaster that is “Pastygate”.  I sip my coffee (strong) and try and focus. This week has been manic. It’s the Easter school break from Monday, and while we’re off away on holiday then, the run up means getting everything sorted so we can go away without me or my husband waking up with a start in the middle of the night realising we haven’t sent an important email. It’s the work equivalent of going away and leaving the cooker on.

A bit like a cooker, I feel like I am running out of steam. I’m getting tired and I think it may be affecting my hearing. ‘Mum,’ says my eldest whilst I am furiously checking emails at the kitchen table. I look up and I see her mouth moving, but nothing else. Smiling at her by way of an answer, I hope it will do the job. It doesn’t, and she simply rolls her eyes, pats my back and says, ‘Mum, you need to get to bed earlier,’ and with that she’s off upstairs to read her book.  I slump into the chair and realise she’s right. That night, though, instead of going to bed I stay up to work on my blog. I read something about Search Engine Optimisation and blogs the other day, and so I spend most of the evening linking by blog URL to search sites so it has some sort of fighting chance of people finding it (I used www.addme.com – it’s easy & free). I sigh and rub my head.  People actually finding my blog on the internet feels like the cyberspace equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. ‘Hey, when are we going to do your You Tube video?’ asks my husband, who is sat encased in the sofa and a blanket. I shrug because my brain seems to have ceased functioning – I have lost the will to speak. Right then, my laptop dies. Normally, I take this is my cue to go to bed, but tonight I am not a happy bunny – there are a few choice words directed its way.  ‘Hey,’ says my husband, ‘what’s up?’  Tears spring to my eyes and I begin to warble on about something to do with slow book sales, getting novel number two finished and other such nonsense. Giving me a hug, he smiles and says, ‘Hey, should we look at some funny videos on the t’interweb?’ I wipe my cheeks.  ‘Yes,’ I choke. I sit up and stare at his iPad and start to feel better. ‘Thanks,’ I tell him, and with that, we’re watching You Tube till late in the night, laughing and feeling a whole heap better. We even figure out when we’re going to do my own You Tube promotion video for my book, which is when I tell my husband that earlier that day I hit the half-way point on writing novel number two. ‘Just in time for a holiday,’ he says. ‘And while we’re away, maybe we can do you a plan, you know, to get things done.’ I sit up. ‘Yes! There are some short story competitions to enter, and some articles I can write for magazines and get paid for!’  I let out a breath. I need my bed.

The next morning, we rise to frantic news stories of a potential petrol crisis, with MPs suggesting we buy extra petrol and put it in Jerry cans; stamp prices are going up by a third (a third!); and there are more details on how you now have to pay VAT on your pasty if it’s hot. ‘The country is running out of petrol,’ announces the radio. My husband shuffles out of bed. ‘I know how it feels,’ he mutters. While the girls get ready for school, I am perched at my laptop, quickly uploading my book to send it off to be reviewed at website www.enovelreviews.com. I hit send and cross my fingers that they will review the thing – it could make a big difference to sales vs. no sales, sort of. Logging on to my email account, I delete some messages, tidy things up and making a quick list of what I have to do that day ready for holidays. From our bedroom, I hear the sound of my husband laughing. ‘Nikki!’ he shouts, coming into the study. ‘Listen to this, it’s sooo funny!’ I put my pen down. ‘It’s from The Poke,’ he trills, holding his iPad. The Poke (www.thepoke.co.uk) is a website we both now follow on Twitter which gives a funny take on current news affairs, and posts some internet comedy gold. My husband loves it. ‘Listen to this tweet,’ he whoops. ‘It says: Where am I going to put all this petrol? The bath’s already full of stamps and pasties.’ We both fall about laughing, tears and everything. Even the girls come in and ask what’s going on. We try and explain, but I don’t think we do a very good job.

