The Opening Chapter to: My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend

Chapter One

Girls like mountaineers. I think that’s something we can all agree on.

And as a confident, twenty-first-century male, I can understand the appeal. Mountaineers are rugged, brave, adventurous, determined. They laugh in the face of danger. They have adrenalin where others have blood. They can pitch a tent on the side of a rock face, in the dark, with one hand, whilst fending off polar bears. I doubt even a woolly beard, chock full of frozen ice, is enough to negate all the innate female-attracting manliness that comes with the whole mountaineering gig.

Which is why I’m half way up a mountain. Somewhere in Tibet. Taking a quick selfie. If anything’s going to impress Paige, this is it.

Ken, my sherpa, is waiting patiently for me to finish capturing the moment. I have no idea what his real name is. Probably something like Kennunanmahindo. But it really doesn’t matter. When you spend your days lifting and hauling luggage through the Himalayas – the vicious frozen waste lands that divide Tibet and Nepal – well, you could be a guy called Susan and still be thought of as the rugged personification of everything masculine.

I wave to Ken that I’m ready to continue, pocket my camera, adjust my goggles, and on we plough.

That’s how we’re communicating now. Through a series of waves and gestures. I have no idea how much English Ken speaks but it’s irrelevant at this altitude. Just breathing is a challenge. Talking would be a staggeringly stupid use of breath.

It’s funny; even though the wind is relentless, and the snow here has more in common with razor wire than the pathetic flakes of partially frozen water we have back home, I’m barely even registering the pain any more. In fact I relish it. Every gruelling step along what Ken laughably describes as ‘the path’ is just testament to the fact I am alive, and beating the odds. I doubt even Paige will be able to leave me alone when I see her next. My God, beard or no beard we’ll probably end up doing ‘it’ on the luggage carousel at Heathrow airport! “Ade,” she’ll gasp, “I need you! God I need you! Let’s do it! Right here Adrian! Now!” And if that thought isn’t enough to propel me onwards I don’t know what is.

Not that I should be having thoughts like that. Not at this precise moment anyway. I can almost make out the temple through the blizzard, and I really ought to be in a place of extreme reverence when we finally get there.

I’m not really sure what to expect. ‘Spiritual enlightenment’ would be good. Or perhaps anything that comes under the broad heading of ‘answers’. To be honest, right now I’d settle for somewhere to sit, somewhere to sleep, and perhaps a meal that doesn’t come out of a tin. Everything else I need is waiting for me back in London – and probably having similar thoughts about that luggage carousel I shouldn’t wonder.

The temple is quite clearly made from stone, brought here – one presumes – by the monks, one boulder at a time. The doors on the other hand are made of oak. Each one is at least twenty foot high, ten foot wide, and looks as if it they could stop a tank – it’s exactly what I was expecting.

The doorbell, on the other hand, is a bit of a let down.

Okay, so clearly it’s slightly more than your average hardware store doorbell offering – it’s obviously been designed to withstand some pretty poor weather conditions – but still, surely a large wrought iron gong would have been more fitting?

I communicate all of this to Ken with a wave and a head toss, but he just nods solemnly, reaches out a gloved finger and presses the bell. From inside the temple I can hear a deep echoey ‘ding dong’, and then one of the doors creaks opens – just a crack; just enough for each of us to squeeze through. And it’s only when the door booms closed behind me do I suddenly appreciate how damn noisy it was out there. For the past two days I’ve heard nothing but the sound of a million damned souls screaming their eternal torment.

But not in here.

In here the only sound is the constant murmur of monks repeating the same four syllables over and over. It’s not exactly musical but at the same time it’s like someone has poked their fingers into my ears and is steadily massaging my brain, which would be fine were it not for the fact my brain is also trying to take in the splendour of the temple.

There are candles everywhere; they’re hanging from the ceiling on giant chandeliers, they’re wedged into crevices in the walls, they’re on ledges, and tables, and candlesticks, and all over the floor. It’s as if someone started with one candle, and then put another wherever there might be shadow. There are so many candles that my eyes feel like they’re being bathed in light and it actually takes me a moment to notice the sixty foot gold statue at the far end of the great hall… and I’ll be honest, it’s not quite what I was expecting.

