Monday 19 December 2011

Personally inscribed eBooks? Ho Ho Ho, that's genius!

Hello lovely elves! If you're still looking for a fast and fabulous gift idea, you could give an author-signed Kindle or Nook book personalized with your very own inscription! It's thoughtful, it's fun and it'll get to your loved one faster than Santa can make his way down the chimney!

To spread the literary love, I'm happy to sign the Single in the City eBook for any (or many!) of your friends as gifts from you.

If you'd like to do this you can simply click Give as a Gift next to Single in the City on Amazon (Barnes and Noble works the same way). There you'll have the chance to include a note with the gift. If you include something like this, it'll make it super easy to arrange the inscription from me:

"I've been in touch with the writer and arranged for her to sign and inscribe this book for you. Just go to, www.kindlegraph.com, find Single in the City and request a Kindlegraph. In the note, paste my inscription to you: (YOU'LL ADD YOUR INSCRIPTION HERE. And remember to include your name so I know who to make the inscription from!).

Kindle users get the inscription directly to their Kindle and Nook users get it as a PDF. Don't be shy, I'm happy to do this for loads of friends!

Sunday 18 December 2011

Enter: stunning beauty

Clearly, most of you want to stir up trouble in Hannah's love life :-) All right then, let's stir.
Misfortune Cookie
Having survived a near death experience, one shouldn’t then have to survive a fiery crash in self-esteem. Yet there I was, sharing a ride into the jungle with Lara Croft. Not Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft – that would imply that she was actually human, with possible flaws. I meant the computer-generated model of perfection that was the Tomb Raider. 

* * * * *
How would you like Sam to behave towards this embodiment of womanly perfection? And how should Hannah react? 

Poll results: Once again you're stirring up trouble :-))

Hannah and Sam are sharing an excursion with a stunning beauty they've just met. Should:

Sam obviously be smitten by this woman (9%)

Hannah think Sam is smitten, igniting her insecurities (72%)

Sam only have eyes for Hannah (but still ingite insecurities)(18%)

Thursday 15 December 2011

Consider this before we play with Hannah's love life

I'd like us to consider a question before answering the poll about Hannah's love life: Do we want the love story to trip happily along, or do we want to suspect that Hannah's in for trouble? 

You'll probably notice that I'm not talking about detailed plot points in this particular question, and that's on purpose. It seems very important in the collaborative process to balance our discussions about plots and characters with the fact that you'll want to read Misfortune Cookie with the same anticipation that you enjoy reading any other book. This is going to be a balancing act, but I've got my umbrella, am limbered up and not (too) afraid of heights :-)

* * * * *
Poll results:
Hannah has just moved 6,000 miles from London to Hong Kong to be with the love of her life. When she arrives, should he be:
Madly in love, leaving her in no doubt that her decision was the right one (11%)
Loving, but a bit noncommittal – she’s questioning her judgment (45%)
Oddly aloof, making her wonder what she’s done wrong (36%)

Wednesday 14 December 2011

A glimpse of Hong Kong

When deciding to write the sequel it occurred to me that I couldn't do it justice without having lived in Hong Kong, so I took a sabbatical and moved there, just as Hannah would, for a little bit. I thought you might be interested to 'see' Hong Kong through my eyes, to give you a good idea of the sequel's setting.

This was the blog I wrote while there: http://hongkong.michelegorman.co.uk/blog


Monday 12 December 2011

A question about mothers

Here's the next scene! Don't worry, I'm not going to post the entire book a paragraph at a time, but in the early stages there's lots of character development to work through. Questions to think about at the end ... does this feel like school :-)?

Misfortune Cookie

I wish my mother would get out of my head, but she’s in there like a splinter, working her way deeper by the day. To hear her talk you’d think she was Gloria Steinem, treating me to bitter doses of parental disappointment on the I-didn’t-raise-you-to-make-decisions-based-on-a-man theme. I’m not surprised she isn’t taking my move well. She can’t understand that I’m totally in love with a man she’s never met (read: she hasn’t had the chance to interrogate him with the tenacity of a Confessor during the Spanish Inquisition). This fact also stokes her arguments for coming back home. She likes to punctuate her sentences with the phrase “no need to rush”. In her view, to commit before the relationship has weathered at least two presidential elections is rushing. But we haven’t rushed. We’ve known each other more than a year. Sure it would have been nice to go out a little longer in London, but Sam couldn’t very well turn down his dream job just so we could date within the boundaries of my Oyster card.

