Alison’s Advent Calendar Days seven, eight and nine

Oh, chirpy-chirpy cheat-cheat – rolling three advent calendar blogs into one! My excuse? One very hectic weekend, about which I have mixed emotions. Unusually for me I may actually bare my soul a little during the course of this blog, so be warned. It could get emotional…

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Donkey Common marquee on the right.

Saturday 7 December was Mill Road Winter Fair in Cambridge, and I was delighted to secure a stall at this hugely popular event. By Saturday morning I was also very nervous, mainly about the logistics of transporting one hundred hardback books, sweets (for unashamed bribery), Christmassy bits to send out a subliminal message that books make excellent gifts, and all the paraphernalia I’d decided I’d need to get me through the day. Luckily, with the help of my taxi driver partner and a robust sack barrow, the transportation process was relatively painless, despite the fact I failed to notice my stall right next to the entrance, and therefore had wheeled my heavy load from one end of the marquee to the other and back before I found it.

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My stall

With my stall set up an hour before the fair began I had time to relax. While stall holders arrived in an increasing state of panic the closer we got to the fair’s grand opening parade, I had a stroll around, cup of coffee in hand, to have a look at everything else on offer. I’m glad I took this opportunity, as I certainly didn’t get another one once the fair began.

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Setting up the marquee

As 10.30 approached I heard the opening parade heralding the start of the fair, and people started to arrive in their droves. It was only then that an unwelcome thought wormed its way into my head.

What If I didn’t sell one single copy?

My stall was sandwiched between a group of lively youngsters giving out free copies of local magazine Cambridge Edition, and a lady called Chloe selling slippers from Nepal. That’s what I love about fairs: the wares on sale are so random. Naturally the free magazines proved very popular, and possibly my biggest success of the day was an invitation to be featured in a future edition. My books didn’t fare so well. To begin with I had difficulty even giving my sweets away, as a gift wrapping service at the entrance was getting in first, so people were already munching on chocolate by the time they reached me. Remembering the advice of fellow Book Guild author Ian Johnson, I mingled as much as possible in the crowded marquee, offering my sweets and chatting to people about Dory’s Avengers, but it took almost and hour and a half to actually sell a copy.

Chloe was doing a lot better than I was; her slippers were proving very popular. I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps people didn’t want to carry a book while they were browsing, and would return later on to buys loads. Yeah, right! Book sales (or lack thereof) aside, I had a wonderful day at the fair. Chloe was good company, and the Cambridge Edition people were hilarious, competing with the Citizens Advice Bureau to see how many of their helium balloons would end up clinging to the roof of the marquee. Sadly the helium ran out long before the end of the fair, so the ‘Silly Voices’ fest we’d planned for later in the day never materialised.

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The fair in full swing

By lunch time the fair was in full swing, I’d sold a couple more copies of Dory’s Avengers and was beginning to really enjoy myself. There was plenty to watch, and plenty to amuse. Just outside the marquee was a children’s climbing frame, which had a fully-grown adult bloke hanging from it every time I glanced that way. One little girl came up to my stall, looked at the sweets, noticed at the ‘£10 a copy’ sign, and walked away looking rather disappointed. A couple of minutes later she returned, £10 note in hand, and asked if she could buy a sweet. The expression on her face when I told her the sweets were free was priceless.

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Cambridge Edition clearing up before heading to the pub.

A good hour before the fair ended the Cambridge Edition people had given away all of their magazines, and the balloons (apart from the group on the ceiling), so were heading to the pub. By this time I was very cold and a little disheartened, having only sold five copies of Dory’s Avengers despite my best efforts, so when the Cambridge Edition people invited me to join them I was dangerously close to abandoning my stock and accepting the invitation. Instead I stayed with Chloe, both of us starting to zone out a little after five hours running our stalls. It took all my will power to stop myself starting glassily at people as they arrived – would you buy a book from a zombied out author who never blinks?

Well, some people would as it turned out. The final hour of the day was by far the most successful for me, and by the time the drum beats of the Fair’s closing parade sounded from Mill Road I’d sold a whopping – nine copies. I’d also claimed possession of a free ‘Jimmy’s‘ calendar and an abandoned Cambridge Edition balloon. Once I’d packed away my stall, said my farewells to Chloe and her sister, done battle with Christmas shoppers and parked bikes, and rendezvoused with Andy I was shattered, and gasping for a beer.

Beer won the day. Sunday morning I awoke severely hungover and too sick to attend Cambridge United‘s FA Cup game against Sheffield United. Cambridge lost 2-0 which didn’t improve my mood, but my day got worse. I made the mistake of going on Facebook – I always seem to see something deflating on Facebook when I’d feeling pretty disconsolate anyway.