“Welcome,” says a voice just behind me. I turn to face a monk, his hands pressed together just in front of his chest. He gives a slight bow and I do the same, though with considerably less grace. “Welcome, weary traveller,” he says again.

“Er, yes,” I say, “thank you. Thank you for allowing me… well, in, I guess.”

“All are welcome in the house of—”

“Yes, yes,” I say, “thank you. I do appreciate it. Really.” I squeeze in another quick bow and force a smile. “Look, I er, I wonder if… I don’t wish to be rude or anything, it’s just… I was… about the statue—” The monk looks over my shoulder, and as he does so his face is bathed in reflected gold light. His smile broadens as though he’s just slipped into a foamy bath.

“Our master,” he breathes.

“Right. Your master. I see.”

“And also your master.”

I nod my head from side to side. “I’m… not so sure about that,” I say.

“He is the master of all things,” insists the monk. I turn to look at the statue again. Just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken the first time. Just to make sure that the intoxicating combination of candlelight and incense and endless bloody chanting hasn’t somehow caused me to imagine a sixty foot gold effigy of a smug, grinning man in a three piece suit, holding – amongst other things – an iPhone.

It hasn’t.

“He doesn’t look very… Tibetan,” I say, through gritted teeth.

“No one knows where the master really comes from.”

“At a guess I’d say it was Basingstoke.”

The monk nods. “The sacred lands?” he says. “Perhaps you are right.”

“And I can’t help noticing that he seems to have an extra pair of arms.”

“To symbolise the many gifts he brings to the world.”

“I see. And what is that he’s holding in his right hand?”

“That is the true symbol for communication.”

“I meant his other right hand.”

“A ball of the finest yarn, to symbolise his warmth and generosity of spirit.”

“And when you say ‘finest’, I don’t suppose you mean regular sheep’s wool…”

“Oh no. Alpaca. The sacred beast.” I bite my lip, hard, and try not to explode.

“And in his… left… hands?”

“The ancient pendant from the land of Bavaria, with which he summons forth his holy chariot. Notice the markings.”

“Yes, that’s a BMW logo.” I say. “It’s a BMW key fob!”

The monk nods, and frowns, and nods some more. “I know not of this… fob… of which you speak.”

“And the bowl!?” I ask.

“The sacred chalice of holy sustenance.”

“Which is what exactly?”

“Sweetcorn fritters,” he says. “Food of the gods. Would you like some?” He claps his hands together so gently it’s barely audible, but as he does so two junior monks appear out of nowhere with bowls of, what I can only assume, are sweetcorn-bloody-fritters.

And then my mind makes sense of it; the four syllables that the monks keep chanting over and over. It’s a name. A name that I’ve come to despise. A name that will haunt me for the rest of my days.

Se-bast-i-an, Se-bast-i-an, Sebastian…

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Fabulous Last Minute Christmas Gifts

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find gift shopping can be something of a challenge.

It’s not the ‘buying’ of the gift that I find challenging, or the wrapping, or any of that malarky, it’s coming up with an idea in the first place. Just what do you buy your cousin Edwina, the woman who seems to have absolutely everything?? It’s the stuff of nightmares. Many sleepless nights. Perhaps both.

If you’re anything like me the days roll past and before you know it, you’re roaming the aisles of your local shopping centre, desperately hoping inspiration will jump out, shake you by the shoulders, and end it all.

Well relax. This year inspiration has chosen to send you an email. Or a tweet. Or however the heck you stumbled across this blog post. Consider the following…

Books make excellent gifts

You see! And I know what you’re thinking – it’s so obvious now I’ve come to mention it! And here’s something else, books signed by the author are even more special. Ha! No more crappy I-didn’t-know-what-to-get-you-so-I-got-you-this-voucher from you! You’ve just become a master of ‘thoughtful’ gifts.

Now where on earth can you lay your hands on a signed book or two?

Right here is where!

With just a click of your mouse, or a tap of your finger, any one of the six books I’ve penned could be winging their way to you with a personalised greeting inside, or a simple ‘Best Wishes’ if you want to keep your options open. Simply select the book, or books, of your choice, by clicking the links BELOW.