I give Mom credit. She’s wily in battle, changing tactics to exploit the opposition’s weakness. But her most recent empathy attack hasn’t got a chance of success. I see right through her we’ve-all-been-there bonhomie. She’s no Liz Taylor when it comes to falling in love. She confessed this to my sister Deb and me one Christmas after a few too many White Russians. Marrying Dad, she’d claimed, was simply the sensible thing to do after a reasonable amount of time. They’ve always been sensible, my parents, embracing the all-American lifestyle with both hands. They produced two children, spaced appropriately, raised and educated with the resolutely middle class mores of our time. They’ve lived in the same (now paid off) house since I was in nappies. They lease a new fuel-efficient car every five years and keep fit playing tennis twice a week. They’ve gone on holiday to the same lake house every summer for thirty years. Believe me, coming from a stable family like that is no blessing when you’re naturally inclined to screw up. 

I know she doesn’t mean to sound judgmental, and I do appreciate her genuine concern. After my rather out-of-the-blue move 3,000 miles to London last year, this relocation probably has a whiff of déjà vu about it. That was completely different. Then, I got fired, got drunk and booked a non-refundable ticket that I was too cheap not to use. This time I have a plan. I admit I can see why she might question my judgment given that my plan involves a man who isn’t actually in the country. But she should know me well enough to understand that it’s no use trying to bully me into returning home. It’s not (just) that I’m stubborn. She’s fighting against an involiable mother-daughter dynamic, a formula that has held true through the ages:


where a mother’s nagging across time zones is directly responsible for her daughter’s inability to listen, plus her exponential capacity for spiteful digging in of heels. It doesn’t take Pythagoras to work that one out. 

* * * * * 

Those of you who've already read Single in the City will know that Hannah's mom is not an easy woman to deal with. So our decision is this: Given that she doesn't like Hannah's move to Hong Kong, should she remain obstinately against her daughter's decision (hopefully to comic effect), or should she soften, and support her daughter? I wanted to keep this more open-ended instead of using a poll, because there's lots to consider here. So what do you think? Post a comment and let's chat about it!

* * * * *
Poll results:
Those who've read Single in the City know that Hannah's mother is not happy about her daughter living abroad. Should we:
Keep her unhappy in the sequel - it's much funnier to see her trying to get her daughter to see sense (70%)
Make her mother supportive - after all that's the way she'd be in real live (11%)
Keep her unhappy but have her come round to Hannah's point of view in the end (17%)

Sunday 11 December 2011

Sunday Moral dilemma

Where should our allegiances lie? With our boyfriend or our best friend? Where is the line between what you want and what your friend wants and what your boyfriend wants? Vote in the poll above and let's talk about loyalty versus love.

Whose feelings are more important? The best friend's? The boyfriend's? Or yours? ... they can't be equal because you have to make a decision about the night. Tricky eh? :-)

YOUR ANSWER WAS CLEAR: KEEP THE DATE! Thanks everyone who voted and left comments.
What would you do? The love of your life is coming to visit from abroad for one night. Your best friend is coming to live with you, arriving on the same day. You've got dinner plans with love of life.
Keep the date - it's only a few hours and your friend will understand 78%
Cancel the date to spend your best friend's first night in your city together - friends come first 9%
Hope for a cloning breakthrough before evening 12%

Friday 9 December 2011

Yarrow Nudens

Good morning, I can't wait any longer ... yesterday I wrote nearly 4,000 words and am so excited to share the first scene of the new book with you!! I'd like to chat about a few things at the end, so I hope you'll post a comment with your thoughts. 

