Tag Archives: female comedy

Book Marketing Tactics You May NOT Have Considered

I’d like to apologise in advance because this is a MUCH longer blog post than I usually prefer. I don’t know about you, but I like the kind of blog I can jump in and out of, coming away with my will to live intact and plenty of time to work for the rest of the day. I also prefer to blog about life and comedy, but after my 29,000 Downloads Later blog, I’ve had so many writers asking for more information on my marketing tactics I felt I must do at least one post in a War & Peace style-e.

Forgive me *Clears throat*

You can find a lot of tips online, just by Googling ‘book marketing tactics’, yet what I’ve noticed is a lot of the advice given is the same. So I’d like to take this opportunity to try and pinpoint some you might not have considered.

Largely, this entire post is around the less obvious SEO tactics for Authors. How many of you are making that SEO work for you when it comes to marketing your book? Do you think this is a) way too complex or b) just for businesses?

Well, have you seen how many new authors there are out there? You ARE a business and you have a world of competition to keep up with.

SEO, for those that don’t know, stands for ‘search engine optimisation’ and it isn’t as hard as some people would have you believe. ‘Some people’ being those that would want to sell you their advice and guidance on the matter. Not that I wouldn’t LOVE some professional help (I know, I need it, right?) but it really isn’t all that hard to do at least some basics for yourself, for free.

In short, SEO optimisation is about finding search terms that you think the general public would use to find your book and using these terms in everything you post. You don’t have to put it in your text, although it occasionally helps to, but in your article tags and social hashtags.

Take my own writer genre for instance. I would guess people looking to read a book like mine would search for ‘women’s fiction’ ‘comedy author’ ‘comedy novel’ ‘chick lit’ or, if you are anywhere outside of the UK, ‘British Chick lit’.

If you Google ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘comedy author’ then click on the videos tab, you will find me – a commercially unknown, British Chick Lit, women’s fiction, comedy author and writer of a comedy novel – scattered throughout your search results. (See what I did there?).

And, you can see how this would get annoying if you posted like this in every blog post. But one isn’t going to hurt your readership. She hopes….

You can throw your keywords in casually every now and again, but don’t try to be clever or go for (comedy novel) irrelevant to subject matter, (women’s fiction) subliminal messages (British Chick Lit) which would annoy the heck out of (comedy author) anybody!

I’m going it alone with what I have read online so far, and thought I had only conquered SEO mastery with YouTube, but visits to this website have increased threefold recently. Not that you’re all buying a book, but more people seem to know who I am these days. I am building my brand. Although you might not like my particular style of comedy novel, I may well surprise you with ‘The New War and Peace’ at a future date, therefore snagging that more literary sale from you later. 😀

Bottom Line:

1) Think about what your target audience would Google in order to find you and your books. Then, make a list of those words and phrases and use them in EVERYTHING you post. Blogs, social media posts, YouTube videos, everything. You are aiming to make Google see you as an expert in your chosen subject therefore, pushing you up in search rankings. And social media posts DO count – even more so now than ever before.

2) Get a Google+ account. Yes, I know it feels a bit like a graveyard full of people simply there to sell not buy, but it is one of the best places to post your keywords for Google ranking and it is linked to YouTube. Double the value!

3) Get a Pinterest Account. I am still working on mastering this one myself, but Pinterest has been one of the fastest growing social networks TO DATE and the great thing about this site is that, unlike most other social networks, people on there are actively seeking things to buy and sharing what they themselves like to buy. It’s like scrap-booking online. You can easily find your target audience here because people are sharing pictures of their favourite books. Find those accounts pinning books in your genre or even fans of authors you think your work is similar too and connect with them. You can invite them to pin to your boards and even send pins to people if they are following you back.

Let me help you start out – if you’d like an invite to pin to THIS board connect to me on Pinterest and leave a comment below so I can connect to you and send the invite. As I said, I am just finding my way on Pinterest so the board isn’t that old and doesn’t have any other pinners at the moment but it does have 248 followers, which is a start. Let’s get that Pinterest marketing moving together! There are enough hungry for content readers out there for all of us.

4) Get an Instagram Account! Instagram is another network where people are happily sharing their interests, particularly when it comes to books. Its users are looking for recommends and love nothing more than to link with like-minded people. As with Pinterest, search for lovers of books in your genre and followers of more famous people you think you are a lot like. So, for me, I would look for fans of Claudia Schiffer of course 😉 What do you mean ‘dream on?’

And you need to get hashtag savvy here. You want to use hashtags in your posts and also search them to find people to connect with. Don’t think for one minute this is not worthy of your precious time. You are going to find active, book-loving people in your target audience instead of sitting at home waiting for them to find you! Reach out.