After we’ve composed ourselves, I shoo the girls so they can finish getting ready. In our bedroom, my husband asks how the work is going. I tell him about the review site, the emails and the like, to which he sighs. I frown. ‘You okay?’ I ask. Suddenly he says, ‘Do you think we should buy stamps at Costco before they go up? They’re cheaper there anyway.’ I shake my head. ‘Daft government. Pick up some pasties while you’re at it, will you?’ The mention of a pasty sends the girls running in. ‘Are there pasties? Where are the pasties?’ ‘Ooo,’ says the youngest, ‘I like a Steak Slice.’ The eldest joins in. ‘I love cheese pasties!’ My husband laughs out loud. ‘What?’ I ask. But I don’t think he hears me. He’s looking at tweets on The Poke again.  I go and turn off my laptop. We need a holiday.

A new column may mean I won’t have to streak for You Tube

I do like the song Living on a Prayer. During my teenage years, it was the school disco song of choice, the boys playing air guitar, the girls quietly swooning over Jon Bon Jovi’s long frizzy locks, such were the days before GHDs. Ah, the good old 1980s. These were also the days before  the internet, the days when mobile phones resembled bricks, computer games consisted of Pac Man and a Sinclair ZX you had to program yourself, and You Tube was  a term the  neighbour two doors down used when you overheard her  gassing to your mum over the fence about “women’s things”.

The reason I bring this up isn’t necessarily because I have a hankering after bad perms and Wham Bars (those things crackled in your mouth!), but rather because I am contemplating the next step for my book promotion.  I blame it all on a lad called City Boy. Well, he’s not exactly a lad, he’s a former banker working in the City – and he’s written a bestselling book or two.  Now, I know a bit about promotion, but this man, he’s gone to a whole new level.  After reading a promo article by City Boy (real name: Geraint Anderson) I open up his website (www.cityboy.biz) and take a look at the things he’s done to get himself out there. My hubbie walks by just as I click on City Boy’s You Tube video.  He peers at the screen. ‘Is that..? Is that his..? Is that man running down the hill naked?’ I nod. My husband looks again. ‘But…why?’ I look at the laptop with him. City Boy is still running, now into a crowd. ‘It’s to promote his book!’ I cry.  Then, feeling I should qualify things, I add, ‘He’s at a festival. He’s streaking at a festival.’ ‘Oh, right, yeah,’ says my hubbie, as if that explains everything, and off he goes, slightly bewildered, slightly scarred. I go back to the video some days later. The content has been blocked by EMI due to copyright. Ah.

Clicking through to another City Boy clip, this time a skit to do with Johnny Depp, I sit back and have a think. My book sales are doing reasonably okay at the moment, but, after the initial push and coverage, things have gone a bit quiet.  There is the great opportunity of writing a regular column for our local paper, but I’m awaiting confirmation, so I can’t count my chickens (or is it eggs?).  So, what I need is a big boost. What I need is You Tube. I pitch the idea to several people, with various responses. ‘You’re not going to streak are you?’ says hubbie. ‘You’re mad,’ says a friend.  ‘Whooooa! Can we be on it?’ shout the kids. Hmmm.  To be honest, the whole thing does make me quite nervous. What would I do? How would I do it? How do I set a You Tube account up? Oh holy lord. After a bit of investigation, turns out, setting the whole thing up is pretty straightforward. You register, set up an account, choose a name that will appear to viewers, and you’re away. All you need to do next is make a video, upload it and pray to God that you don’t look an utter muppet. To the world. So no pressure, then.

And so to ideas. My lovely hubbie says he can video something on his iPad and talked about various ideas, including having our youngest play her guitar (as my book has guitar in the title…), and while that’s all great, I’m not so sure about having the kids in it, plus, to be honest, I’ve always had a few videos playing out in my head. One scenario, which has been in my head since my first job in marketing back in 1997, is set to Lionel Ritchie’s number, Celebration, where the whole marketing department, including the Director, get up on their desks in various dancing poses, singing into their pens and Filofaxes. Clearly, I either had a lot of spare time on my hands back then, or I was so bored I had to do what I could to make it sparkle. Whichever way, it was a daydream that fired many another over the years, many of which included big show songs and people singing into the camera whilst carrying about their regular tasks, such as vacuuming, teaching, scrubbing the loo or skydiving. Well, okay, maybe not sky diving.