Misfortune Cookie (with a great tagline that we still need to decide on :-))
'Yarrow nudens?' The squat old woman at my elbow screeches again.
'Yarrow nudens?!'
‘I'm sorry, I still don't understand.’ My pleading look to the Chinese girl sharing my table elicits a hearty smirk as she pretends to ignore me. I wonder if the word for bitch is hard to pronounce in Cantonese.
'Yarrow nudens yarrow nudens!’ She’s bobbing up and down with the effort of her exclamations.
‘No, no thanks.’ What the hell are yarrow nudens?
'No yarrow nudens?' she murmurs in a tiny voice. Clearly I’ve hurt her with my refusal.
‘No,’ I say again, ‘just the soup please.’ The last time I let a waitress bully me into an order I was served what looked like brains on a plate. Discretion is the better part of dining in Asia.

She strides to the kitchen to make sure the cook adds a little extra, off-menu flavour to my order. I can hear her in there, shouting in what sounds like tortured cat.

… There aren’t any noodles in my noodle soup. Not a one. Only three sad won tons and a mass of yellowish-pink meat floating in broth. The broth is delicious, if meagre. The meat is as repulsive as it is plentiful – greasy and gamey and unquestionably domesticated. I’ve just slurped Whiskers from my spoon.

The squat old shrew redoubles her efforts, this time to make a grab for my bowl. There’s at least an inch of broth left. I’m still hungry. I’ve made my peace with the pet issue, and I’m not giving it up. She’s surprisingly strong for a septuagenarian, but desperation to finish my sad supper gives me the upper hand. She tugs. I tug harder. If forks were the cultural norm here I promise I’d use one now in soup-defence. ‘No!’ I scowl, ‘I want to finish this.’

She gives up the fight in a fit of muttering. It’s hard to be dignified with the entire restaurant now staring at me. By “entire restaurant” I mean the five other tables, arranged close enough for the diners to inspect each other’s pores. Mustering an upper lip that would have made the Queen proud during the Blitz, I sip my last two mouthfuls and go to the counter to pay. Waiting for the change, my eye falls again on the sparse English menu …

Not yarrow nudens. And the waitress wasn’t trying to steal my dinner. She was just trying to give me some yellow noodles in my soup.

Welcome to Hong Kong Hannah. 

* * * * *

First, how's that for an opening scene? Does it engage and make you want to read on? For those of you who don't yet know Hannah, do you get a sense of her personality? 

Second, I'd like your advice about writing dialog for a Chinese character. Later on there will be a tailor, Mr Chang, who will make Hannah's clothes. Mr Chang is very hard for Hannah to understand because of his Chinese accent. So my question is, should I write him with a Chinese accent, as I did the waitress above, or is that a little bit racist? It's something I've been thinking about lately because a friend of mine, DJ Connell, got a lot of criticism about her book, Sherry Cracker Gets Normal, when she wrote a Chinese character with a strong accent. But then again, Single in the City was all about misunderstandings between Hannah and the English characters she came across. Her efforts to understand the new world she's in now, in Hong Kong, are integral to the plot. So should Mr Chang speak as Hannah hears him?

Wednesday 7 December 2011

And the title is ... almost there!

Wow, what a great start - thank you lovely writing partners! I feel like I've got a whole room full of friends giving such excellent advice. I hope many more people want to help out (don't be shy - feel free to jump in now with  your ideas :-))

We want the title to be fun, obviously chick lit, and reflective of the story and the setting in Hong Kong, with a sense of adventure, and it's important to tie the sequel to Single in the City somehow. Piece of cake, eh?!

You like Misfortune cookie or Missfortune Cookie, though there are concerns that the latter might appear misspelt. When we were throwing around ideas for Single in the City's title we had to keep in mind that it will (hopefully) be read in many countries by many nationalities, so it's got to be easy to remember and spell in English.

It sounds like Misfortune Cookie may work as long as we can tie in Single in the City somehow. And we could use a tagline to do that. I noticed online that several books on Amazon.com do this. So, dear readers, thinking caps on please. We could go with something simple like:

Misfortune Cookie (Single in the City returns) ... meh, I think we can do better, don't you? Please post all of our ideas in the comments below!