TTATCM kindle


The Truth About This Charming Man

My second novel… yes SECOND! Where have you been. If your Aunt (Dad, Sister, Wife, Husband, Niece… delete where applicable) enjoys a good rom-com comedy with a bit of a heist thrown in, this could be their bag baby.
RRP £8.99

Buy it signed here £7.99 + £2.80 postage

Buy unsigned from amazon here



The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl

My debut novel… if your gift-recipient likes Chick Lit Rom Coms in the style of Nick Hornby or Mike Gayle, this could well be right up their street.
RRP £8.99

Buy it signed here  £7.99 + £2.80 postage

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 cover with drop shadow

How to Do Everything and Be Happy

The book that started it all: ‘How To Do Everything and Be Happy’ is a book for ordinary people. With ordinary lives. It’s for people who have been ambling along and wondering why they’re not – well – just that little bit happier.
RRP £8.99

Buy it signed here  £7.99 + £2.80 postage

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SDSW drop shadow colour small

How to Start Dating and Stop Waiting

If they need a real guide to getting the girl, or guy, this is it. Written for everyone who’s ever found dating a challenge, dating websites to be less than fulfilling, or ‘first dates’ terrifying… How To Start Dating And Stop Waiting will help them dodge the liars, & Lotharios, and have
them dating Mr or Ms Right in no time.
RRP £8.99

Buy it signed here  £7.99 + £2.80 postage

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From Invisible To Irresistible

The smaller, quirkier, companion guide to the previous title. Let me fix those underlying problems that make your otherwise attractive charming gift-recipient even more attractive to those they’d like to date.
RRP £8.99

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How to Eat Loads and Stay Slim

And finally.. How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim. It isn’t a diet book. Not in the traditional sense. It’s a book packed full of thought provoking, scientifically-provable, ideas and changes you can make to your life to increase your chances of being slim. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!
RRP £8.99

Buy it signed here  £7.99 + £2.80 postage

Buy unsigned from amazon here

What Would Your Three Wishes Be? (Chapter 6 of TGGGTGTG)


Michelle Ward (of Phoenix FM) asked me recently if I had a favourite chapter in my novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl.

I’m not sure if I’m really supposed to have favourite chapters – if I am then I’m pretty sure it should be either the first, or the last chapter… but in my case, I have to confess, it’s chapter six.

Chapter Six serves as a bit of a breather for the reader. The plot jumps back in time to 1988 when our hero, Jason Smith, is still in his teens, and – thanks in part to British Rail – finds himself accidentally on a date with his old school crush, Melanie Jackson.

Unfortunately for Jason, things aren’t going too well. You know what it’s like I’m sure; that moment the Universe has finally handed you the opportunity you’ve been waiting for your whole damned life, and you’re screwing it up!!!! Fortunately for our Jase, in a moment of complete brilliance, he manages to grasp back control of the conversation by asking Melanie what she would wish for, were he to be able to grant her anything.

Three anythings to be precise.

Three wishes.

Mind you, what she comes up with isn’t exactly what he’s expecting, in fact…

Actually, how about I just let you read the chapter for yourself?

Here we go then. Chapter Six. Hope you enjoy.

Friday 8th January, 1988

“Passenger announcement: British Rail regrets to announce that due to adverse weather conditions, services in and out of Liverpool Street are currently subject to delay. Passengers are advised to continue watching the information boards for further details. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

As I descended the stairs from the rainy streets, the station concourse was a heaving mass of suited bodies, most of whom were gawping at the words ‘cancelled’ or ’delayed’, but each one silently – or not so silently – doing what they did every Friday evening: hating British Rail.

Why was it always a Friday? The reasons varied, of course – overhead line problems, incident at Bethnal Green, engine failure, leaves on the line, wrong type of snow – but it always happened, always, on a Friday night, when all that I wanted was to get back to Chelmsford and join Alex in the Tulip. In a few weeks I would be twenty. And how would I be celebrating that particular milestone? If British Rail had anything to do with it I’d be standing on the concourse of Liverpool Street Station with the rest of the goons.

I threw my bag over my shoulder and headed back up the steps and into the city.

* * * * *

I was the only one in the Wimpy. Other than the waitress. And the burger chef. I sat by the window and watched the rain streak down the glass to the sound of the strip lights fizzing and popping over my head.

