Friday, December 28, 2007

Highs and Lows of 2007

As 2007 begins to draw to a close, it seems an appropriate time to look back on the year and all that has transpired, from both a writing and personal point of view. The past year has been one of great highs and crashing lows, thankfully though there have been more of the highs.

These include from a writing point of view:

Doing a very well received talk at Borders, Kingston upon Thames in January
Various other talks and events throughout the year
The second updated edition of my book being published in May
3 fabulous reviews which appeared in the weeks following its launch - in Nexus magazine, Self Publishing and Paradigm Shift. The Self Publishing one has done brilliant things in particular since they said my book was the opposite to The God Delusion - mention that and I found that and book shops immediately ordered them!
Subsequently being featured in Self Publishing magazine as a self published success story
My first live radio appearance in June on Internet Voices Radio, New York
Taking over the editors reins of my village newsletter at the end of May/beginning of June
My book being accepted by Gardners in August as a stocked title
Getting featured on Grumpy Old Bookman's blog site and several others hosted by his regular readers
Getting the book into a total of 122 Waterstones stores after ringing each and every one of their 300 odd stores in turn
Also at least 7 branches of Borders - have only just started ringing them
Features in various newspapers and magazines - Self Publishing, Dorking Advertiser, Surrey Advertiser, Epsom Post, Staines and Chertsey Herald, Writers News (twice)
Meeting Richard and all those who work for Authors OnLine at their 10th anniversary celebration in October (and that was a celebration!)

On a more personal note highlights have included:

Seeing Coran finally start to deal with his gender dysphoria and understand where it comes from and also come to terms with other long standing personal issues
My new job, which I started in November
Settling into our new home and getting to know the residents of our village.
2 fabulous and relaxing trips to the wonderful place in the world - Lundy, and 2 trips to Forest Mere, also a lovely weekend in Glastonbury in November
Watching myself get gradually fitter and stronger after working my arse off at the gym
Making some truly wonderful friends through the Internet - on both sides of the Atlantic
The brilliant news that my brother has become engaged to his girlfriend of five years, and hopefully being able to meet her at long last very soon

The low points both personally and professionally have been:

A particularly nasty psychic attack by someone who purported to be my friend and being effectively forced to resign from my position as founder and co-administrator of the Internet forum I helped to launch - all water under the bridge now though
A nasty letter from someone slagging off my book - after they won it in a raffle would you believe - people don't respect things that they haven't had to pay for it seems
Various personal issues that I have had to deal with
The sheer hard slog to get into all those book shops which nothing can ever really prepare you for
The stupid excuses that certain book shops and other private individuals come up so as not to part with their money and buy your book - it is though their stuff and not mine!
Realising how little I would earn from it all - since sale or return has slashed my royalties in half
A disappointing turn out to my book signing at Waterstones in Staines - the people who promised to be there did not turn up and despite emailing to find out why I never did get a reply
An exceptionally busy run up to Christmas working seven days in a row and then having just two days off in which to enjoy the festivities

There will probably be other things that I think of as the week progresses, but whether I will have time to write them is another matter. I am once again working full time this week, and then have one more week of this to go before I revert back to my regular hours. I can't say I will be sorry. Really must crack on with the newsletter this weekend, in between going to the gym, trawling round the sales, tidying the house, surfing the net and going to sleep ...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas to all!

What a delight it was to wake up this morning next to my beloved Coran and realise that today, and in fact for the next two days, I do not have to go to work. I honestly do not know how I have found the energy to keep going these past few weeks. By the time I finished work yesterday around 4.45 pm I had worked for seven days in a row and was just about fit to drop. Normally I would have gone to the Christmas Eve service at our local church, and part of me wanted to, as both of us have been pulling away from the church in recent months, but somehow sleep just seemed so much more appealing. My body was crying out for it, and it got it in abundance, because I woke up refreshed and relaxed and ready to cook a scrumptious feast.

Coran and I did not exchange gifts this year, as to be honest there is not much that either of us really wanted. In my case as well I have been busy serving everyone else so that they can buy their own Christmas gifts and Coran just needed a good long rest. I suspect that is the reason actually why I have been working so hard, so that he could have the house to himself and the time off that he needs. My time will come when I visit Lundy in February no doubt.

I had been hoping that I may be able to extend the trip from 7 to 11 nights, but that is not to be. My editorial duties prevent me from extending the trip after 15th February when I am scheduled to return, and other bookings prevent me from going earlier. Still, maybe I will be invited onto Glastonbury radio or something and be able to spend some time there prior to going further west towards Barnstaple and the heliport at Hartland Point. I have 2 weeks to look forward to in the summer anyway - I have booked to go back to the island I love on my birthday, June 21st, which also happens of course to be the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. Now that we have passed the shortest day of the year and the days are slowly beginning to lengthen, I do feel a lot better. That to me is what this time of year is really much more about than celebrating the birth of Christ - welcoming back the light from the long, dark days of winter and that is what the Bible in all probability means when it says that he was born during one of the darkest times in the land, or words to that effect. It is talking much more in a spiritual sense.