For instance, a kindly US review website compared my work to one of my writer heroes, Jane Green. Not only is the lovely Jane ON Instagram herself, but there are heaps of people posting pictures of her books with the #janegreen hashtag. Now, all I have to do is search this hashtag, follow people posting about her and her books and chat to them because I already know they have my taste in great books and my sense of humour. The aim isn’t to sell, sell, sell, it is to converse and yes, why not, make friends. I love Instagram because I can connect to my lovely readers there and am building a fantastic, supportive little community of people that think like me and love all the things I love. The beauty of Instagram is ease of use and a conversational thread that I think is easier for everyone to follow than on Twitter.  And you can use it to share pictures from your day on your smartphone while going about your day or walking the dog. *CLICK* ‘Look everyone, a pretty tree… oh, that he’s just cocked his leg up.’  It really is THAT simple.

Here’s a great list of author hashtags to get you started. And no, you don’t need to use all of them. You will soon find the ones that work for you, just give it time. You’ll find me there as @hell4heather – taking people shopping with me, sharing photos of my grandson, things that make me laugh and sharing occasional news about my book. You don’t have to plug, plug, plug. Let your real personality shine through. I kid you not, I once sold four books in an evening just through chatting to a couple of fellow Instagrammers, without once asking them to buy it and having no outwardly promotional intention while I was chatting to them. I enjoy Instagram and I love chatting to people! If I can sell a few books by just being me, I’m happy and it is worthy of an hour of my time a couple of times a week.

Remember, the Amazon website is a search engine too. Use your keywords OFTEN in your book description and research the seven keywords Amazon gives you for your listing, watching your placement for each one and altering them from time to time to try and stay visible. I could write a lot on this, but I won’t – Amazon have done it for you HERE

Sounds exhausting, right? For me, it doesn’t feel so bad because this is my chosen career and I’m very bloody serious about it. I am NOT a million best seller, but I’ve kept my book in an Amazon bestsellers list since my KDP free promotion in December last year and have regular sales – not always huge – but regular. I’m building brand awareness just like any online business should be trying to. This is what YOU have to think of yourself as – a BRAND that needs to build an online presence. It’s very much the long game and may feel tiresome, but a good campaign can keep you writing for years to come and also attract publisher interest if that is your wish. I read all the time how publishers love to see authors who are clearly working extra hard on their own branding.

But back to that free KDP promotion. Lots of people asked about the gigs I used on Fiverr.com for marketing mine. There were only two that I could say for sure really helped:

https://www.fiverr.com/facebookprogig/promote-your-amazon-kindle-book-with-real-uk-usa-book-lovers-to-200000-members?funnel=201501071454174808500000

and

https://www.fiverr.com/kindlepromoter/submit-your-kindle-book-to-30-top-kdp-promotion-websites?funnel=201501071455427078500000

And lastly, I went to the Author Marketing Club website and submitted links to as many of the sites on this page as I could find myself:

http://authormarketingclub.com/members/submit-your-book/

I hope you’re still here and still feeling positive.  It isn’t supposed to be fun I guess, but why not try to have some fun with it? Mix up your marketing and get creative with it. Turn that one star review that made you weep back on to itself, with a light-hearted, $5 Fiverr.com gig video like this one:

Try not to be afraid. Put out lots of different types of content and more than a smidgen of the real YOU. And if that one star review has hurt you, take a look at this must shorter post that I guarantee will put your smile firmly back on:

In Celebration of the One Star Review

Hopefully you will find something unique in here that will help and I can now use this link whenever someone asks me what I did to get those downloads.

Good luck everyone!

News Flash! I have a publisher at last!  The hard copy of ‘The New Mrs D’ is to be released by Fledgling Press in Edinburgh in the Spring. I’m so excited to be working with ‘Fledge’ as I now affectionately call them. Here’s hoping for a brighter, writer future 🙂

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This is a tribute to my elongated blog typos! 🙂

Real translation: Don’t be afraid to get your voice, your image, your work and your ‘YOU’ out there. Never worry that you are any way inferior. Go for it!

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Authors: Don’t Be a Bloody Statistic

There are people that are writing in the hope of getting rich, and there are people that are writing for the love of the craft. I would firmly plant myself between these two extremes.

I suspect that those writers who are most disappointed are in the first category.

I love writing, have reached a point in my life where I recognise I have always loved it, yet was hampered by an inaccurate belief that making a career out of it was out of my reach and capabilities.  Today I’m ready to pursue it to the death, only with the hope in my mind that I might make a decent living out of it.

Since the moment I first began working on my book, I knew I’d never stop writing again. I know that even if I never sold another word, I couldn’t stop. I’m forty three years old; that’s how long it has taken me to get to this place

Do I hate the idea of getting rich quick? No. I’ve almost accepted around four email marriage proposals from Nigerian Princes in 2014 alone. Do I care if I don’t make my fortune with writing? No, actually, I do not.