Colouring book and felt tips out, I start to sketch some ideas of what the video could look like to which song. My brain is buzzing, and I don’t know whether it’s from the 3 espressos I downed or from the scary reality that I really might do this You Tube thingymajig. My hubbie walks by and stops to view my artwork. ‘Is that a toilet?’ ‘No,’ I reply, wounded, ‘it’s a car.’ ‘Oh.’ Just then, my Blackberry flashes. I pick it up and check my emails. ‘Oh my goodness!’ ‘What is it?’ asks hubbie. ‘It’s the Editor of the local paper, the Gazette. They want me to write a column for them. I’ve got to meet them on Monday.’  My hubbie gives me a hug. ‘Well done, honey. Proud of you.’  Then, pausing,  he adds: ‘At least now you won’t have to streak for You Tube.’ And with that, he goes downstairs. I return to my felt tips and stare at the page. Slowly, things are beginning to happen for me. I’ve been writing for years and years, and now, just maybe, I might have a stab at it. I pick up a brown crayon and scribble Jon Bon Jovi’s hair. I take a deep breath. Nope, still can’t quite get my head round all that frizz.

Bestselling Author Shares 3 Tips for Building Your Blog Audience

Brilliant advice from a lady who’s been there, done that. Hat’s off.

The WordPress.com Blog

After moving from New York City to Chicago and getting married, Rachel Bertsche realized that her new life was missing one crucially important thing: a local best friend. So she decided to go on one friend date every week for a year, and she documented her quest on a WordPress.com blog at MWFseekingBFF.com.

But before Rachel even started the blog, the 27-year-old writer put together a book proposal based on her search for a local BFF, and successfully pitched it to agents, and then editors. She says, “After I sold the proposal, I decided to start a blog so that I could have a place to document my journey and some of the research I was finding. I also wanted to start building a community and to engage with readers.”

It’s now been over two years since Rachel first launched MWFseekingBFF.com. So did she accomplish her blogging goals?…

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Tiredness and hormones lead to help from my mum and a local newspaper

This week we’re all a bit under the weather. After being away over night at an outdoor activity place with her school, my eldest spends the next morning in tears. ‘Is she ill?’ asks my husband. I feel her forehead. ‘Nope. Normal,’ I say. My daughter lets out a tear tremble. ‘Is she going to be sick?’ he asks, eyes narrowed. I turn to her. ‘Do you feel sick, sweetie?’ She shakes her head, cheeks damp, brow furrowed. ‘Aw, honey,’ I say, ‘what’s to do?’  ‘I don’t know,’ she sobs, sinking to the bottom stair. ‘I just.’ Sob. ‘Feel.’ Sob. ‘Like crying.’ Sob. ‘And I don’t know why!’ Hmmm. I take one look at her, march into the kitchen and tap my husband on the shoulder. ‘Hormones,’ I say. ‘It’s a mixture of sheer exhaustion and hormones.’ His face looks as if I have just told him she has three heads, which, of course, being a girl, she does, figuratively speaking. ‘I’m off,’ he replies. Wise move.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s just my daughter who’s feeling awash with tiredness and oestrogen. For some reason, I’ve been finding this past week tough. In many ways, things have been going well. I’ve signed up to several e-book forums now in a bid to promote my novel.  ‘Get on to forums and join in the conversation to grow your readership’, all the advice on the web says about it. ‘Yes,’ I mutter, the clock flashing 11.30 p.m. at me, ‘but they never tell you it will take for ever to sort out. And no, for the fifth time no, Gspotter83, I am absolutely not interested in your new erotica novel.’ My laptop promptly dies on me. This, I think, is my cue to go to bed.  To be fair, the people on the forums are a very friendly bunch, but the trouble is I keep forgetting to log on and get chatting. I’m just so tired and achy. Amazon has its own forums, which are very easy to use with some handy author threads so you can do some hefty self-PR, but again, it’s finding the time to get on there. What I have found though is that, once you are on, you’re on all night. ‘Are you still up?’ my husband asks after a rare Friday night out with the lads for a few beers. I glance at the clock. 12.45 a.m. I meant to be in bed by 11. Damn it. ‘How was your night? Have a few pints?’ I ask, yawning, closing my laptop. ‘Bernard was there. He has a bike with four seats!’  I look at him. He is jumping like a new puppy. ‘Oooh, I feel queasy now,’ he says. I need my bed.

