Tag Archives: the new MRs D

Chick Lit Books – An Open Letter To Real Book Lovers

george wade

Lucy Kelson: George, I think you are the most selfish human being on the planet.
George Wade: Well that’s just silly. Have you met everybody on the planet?
– ‘Two Weeks Notice’.

This weekend I had my very first book signing event at the Waterstones store in East Kilbride, Scotland. It was a great and pime at my first signing... for a chick lit book?votal day for me, being a newly published author in the shop nearest my home, where I’ve spent many happy hours getting high on new book smell and about three purchases low on cash. And all with my big sister and various other members of my family watching and cheering me on.

The Waterstones staff were fantastic; so supportive and encouraging as well as taking care of my needs and sharing stories of other authors’ come-from-nothing successes to bolster my confidence. All in all, it was a fabulous day – a huge thanks to them for inviting me along.

But there was one moment that threatened to spoil it all at the very beginning. As I sat watching shoppers stroll by, all avoiding eye contact with me as though I had a clipboard and a ‘Market Researchers do it in the Street’ t-shirt on, the very first stranger to approach me smiled, picked up a copy of ‘The New Mrs D’ and glanced at the back cover for all of one second before placing it quickly back down with a scowl and taking off as fast as her legs could carry her.

Being perpetual jovial sorts, my sister and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

‘This is going well, don’t you think?’ I said, showcasing the books in front of me with a sweep of my arm like a model displaying prizes on ‘The Price is Right’ …and knocking my glass of water over them. (Oh yes I did).

Three down, twenty to go…

Don’t get me wrong, I do judge a book by its cover, but never without having read the entire blurb first. So what was it that made a person run away after having a glance at my cover and a read of the first two lines on the back?

I don’t know and I never will. But here’s my best guess. Dare I say, that brightly coloured, cartoon cover and the promise of a light-hearted, comedy novel that screams, ‘chick lit’?

The week before my first signing, I had responded to a comment left on a Facebook book club wall that asked something like, ‘does anyone else here hate chick lit?’ So I bit my lip and wrote what may have been a contender for longest Facebook comment in a thread ever. It went something like this:

‘As a writer of what has been called chick lit, I’d like to defend it if only because it depresses me that it gets such a bad rap, like it doesn’t deserve its place in literature. I read all kinds of genres and regularly have two or three very different books on the go at the same time but I never rule an entire genre out. I love to try something new, dipping in to different writer styles often. Chick lit has its place for light reading, for laughs, for comic escapism. I have had several men who professed to hating the chick lit genre read my book then come back and tell me they really enjoyed it. I was thrilled when science fiction writer Dylan Hearn, who took the plunge into something new for him, read my book then wrote a rave review and blog about it, admitting he had never picked up a chick lit book before.

I want to defend the genre because it is reading all of the dismissals of it that stops many women from writing what it is in their heart to write, for fear of being rejected by the ‘literary police’. Anything new, bold and original is exciting to find and nothing would ever be created if writers didn’t take the difficult step of bringing their stories out into the world. The fact is, we all have different tastes and to me, writing is not just a craft but an art. It should be a joy to bring that which you were meant to do out in to the world and, after all, art is about freedom of expression. It’s about capturing the imagination and taking it anywhere you wish it to go. An individual may hate the work of Van Gogh, but that doesn’t make him any less of the incredible & innovative artist that he was. It’s all a matter of personal taste. What sings to one person can screech like nails on a blackboard to another. And what’s wrong with that?

Perhaps you read one or two bad chick lit books. Perhaps, like me, you’re of an age where you’ve read countless books with will-they-won’t-they, she-hates-him-then-she-loves-him plot lines and think you can’t stand to read another. But then, if you are like me, you’ll remember that you loved these once and now you’re older, you’re perhaps looking for something different. It doesn’t make those kinds of stories any less relevant, they’re just not relevant to you.

I would ask anyone not to discount an entire genre based on some they’ve read or seen, as not all books in any genre are the same. The majority of chick lit writers are women and we should be encouraging more female writers to find their voice. The only thing I have to say that I don’t like about chick lit as a genre is the name. I’m 44 years old, I’m not now nor have I ever been a ‘chick’. I hope it changes to ‘contemporary fiction’ or something equally suitable. I’d like something that says I write commercial, comedy fiction for all genders.