I’m not taking my rejections personally, not watching my sales figures hour by hour asking why the world isn’t recognising my genius and I’m not dying inside every time a fellow author has heaps more success than I do. This is my journey; my dream. I’m not going to dilute it or belittle its significance to my life’s journey by making it all about money or the competition. I wish we could live a little (okay a lot) easier and I do imagine that big cheque landing on my doormat, of course I do. But my ultimate goal is having a better, more fulfilled life experience. It is doing what I think I was supposed to do with my life and being in love with it. That, for me, is worth more than gold.

I’m offering you here my best advice on how to overcome your obstacles as a new writer. It is an A for attitude – and the greatest thing about attitude, is you get to choose yours. There are too many articles telling writers to be careful what you wish for and I for one don’t like reading them. It is good to know the pitfalls you might face, but not good to focus on them too much.

Let me break it down in to a simple sentence: Don’t let people tell you you can’t do something.

A few months back, I wrote to hundreds of book shops all over the world, asking them to put ‘The New Mrs D’ on their shelves. I emailed scores of book reviewers, joining what I don’t doubt is an absolute sea of similar requests from self-published authors just like me. As well as the rejections this book has had, I also have the biggest pile of ‘no thank you’ emails you’ve ever seen. The ‘no reply at all’ pile is so big, I’m considering climbing it for charity.  🙂

A submission that sticks in my mind the most is the book I bought and posted, as per the submission guidelines on their website, all the way over to Barnes & Noble in New York asking that they please consider stocking it on their shelves. Their response was (something along the lines of), ‘in our experience, self-published authors only sell on average two hundred copies for the lifetime of the book, many of those to family and friends.’ In case you haven’t guessed where this is going, they declined my request. Yet I had already sold a thousand copies by the time I read their letter, and believe me, I don’t have that many family and friends.

I read this particular line again: ‘Most self-published authors only sell on average 200 copies for the lifetime of their book.’ I’d already proved them wrong in my own case, but instead of internalising this statistic, as some might be inclined to do, I decided to smash it. And no, I haven’t yet. This is not a victorious, ‘I told you so, you short sighted bookshops, agents and publishers’ post. I didn’t sell thousands of copies, but to date over 32,000 people have downloaded ‘The New Mrs D’ and of that 32,000 I gave away just over 29,000 in a free Amazon promotion. It’s not a huge, life-changing income, but it’s a very promising potential readership for book two. Although, in a personal way, it is life-changing. It taught me I’m ever-so-slightly addicted to being read. Thank you for feeding my addiction today.

I can’t offer advice from the perspective of a long in the tooth, experienced writer who has made it to the top. I can only offer the perspective of a long in the tooth person with some years of life experience behind her. And my advice is, if you love it, don’t let it lie.

Don’t be a bloody statistic.

Am I selling dreams of writer success to people who can’t write? I don’t think so. If writing is what you love and truly believe is inside of you to do, even if your first attempt sucked, you are going to work hard to get better. You’ll scrape together your last pounds for proper, professional editing, get the best cover art you can afford and you’ll read your submissions feedback, searching for the common elements and taking at least some of the advice given to make your project shine. You’ll give it all you’ve got and stop wallowing in bitterness and self pity.

(Okay, give yourself an hour on this last one, then move on) 😉

You won’t spend your precious writing time emailing agents that reject you with a stream of profanities telling him/her they have missed a golden opportunity and don’t know what they’re talking about. You are writing all of the time and reading about writing all the time.

So I guess I’m talking to YOU.

Now, get off this page and on to your own. X

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The Rollercoaster – 29,000 Downloads Later

Remember this scene from the 1980’s comedy film, Parenthood?

If you follow my progress you will know two significant things have happened to me lately:

1) I left my agent and found my novel, ‘The New Mrs Dunpublished with a loss of my sales rankings and
2) I held a three day free promotion last week in an attempt to push the book back in to the charts.

It worked.

Last week, 29,000 people downloaded ‘The New Mrs D‘ for free, giving me what I hope will turn out to be a substantial new readership. Hooray!

And many authors are asking me how it happened. So as always, I am only too happy to share as much as I know here.

Firstly, I went to www.fiverr.com and paid for three services at $5 a time. A promo video, an SEO expert to share my video link as many times as possible and a marketer to send details of my book promotion to forty websites.

I also successfully managed to secure a small advertisement with www.bookbub.com. Bookbub only accept something like 10-20% of submissions I believe and require that you have a certain amount of five star reviews. But I do credit this with the huge spike of downloads I achieved on the very first day.

I paid what was at the time, just over $30 to have The New Mrs D promo mailed out to a 210,000 strong mailing list of fans of chick lit. The prices have risen a little lately, but you can find them here.