The next day, my hormones hold me hostage. I am trying to write my second novel, and it is not going well. ‘It sucks!’ I wail as my husband blinks awake. ‘What time have you been up since?’ ‘4.30,’ I reply, aware that I sound slightly crazed, ‘and it’s a Saturday!’ He sighs and goes to put the kettle on. I resume staring at the word document on the screen.  The eldest walks in, peers at the laptop and places a small hand on my shoulder. ‘Do you feel like crying but you don’t know why, mum?’ I smile at her and nod. She pats me on the back. It gives me an idea. ‘I need feedback. I shall send my new book to my mum to read. She has hormones. She’ll help me.’ My daughter nods her head. ‘Nice one, mum,’ then goes downstairs to watch TV.

Thankfully, turning to my mum ends up being a godsend.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. ‘Pop it over now and I’ll have a look. Can I put it on my Kindle?’ she says. I have no idea, but she seemingly does, and before the end of the day, Mum’s read five chapters and loves it. ‘You’re not saying that because you’re my mum, are you?’ I ask, wary. ‘Nope. Well, yes, I’m rooting for you, but no. It’s right up my street this new book of yours.’ She then proceeds to give me some good pointers, what I can tweak from a reader’s perspective, the whole lot. When she’s done, I could hug her. Except she’s in Dublin. ‘Thanks, mum, that’s just what I needed. I wasn’t sure if it was okay or not.’ She sighs. ‘Just keep going. You’re doing great.’ I breathe out.  I feel better. ‘I’ll keep sending you chapters. Is that okay?’  She readily agrees, and with that I have my own personal editor.

Over the next few days, buoyed by my mum’s comments, I keep on writing, and even, on the suggestion of my hubbie, take a long shot at contacting a local newspaper to tell them of my blog, suggesting I can write a weekly column for them.  I don’t really expect to hear back, but what the heck. ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it, mum,’ says my youngest. I pick her up for a hug. ‘That’s right honey. That’s right.’

It gets to the evening one day and I’ve managed to find the energy to go for a long run before making tea. Picking up my Blackberry, I check my messages. An email from the local newspaper editor flashes up. I stop breathing. Clicking on the button, I read it. They want to give me a try. They want me to write a regular column. I’m so, so chuffed, a couple of tears slip out. Digestive biscuit in mouth, my eldest tilts her head. ‘Mum, you okay?’ I nod. ‘It’s good news,’ I croak. The youngest comes in. ‘Sssh!’ says the eldest as she shuffles her sister away. ‘What is it?’ I hear the youngest ask. ‘Hormones,’ the eldest replies, ‘always hormones.’

A newspaper photo shoot ends up in a toe de-fluff

It’s been a bizarre week. After the hubby pointing out that, given my own marketing background I should get and do the publicity for my own book, I begin to email out a whole heap of press releases  to various media outlets.

Contacting them starts with calling the news desk numbers. And it turns out that’s quite a nerve-wracking thing to do. Keen to get the name of the right person to send the press release to, I pick up the phone ready to speak, and immediately put it down again, hands shaking. ‘Breathe,’ I tell myself.  This is daft. Given my book has a Gloucestershire connection, I have decided to start with the local papers first, and my heart is racing. ‘God help you when you contact the nationals,’ pipes up my hubbie, toast in mouth as he passes by the study. I tut. He has a point. Actually, I chastise him, but I have to admit he’s been a great help – he has spoken to his contact at Radio Gloucestershire and turns out they’re very interested in running a story about the book. ‘I could kiss you!’ I shriek when he calls one morning with the good news. ‘It’s not come to that has it?’ he replies. He has a point. But at the very least my two daughters are excited – it’s quite sweet. ‘Mum’s going to be famous!’ they yelp, jumping, knocking over their lunch boxes. ‘Mum’s going to be famous!’ I sigh. ‘Not really,’ I tell them. ‘Mum, we’re so proud of you!’  they say. Aaah. ‘ We’re telling the teachers!’  shouts the eldest. Oh dear God.