I had stood in the cold for six hours on Saturday 7 December to sell nine copies of my debut novel Dory’s Avengers.

The author whose advice prompted me to mingle with my potential customers spent two hours on the same day in the York branch of Waterstones, and sold ninety-five copies of his book. I’d love to be magnanimous. I’d love to lift my head and say I’m pleased for him; after all his novel, The Witcher Keys, deserves every success. However, the truth is I read his jubilant Facebook post, sank my head into my hands and cried.

Live and learn, as wise folk say. My next book is going to be so… damn… marketable!

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Advent Calendar 004Advent calendar picture day seven: Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem.

Advent calendar picture day eight: An owl.

Advent calendar picture day nine, and antidote to my sombre mood: The running reindeer huffing clouds of steam from his nose. Hah!

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There he is. Huff huff. Ha ha…

Howlers

I have a ‘To Read’ list as long as my arm waiting patiently on my e-reader, so what have I decided to read? My own book, obviously!

Ever since Dory’s Avengers was released in the summer, I have been torn between the urge to check through and make sure everything’s perfect, and the urge to stick my head in the sand. Finally urge number one gained the upper hand. Every time I pick up the hard copy of Dory’s Avengers I’m unable to get past the stroking/sniffing/grinning-like-a-loony stage and actually read the thing. Therefore I purchased the e-book – yes, I really have bought my own book in two different formats. Well, one does all one can to boost one’s sales…

Did I think I could relax of an evening, e-reader in hand, enjoying the fruits of my labours before settling down to sleep? Well, yes, actually.

Was I wrong? Yep!

Since writing Dory’s Avengers I have learnt a lot about copy editing. While going through the editing process, with plenty of help from an independent editor of course, I found I had an aptitude for it, and recently I’ve gained quite a bit of experience too. The down side is that I now edit everything, and I’m particularly critical of my own work. My relaxing reading time has degenerated into something along the lines of: read, read, read, should have been a comma there, read, read, I’d have used a colon, read, read, read, not sure about that sentence, re-read, read…

OH NO!!!!!

There, shining like a Belisha beacon, leaping from the page to slap me round the face, was – a split infinitive.

‘A what?’ said my partner.

A split infinitive. A grammatical howler. A big, fat faux pas. For years I’ve laughingly joined in with the grammar police, mocking the ‘To boldly go’ howler that precedes every Star Trek episode, only to find: ‘Didn’t I tell you to never, ever bring him here?’ in my very own Dory’s Avengers. My brain made a frantic attempt to cut out the ‘never, ever’ and paste it anywhere but between the ‘to’ and the ‘bring’, but to no avail. The split infinitive remains in my book for posterity, lurking like a big spider – I don’t always see it, but I’m constantly aware that it’s there.

‘No one other than you is going to notice,’ said my partner reasonably, but there’s no reasoning with a traumatised author.

Last night, I found another split infinitive. I howled!

Best Day Ever – Part Two

29 August 2013 – The Dory’s Avengers Book Launch.

And so it began.

My guests started arriving early, which took me a little by surprise as I was still in my casual clothes – and a few of my helpers had disappeared to the pub! After exchanging hugs and greetings with the earlybirds, I made a quick visit to the ladies toilets/baby changing room on Waterstones’ first floor to put on my posh frock. Such is the glamorous life of the newly published author – it did cross my mind to wonder whether JK Rowling ever dressed for Harry Potter launches while reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ on the walls of a book shop toilet cubicle…

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By the time I’d returned all glammed up; or rather, hoping I was all glammed up as the toilet/baby changing room was lacking a mirror of any kind, the stream of arriving guests had turned into a flood. As good friends, old and new, poured in to Waterstones for the launch of Dory’s Avengers, I started to feel a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of the support this unknown author was receiving.

My brother Ian and sister Sue came to the launch. Wanda, Angie and another Sue, friends from way back when we were at school, were there too. Friends from my former workplace, friends from Fen Ditton, friends from football, friends from my favourite pubs The Kings Head and The Brook, friends from book club; they were all there. People from pretty much every era of my life turned out to support me on that one wonderful night; and, much as I love words, I can’t find any that adequately describes how much it meant to me to see them there.

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The evening threw up a couple of lovely surprises too. Fellow Book Guild author, Janet Hopton, had previously hinted she may be able to come along – and so she did! It was lovely to meet her and spend a few minutes swapping published author anecdotes.

I may have mentioned the fabulous Everything Books & Authors website, created by super supportive Twitter and Facebook friend Toni Carter, in earlier blogs. To my delight, Toni attended the Dory’s Avengers launch, and she is as lovely in person as she is in the cyber world.