What’s great is that although I didn’t have the funds to reach the 1,030,000+ subscribers of their women’s fiction list ($245) The New Mrs D reached the no1 best selling humour spot on both the Amazon UK and US free stores list for the entire length of the promotion. It’s highest ranking over ALL of the free store books was no4 in the UK and no7 in the US – beating many of the other BookBub promoted novels for those days who would have accessed the one million plus mailing lists. Not at all bad!

What I didn’t do was tweet my book link constantly or flash post to hundreds of Facebook pages. Some people may have done that for me through the Fiverr.com gigs, but not I. I simply do not believe it works. I did write a blog post and share it across my social channels and I did share the promotions progress over the three days. I also manually entered the book to around twenty free ebook promoting websites. And that is it, the sum total of my efforts.

As I type, The New Mrs D is no 20 in the best selling literary humour chart, just ten places behind Helen Fielding’s ‘Mad About The Boy’. Maybe it will stay, maybe not. Maybe it’s a post promotional lucky spike in sales that will tail off. Only time will tell.

But what a roller coaster! It’s thrilling and hard and scary and up, down, up, down and round and round. What a ride, this writerly life.

I like the roller coaster.

Back to book two!

Those lovely folks at Novelicious.com made me this.
Those lovely folks at Novelicious.com made me this.

Those lovely folks at Novelicious.com made me the quote opposite. Read my full interview on the site HERE

If you wish to know the specific details of services I used on Fiverr, please email me at hell4heather@gmail.com

I’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have in the comments here also!

Buy My Book! Buy My Book! Buy My Book!

Screenshot_2014-08-20-11-13-12

This is The New Mrs D on the first page of the TOP TWENTY Amazon UK 100 Best Sellers for Women’s Fiction Humour chart as of five minutes ago. On the same page as Helen Fielding and Maria Semple, author of one of my favourite recent reads, ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette?’.

Maybe for one hour, maybe a day… or maybe it will have fallen off by the time you read this. But thankfully for me, I have captured forever the moment that I WAS there.

My ‘unmarketable’ and now self published comedy novel for women actually reached number 11 on this chart within 24 hours of its release for pre-order for about an hour, but guess who didn’t take a screen print because she couldn’t believe her eyes? Guess who genuinely believed someone had placed it there by accident or that it was some kind of fluke? Guess who made a mock up cut and paste shot of it sitting at number one? Ha! Just kidding on that last one!

Note to self: hide evidence. Other note to self: Don’t forget to delete this bit.

I’m thrilled and so very grateful for the wonderful messages I have received telling me how much people have enjoyed the book. Self publication is no easy feat; it is as I feared, like throwing a fish into the ocean. There are so many great books out there and when nobody knows who the hell this ‘Heather Hill’ is, it is a very difficult business to sell yourself. So, in the great tradition of giving oodles of my comedy writing away for free over these last few years, there’s a sneaky peek of a chapter of the book below for you.

The New Mrs D is currently on offer until 2nd September at just 99p. That’s less than a tube of  toothpaste from the Pound Shop. So why not have dirty teeth, support some exciting, new comedy writing and buy a copy?

PS you may have noticed subtle shades of self promotion in this post. Ignore (pink elephants) them, you are just (pink elephants) having hallucinations after that third (pink elephants) glass of wine last night.  images

Chapter Four

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beeeeeep! This isn’t an episode of The Osbournes… We’re renting mopeds!

At the age of 18, I passed my driving test and wrote-off my dad’s car on the way home. I lost all confidence and handed back my keys, deciding never to take to the wheel again.

I’d only taken my eyes off the road for a second – to throw my L-plates into the back – when a corner had caught in the brushed nylon roofing material and pinged back at my head. But that wasn’t when the crash occurred… the crash occurred when I stooped to pick them up for another go. ‘It could have happened to anybody,’ didn’t seem to convince my Dad as I handed him the now-detached steering wheel of his prized Sierra Cosworth.

From then on, I’d relied on others to drive me around. Following a barrage of ‘Are you stupid?’ type abuse from my furious mother when I got home, and my own realisation that I must be the most accident prone woman on the planet, all the confidence gained in 30 weeks of driving lessons was lost forever.

‘My darling Binnie, I’m going to teach you to drive if it’s the last thing I do!’

With David gone there wasn’t going to be anyone to drive me around or teach me to drive – I was on my own. My driving license was in my handbag ‘just in case’ David could talk me into hiring a moped – though I’d been convinced he’d never be able to do it. My choices were to stay round the hotel pool with a group of unadventurous, sunbathing couples, or to get out and explore the real splendour of the island alone. It was no contest. For the sake of doing everything on the adventure tour group itinerary, I was going to have to take to the open road alone. Never had I needed some freedom to explore as much as now.