Michele x

PS Special thanks to Kary, anum88, AuVox, Nicole, and Allison W for your extra comments - these are so helpful in helping to flesh out our discussions! 

Final votes were: 25 for Misfortune Cookie, 19 for MissFortune Cookie and 13 for Miss Fortune Cookie.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Let's name the new book together!

Caution: This post contains spoilers if you haven't yet read Single in the City!

Single in the City's follow-up opens in Hong Kong, where Hannah is again on her back foot in an alien city. We need a fun title to convey both Hong Kong and Hannah's misadventures - a title that a woman will pick up and know immediately what the book is about. Since Hannah follows Sam to Hong Kong, we can't use the word single. We* thought about "(Something) in the City" but couldn't think of something that's fun, snappy, easy to remember, and conveys setting and storyline.

So what do you think, dear writing partners? Do you like one of the iterations in the poll at the top of the home page, or can you suggest something else? Please be sure to vote in the poll so that I can keep track of everyone's ideas.

Michele x

*When I say we, I mean my fabulous agent, Caroline, who's been my cheerleader and partner in my writing since we began working together on Single in the City. You'll hear a lot about Caroline in the coming months!

Friday 2 December 2011

Introducing the world's first interactive chick-lit book

At least, I think it is ... anyway, it's so exciting that I can't wait any longer to share this news with you.

As many of you know, writing can be a solitary pursuit, which explains why many writers are compulsive Twitter addicts (guilty as charged!!).

I'd love to chat with people while I’m writing, to pick their brains about plots and characters. I spend months, years, with my characters, and I want to share that evolving world with book lovers.

So (drum roll please) ... in writing the follow-up to Single in the City, I’m making it interactive. You, dear readers, can help me write it!

I’ll start posting the book as we go.

I’ll ask for your opinions, and these will feed into the story. In a way, you will guide Hannah’s next adventure. 

Is it a deal?

All you need to do is sign up by email (over there on the left) to get notices when I post a new entry, or check facebook or twitter, where I'll also post a notice to each new blog entry/question for you.

I'd love hundreds, thousands, of women to help me so please ask your book-loving friends to join us.

One teeny tiny word of warning - since this is the follow-up to Single in the City, there will be spoilers in this process. So if you haven't yet read Hannah's first book, best to read it before joining in the fun!

Michele xoxo 

Wednesday 16 November 2011

I've given birth to a demanding little monster

There are a few things that I didn't expect in this self-publishing process. I didn't expect it to take so long to get the perfect cover (neither did my poor cover designer). I didn't expect Apple's upload process to be so difficult (so difficult that I've yet to have Single in the City for sale through Apple - luckily the Kindle for Mac button on Amazon lets iPad users download it directly there). And I didn't expect the rewriting/editing/cover design/ePub wrangling to be the easiest part of the process.

For I am now Marketing (queue rousing music). Maybe in some small way this is what it feels like to be a first-time mother, when you realise that that helpless little thing, which you created, is completely dependent on you for its survival. I am a literary single mother.

Single in the City's UK incarnation was spearheaded by fabulous Sales & Marketing and PR teams at Penguin. They got the book widespread exposure, and dangled it in front of millions of women across the UK as they did their weekly Tesco shops, jetted off for their summer holidays and hurried back to their lives in the commuter belt on the 18.05 from Paddington/King's Cross/Liverpool Street.

But now Single in the City exists in the ether. It won't catch the eye of passing shoppers from the chart wall or the 3 for 2 sales table. It's got sharp elbows, sure, but it needs a lot of help to get noticed amongst the other 342,000 Kindle fiction releases on Amazon. I can't simply let the book fend for itself.

And that way, obsession lies. This is the part I didn't bargain for in the self-publishing process. I expected to be busy. After all, I've been through a launch before. I know there are lots of review books to send, and interviews and guest blogs to do for the lovely reviewers who kindly take an interest and are so important to a book's life. What I didn't expect was the extent to which Single in the City would sit on my conscience and whisper "Isn't there more you can do?" Ungrateful book.

For instance, I'm in sunny Florida as I type this, for my annual family fun fest feedathon (Thanksgiving is next week). I should be contemplating which sun factor to apply and instead I'm ticking off the emails I need to write to the kind readers who have agreed to review the book.

