Monday, 23 November 2009

Belle Du Jour, Comme Toujours!

One of the things I decided to do upon becoming a 'real' grown-up novelists, was to follow the example of some of my illustrious peers in the RNA and set up a Google alert for myself. In case you don't know what these are, essentially, you feed in key words to Google (in my case, my name and the titles of my two books) and every time something relating to your key-words pops up on the web, a link is posted automatically to your e-mail in-box.

Great, you think; now I can keep tabs on my ever-expanding presence on the world wide web and check out each and every reference to my books and myself as they pop up - er, no.

I don't know what it is about my Google alerts (although I suspect it has everything to do with me and how I set it up and nothing at all to do with with the technical capabilities of Google) but I can go whole without anything (including my rather fabby review by Leah, or this blog or, in fact anything that I KNOW IS UP THERE) actually coming through on the alert. However, I do get a lot of scores for High School soccer in the States which is played, I now know, almost entirely by teenage girls called Allie. I have also discovered that 'Tug' is quite a popular boys' name Stateside, that many people blog about their dog's favourite 'tug toy' and I got a whole sheaf of alerts over - although you might not want to dwell too much on the connotations of this last one - a welsh sheep farmer and his involvement in an ovine tug-of-love battle.

However the biggie, the alert to end all alerts over the past week or so has been the outing of Belle Du Jour of 'The Secret Diary of a Call Girl' fame and the similarity the title of her book (unwittingly I promise you!) bears to my 'Not So Secret Diary of a City Girl'. It has just enough lexiographic approximations to my own title to have sent my in-box into a positive frenzy - something I am sure Belle herself is quite used to achieving in other, non-inbox related, contexts.

Sigh. I can only hope that, come April, the tables will be reveresed and it will be Belle herself ploughing through the Google alerts and finding reference after reference to my very own 'City Girl.

Catching Up

Ooop! Last post was the day before Hallow'een. Sorry about that. The last two weeks have either been trying to get a partial finished and into my agent for feedback, finishing off the copy edits for the upcming 'Not So Secret Diary of a City Girl', being ill or - and this is the best bit - in London for the Romantic Novelists' Association Winter Party where I caught up with all sorts of old friends and, as ever at RNA functions, made some new ones!

In the middle of all this excitement, I also had my very first review. The wonderful Leah from Chick Lit Reviews read 'Tug of love' and not only gave it a smashing write-up, but a full five stars as well. There is always a bit of nervousness (actually, make that a lot of nervousness!)when your novel is finally published and people other than your best friend get to read it, so to get such a ringing endorsement was fab. To read the review in full click here Thank you Leah!!!! I will be doing a full interview for Chick Lit Reviews to coincide with the publication of 'City Girl' in the Spring, so watch this space.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Awesome Tuesday

Bit of a busy one yesterday - but also beyond brilliant. It all kicked off at 8.15 am when I arrived at Broadcasting House for a BBC interview. That's Broadcasting House in Plymouth, home to BBC television in the South West and (where I was heading) Radio Devon. I was booked in to be a guest on the Gordon Sparks Breakfast Show and, in between the news, Stevie Wonder and an item on a newly discovered dinosaur that could bite a T-rex's head off, I spent half an hour on air chatting about 'Tug', falling off a loo seat when I was four and whether or not Bretonside bus station should be a listed building. It was fab - and many, many thanks to Gordon, James and Stuart for making it such a top experience. I even got a David Braine postcard to take home for my mum (she likes his synoptic charts!).
Then, after a trip round Tesco for Hallow'een essentials, it was off to Goodbodies beauty salon in Ivybridge for a pampering manicure ahead of my very first book signing! Kay Goody, the proprietor had organised it as part of a 'Girls' Night In' evening and, as well as me scribbling my moniker on copies of 'Tug' there was a jewellery lady from Totnes, a Dermalogica girl doing wonderful things with skincare, beauty demonstrations and wine! What more could a girl ask for!! Huge thanks to Kay, Sara and Jenny and all the customers who made it a totally fabby night.
So back to work tomorrow and I have to begin gearing up for the launch of 'Tug' in Waitrose next week. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Talking About the 'P' Word