Kingsize and chips,” stated the waitress as she placed my food on the plastic table. I turned to look at her, but she’d gone.

Kingsize and chips. Normally I’d argue that this particular meal was a bite-sized portion of happiness on a plate. Right now, however, it was taking the place of several pints of Guinness, the company of my best friend, and the promise of a five minute stagger back to his mum’s house for as much toast as we could eat.

I let out a long, miserable sigh, picked up the burger, and went to take a bite.

“Jason?” I looked up into two gorgeous emerald green eyes, and froze. Those were her eyes. My field of vision widened to take in her nose. Regal in nature. That was definitely her nose. Then there was the slightly coy, but nonetheless playful smile. And those beautiful white teeth. And that hair, tumbling out from under a cerise beret – even though she was now a blonde my heart wasn’t fooled for a moment; it was still her. And all at once I was fourteen again, trombone in hand, looking across at her from my place in the brass section.

“I thought it was you,” she said. “You don’t recognise me, do you? It’s –”

I swallowed.

“Melanie. Mel! Hi! Of course I… of course – Hi!”

“I was walking by and I thought, ‘Is that Jason Smith?’ And, well – here you are.”

“Here I am!” I said. Nothing happened for a moment. And then she smiled.

“That looks nice,” she said, glancing at the burger in my hands. “Do you come here often?

“Here?” I asked. “No – I – there’s a problem. With the trains.” I jerked my head in the general direction of Liverpool Street Station.

“So you can’t get home?”

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll sort it out. At some point. They usually do.” I nodded. Then smiled. Then nodded some more whilst I tried to think of something to plug the gap in the conversation. “Is that why you’re here?” I asked eventually.

“No, I saw you as I was walking past –”

“No, I meant, are you stranded in London?”

“Me? No, I live here now,” said Melanie.

“In the City?”

“No!” laughed Melanie. “North London. I work in the City. I’ve just left the office.” I glanced at the clock on the wall – it was a quarter to seven. “I was walking to the tube,” she added. I nodded. And smiled.

“Right,” I said.

There it was again. A gap in the conversation. Only not so much a gap, more a bloody great rift. Something was supposed to be happening now, but I had absolutely no idea what.

“I suppose I’ve got time to join you for a bit,” Melanie said, taking off her mittens and matching scarf.

“Oh – really? That would be – Would you like a cup of tea?” I asked.

“Mmm – a Diet Coke would be nice.”

“Right!” I said, putting my burger down. “Let me get you one!” I stood up and started digging deep in my pockets for loose change but my fingers met nothing but tissues and screwed up receipts. I dug deeper, hoping for a miracle, but considering Melanie Jackson had just walked back into my life after a five year absence, two miracles in one night seemed highly unlikely.

“Here,” said Melanie, reaching into her handbag, “let me.” She produced a five pound note and passed it to me.

“Thanks,” I said, barely managing to conceal my humiliation. “I’ll be right back.”

* * * * *

“So you didn’t go to uni then?” asked Melanie. I shook my head.

“More studying?” I said, stuffing the last of the chips into my mouth, then washing them down with tea. “Give me a break.”

“But you were one of the clever ones!”

“Not really.”

“I always thought uni sounded like fun,” said Melanie, playing with the straws that poked through the lid of her Coke. “All those parties…” She leant forward to take another sip, looking up at me as she did so, which made her eyes seem all the larger.

“Yeah,” I said. Parties? Ugh. “Why didn’t you go to uni then?”

“Oh please,” said Melanie after a long noisy slurp of her drink. “And study what? Brain surgery?”

“Why not?”

“Nah, I needed a job. A girl needs shoes! They don’t buy themselves. Well, not unless you have a boyfriend.”

I’d barely registered what she’d said before I heard the words “You don’t have a boyfriend!?” tumbling out of my mouth with all the subtlety of a rhinoceros at a village tea party. But Melanie didn’t seem to notice.

“Not really,” she said, before hoovering up the last of her Coke.

“Oh,” I said, following it with a small nod to conceal my confusion. Not really? What did that mean? Either you do or you don’t, don’t you? ‘Not really’ sounded as if there was a bloke in Melanie’s world who thought he was her boyfriend but would discover, possibly in the not too distant future, that he wasn’t. Poor bastard.