It's no wonder my mother has always said "Sleep well honey. When you have children you'll never sleep that deeply again." I fear that moms are always right... what's that? Must dash, the book is calling.

Friday 11 November 2011

Compliments from strange men - flattery or harassment?

This morning I had occasion to ponder, as I chugged around the park, about the compulsion by some men to shout comments at women. In my case, the young man in question said "Awright love? Looking good, looking good." Now, I'm fairly certain that I am not Looking Good when I'm jogging. I'm looking sweaty, awkward and occasionally in pain. If you remember Forest Gump's early attempts you'll get the picture.

So why do these men do it?

It can't be an attempt at seduction. Surely lack of success has taught them that few women, when shouted at from the roadside/pavement/window, swoon as they fantasize telling this story of how mommy and daddy met to their offspring.

That leaves two options. Harassment or sincere attempt at flattery. What say you dear readers? Are these verbal outbursts just socially inept compliments, or legitimate targets for our ire?

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Love of chick lit scientifically proven

Okay, so the methodology may not be quite as robust as, say, cancer research, but I’ve come to a conclusion about women’s love of chick lit.

It’s been weighing on my mind lately. After all, if you listen to the critics, the genre is not only dead, it’s six feet under in a box. Sales are down, we’re told by chick lit doyenne Kathy Lette, because the market is “overflooded”. So am I just adding one more unnecessary drop to a basement that’s already under water?

Over on www.goodreads.com I asked: Are the critics right, are women getting tired of chick lit? and Is the genre changing, moving away from light, funny chick lit towards more weighty issues?

The answers were illuminating, if not statistically significant. But they're heartening to this lover of the genre.

Women are saying they use chick lit to provide a little escapism from their often stress-filled lives. “I gravitate to chick lit when I'm busy in my life, then a nice easy read is called for.” says one fan of the genre. “I like having a light read to take my mind off of things.” says another. So like chocolate cake, it exists because we love it. It’s a treat we’re not tiring of.

The genre is changing though, expanding to include weightier issues. This doesn’t propose an either/or dilemma for fans though. The answer is and/and. There will always be demand for well-written books with interesting plot-lines, whether that’s laughing with a newly-landed American in London or crying with a woman struggling with a great loss. There will always be room for us all in the hearts of chick lit fans.

So here’s to you, lovely chick lit fans – it’s you, not the critics, that we're writing for. 

Saturday 5 November 2011

The glamour never stops

I just had a thought, as the toilet brush fell off its handle (not for the first time), requiring a reach-in ... forget the Kardashians, let's have a reality show following the glamorous lives of writers.

Later I'll be hoovering.

I just asked other writer friends what the day holds for them. Answers included:

Defleaing the dog.
Hanging out the washing.
Sleeping (from friend whose husband has taken month old baby out for the day).
Waiting for delivery.
Changing nappies.
Making soup.

Next time a chick lit critic laments our easy lives of riches, quaffing champagne and scoffing bonbons, I'm sending him that list.

Thursday 3 November 2011

What price writing?

I’ve been grappling with a thorny issue this week. How much should an eBook cost?

On the one hand, it’s a virtual book. There are no production costs aside from the cover design. It did take awhile, and much of my agent’s patience, to punch it into shape for acceptance by the ePub gods, but it was an inexpensive process in terms of cash outlay, if not in terms of grey hair and wrinkles.

On the other hand, it took three years of work to write and edit it.

A quick scan of the Amazon eBook best sellers tells me that eBooks are cheap. Does this mean readers won’t pay more than a few dollars for a virtual book? What’s the “magic price point”? This question raised its head months ago when I decided to self-publish. I’ve probably agonised over the answer for longer than some people take to name their babies.

I’ve chosen $1.99. Lots of books are for sale at that price point, including the big hitters of our genre like Sophie Kinsella. I figured that since I’m relatively unknown in the US, asking a woman to take a chance at $9.99 or even $5.99 is risky.

I wonder, though, if I’ve made the right decision?