The short walk from the hotel to the moped centre took me past shops where I was able to purchase supplies to aid my sickly stomach. Bye-bye sugar low – hello very large bag of mini chocolate croissants, two cartons of orange juice and a packet of mints to stop my breath vaporising the faces of all the new people I was about to meet at the painting class. I downed the first carton of orange juice greedily, but still my suffering, grief stricken belly wasn’t accepting any food callers.

‘Now, remembers Mrs Dando, you drive with bike on the right. It is not like in the English.’ The boy from the hire centre handed over the map he’d drawn to Chris’s villa and searched my face for a glimmer of understanding as I sat astride the moped. Peering through the visor of my oversized helmet at the controls that he’d just spent an age explaining, I nodded… and the world went black. Pushing the helmet around until I could see again, I took the map and his pencil before grabbing the handlebars. This didn’t look so hard; what had I been worried about? Front brake. Back brake. ‘Why would I want one half of me to stop and not the other?’Accelerator.

‘And this button is…?’

‘BEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!’

‘Oops! That’ll be the horn,’ I laughed, as several mystified faces appeared from nearby shops to see what the noise was. The boy, who looked about 12, failed to see the funny side. Judging by the look on his face in my rear view mirror, he was pretty worried.

‘How on earth do people manage with the island heat in this headgear?’ I asked, turning towards him but finding one-half of my view of his face missing, as the mahoosive helmet remained facing forwards. I adjusted it again, just in time to spy him rolling his eyes.

‘Don’t they make these things for people with normal sized heads?’ I muttered into the sweaty, foam lining.

‘Mrs Dando,’ the boy began, gravely, ‘do you understand? Do not forget. You drive on the…’

‘… right side of the road. I get it. Really, how hard can it be?’

‘Mrs Dando,’ the boy waved a hand in front of my face. ‘Are you going to be okay?’ he asked.

‘Fine,’ I said, a little more confidently than I felt. I turned the throttle on the bike. ‘Let’s do this!’

‘Okay. And Mrs Dando?’ he continued. ‘Can I have my pencil back?’

Except I didn’t have the chance to respond to that last bit because I was already revving off, giving an awkward ‘I’m okay’ wave to the lad. Which I wasn’t, because I hadn’t meant to move forwards at that moment. Where did he say the brakes were?

Even over the sound of the engine and through muffling headgear, I could hear shouts from behind and risked a swift peek over my shoulder. Seeing the boy waving at me, I waved again but struggled to keep control of the bike, which mounted the curb sending several stray cats scattering up trees to safety.

‘Aww, come on!’ I complained, revving the engine a second time. Looking back to the hire centre, I saw the boy had been joined by what looked like two huge Greek men, and all three were now running after me, gesticulating wildly. Shit, was I about to be arrested for pencil theft?

I turned the throttle to full and, as my head was almost torn off my shoulders with the force of sudden forward motion, I threw the pencil to the ground behind me with a shout of, ‘There’s your pencil!’ The moped charged onwards, bumping up a cobbled side street. It seemed there was no way to stop, even if I wanted to, without crashing into something.

‘Mrs Dando! MRS DANDO!’

Another rearwards glance showed that the sales boy had now jumped onto a rental moped with the beefy henchmen on another, all in pursuit. Oh god, this was it; I was about to be ambushed… maybe even killed! The island newspaper headlines of tomorrow flashed into my head:

BRITISH PENCIL THIEF RUBBED OUT BY LOCAL HITMEN

Would a stolen pencil really warrant such an elaborate daylight operation? Of course not, stupid woman. Maybe I was being mugged. Was it the stash of Euros in my purse I’d flashed while paying for the moped? Oh no, wait – they surely weren’t after my faux diamond emblazoned Primark flip-flops?

In a panic, I kicked one off into the path of an elderly couple as they strolled out from a hotel car park. The shoe shot straight into the old man’s portly, bare stomach with a sickening slap.

‘They have the diamonds!’ I called, mercilessly pointing them out to the gangsters before whizzing onwards to make my getaway.

But it was all for nothing; the roar of bikes continued behind me. I slowed to turn a corner into another side street and heard a shout.

‘Stop! Mrs Dando! You stop NOW!’

What on earth could they want? I reached down with one hand, trying to take the other flip-flop off to throw back as a ransom, but dropping it instead. As I cursed myself and looked up, an ancient Greek woman on a scooter was zipping round a bend straight at me, only swerving at the last second to avoid a collision.

‘What the…’

‘WAAAAHHHH!!!’ We screamed the last part in unison; ‘Waaaahhhh’, it transpired, being the international synonym for ‘OH SHIIIIIT!’ In an instant, her front wheel bounced off the kerb, sending both the old lady, and the basket of lemons balanced on her handlebars, flying, Frank Spencer style through the air towards a couple of teenage boys. Christ, I’m in a Carry On film.