Come the afternoon, I’ve taken several deep breaths, called the news desks and finally sent out the press releases with accompanying photographs (1 potrait, 1 landscape is best, according to my friend, Press Chris). So far so good. Realising it’s nearly school-run time, I am shoving on my Converse and jacket, when my mobile shrills. ‘Hi,’ says an Irish voice. ‘Is that Nikki?’ My heart bangs ten to the dozen. ‘Yes,’ I croak. ‘It’s the Gloucestershire Citizen Newspaper,’ they say. ‘We’d like to arrange a photo call for your story tomorrow.’ Oh holy Lord. After quickly stemming the instant need to vomit, I arrange a time and date for the next day. ‘Oh, and can you bring your Kindle for the shot?” she asks.  Oh heck. I do not own a Kindle yet, but have asked for one for my birthday. So I do what I know I only can. I lie, sort of.  ‘Um, that might be tricky, because, um, it’s being…um…fixed,’  I say. There is silence. Then, yes! I remember my friend, Jo, owns one, and she only lives round the corner.  Result. ‘But I can get one!’ I say, triumphant. ‘Great!’ she replies.  ‘Bye.’ And with that, she’s gone. I text Jo, fast.

Dazed, somewhat elated and now late,  I sprint to school (turns out it literally is the school-run), and am breathless on arrival, when the Citizen girl phones again. ‘Can you get Stuart to be in the shot?’ she asks. This is Stuart Langworthy, my hubbie’s teacher who inspired the book. I try not to scare her by heavy breathing into the phone. ‘Sure,’ I say, ‘no problem.’ This turns out to be a bit tricky, as of course Stuart being a teacher, is teaching. But, bless him, he’s up for it and after a few calls and rearranging, first one venue, then the other, we have a time of 10am for the next day at his school for the shoot. It’s the same school my husband went to, the same school Simon Pegg attended, the same school Stuart’s always taught at.

That night, it’s a case of figuring out what to wear. ‘Mum,’ says the eldest, eyes narrowed at a blouse hanging up, ‘that’s okay. But make sure you don’t go too old lady.’ Then she’s off, head in book, her job done. I sigh, peer into the mirror  and pull at the wrinkles around my eyes. Make up. I’m going to need make up.

Thankfully, the photographer who meets us the next day is a nice guy. ‘I know your husband,’ he says as he sets up the room for the shot. ‘Most people do,’ I say, sighing.  The photographer is keen to get the Kindle, containing my book cover, into shot , but something’s wrong and it’s not playing ball. Last night, me and my friend Jo, whilst she was teaching me how to use it, actually deleted the book by accident. Oops. On top of the cover crisis, the photographer is actually two hours late – the Citizen girl forgot to tell him of the new time and venue we arranged, so things (i.e. me) are a bit fraught. But no matter. I stand, I smile, I hold up my friend’s Kindle, the Amazon page it’s sold on projected on to the screen behind me. When I am asked questions, I hear my voice shaking, but thankfully, no one seems to notice. Stuart is lovely, the photographer is kind and my friend Emma, who was also taught by Stuart, has turned up ready for lunch. ‘You off to work now?’ asks Stuart, once the shoot’s over. I shake my head. ‘Shopping,’ I say. ‘Ah, a bit of retail therapy,’ he replies. Hmm, yes. Therapy, I think. Therapy would be good.

That night, I am getting my youngest daughter ready for bed as she asks me about my day. I tell her about the photographer and the newspaper, and she beams a smile at me. Bless her. ‘Off you go and clean your teeth now,’ I say, as I nip down stairs. Two minutes later, she is calling me from her room. ‘Yes?’ I say, coming back up. ‘Mum,’ she says, sat on the floor, feet out, ‘since you did so well today, I have a present for you.’ She wriggles her feet. ‘You can clean out the fluff from my toes!’  she announces. I smile and kneel down.  ‘Oh honey,’ I say. This is a first. Removing fluff from her toes is her favourite thing. This is a Big Deal. ‘Thank you, sweetie,’ I say.  And then, giving her a hug,  I begin to de-fluff  her toes. Now this is therapy.