Sunday, 17 February 2013

Book Signings have Changed!

How quiet can quiet be?
You may know there are new rules for book signings in Waterstones.  Basically, your slot is limited to two hours and authors must not ‘approach’ customers in the shop but wait politely, mute, like Victorian children, until they are spoken to first! In place for a few months now, book signings are, unsurprisingly, fewer than they have been in recent years.  It can be daunting for an author who is not famous, and it gives the impression that CEO James Daunt is really wanting only celebrity names that will attract queues of ‘fans’.

After more than 35 signings over the years, this was my first signing event under these regulations and it was so quiet I was preparing for an early bath.  I sat for a while in peaceful, reflective mood; after all, what else could I do? Contemplating the Mothers’ Day display, with its Baking Moulds and Janet and John fridge magnets, and the table with an assortment of Kindles, I was inwardly sighing at how things were not what they used to be. What lovely conversations I used to have!

Then I left my post in order to purchase a book upstairs (you’re curious perhaps; it was ‘Wedding Etiquette’ to assist me and my family in getting it right on my daughter’s special day). As I returned, there was a lady looking through my books. It was @CamObserved who had spotted me on Twitter! It turned out our children went to the same school and we had a mutual friend … This delightful person bought Shades of Appley Green and I decided to stay a little longer, still behaving immaculately – apart from my sign, which was a tad wicked I suppose.

I ended up signing almost as many books as I might have done by chatting in the old way to likely and unlikely suspects alike. (If charity mugging is chugging, what is book mugging?) A lady came up to me very excited to see Gypsies Stop tHere and No Gypsies Served   her adult daughter always said she would like to try the Gypsy lifestyle for a while, so both books were bought for her daughter’s upcoming birthday. I had a lovely chat with a man who used to work with Travellers in Southwark and then a man from Aldershot considered my books thoughtfully and, after I had filled him in with a little background on each one, he bought all three.  It would have been unseemly to hug him and splash wet kisses upon his cheeks and, fortunately, I managed to stop myself in time.

All in all, I did not go home hoarse from talking for maybe four hours to customers who had come into the shop either with a precise purpose or to browse. I was surprised, but maybe this is the way to go after all!

I am not so daunted by Daunt as I was.
PS Big thank you to all in Camberley Waterstones!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

I Wrote It My Way - Nicky Wells

My exciting and effervescent guest author today is a rising star, a self-confessed rock 'n' roll chick. She is - drum-roll, please - Nicky Wells! I do love to host a rich mix of writers and if you take a look back at previous posts where writers reveal how they arrived at 'their way' of writing, you will discover a veritable medley, a pot-pourri for your delectation.
So, opening with a keen musical reference, as you would expect from a rock-star, let us tune in to Nicky's story:

'Well, Frank, I certainly did! To begin with, I wrote Sophie’s Turn for me, and only for me. Therefore, I wrote it about me, or rather, about things that I’d always daydreamed of doing, or of happening to me. Unsurprisingly, I put a great deal of me in the book. Sophie’s love for rock music and rock musicians; her occasional clumsiness and ill-advised comments; her humour, excitement and spark… those are all very ‘me’. Writing was a way to bring out all the bits of me that I kept hidden or was too shy to share. 
And there’s also a lot of me in Rachel, Sophie’s best friend, she with the scathing humour and the caustic tongue. I’d love to be able to be Rachel in real life; carefree, self-assured, glamorous and outgoing.
The subject matter of Sophie’s Turn, the fairy tale element (world-famous rock star fancies the girl next door) has appealed to me ever since my Grandma introduced me to the stories of the brothers Grimm, and it’s the same aspect that makes romantic comedies such as Notting Hill such a hit in my world.
And yet Sophie’s Turn is more than a romance. It’s not just chick lit. There is a strong element of travel in the story; probably not enough to justify labeling it as a travel book, but enough for almost every reader to comment on Sophie’s journey. Speaking of journey, Sophie’s Turn is also about self-discovery. Sophie has some very difficult decisions to make, and they don’t exactly take her where she (or the reader!) expected.
People who know me tell me they can hear me in every one of Sophie’s utterings. Or Rachel’s, for that matter. So I think it’s safe to say that yes, I wrote it my way…'

It is always interesting to hear how much of a writer is in his or her characters. Many of us hotly deny this, but clearly for Nicky this is what makes Sophie so real! Thanks so much Nicky.