‘Save the lemons!’ I called back, rattling onwards with no time to look behind again or wonder why my first manic thoughts were for Frank Spencer and the fruit – not the little old lady. Speeding away from the increasing chaos behind, I rounded a honking car pulling out from a driveway and yelled at its startled occupants, ‘CALL THE POLICE!’

Despite the throttle being fully open it seemed the tiny moped engine had no more to give and the roar from the biker gang got closer. Turning round once more, I could see the two bikes were still in hot pursuit, and for the first time I noticed the boy had a very fat man riding pillion. So there were four of them! And the fourth had mad lady-killer written all over him. Heart pounding with fear, I grabbed the nearest thing to a weapon from the moped basket and began hurling ammunition overhead at the assailants. However, taking my eyes off the road to lob miniature chocolate croissants was a last, fatal mistake.

Crunch!

The moped bumped straight up a kerb, sending my stomach boinging up to my lungs and my knicker tops rolling back down below my belly again, as the bike came to a near halt. This was it, the end. I waited for my life to flash in front of me… but a massive, spiny bush got there first. Without testing the moped’s brakes and fuelled by an extraordinary burst of adrenaline, I dived off, sending it ploughing, un-helmed, into the bush. This was where, in a moment of TV cop-esque brilliance, I rolled over-and-over onto a grass bank before springing back to my feet.

‘Whoa!’ For a split second, Mrs David Dando was Lara Croft; crime-fighting, tomb raiding stunt rider. That was until My Big Fat Greek Assassin got off his bike and made towards me and I remembered who I actually was. Bawling Binnie – with her knickers rolling down again.

‘Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me! I’m unarmed!’ I yelled, trying – and failing – to get my helmet off before throwing up my hands in surrender to the waiting gang.

‘Other side, Mrs Dando! Other side!’ yelled Zorba the Crook, taking a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe bits of chocolate and pastry from his fat sweaty face. Spying his accomplices coming up behind, I turned around and flung myself face down in the dirt with my hands behind my still helmeted head.

‘Okay, okay,’ I whimpered, ‘just, please don’t hurt me.’

There are moments that should flash through your mind when you think death is imminent; the faces of loved ones, lifelong friends, long-forgotten happy moments, childhood memories. This was my crucial moment – and I was going to die wondering if Greece had body bags big enough for me in this colossal monstrosity of a biking helmet.

The Fat Assassin flopped down beside me and prodded my shoulder. ‘Oh God,’ I thought.‘He’s really mad! Goodbye cruel world!’

Dear Facebook, today I was so hot. Oops, bloody mobile phone typos! I was s-h-o-t.

‘Mrs Dando…’

As I lay there with my eyes screwed shut waiting to feel a gun in my ribs, (please God let it be a gun in his pocket) hearing him huffing like a muddy, wet contestant on Total Wipeout, his voice took on a calmer, more sinister tone.

‘I not kill you. You kill yourself.’

I froze. Oh my God, he was going to make me shoot me.

I heard him take another deep breath and cough. ‘Mrs Dando,’ he said finally. ‘You drive with the moped on the other side!’

‘I didn’t mean… I wasn’t… oh!’ Ah. Right… I rolled back over to face him, but again, met with nothing but blackness. Bloody helmet! So, I wasn’t going to be bumped off for stealing the island’s only pencil. Or for assault with a supersized bag of mini croissants.

Twisting the monstrous headgear off and easing myself upright, I was met by four nonplussed faces caked in, well… cake.

‘Oh,’ I said, smoothing my hair in an attempt to recuperate some composure. ‘Well, er… why didn’t you just say so?’

Porn Addiction IS No Laughing Matter

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It’s just five days since The New Mrs D was released and I have already had some wonderful feedback from readers, most saying they completely associate with her. One Amazon reviewer sums it up nicely:

It is so refreshing to have a main character who isn’t perfect, who is always struggling with weight, self-esteem issues and pants that keep rolling down (due to muffin tops and not sexual behaviour).’

However, yesterday I received an email from someone, who I must point out has NOT read the book, which has led me to sit down to write this blog post today.

The New Mrs D tackles the difficult, mostly unspoken about subject of porn addiction in a work of comedy fiction. The person emailing me asked why I would think porn addiction, which has blown up like a bomb in society, with many innocent people getting hurt every minute of every day, is something to laugh about. I will not name this person; it was a highly personal and confidential email from someone whose identity I am happy, indeed – determined to protect.

But I did feel a need to answer this question, lest anyone else should be misled into believing that this is what my book seeks to do. In fact, its purpose is far removed from making light of the subject. My reason for writing it was to bring the issue to the fore.