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The two hours of my book launch flew by in a joyful haze of meeting, greeting, smiling a big happy smile, and, of course, signing copies of Dory’s Avengers. Try as I might, it was impossible to take it all in, and I’m eternally grateful to my brother and the Evil Scribe for capturing a photographic record of the evening. It was nearly an hour and a half into the book signing before I got a chance to make my speech, and I never did get the opportunity to read the passage from Dory’s Avengers I’d intended to share that night.

Having spent the two days prior to the book launch practising my speech in order to speak confidently on the night, my mind completely blanked for a second or two as I stood, grinning inanely, in front of a sea of friendly faces. So much for the Evil Scribe’s insistence that I must not refer to my speech notes – the cardinal sin of public speaking, apparently.

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Speech!

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Mad author

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Er, what was I saying?

It did raise a laugh when I completely forgot the wording of the most important dedication of all, the one to my partner Andy, and had to peer desperately at the paper in my hand. The evening was so emotionally charged for me – especially when I spoke about how I wish my parents could have seen their daughter became a published author – and if I could do it all again, my speech notes would be to hand once more.

After the speech, the piles of books in front of me continued to dwindle as eager readers continued to purchase. My guests mingled and got to know each other; people I care about meeting for the first time, or in some cases for the first time in decades, and getting on famously. Behind the scenes, my wonderful friends Wanda, Charles, Doug, Karl and Andy flitted about replenishing refreshments and restocking copies of Dory’s Avengers – which disappeared to be purchased almost as soon as they’d been set down. Wow! To think I was worried about not achieving the 40 – 50 sales I’d tentatively promised events manager Rosie when we first discussed holding the book launch in Waterstones.

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We sold 59 copies. Fifty-nine! I hardly saw Rosie all evening as she was so busy selling my book, and when I confirmed the sales total to Book Guild the following day apparently there were huge cheers all around the office.

All in all, I think it’s safe to say: ‘My book launch? Yes, it went well!’

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Best Day Ever Part Three – The After Show Party – Coming Soon

Best Day EVER!

Part One.

Two weeks have passed since Thursday 29 August, also known as the best day of my life – so far. As you probably know by now (I think I may have mentioned it once or twice), my debut novel Dory’s Avengers was officially released on that day, and my lifelong dream to see my work published became a reality.

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The ‘New Books’ window display – including Dory’s Avengers!

That was two weeks ago, and – shock horror – it’s taken me until now to blog about the magnificent book signing event in the Cambridge Waterstones, the event that launched Dory’s Avengers into the literary World. It’s probably taken me so long because I’ve since journeyed from a massive high to a bit of a low (‘is that it now?’), visited confusion (‘what next?’) and finally arrived at efficiency (book clubs, shops and other potential signing venues contacted, eagerly awaiting positive replies).

Thursday 29 August 2013 found me rather more excited than the cool and composed author writing this blog post. The day dawned bright and sunny; following an inauspicious start the UK has enjoyed one of the best summers I can remember, and my book launch fell in the middle of yet another heat wave.

For once in my life, I was very organised leading up to the launch of Dory’s Avengers. Having attended a hugely enjoyable wedding earlier in August, a perfect day thanks to the organisational skills of the bride Babs, I had done some watching and learning. Therefore, by 29 August my speech was written and rehearsed, the food and wine were ordered, the hairdresser booked, and I even had time to enjoy a delicious steak baguette for lunch in the Ancient Shepherds.

Then, everything started to unravel. 1.30 came and went, no sign of hairdresser. Then, ping! In came a message from him saying he’d been held up and would be with me at 2pm.

That’s fine. Relax! There’s still plenty of time before we have to leave at 3.30.

2pm came and went. No sign of hairdresser. No sign of my friends Charles and Doug, who were due to stop on their way into town and pick up some books to take to Waterstones. No sign of anyone! I’m sure there would have been a huge tumbleweed rolling on by, but for the fact that’s not something you often see in a quintessentially English village.

My hairdresser never did turn up. He was doing dreadlocks fifteen miles away, the muppet. It’s a good job we’re friends! Luckily my hair had dried into rather cute curls rather than the tangled mess it usually favours, so disaster number one was averted.

In the grand old tradition of meticulously laid plans, they fell to pieces and instead everything happened at once. Charles and Doug drew up outside my house to collect the books at exactly the same time as my partner Andy got home from work, and my sister Sue arrived from Nottingham armed with overnight gear and a tub of tomatoes. After a short consultation, we decided it made sense for Andy to transport everyone and everything into the centre of Cambridge in his eight seater taxi, and half an hour later that’s exactly what he did.