First up, the glitch mentioned in earlier posts with Amazon and a couple of other on-line retailers selling out of 'Tug' seems to have been solved and we are now back in business. Copies of the book have been thudding down onto doormats in Dublin, Paris, (hopefully) Singapore and everywhere in between. Hope you enjoy it, guys!
Now, back to the main event - the 'P' word: procrastination. We all do it - in fact, since becoming writers some of us do it even more than we used to. It has gone beyond a mere distraction and become virtually an art form in its own right. As an English student, I'd thought I was on top of the game, not able to sit down and really focus (okay, so I was an arts student, focus is relative) but still, not really get going unless the room was tidy,my laundry had been done, my eyebrows plucked and - although this was where it started it get really desperate, my fringe was trimmed.
These days I don't have a fringe, but I do have the internet - and this has taken the possibilities of procrastination to a whole new level. Now before I can start work (dusting, bathroom cleaning, eyebrow-plucking not withstanding) I need to check the e-mail (two accounts), read FaceBook (two accounts), have a quick look at the blog and the website and finally, take a butchers at the on-line weather forecast...and after that, it is probably time to check the e-mails again before I can get down to work with a clear conscience that NOTHING is going to distract me.
Till I need a coffee. Or the phone rings. Or the washing machine stops. Or I see a split end and know that I won't settle until it has been removed from my person.
But this got me thinking: I've had wireless internet on my lap-top for over a year now but my procrastination time hasn't actually increased despite the fact I could easily spend the whole of my working time fussocking about on the web. In fact, certain sites that I used to religiously visit on a daily basis are now never even glanced at. Also, if I cast my mind back to the days when I had a laptop so ancient it virtually worked by steam-power, I used to begin each session by reading a page or two of whatever book was currently sitting by the bedside to 'get me in the mood'.
So I began to wonder if a certain frame of mind is essential if you're going to have a productive working session - and if that frame of mind is produced by surfing the net, clearing your in-box or painting your toe-nails then so be it. Also - and this is the clever bit - what if the procrastination 'breaks' that inevitabley occur in the middle of a session are actually something far more creative, and give your brain the time it needs to get to grips with whatever tricky little problems are bugging you in the middle of a session.
I remember reading in a magazine that short 'alpha breaks', when you find yourself staring out of the window are actually really important. It is during these moments of apparent inactivity that our brainwave pattern physically alters and our sub-conscious dashes around like mad, while we sit there with a glazed expression plastered over our faces. It is the reason why you can return to a crossword clue that has bugged you for days and suddenly see the answer staring you in the face.
So maybe the fussocking and furreting does have a purpose after all. I'll let you know...after I've made that next cup of coffee.

Friday, 9 October 2009

'Tug of Love' sold out - problem solved!

Sales for 'Tug' seem to have been going really well - as evidenced by the fact that first Amazon and now some other major on-line retailers have sold out. However, I can confirm that a batch of copies should be leaving the printers for the distribution company BY TUESDAY 13th OCTOBER, so everyone who has been waiting patiently for theirs should get it soon.

A thought...seeing as there will be copies floating around in the next week or so, why not get some of your christmas shopping out of the way and order copies for your friends and family? Avoid that last minute Christmas rush AND beat the postal strike in one fell swoop! xxxxx

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Smoothing Down the Edges

One of the natural imbalances of novels is the amount of time they take to read versus the time they take to write. A ninety-odd thousand word novel like 'Tug' takes the best part of a year to write but can easily be gobbled up by a reader in twenty four hours - I know, I've been that reader. So, as I tinkered with my manuscript this morning, I was wondering what it was that actually took the time -and I think the answer is "getting it right".
I can write the first draft of a book in about three to four months. However, the result is usually so incoherent that it would make a cat laugh - and remember, cats can't even read. I then spend as much time as I have left before the deadline (hopefully at least six months) going over it and over it in order to make it as perfect as possible - including at least one 'go through' to make sure there are enough jokes in it.
I take my hat off to authors such as Freya North who restrict themselves to three drafts before handing the book in to their publisher - but take comfort in the fact the great Jane Austen was a fiddler and a fussocker just like me. Her manuscripts, it seems, are full of alterations and crossings out; and, when there just wasn't enough room on the page for any more rewriting she would attatch the latest corrections, written on tiny pieces of paper, directly to her manuscript with dress-making pins. (see 'Jane's Fame' by Claire Harman p50)
Suddenly, the cut and paste function on my PC seems little short of miraculous.