Editors called it ‘a laugh on every page’, ‘hilarious’ and ‘very timely in the year of the new Bridget Jones novel’. Yet no one wanted to publish it. They said it was ‘too close to the bone’ and an ‘icky’ subject. One editor said she just didn’t believe anyone would marry a man like that.

I didn’t just decide to pick something controversial to sit down and write a comedy novel about; I felt it needed to be addressed. All of my research and experience has shown me that plenty of people have and do marry men like that. Plenty of people live with porn addiction in their relationship on a daily basis, slowly letting their self-confidence reach the point of shut down without ever telling anyone what is happening, purely out of shame. They think it is their fault. Or, that in some way it makes them look bad for not being able to cope with what is fast becoming acceptable in modern society – the sexualisation and objectification of women in everyday media outlets. I would go as far as to say it is probably more people that each of us know than we realise.

How many people reading this post have been in some way affected by a partner’s porn addiction and never told a living soul? How many people reading this are thinking, ‘pah! Like it’s a real problem?’ Naturally, there are people on both sides of the fence.

What would you think if I told you of women that have left a room in tears after what to most people would seem a harmless, everyday advert, featuring a perfectly toned woman in a state of undress, appears on the TV? Does that sound excessive and neurotic to you? Then you have never been the partner of a porn addict. To the partner of such a person, every picture like this becomes – to their mind– a potential trigger to the addict. Think, ‘sparkly glass of wine in front of an alcoholic’. And you are the grape juice in the dull glass beside it.

The question on whether this is really a problem is an interesting one. In ‘The New Mrs D’ it most certainly is, as the partner uses porn instead of making love to his wife. He, in fact, is unable to make love to his wife but can reach ejaculation whilst watching porn. An editor who wrote a feedback report on my manuscript asked the question, ‘would porn use really cause a sexual dysfunction?’

Norman Doidge of The Guardian wrote a very interesting and revealing article on the Brain Scans of Porn Addicts. It told of how ‘scan images show that watching online “adult” sites can alter our grey matter, which may lead to a change in sexual tastes.’ He concludes with this story:

‘In her book, Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion, Izabella St James, who was one of Hugh Hefner’s former “official girlfriends”, described sex with Hef. Hef, in his late 70s, would have sex twice a week, sometimes with four or more of his girlfriends at once, St James among them. He had novelty, variety, multiplicity and women willing to do what he pleased. At the end of the happy orgy, wrote St James, came “the grand finale: he masturbated while watching porn”.

Here, the man who could actually live out the ultimate porn fantasy, with real porn stars, instead turned from their real flesh and touch, to the image on the screen. Now, I ask you, “what is wrong with this picture?”.’

Porn addiction in a commercial comedy novel may be considered by many to make uncomfortable reading. Bringing the issue of what many people consider virtual adultery is, I grant you, different and edgy. I believe difficult subjects can be made more palatable and accessible to a wider audience in works of commercial comedy fiction. It is not easy and it is a work that has taken me almost two years to complete in the hope that I have handled it sensitively.  But what if I can help people to be able to say out loud, ’actually, I hate this porn culture we live in’? What if I can trigger conversations about matters that were once kept behind closed doors?

In my search for publication, I was asked if I would remove the porn addiction element. In edits, I was advised to try altering the age of the protagonist to a woman in her thirties (Mrs D is in her forties) and maybe consider changing my name to a male pseudonym; anything to make its subject more comfortable and marketable.

I wanted to write about a real person, in a very real situation. I also like to make people laugh and offer something different in an increasingly androcentric world.

The comedy part of my novel is not around the subject of porn addiction, it is around a women’s

Wonderful review from Amazon Australia
Wonderful review from Amazon Australia

life altering honeymoon alone in Greece where she discovers a lot about herself. I sought to speak to women, empower and educate them. It follows the laughter, tears and moments of clarity in the life of the partner of a porn addict. If I’d have removed the porn addiction element of the story, The New Mrs D may well have been published traditionally. I chose not to, because then my reason for writing the book in the first place would have been lost.

I’ll let the readers decide if I did her – and this very timely subject – justice.

You can buy The New Mrs D HERE. And please do come back to tell me your thoughts.

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Little Ol’ Whisky Drinker Me – A Comedy Writer’s Tour of Islay

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Pause for a dram on beautiful Machir Bay

Warning: All characters appearing in this blog are real. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely on purpose.

Those of you that regularly follow my tweets will know I visited one of the many beautiful, under populated corners of Scotland when I took an escorted whisky tour with Scottish Routes in July this year.

‘Can’t wait for you to meet the Queen of the Hebrides,’ my hosts @ScottishRoutes tweeted me – resulting in a fifteen minute Google search, as I looked up the name of the ferry that was to take me across from the mainland. In case you don’t know what I didn’t know, I’ll save you the trouble. The Queen of the Hebrides is not a ship taking you to Islay, it IS Islay.