And for the reader, let’s not be afraid that no one will ever take us seriously if we admit to liking a bit of easier reading and laughter – the best medicine there is. There is a lot to be said for so called ‘easy reads’ too. They encourage more people to read and that, we should all be able to agree if we’re true book lovers, is a fundamental and beautiful thing.’

Others have written on this very subject of course. In his article for Huffington Post, entitled, ‘Stop Being Literary Snobs and Embrace Chick-Lit’, Ben Mirza writes, ‘There’s a reason why these people hate chick-lit, and it’s nothing to do with declining standards. It is simply that these people hate escapism and frankly, hate a genre that focuses on the general lives of women.’

The hatred of escapist comedy reading is something I know many readers have and there is absolutely no wrong in this. To each his (or her) own. For me, one of the most interesting things about comedy is the fact that everyone loves to laugh, yet comedy books seem to be the target of the harshest critics, often accused of appealing to a readership of the lowest, common denominator.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit tired of being told what I should and shouldn’t be reading. Overall, I want books that test my intelligence, scare me a little bit, make me think, make me question things, freak me out, make me cry and make me laugh – and I can get all of these things in a year filled with reading a little bit of something from every genre. There’s a special place for all of it in my brain.

Lucy-Anne Holmes sums it up nicely in her 2014 article for The Guardian:

‘I’m not going to apologise for enjoying books that focus on women’s careers, families and love lives, as romantic comedy often does. As a woman – as a person – discovering what I love to do, feeling empowered to do it and falling in love have been pretty seismic events in my life, ones I can identify with far more than discovering a murdered body in a disused car park.’

So let’s not profess to be specific genre haters; let’s continue to be book lovers with open, hungry minds requiring nourishment from a wide variety of sources . And to those who still say they hate chick lit, I say, ‘that’s just silly. Have you read every chick lit book on the planet?’

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To World Book Day, Waterstones and Being Delusional

For what seems like my entire life, the gift I have loved to receive far and above anything else has been a shiny, new, book-smelly, book. And none more so than a hardback – a pleasure I can’t often indulge myself in these days, given the additional cost factor.

For a long time, I did think this made me a bit different. None of my friends in school talked of a love of books; no one in my family was an avid reader except my dad, who hoarded them all over the house like scattered dust, but sadly, didn’t live long enough to tell me much about his love for them. All these years later, I do like to think my bookish mania was sent from his heart to mine.

The first books I remember being given as a gift has a special place in my memory though, and I was probably only about eight at the time. They were from my older sister, Linda, and they were two hardbacks: a beautifully illustrated copy of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ by Kenneth Grahame and ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams. I6a00d8341c84c753ef0168eb87d246970c-800wi remember loving them completely and breaking the first one open on Christmas morning, the way children nowadays might stuff in to the first of six chocolate filled selection boxes and the latest Xbox game.

My first love was books and I always felt this made me a little strange, having no bookish friends that I knew of. I have spent years taking off from the crowd to wander into grand bookshops like Waterstones by myself, not to be found again for several hours. While many of my school pals were licking the windows at boob-tube tops and Rah-Rah skirts in TopShop, I was stroking pretty book covers whilst being weirdly intoxicated by the delectable aroma of paper, ink and adhesive. I was no glue sniffer; I was a book sniffer and not yet proud of it. I told no one.

Then one day, as as slightly older fifteen-year-old, I rode my bike through town on the way to school and spied a gorgeous, white, boob-tube dress that took my fancy. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and every day – for about a month – I stared at it as I cycled by, wishing it could be mine but knowing it had a price tag my hard-up mother would balk at. I dreamed of that dress and it was a dream I could tell my friends about had I chosen to, because loving new fashions was cool, of course. But I didn’t.

I remember spending an extraordinary amount of time thinking about that dress. How the boy I was mad about at school would notice me at last if I wore it to the school youth club disco. How much I would feel like Madonna in it. I must have imagined myself in that dress, wearing the pair of white lace, finger-less gloves I did own, singing, ‘Like a Virgin,’ for weeks.

Then one night my mother came home screaming that she had had a huge win at the bingo. Hooray! We could buy new clothes instead of being gifted second hand ones from friends with older daughters. The very next day, I walked in to the shop that had almost made me fall off my bike countless times and bought my dream dress.