On another topic, I have been asked how I chose to celebrate the release of my first novel - and the answer is: with new pyjamas. okay, so not very rock 'n' roll but I LOVE new pyjamas. Somewhere deep down in my psyche, is the notion that when (note: that's when not if)I find the Right Pair, I will miraculously be transformed into Jennifer Aniston circa Season Two of Friends. I will be tall, slim, able to toss my perfect coiffed locks nonchelantly and enjoy an enviable girl-about-town lifestyle with my equally tall, slim, coiffed etc etc buddies. However, it's the same every time. I get the jammies home, slip them out of the carrier bag, snip off the labels and climb in, my hopes high that THIS TIME with THIS PAIR the dream will finally be realised. But it's never to be. On each occasion, the New York loft apartment and the Ralph Lauren wardrobe totally fail to materialise and I find myself curled up on the sofa with a cuppa watching the re-runs of Gavin and Stacey like I did the week before. Nothing wrong with that - in fact, maybe this is exactly what Jen dreams of in the middle of her party-party Hollywood lifestyle. But I never give up because it's just a matter of tracking down that elusive pair, and when I do - well, it will all have been worth it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I have just read my e-mails and can confirm that Waitrose Food and Home in Salisbury will be stocking 'Tug of Love' from November 2nd. Woo-hoo! Big thanks to Freya at Head Office and Peter in Salisbury for agreeing to this and let's hope we can get the Salisbury launch going with a bang!
Allie xxxxxxxxxx

Today's the Day

Well, here it is. This is officially the day that 'Tug of Love' makes it onto the bookshelves.
What does it feel like? A little weird, actually. Copies have been popping through letterboxes for over a week now and a trickle of (enthusiastic) reviews from friends and family have been making their way into my inbox which is amazing. The two things I am most proud of are a. that people find it hard to put down once they've started and b. it's funny. The last one is very, VERY important: all those scribbled notes in the first draft such as 'must think of joke about polar bears' have obviously paid off! (And yes, if you haven't read it, there is a line about polar bears in a book concerning love, lust and divorce litigation.)
As ever, though, it's not just one person who writes a book. Although in a strict, techinical sense I was the one who sat down and did the typing, I couldn't have done that without a huge raft of people offering everything to child care to a shoulder to cry on - you know who you are and I'm deeply grateful.
However, as I have one fledgling book hopping out of the nest, I'm also aware that book number 3 is now crying out for attention. I am currently half way through chapter three and trying to get to grips with a whole cast of new characters and their foibles. Like the fantastic Freya North, I too have a queue of heros and heroines lining up in my brain and getting restive about when it will be their turn to hit the page;and right now, it is the turn of the indomitable Katie Sharp and Dr Edward Forster. I think I can best describe this book as an unholy mixture of 'AS Byatt's 'Possession- meets-Scooby Doo-meets PG Wodehouse' - with the ghost of an aristocratic Eighteenth Century playboy poet thrown in for good measure (a sort of anti-Mr Darcy).
All good stuff - I hope.
But here's to 'Tug of Love' - God bless her and all who sail in - I mean, read - her.
Allie xxxxxx

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Freya North's Top Tips

Yesterday was the September meeting of the RNA at the New Cavendish Club in London. Our speaker was the wonderful Freya North, bestselling author and winner of the 2008 Romantic Novel of the Year Award for her book Pillow Talk, a fantastic love story exlporing the idea of whether first love ever gets a second chance.
Freya gave inspiration to us all as she told us how she had spent four years as a struggling, unpublished author before - in sheer desparation - sending the manuscript of her first novel, Sally off to an agent with a fabricated list of adulatory reviews! These purported to be from (amongst others) Jilly Cooper, Germaine Greer, Mary Wesley and Radio Four's Woman's Hour! Thankfully, the tactic paid off and before long she had landed an agent and a three-book publishing deal - although she didn't tell us quite how she managed to wriggle out of the question from her agent in their first meeting - "So, how do you know Jilly then?"
Writing is at the centre of Freya's life. She writes dilligently every day at her local library in North London on a lap-top which has had all internet connections, photos and music removed - in fact, because she goes to the library every day, one of her children thought until recently that she was, actually, a librarian. She works her books through three drafts (only three!!) before sending them to her editor and revealed that even if she was still unpublished, she would still be writing.
Book number eleven is currently in production and is - I can reveal - about how people in a relationship are always caught between two other women: the girlfriend is caught between her ex'x new love and her new love's ex, whilst the guy is caught between his ex and his new flame. It promises to be another rivetting read from Ms North, although Funny You Should Read That wishes it was closer to completion than chapter Two - can't wait!
Another project Freya is currently excited about is the introduction she has been asked to write for a new edition of Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders. Freya said she loves the way Defoe gets under a woman's skin and writes so convincingly in the first person and reckons that Moll is just the sort of feisty heroine today's readers will really come to love!
All in all, she was a bit of an inspiration. As Funny You Should Read That always says - never give up and never stop writing: Freya North is a prime example of what can happen when you do just that!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Top of the Pops