The oven then shall be lit shortly to start preparing our Christmas lunch. Being both vegetarian and wheat free does present a unique set of challenges at this time of year, but I managed to find something suitable. We have a butternut squash and leek roast from Tesco with salsa sauce, which I shall cook with roast potatoes, carrots, roasted red onion, cauliflower cheese and wheat free sage and onion stuffing mix with lashings of roast onion gravy. We will save the Christmas pudding (wheat free as well of course) with custard for later on this afternoon with a glass of Baileys while we sit down to watch Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Happy Christmas then to all who read this and make sure it's a good one for you too!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bringing things up to date

Phew what a busy week it has been - I have hardly had a moment to myself and feel like the proverbial hamster on a wheel running round and round in circles going nowhere. I have not though gone nowhere, but actually had a very successful week. Having worked in this job now for just 5 weeks, last week (the trading week ends on a Saturday) I had the proud distinction of being salesperson of the week! Yesterday we took a little under £10,000, £4000 of which I was responsible for, which is not bad at all.

I also chose the right week to work full time, since our store was the best performing in the entire region, meaning that those who worked full time will earn a bonus of £100. I will have earned around £350 last week, which is equal to around 250 book sales or 4 months solid hard work of ringing all those bloody book shops! When I see it in such black and white terms it does leave me wondering what the hell I am doing, and how mad must I be, but then again as I have said so many times before, it is who and what I am, my life times work and I can no more stop doing this can I can stop breathing.

Talking of Waterstones though, I visited the blog site for the forthcoming Big Green Bookshop today which is set to open in Wood Green in the New Year, run by Simon Key and Tim West, who worked together at the sadly departed former Waterstones branch in Wood Green. Despite a large petition, Waterstones head office closed the branch and left the people of Wood Green in a literary wilderness.

Their blog entry for December 18th makes somewhat amusing reading - it is their predictions for 2008. I am sure that Simon and Tim won't mind me repeating them here, so that you can all have a good chuckle as just how daft the publishing world is rapidly becoming ....

They are as follows:

January; The BIG GREEN bookshop opens to fanfares and there is celebrating in the streets of North London well into the night. Our first customer brings a book back that they got at Christmas, claiming 'it was definitely bought here'.

February; Crockatt & Powell II opens in the cosmopolitan Fulham Road. It is called Powell & Crockatt after a furious argument between Matthew and Adam, and the first customer buys '4 yards of books to fill my new shelves'.

March; Scott Pack reveals that the rumours are true, he is Steve Stack, author of 'It Is Just You, Everything's not Shit'. He also admits to being John TwelveHawks and The Batman.

April; Profits soar at Waterstone's after a sticker misprint means that their latest promotion is a 2 for 3. WH Smith quickly counters this with a '50% on' promotion for their top 40 hardbacks.

May; JK Rowling donates for charity a fart in a jam jar. Amazon buy it for $3.6million, and runs a competition in which the winner gets to open the jar.

June; Claiming 'every little helps', Tesco starts just selling just the last chapters of books, and circling the bits that we should read.

July; publishing assistants at a large publishing House get a 15% pay rise, but turn it down saying ,'we get paid enough already'.

August; Christmas promotions start in earnest at Borders, WH Smiths, and Waterstone's.

September; An updated Kindle is released which vibrates and has flick pictures in the corner of the book, because nobody who buys one is really interested in reading are they?

October; Katie Price wins the Man Booker prize for Shiny, her latest novel. Michael Portillo calls it 'a tour-de-force'.

November; Top selling Xmas titles start to come through the pack, including 'do spiders belch?', 'the slighlty Adventurous book for Grannies', 'Jamie on rollerskates' and 'Hammond, May and Clarkson ridicule stuff surrounded by goons lapping up every little thing they do'.

December; The BIG GREEN bookshop sells it's 1000th copy of Life in the UK. Our last customer of the year brings a book back that they got at Christmas, claiming 'it was definitely bought here' mark my words, it's all gonna happen.

I don't doubt for a minute that they are right ....

Simon must have seen the comments that I made on their blog and posted some interesting ones of his own regarding how re-ordering at Waterstones works which interested readers can see or themselves in the preceeding post. I have emailed Simon to say a big thank you and wish them both the best for their endeavours and a wonderful relaxing festive season.

I will be glad to finish work myself at 5.30 tomorrow after having worked 7 days in a row. It doesn't seem fair in some ways that shop workers who arguably work far harder than almost anyone else at this time of year have such a small amount of time off at Christmas so that others can go and spend yet more money that they don't have. In my case I have just 2 days off - Christmas and Boxing Day and we had to fight for them. If Head Office had had their way we would have opened on Boxing Day as well.

Spare a thought then for those hard working sales people when you go shopping over the festive season for we are the cogs who keep the tills ringing and everything else in motion too.