As a young girl, I told no one of what I thought was my extraordinary love of books or my ‘delusional’ dreams of myself in that dress and as an adult, I’ve told no one of the amount of times I have pictured my own books on the shelves of Waterstones, WHSmiths and Foyles. How many times I’ve mentally placed them between Marian Keyes and Sophie Kinsella in airport shops. No one knew just how delusional I was – until now.

Last month, I had word from my publisher, Fledgling Press, that my book launch event for the paperback of ‘The New Mrs D‘ would be in Waterstones in Glasgow. Because I pictured it so often? Or because it is written… so to speak? 😉 We shall _78300969_waterstones_tweetsee, because, my delusions include getting locked in one night like this lucky guy…

Happy World Book Day! And stay delusional.

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My book launch for the paperback of ‘The new Mrs D’ is at Waterstones, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow on 30th April 2015 at 6.30pm. I’d be thrilled to see you there, if you happen to be in the vicinity. Please stop by 🙂

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!

Laughing inappropriately and Other Guilty Confessions

Womens comedyI spied a Twitter profile today which said, ‘laughs inappropriately. Even at funerals.’

At first I was outraged… and then I remembered I have done this.

Before you click away from here, let me attempt to explain myself. You see, I was young, naïve and completely horrified when it happened.

My thirteen year old self and the boy next door, Ian, had befriended the lonely old lady that lived across the road from us. Her name was Betsy and Ian and I would go around outside of school hours helping her in little ways; going to the shops for her and tidying her garden.  (See? Nice, friendly, Girl Guide type here). So we were very sad after she died and jumped on a bus into town alone on the day of the funeral to pay our respects at the crematorium. We possibly took flowers to her from her own garden, but, then… we were thirteen.

On arrival we found the service already in full, erm, ‘swing’ and so  jumped into some seats right at the back before snivelling through the service, even joining in with a hymn. I remember one or two people looking back at us with quizzical expressions, no doubt wondering who the heck we were. Only to be expected; we’d never met any of Betsy’s relatives.

Then the minister got to saying something along the lines of this:

‘We have come together from different places and we are all at different stages on our journey through life. Our paths are varied and we look at life in different ways.’

We are nodding. I have tears in my eyes. Ian places one arm around my shoulder and passes me a tissue.

‘But there is one thing we all have in common…’

I look at Ian, my eyes saying, ‘it’s true, we do. We all loved Betsy.’ *sniff*

‘…at one point or another, our lives have touched the life of Margaret….’

That was when it happened – the inappropriate laughing thing. Not loud belly laughs you understand. More of a stifled guffaw as we realised with horror we were at the wrong funeral and dived out of the door before really letting it all out, to outraged stares from the undertakers who had been busy solemnly placing the funeral flowers on the pavement outside.

But it was nervous laughter. You see, we couldn’t hold it in. It was like trying to suppress a sneeze and I’m utterly convinced I’m going to hell for it. Dear reader, I swear, to this very day I feel awful whenever I think of it.

It was the guilty laugh; the embarrassed laugh. The ‘did that really just happen?’ laugh. It is what has happened to me many times over the years while stood in crowded lifts (for no reason at all), when people trip in front of me in the street, when the nurse about to take my son’s blood pressure bends down to get her notes, lets out an accidental fart and continued seriously on like it hasn’t happened. When the doctor examining my boy’s broken arm on the same day said, in very broken English, ‘we’ll have to take it off’. And yes, before realising he meant the plaster cast, not the arm. I was laughing because I thought the doctor was recommending amputation – but, to be fair, my son laughed too. It was a NERVOUS LAUGH. Honestly.

Shocker – this awful thing is hereditary.

Let me attempt to explain the phenomena that is the nervous laugh more clearly:

In my early twenties I worked as an auxiliary nurse and one morning myself and a colleague had been given the unenviable task of bed bathing a recently deceased lady on a low lit ward, in her bed, with the curtains pulled round as the other patients slept. The old lady had passed peacefully with her eyes closed, yet as we struggled to tug her nightie over her head for her wash, the neck of the garment caught on and lifted her eyelids. As we peered down to find her eyes now wide open, both of us jumped back, alarmed, before bursting into nervous laughter. The ward Sister had not been so amused.

