All I want for Christmas is…

A rest.

Actually, there are lots of things I want for Christmas, but ‘a rest’ is certainly near the top of the list.

‘More time’ would also be high up there. With five weeks until my book joins the millions of others on Amazon’s metaphorically creaking shelves, I have certainly been burning the candle at both ends. My internet usage of late has probably been on a par with that of the entire population of a small nation, as has my coffee consumption. After a day’s work, I come home, feed and vaguely interact with the kids (I talk, they grunt, I shout, they slam doors), and then I sit down for a few hours of hard slog with the aim of promoting my book.

I won’t bore you with the intricate details of this week’s admin, but it is all being done with the aim of shoving ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ under the noses of avid readers of that sort of thing on or as close to 21st January, the book’s launch date.

Other things I want for Christmas include bloggers agreeing to review the book, and opportunities to guest post or post author interviews in places frequented by discerning readers. Actually I might be a lot of things but I’m not a snob – the readers don’t have to be particularly discerning. I am having a good amount of success in this respect, but call me greedy if you like because I want more!

For Christmas I want my publicist to produce the killer press release. You know, the one that persuades The Daily Mail, The New York Times and the Wimbledon Village Women’s Institute to shout about my book. I am talking to my publicist this afternoon. I have had a few thoughts about headlines. What about ‘Six Months to Get a Life’: the best work of fiction since The…’ (no, let’s not go there, I might lose half my readers!) Maybe I had better leave it to a professional.

I would actually like a physical copy of my book for Christmas too – my author services partners are still working on it, so I haven’t felt it in my sweaty palms yet. I have lots of marketing ideas to pursue once I have the book to play with.

Oh how I envy my sons. They wrote their Christmas lists last week. ‘Dear Santa,’ my eldest wrote, ‘I would love an X Box with the latest Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto games.’ He is fourteen – you can see we have brought him up well. He went on to list other things he would like, including a rainbow and a unicorn. I am not sure why he wants a unicorn but I reckon he was really after the pot of gold, not the rainbow itself.

Sure, the pot of gold would be nice, but it isn’t top of my Christmas list. If thousands of people read ‘Six Months…’ then I will make a few quid, but what I am really after is the knowledge that people like my writing and are prepared to give up the time in their busy lives to read it. I crave the feedback.

Although come to think of it, the pot of gold might enable me to devote more time to my writing, which would be a present as valuable to me as anything anyone could give me.

My youngest son has got his own youtube channel. He wants some video recording equipment for Christmas. I might actually stump up for that, on the condition that he makes me a video book trailer. I have shied away from making one myself but I would be more than happy if my son, or even Father Christmas, feels minded to produce one for Christmas.

Other things I could do with for Christmas are a tech-savvy brain (or a PA), a new wardrobe in preparation for all those TV appearances and book signings (I quite like the cut of Lewis Hamilton’s jib – I wonder who his tailor is) and/or a celebrity friend or two who could say nice things about ‘Six Months…’ to their millions of followers.

A nice bottle of Rioja would be good. Oh, and obviously world peace and an end to suffering.

I have been a good boy this year, more out of circumstances than choice, but the big man doesn’t need to know that bit, does he?

What do you want for Christmas? Whatever it is, I hope you get it.

Ben

Divorce, sex and Six Months to Get a Life

A year or so ago, my life, and the lives of others close to me, went through a period of upheaval and change. I went from being part of the typical family unit to living with my parents and having to reinvent family relationships, routines and dreams.

Put the violins away. Out of adversity comes opportunity (God that sounds corny!). I had to think positively, otherwise I might have crumbled, fallen apart or even sunk to the sordid depths of watching soap operas all night with a can of strong lager in my hand. Wait. Rewind. What was I doing last night?

Anyway, to cut a long and personal story short, I coped. I got through my change in life circumstances, as did those close to me.

The single most important thing that helped me through my challenging time was a decision I took one wet Sunday afternoon when the kids weren’t with me. I decided to pursue my dream.

No, not the dream that involves Madonna and Kylie Minogue, but the one that I have had since Kylie was in her dungarees as a teenager in that Australian classic, Neighbours. Sorry, I am back on soap operas again.