Friday 28 October 2011

The morning after

Well, it’s official. SINGLE IN THE CITY launched yesterday in the US and chick lit fans can buy it for their Kindle or Nook. Rumour has it that they can even buy a Kindle book for their iPad (clever Apple!).

If I’m honest the day after the book launch is a bit of a let-down. After months of planning and working towards launch day, it’s now eerily quiet. That’s not to say there isn’t still a lot to do. I’m staring at a list of 6 guest blogs that I’m due to write in the next few days. And that’s likely to carry on for a few more weeks. 

Is this what the day after your wedding feels like? Oh sure, you’re glad you did it. You’re proud and happy and looking forward to the future. But things return back to normal and as much as you stressed about all the details leading up to the big day, you miss the buzz of anticipation. And you dread having to write all those thank-you notes.

Friday 14 October 2011

Covers that make chick lit critics see pink

The biggest decision I had to make was not whether to self-publish. It was what kind of cover to use on the US book.

Everything pointed to a photographic cover as the sensible option.

American chick lit generally has photographic covers. Compare Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin’s The Nanny Diaries or Melissa Hill’s Something from Tiffany’s on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. 

So American women must prefer more realistic covers.

There’s also been much debate (by which I mean judgment) about illustrated pastel covers. Clearly chick lit covers have a lot of critics.

Then I thought, you know what? I don’t care what the critics say. They don’t speak for the readers of the genre, and I don’t write for those critics. I’m proud to write chick lit that stays true to the genre’s light-hearted, humorous roots. A cover that reflects that won’t appeal to everyone, but I’d much rather have a woman sneer as she passes it by than see her buy it because she doesn’t think it’s chick lit. A wise reader once pointed out  that if you market cheese as chocolate, all you do is miss the cheese-lovers and disappoint the chocoholics. I’m proud to write chick lit. More than that, I’m proud to write chick lit that stays true to the genre’s light-hearted, humorous roots, and I want my covers to reflect the book’s contents. I’m happy to forgo some sales to make sure that I reach the women I’m writing for.

Stay tuned to see if this was the right decision!

Friday 7 October 2011

Taking a leap of faith

So I've done it. I've decided to self-publish. My debut novel, SINGLE IN THE CITY, is available as an eBook through Amazon and Barnes and Noble in the US. So far so good.

But wait. Why I’m doing this, when Single in the City was published by Penguin in the UK and many other countries? Well grab a cup of coffee and I’ll explain.

First you might like to know why I haven’t chosen to self-publish.

I haven’t chosen to self-publish because I have a beef with publishers. My experience with Penguin UK was nothing but positive. My editor Lydia quickly became a friend (still is), listened to my suggestions and made sure the publication went smoothly. The sales team were stellar, selling into distributors both large and small. My PR Helen was superb, getting us widespread publicity (and winning a Publisher Publicity Circle award in the process). 

Nor am I self-publishing because I lack industry representation. My agent Caroline is, in my view, the best agent on the planet. She’s a pint-sized dynamo, tireless in her pursuit of book deals for me.

I’m publishing Single in the City in the US myself because sometimes publishers have less faith in the books, and the readers, than we, the writers, do. I believe in this book. And I have faith in American chick lit lovers.

You see, when Caroline and I sold book rights to Penguin (UK), we held back the US rights. We did this because I wanted a US-based publisher for Single in the City’s American launch. After all the main character, Hannah, is American. There’s a strong theme about seeing London through rather baffled American eyes. Caroline and I thought that surely it was a great fit for the US market.

The handful of US publishers we approached had a different point of view. They were all very nice about it but said that the book isn’t right for the American chick lit market. Readers won’t understand the humour of a book set outside the US, they concluded.

I disagree. Single in the City is about taking a chance and establishing a new life. It’s a fish-out-of-water story. And it’s about finding your feet in life and love. These are universal themes. I think those US publishers sold chick lit fans short.

And that’s why I’m self-publishing. I believe it’s the right decision for this book in this market.

So I hope you’ll stay in touch, on Twitter, Facebook or by email, and follow the launch as I, like Hannah, take a leap of faith.