‘What on earth is going on in here?’ She’d hissed, while poking her head in through the curtains, making us jump a second time.

I really am going to hell, aren’t I? But we were terrified. We thought the old lady was a) looking at us b) returned from the dead and c) going to need her nightie back on. I do like to think that she was somewhere on the sidelines watching us, having a last giggle at her joke at our expense, before heading to some more peaceful place than this.

However, I can’t help it. Whilst I have the utmost empathy in most sad, difficult or embarrassing situations, life has always seemed to hand me inopportune comedy gold. And yes, often the joke is on me. Check out what happened last time I ever went to the gym in this post: Who’s Laughing Now?Untitled

Only two weeks ago I was struggling to open the lift in Edinburgh Premier Inn, which only worked if you put in your room key card, when I turned to the stranger beside me and complained:

‘God, I miss real keys. I hate these things.’

He then proceeded to show me how to work it properly before very seriously explaining to me that he was the person who had installed the entire system at the hotel.

Me: *Snorts*
Because of course, he was joking.

Him (still straight-faced): ‘No, it’s true. I work for the company that invented them.’

Most people would apologise or at least have the decency to look mortified. I found myself stifling inappropriate laughter all the way to the fifth floor, which was where I jumped out – glad to be free – and found him following me. He was getting out at the same floor and had to point out the direction of my room for me.

If there is a special kind of hell for people with inappropriate laughing disease, I have a one-way, first class ticket.

For my new novel (she adds in seamlessly), I’ve been studying the Pseudobulbar Affect, which is a neurological disorder involving unpredictable and uncontrollable emotional displays of, among other things, inappropriate laughing. So I may get back to you sometime in the future with the kind of personal diagnosis that will explain everything. Or, I may have been tied in to a strait jacket with locks built by the man from ComparetheKeycard.com

Finally, and I’m aware you might not want to do this now given my confessions of previous, seemingly callous behaviour, I must tell you that The New Mrs D is available to download FREE for three days from tomorrow – 3rd to the 5th of December. I’m giving it away as penance for evil acts. I do hope you will download it… and laugh appropriately.

Here’s a short video all about it.

Note: Names have been changed to protect identities. Except mine. Yours truly, Sharon Osbourne.

Update From a Slightly Less Terrified Author

For those that have been following my progress, I have news. About a month ago I left my agent – a most amicable parting – and decided to go it alone again. I won’t go into my reasons here, but will just say that there were other avenues for me to explore and as she was in the progress of moving to another company, I decided not to go too. My agent was – and still is – a very lovely, hard-working lady who was very much on my side. I have much to thank her for.

However, many and varied things have happened since which I’d like to share with you.

There was a tiny mention on BBC Radio4’s Women’s Hour Listener Week program this week, when Jane Garvey and Dr Paula Hall were discussing porn addiction in relationships.

A TV producer, having read and enjoyed the book, is now pitching it to TV and film companies. This could be phenomenal, but feet firmly on the ground with this one… I’ll keep you updated.

The wonderful folk at Novelicious  interviewed me on their website HERE.

I met with a small press publisher in Edinburgh, with a view to taking my current work in progress. This was a very positive meeting, with a lovely lady in a fabulous cake shop. (Priorities firmly intact as always). Now I just need to finish the book. Again, I will keep you posted!

And another, less pleasing thing – the loss of my sales rankings and Amazon Best Sellers chart position.

Publication of The New Mrs D was agent-assisted under Amazon KDP’s White Glove Program. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a self publication platform only available to agented authors. Your book is promoted on three Amazon pages in rotation with other White Glove Program books for a period of thirty days. In return, Amazon KDP requires a 6-month or a 12-month period of exclusivity. Some authors see a spike in sales during that 30-day period, while others see little, if any, difference.  In order to benefit from this 30 days of promotion, you must sign 15% of your royalties away to your agent. I decided to give it a go.