Just got back from my run - probably one of the last I will be able to do in the evenings until the clocks go forward next year. The irony is that I really love being out in the twilight (I suspect I would enjoy being outside at dawn as well, only it would involve impossible things like getting up early and being energetic before breakfast) but I'm savvy enough to know that running in the dark is a bit barmy for a lone female.
Especially one who runs in a black top and joggers.
The question is, though, when is it too dark to run - after the streetlights come on? When it's too dark to see what you're treading in on the pavements? When you can't see your hand in front of your face? Sunset itself is no help as it's often perfectly light for a good while after the sun has disappeared and, assuming Salisbury doesn't have a large vampire population, this should still be reasonably okay...

Onto other matters and I want to say an enormous 'thank you' to everyone who has pre-ordered Tug of Love - especially those who pre-ordered on You are amazing and have pushed it to a dizzy Number 2 position in the romance pre-order charts, just tucking in behind the mighty Nora Roberts. I am stunned and I suspect they can see the grin on my face from space!!! THANK YOU, you are fabulous. Yay!
Allie xxxxx

Thursday, 10 September 2009

It's All Happening!

I logged on to the computer today intending to do the final edits to Chapter One of my new book before sending it off to my agent - but it's now twenty past ten and I STILL haven't done any writing, mainly because I am too excited!!! The first piece of news is that my second book, The Not So Secret Diary of a City Girl is up on Amazon: ( I only submitted it two and half months ago and already it's been put into the Little Black Dress publishing schedule with an expected publication date of the 1st of April. Needless to say I am beyond thrilled.
The second thing is that a piece about me winning the Joan Hessayon Award for best debut novel with Tug of Love is in the good old Salisbury Journal today - along with a nice photie taken by my hubby.
I just need to bring myself down to earth with a bump and get on with the nitty gritty of actually doing some writing!
allie xxxx

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Final Countdown

Hiya! I'm writing this on the evening of Sunday 6th September which means (da-da-DAAAAAAA)....only 24 days to go until my first novel, 'Tug of Love' hits the bookshops. It's been the most unbelievable rollercoaster since I typed the first draft one-handed as I jiggled newborn BabyJay in my arms - the newborn who is now almost four years old! Yup, it's taken me four years to become an overnight success - well, here's hoping anyhow!
The novel is about Lucy Stephens, a divorce lawyer who doesn't believe in love and I was lucky enough to be able to use my time as a pupil at the family law Bar to inject a bit of local colour although, in answer to the many MANY questions no, it's not in the least autobiographical. I promise.
One of the most incredible things for me as a wet-behind-the-ears writer has been the publicity surrounding the launch of the book. Basically, as a newbie, I don't get international reading tours and nation-wide book signings arranged for me - I have to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in myself but everyone has been totally fab. Little Black Dress are doing what they can for me, the wonderful Rich at Salisbury's Waterstone's store has said I can leave a large batch of my publicity postcards by the till and my friends and rellies have also been sticking up these postcards in places as diverse as York Magistrates Court, a branch of the fabulous 'Hobbs' women's clothing stores and a university department of English Literature! I am also thrilled to be doing a book signing/reading at Goodbodies beauty salon in Ivybridge, South Devon on the 27th October (contact the owner Kay Goody for tickets!!)and - this is the one where I am currently keeping everything crossed - hoping to get the book stocked in my local Waitrose Food and Home store. This would be totally magic: the head book buyer for the Waitrose chain has given her approval and I am now waiting to hear from the store itself....I am biting my nails, I tell you!!
Meanwhile, Book Number Two has been okayed by my editor at Little Black Dress and we are looking at a publictaion date of sometime next summer - although if you REALLY can't wait, I might post a few little tasters up here over the coming months so remember to check it out... And it's on with Book Number 3.
Honestly, there's none of your sitting around all day in a pink feather boa drinking coffee about this writing lark, it's all go go go!
More later and don't forget to check out my spanking new website at for the chance to win a signed copy of 'Tug'!
Take care and see you soon!
Lots of love, Allie xxxxxx