My dream, since my school years, has always been to write a book. No, that’s under-stating it. Not just to write any old book, but to write a best-selling novel that thrusts me overnight into the public eye, alongside Rowling, Grisham, EL James (er, maybe not her), Cornwell and the other members of the literary glitterati. Even as a teenager I knew that it wasn’t enough for me to produce a book. I had to produce one that people other than my mother would read.

So, back to that wet Sunday afternoon in March. I got my laptop out, plugged it in, made a cup of tea and sat down to write. I drank my tea, got up and made a sandwich, sat back down and ate it. I thought some more, did some head-scratching and maybe a bit of chin-stroking too. Eventually it was tea time.

What to write? I love crime fiction but I don’t know the first thing about police procedures, forensic science or how the criminal mind works. So that was that genre out of the window. I am not a big fan of horror or sci-fi. And I don’t even know what dystopian fiction and steampunk are, so that’s them ruled out too.

‘What do I know about’, I asked myself in a frustrated tone of voice. Can you have a tone of voice when you say things in your head?

Eventually, in a eureka moment to rival the day that Einstein bruised his apple, the idea came to me. I know about relationships, or at least how to mess them up. I know about family. I know about the impact of the break-up of a long-term relationship. I also believe I know how to make people laugh (and cry). Why not stick all of that into a pot and stir it up?  And that’s when ‘Six Months to Get a Life’ was conceived.

The act of conception was slightly different from other acts of conception you might be familiar with, but after a lot of sole-searching, a fair bit of fiddling around and a few false starts (actually maybe there is more in common than I first thought) the moment was just as sweet.

I wrote the book over the course of the Spring and Summer. It was good therapy for me. Inventing Graham Hope and his friends and writing about his escapades made me smile. I loved writing the dialogue. Being a writer is fantastic. Unlike real life, you get ages to think up the perfect put-down lines.

I signed up with a company who have held my hand, and sometimes dragged me kicking and screaming through the editing and production process. Until today when we now virtually have a physical book to waive around. We have that elusive publication date. The 21st January is getting closer. My excitement is mounting.

I wanted to recap my author journey here in this blog. I am not recommending that everyone going through a relationship break-up writes a book. I am not even recommending that everyone who has gone through such a life-changing event buys my book (although it would be nice). I am just telling you how much the whole process has helped me through a difficult time.

And my regular readers have stood side by side with me on this journey. Lots of people have commented on this blog. Virtually all of them are people I do not know personally. You should know that your contributions have meant a lot to me. The whole process of writing the book and this blog has reaffirmed my belief in my own writing. It has given me hope that, one day, I might achieve my dream. I am under no illusions, there is still a long way to go. It isn’t as if this blog gets millions of hits a day. Even thousands would be nice. But I am at least on the road.

Update on my marketing activity…

Since my last blog, I have continued with my quest to gain reviewers for my baby, with a good response from bloggers. I have entered a sort of mini-competition on Jo Michael’s excellent book blog, with the aim of gaining more reviews and maybe some sales too.

I have also received more positive feedback on the book from another reviewer I have never met before. Her email made me smile so much that I was tempted to order a frame for it and stick it on my wall next to my Madonna poster circa mid-1980s.

My book has been sent off to an indie site that issues quality badges for books it recognises to be of a high standard – a sort of kite mark for Indie books. There’s confidence for you!

And finally, my publicist is preparing the press release for ‘Six Months to Get a Life’, to be sent out in January ahead of the book’s launch. She asked me if there were any quotes in my book that I thought would fit into the press release. I am currently re-reading it for the fifty-seventh time to find some pithy one-liners. The ones that make me smile most, but aren’t probably suitable for inclusion on a press release, are:

‘It’s been a while, if you know what I mean’… Graham Hope on his sex-life.

‘Graham has a big ego and a small dick. I wish it was the other way round.’ (Graham’s ex on Graham).

‘I was in my comfort zone even if my erogenous zone wasn’t seeing much action.’ I am not telling you who said that. You will have to read the book to find out!

I would love to hear what you think of my ramblings. And if you would be interested in reviewing the book, let me know. I will be sending review copies out to those who have already volunteered before Christmas.

Ben