The New Mrs D hit the UK humour best-sellers list within a day of becoming available for pre-sale. And not long afterwards, it was chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal promotion on the Australian Amazon site. For one day only it appeared on the Kindle Daily Deal home page and subsequently sold 857 copies in that day, rocketing it to no1 bestseller over all.No 1 in OZ

Following this one day deal, it remained in the 100 best selling humour list, outselling greats like Helen Fielding, Graeme Stimsion and Sophie Kinsella, for three months.  This afforded me a steady income, good enough to fund more advertising, giveaways and keep me writing. So when my agent and I parted ways, I asked what would happen to my eBook rights, currently held by her previous agency, if I took them back. The answer was ‘nothing, it’s fine. They have agreed to transfer the rights to you and you won’t lose any of your reviews or sales rankings.’ ‘Happy days,’ said I. ‘Let’s do it.’
For two whole weeks I continued to plug my book, putting links in everything I wrote and even began planning a few free days on KDP. I contacted over 40 free ebook websites telling them of the dates of my promotion. Then, I tried to see my sales reports, which were originally held by the agency so I could only see them if I asked for them. Assuming they were now moved to me, I had a peek and found: NOTHING. Not one sale. Despite my novel appearing to still sitting comfortably in the Amazon Australia Humour Top 100.

I contacted Amazon, who then pointed out that I now in fact had TWO ebooks on there. The original one, still with my old agency, and a newly published one which was the one I was looking at that had no sales. I wasn’t seeing sales reports because the original sales were still going to the agency. The one I had was only visible to me. I hadn’t noticed the new ASIN number.

I contacted my ex-agent agent, who came back to me the very next day to say it was all sorted out now and very sorry for the confusion. The rights were now mine. I still had my reviews and sales rankings. Brilliant! Except… I didn’t.

The agency unpublished the original eBook (without telling me or my agent) and it crashed out of the charts, leaving me with a newly published copy that couldn’t be seen or found by anyone. I’d gone from making a modest income, which in truth was like oxygen to us, to none – at the click of a button. I telephoned the agency, naturally, to be told, ‘we’re very sorry. It can’t be undone.’

At this point I should point out that when entering the White Glove agreement, I was well informed that taking my eBook rights back could result in the loss of my sales rankings. But, I had said that if it meant losing rankings I was happy to leave the eBook with them if they were fine with that. I was advised that I could move it and nothing would be lost.

It was.

And so, here I am again, trying to hit the ground running and finding all the links to my book on the world wide web in order to have them changed. This was a learning curve; and one I’m happy to share with you so you don’t fall down a similar pit on your publication journey.

Anyway, as I always say: ONWARDS!

And so I am asking for your help. In order to try and get The New Mrs D back into some form of visibility, I am having TWO KDP FREE DAYS next week. You can download the eBook from 3rd – 5th December absolutely FREE. Please, please do.

Check out my video below, which was made for just $5 by a design artist I found on www.fiverr.com. Another great, promotional tip for you 😉

Thanks to everyone for your messages of support, for downloading and for the reviews I am so grateful for have been able to keep. Nothing ever comes easily, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth having.

Standing On My Tiptoes

Today is another day on the emotional roller-coaster known as ‘trying to succeed as a writer,’ because this arrived:

In truth, I had a little cry, thought of my long passed father and looked up to the heavens to say, ‘I did it dad.’

I didn’t sell a million copies, win a book deal or become a famous author; I just made a book I could hold in my hand at last, after a long time of thinking I might never see it in print. And the first thing I wanted to do was tell my dad. The message might well have missed him, because I’m not sure he is flying about up in the sky to be honest, but he’ll understand the sentiment.

So here it is and I’m sad I had to do it myself, but I wrote a book and I got it printed. Now I don’t have to go through life wondering, ‘what if I’d tried?’

At five foot nothing, I have spent many hours standing in crowds on my tiptoes to be able to see and have people see me. To me, self publication feels like that. So, in some ways, I’m experienced.

The New Mrs D is available as an eBook on Amazon and will be available on paperback this week. I hope you will look up to see little me.

Many, many times I have said this but I shall take this opportunity to say it again:

If to see your own work in print feels like something that’s only in your dreams, all you have to do is open your eyes and get to work. You may only sell one copy (to your sister) or a hundred copies (to yourself) and then have to store them in the garage. But you will never again have to wonder, ‘what if I’d tried?’

Do it X

From the brilliant, indie published poet Erin Hansen
From the brilliant, indie published poet Erin Hansen

In Celebration of the One Star Book Review

In the spirit of sharing my writer experience and journey with you, today I got my very first one star review for The New Mrs D – in Australia where its promotion at $0.99 has just begun. Here is the review in all its glory. I am now author-initiated.