There is something else I didn’t know before the tour. Islay isn’t pronounced I-S-L-A-Y. It’s I-S-L-A-G-H – as in Isla St Clair, Isla Fisher and Isla-have another whisky.

You might think my visit to this mecca of whisky connoisseurs worldwide, with its eight distilleries, all of which I was going to visit for a tasting, understandable. Until you learn that I don’t – or didn’t – like whisky. ‘Why on earth?’, I don’t hear you ask. (Because you are reading this and I am, let’s face it, probably out walking the dogs by now). Well, I was on a serious mission this time – to write a highly unusual, in-my-inimitable-style travel article. PS this isn’t it…

ImageI’m not normally what you might call a writer of facticles, mainly because I like to make up my own words for stuff – and refer to things as ‘stuff’. Yet this trip brought me two challenges; to write something off the comedic line and to taste a lot of samples of – and learn all about – an alcoholic beverage I have never enjoyed for four days straight. Yes, that’s sans mixers. And, dear reader, I tried them all – what must have amounted to around twenty shots in four days. This is because the beauty of an escorted tour of distilleries affords you some generous sampling opportunities and, although I was a sworn whisky hater, I made a unique discovery about myself – I don’t like ‘peaty’ whiskys. But I do like lesser peated ones. To explain, during the drying process of the damp malt over a peat heated fire, the smoke gets into the barley. The difference in the smokiness of the whisky depends on the time the barley is exposed to the biting peat smoke. So, the fact is you cannot say, ‘I don’t like whisky,’ until you have tried them all. You now have my permission to do so. Tell them Heather said it’s an essential education 🙂

Thanks to my Scottish Routes tour guide James Donaldson, for a wonderful tour and oodles of patience. Not only did he show us the delights of what was undeniably one of the most beautiful and friendly places on earth, but he also rescued my sunglasses after I left them in the wonderful Lochside Hotel one night. The fab folk there had greeted me like an old friend because we had met on Twitter beforehand – then heckled me in an amplified fashion as I walked past the singing, guitar playing manager on my way to the loo:

‘Let us know if you can hear us while you’re in there Heather and we’ll let you know if we can hear you!’ 🙂

I didn’t take this little joke seriously for a moment. Of course they couldn’t hear me; I checked under the toilet seat for microphones.

Tour guide James also had to help me apologise profusely to the owner of the fantastic hidden gem that is Islay Woollen Mill. Not only did I arrive late for the tour after pausing outside to take photos, but I unknowingly passed by the group gathered behind some shelving and headed upstairs to the owners’ living quarters, attracting the attention of their rather lovely, elderly dog Tam, who was guarding the door against pesky, lost tourists.

‘Please don’t let him come downstairs, he’s very frail,’ owner Gordon Covell called up to me as I greeted Tam with a pat on the head. Turning round to realise I was stood on the open staircase directly above the group in full view of everyone, I tripped somewhat sheepishly back down to where I was supposed to be – with the group listening to Gordon’s talk about how Queen Elizabeth once turned up in person to buy tweed from him. A fluffy tickle behind my knee then alerted me to the fact that Tam was now behind me, having followed me downstairs.

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The World’s only Slubbing Billy & the tartan used in the film Braveheart – made at the tiny Islay Woollen Mill

‘I’m.. I’m.. so sorry, ‘ I stammered, turning bright pink as everyone stared at me and my new canine pal with bemused smiles. The group were used to me by now. I imagined reading their postcards home:

‘Having a fab time in Islay. Met the actual Calamity Jane.’

Having to interrupt his talk because of the crazy lady for a second time, Gordon told me, ‘Oh, Tam never goes downstairs because it’s hard on his old, arthritic legs. Never mind. I’ll carry him back up in a bit.’

Which he did.

I left with a memory of taking a final look at the splendid view of this quaint, one hundred and thirty year old mill in its idyllic, beside-a-stream setting,  where tartan from several Hollywood blockbuster movies was designed and produced. It is me peering from our mini-coach window as it pulled away – and spying Gordon chasing old Tam out of the front door as he tried to follow us.

By the end of my tour, I did find a new appreciation for whisky, taking home a cheeky, rather scrumptious Bruichladdich, which Mr and I slugged as we celebrated my signing with literary agent Hannah Ferguson of the Marsh Agency shortly after my return.

I truly had the time of my life so a HUGE thanks to Scottish Routes – I honestly cannot recommend their four day whisky tour highly enough. It was an out of this world experience I’ll never forget and up there as one of the best things I’ve ever done. In true holiday snaps sharing fashion, here is a little video montage of photos with some more info from my trip. Don’t tell me you’ve never been to Islay. GO to Islay! You can check out how to book with Scottish Routes HERE

Learn more about Islay HERE