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The author signing desk

Talk about precision timing; we arrived at Cambridge Waterstones at exactly the same time as the Majestic Wine delivery man. It took a few trips to transport seven people, five cases of wine, three boxes of books, my posh frock and a multitude of snacks up to the third floor in the tiny customer lift, which must have presented quite an unusual spectacle for the people browsing around the ground floor. As is the custom with Cambridge folk, no one took a blind bit of notice! At least the wine delivery man caught on to our excitement, and left with a promise to buy Dory’s Avengers when it’s translated into Polish – hint hint, Book Guild

Rosie, the Waterstones events manager and enthusiastic supporter of my book launch, met us on the third floor where, despite being understaffed, the lovely Waterstones people had managed to clear my area of the usual bargain books. This left us with nothing to do other than plate up (and sample) the snacks, open (and sample) some of the wine, and, in my case at least, scurry around getting ludicrously excited – which was fully to be expected. After all, it’s not every day that one’s dream comes true.

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Alison Jack – Published Author, and ‘Silly Face of the Year’ winner 2013.

Best Day EVER Part Two – Coming soon.

Cloud Nine!

Well, I’m starting to come down from cloud nine following the wonderful Dory’s Avengers book launch last Thursday. Wow! Even my vivid imagination was unable to come up with anything as fabulous as the reality. I am intending to write a proper blog soon, but at the moment it’s all I can do to stop beaming long enough to write anything at all.

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Thank you to everyone who made Thursday 29 August 2013 the best day of my life so far. Thank you to everyone who came along, bought a copy of Dory’s and shared the evening with me. Thank you to everyone who took photos and helped out supplying my guests with refreshments and copies of Dory’s Avengers to purchase. Thank you for all the support from followers on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and, of course, right here on An Author’s View.

Thank you all a million times. You’re the best!

DORY’S AVENGERS is available for purchase in hardback and on e-readers.

Amazon UK   Amazon USA   Amazon Canada   Nook UK   Nook USA

Dory’s Soundtrack Song of the Day: What A Beautiful Day – The Levellers

Thursday 29 August

‘What a beautiful day, hey-hey,

What a beautiful day,

And nothing is impossible in my own powerful way.’

Or, as I’ve been known to sing:

‘Nothing is impossible in my improbable way.’

Either set of lyrics will do. What a beautiful day indeed, for today my dream DorysAvengers Cover Artcomes true. Dory’s Avengers, my debut novel, my beautiful book, is published. The sun is shining, the Champagne is on ice and I’m about ready to burst with excitement! If you’re in Cambridge this evening and would like to pop along to Waterstones at 6pm I would be delighted to welcome you to my book launch. Otherwise, thank you for following An Authors View, and I hope you have enjoyed Dory’s Soundtrack this week. There are plenty more blogs yet to come. Today is merely the start of something wonderful.

What A Beautiful Day – The Levellers

Dory’s Soundtrack Song of the Day: Long Live Rock ‘n Roll – Rainbow

Wednesday 28 August

It’s the day before the Dory’s Avengers Book Launch, which makes this the penultimate Dory’s Soundtrack blog as the countdown is almost complete. I am so excited about tomorrow that the hairs stand up on my arms at the mere mention of the date. There’s still a lot to organise, so as soon as this blog is posted I am off out and about in town, armed with my trusty ‘To do’ list and a burning desire to bring Dory’s Avengers to the attention of the Cambridge folk.

I’ve never actually revealed until now what Dory’s Avengers is. I say ‘is’ rather than ‘are’ because, to begin with, ‘Dory’s Avengers’ is the name of a band. The name comes to signify much more than this as the story progresses, but to start with Dory’s Avengers is simply a good old pub covers band.

Of course, bands need songs to play. I’d written a good third of the story by the time Dory’s Avengers play their first ‘gig’. Up until this point the tale had flowed quite easily, but I found myself completely stumped by the simple task of choosing a song for the band to play. It had to be the right song, a rousing song, a song that could be belted out with enthusiasm.

A radio DJ came to my rescue as I sat staring at a blank screen while mentally scrolling through my cd collection. My partner Andy and I are big fans of Planet Rock, being a couple of old rockers ourselves, and our favourite show at the time was hosted by Nicky Horne.

As my mental cd catalogue was failing to give me any song ideas, Nicky Horne chose exactly the right moment to play today’s track. Of course. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll; noble sentiments indeed, and a track that covered all my requirements.

Thus, Nicky Horne chose Dory’s Avengers’ theme tune.

Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll – Rainbow