Mrs D

At the same time, I discovered The New Mrs D has gone to no 2 in  No 1 in OZthe Amazon 100 Best Sellers Humour chart, no 2 in the Women’s Fiction Best Sellers chart and is currently – as I type – the Best Selling Kindle eBook on the entire Australia site.

I was expecting a mixed bag of reviews. Comedy is so subjective, therefore I am surprised to have had the luxury of going for two whole months without a one star review. I have held my breath before opening each new addition, waiting for the worst; the slap in the face. But now it has landed, I can confirm that to me it feels no worse than all of the publisher rejections The New Mrs D received. I feel pretty okay to be honest. And of course, am fully aware there will be loads more to come in my career.

Yet for today, on Amazon Australia at least, my book is outselling ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I understand the Australian site is quite new and small at the moment, but this still feels like a lovely and significant achievement. There is nothing to do but remind yourself of one important thing: the rejections and the bad reviews are just people’s opinions. If they were all bad, then perhaps I would rethink this new commitment to writing. Happily, they are not.

So to new writers, established writers and aspiring writers I say this: You HAVE to concentrate on the positive to keep going. I love to write and I don’t intend to let anyone discourage me. I do think it is important to look at the negative comments as learning tools and search for common aspects in order to inform future works. All I wished to achieve was to make a living, pay the bills and have room to breathe by doing that which I love and I intend to just keep plugging away at it. A terrific writer who is far more experienced than I – author of ‘The Humans’ Matt Haig – put it so well on his Facebook page today:

matt haig

The love of writing and being able to put that work out into the world to be read in itself is intoxicating. I’m 43 and at last and for the first time ever, I love what I am doing. I think it takes a lot to put your creation – your heart – out into the world, particularly knowing you are open to public criticism. Take heart. I did a quick scout of some of my all time favourite books on Amazon, to see what their one star reviews were like. Turns out, these books are all boring too 😉

Let’s have a one star review party!

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
great expectations
Great Expectations – by the great ‘Charles Darwin’ 😉
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - a book I unashamedly ADORED
Eat, Pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert – destroying civilisation as we know it according to Voldermort.
One of my favourite reads of last year - 'Life After Life' by Kate Atkinson
One of my favourite reads of last year – ‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson What is this? First she has a life, then another life?!? This is NOT as advertised.
jingl;e
Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – Rubbish! I’m so angry I leaned on my keyboard! Go away, thank you.
pride and p
Damn you Amazon! I came here to buy a horse head mask and accidentally bought a Jane Austen Classic! Clearly deserving of one star and, if Jane is reading this, ‘can I exchange please?’

save

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

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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

porn quote

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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Blog Tours – What To Wear

I was recently invited on a blog tour and my first honest-to-God thought was, ‘ooh, I don’t know if I can afford to travel.’

More seasoned writers will be smirking at this, but for anyone not familiar with the world of blogging, (hi there!) a blog tour is purely virtual. You don’t need a suitcase, new frock or train tickets.  All you need is the ability to write a blog post and share the link building, book marketing love online. I am lucky to have been invited to two for this month now; one with writer and marketing consultant for the arts, Anna Mansell and the other with ‘This Family Life’ author Jon Rance.

Blog tours are one of the things I’ve got to learn as I go along in the world of being a newly published author, along with:

‘Amazon sales rankings’

Me: ‘#11,000! Woop woop! I’ve sold eleven THOUSAND books!’
Learned person: ‘Erm, nope. That means there are 10,999 books selling better than yours…’

Using Twitter To Sell My Book

What? I never use Twitter to sell my book!

buy the book

Being Braced For Book Reviews

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Me drowning, with whisky, water, paracetamol and a machete. Pretty sure this is the title of a Morrisey song…

I’m fine, really I am!

No pacing. No rocking back and forth hugging mysel&%4$$$

Oops, knocked the laptop off my knee there… whilst rocking and hugging myself.

Having Realistic Expectations

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Basically, I’ve got it all figured out absolutely one hundred percent not at all…

Next week, I’m off to Sutherland for a week. Please let it be sunny and warm! And while I am away, please buy my book TheNewMrsD

Also.. I’m very grateful to have also had my first two author interviews this week. You will find them on the links below:

CHICKLIT UNCOVERED

JACQUELINE WARD’S BLOG

Matt