Sophie’s Run is now available in Kindle edition from and, and in Paperback edition from and You can also get the paperback at Barnes & Noble, or download Sophie’s Run onto your Nook (coming soon).

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Shard

View from Millennium Bridge
On 1 February The Shard opened its 72nd level to the public, offering unique, breathtaking views of London; I was lucky enough to be up there the following day, on Saturday afternoon.

Situated in Southwark, central London, The Shard is the tallest building in UK by far, (and Europe), almost 1/3 of a kilometre high in total (309.6 metres, 95 storeys); the gallery with The View is 244 metres from the ground. Our son, who lives just a five minute walk away, has seen it grow in the three years it took to construct; an amazingly short period of time.
Globe Theatre on banks of Thames
Looking down, it is hard to believe Southwark was once the first London ‘suburb’, from Roman times. As you gaze out to the horizon, the vastness of London is jaw-dropping, yet the elevation makes London’s famous landmarks, such as the London Eye/Millennium Wheel; The Gherkin; The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge and so on, seem dwarfed.
It is especially pleasing to see how, through careful planning, St Paul’s Cathedral still stands proud, well away from London’s taller towers. The famous vista from Richmond Park to St Paul’s has been preserved through history.
Tower of London, HMS Belfast
I could simply lift the ‘Fascinating Facts’ and history of Southwark from the Official Guidebook but that seems wrong for so many reasons. I will, instead, tell you a little more about our special day and something about it that I recommend.
In the morning, my husband and I went to The Museum of London, close to The Barbican (St Paul’s tube station); not so well known, perhaps, as the South Kensington Museums (National History, V & A and Science). With its treasure-trove of displays and artefacts it shows how London developed since ‘the beginning of time’. Having absorbed as much as my brain could hold, and walking with what our family calls ‘museum-legs’, we took a brief pit-stop at our son’s flat before our Shard experience. Now we would have a bird’s eye view of what we had seen as marshland and meadows aeons ago. However familiar you may be with the streets and sights of London (as we are), this visit complements ‘The View’ perfectly.

It was good to be reminded there of some major historical events: Roman Britain ended in 410 AD; the original St Paul’s was built in 604AD, destroyed in 1087, its replacement, the mediaeval St Paul’s, completed 1320, with wooden scaffolding it fared badly in the Great Fire of London in 1666 and finally we have the magnificent Sir Christopher Wren cathedral we have today. Did you know the London booksellers stored their books and documents in the crypt and thus they were all destroyed by the fire? The even greater event was the Black Death or Plague that swept the world, and killed half of Londoners – then around 40,000.

Quirky things caught my eye:  a ‘Fuddling Cup’ and a ‘Porringer’; excavations near the Rose Theatre, one of the four famous Shakespearean theatres, revealed 16-17 glazed earthenware ‘Money-box tops’ (for holding the takings; 1 or 2 penny tickets) from the Surrey-Hampshire border. Appley Green land!!  
Looking up!
Back to The Shard. Fleetingly, I did have this slightly weird, vertiginous moment as we stared out at the sunset – perhaps, if everyone does this at the same time, I thought  … thinking of the famous Millennium  ‘’wobbly” (now rigid, be assured) footbridge spanning the Thames, that swayed to the rhythm of life crossing it.

Now The View bathed in rosy sunset glow


Out next tall building destination, later this year, is The Burj Khalifa, Dubai. I have seen it before, just the worm’s eye view. Heights and I do not always get on well, but so long as it is enclosed, like the Shard, and does not sway in the wind, I shall be fine!
From a place near ‘Appley Green’, Waterloo Station is only 35-40 minutes away and The Shard is just a couple of stops on the Tube, Jubilee Line to Southwark or London Bridge.