“Nothing serious,” said Melanie, reading my mind. “You know what it’s like.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I said. No. I didn’t understand that at all.

“What about you?” she asked

“What about me what?”

“Any girlfriends?”

I laughed. “Me? No,” I said.


“Well,” I said, feeling myself flush slightly. “Nothing serious. You know…”

“Footloose and fancy free, eh?” said Melanie.

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

“I always wondered,” said Melanie, idly playing with her straw again, “why you never asked me out.” For a moment or two, time ground to a halt. Even the strip lights above us seemed to stop their manic flickering whilst they waited for me to respond.

“You did?” I asked, swallowing.


“Well…” I puffed my cheeks out. “I guess, I erm…”

“Maybe you didn’t fancy me?” said Melanie with a shrug.

“What? No! I mean, yes! Yes I did.”


“Do!” I said, correcting myself, then almost as quickly: “Did! No – Do! I mean –” Melanie’s smile broadened until it was a fully fledged grin and her eyes flashed like a card player who’s holding all the aces. I felt my face flush again, and took a deep breath. “You’re messing with me, aren’t you?”

“A little bit,” said Melanie, running her tongue along the edge of her lovely teeth. I could feel my face getting redder still. Other things were happening too: my heart was beating out a rumba, and a shy smile was sidling across my face. I looked down into my empty polystyrene cup to try and hide it. “Come on,” she said, touching my arm. “Let’s find a pub – I’ll buy you a proper drink.”

* * * * *

I staggered back to our table with another round. I was extremely drunk. Though not the usual blurry intoxication that followed a few pints. Instead everything, and everyone, sparkled with a magical sheen. The barman greeted me with a cheery wink. Fellow drinkers smiled at me as I passed by. Even my stagger was just a side effect of feet that were through with walking and wanted to dance.

Melanie grinned as I sat down next to her. It had been the only way I could hear what she was saying over the collective din of the Red Lion’s clientele. Now, of course, most of the after work drinkers had left but moving to the other side of the table would have seemed rude. At least, that’s what I was telling myself.

“So where were we?” I asked.

“You were telling me about computer games,” said Melanie, “the ones you would make – and how amazing they would be.”

“I was? Oh.” I scratched my head. “And yet somehow you’re still here? Enough about me – tell me what you’re doing.”

Melanie’s shoulders slumped.

“Oh, I just work reception for Harris, Harris and Harris. It’s a law firm.”

“Right. And is it good?”

Melanie gave me a long, serious look.

“No Jason, it’s crap. It’s the world’s most boring job.”

“Oh,” I said. “But is the money good?”

“Not really.”

“Right,” I said. “So what did you want to do?” Melanie sipped her Malibu and Coke, and stared into the distance.

“I guess that’s the problem,” she said after a while. “I didn’t really know.”

“Alex always thought you’d be in a band with Robert Palmer,” I said, bringing my pint to my lips. “Like one of the girls in that video…”

“Oh did he now?”


“Uh huh. And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“What did you imagine I’d be doing when I left school?” I felt myself blush again. Melanie saw it and raised an eyebrow.

“Erm, I thought you might be a model. Or something.”

“Really?” she said, that familiar evil grin working its way across her face. “And what kind of modelling did you envisage?”

“Just modelling,” I lied.

“Uh huh,” she said again, leaning forward to stare into my eyes. “Thought about this a lot, did you?” I swallowed

“Not a lot,” I lied again.

“Mmmm,” she said, and smiled. She leaned back and picked up her glass again. “Sounds like I should have come to you and Alex for career advice, rather than taking the first crappy job that came along.”

“You could always get a different job,” I suggested.

“It’s not… that simple.”

“Sure it is,” I said. But Melanie dropped her gaze to her lap and suddenly I could see that the crappy job situation was a conversational minefield that we’d wandered into, and only a miracle, or something similar, was going to rescue us from it. “Look,” I said, placing my pint on the table in a determined manner, “how about this – I’ll grant you three wishes.”

“What?” said Melanie, looking up.

“Three wishes. Right now. One time offer only.”

“You’re going to grant me three wishes?”

“Sure. But you have to make them now.”

“And I can have anything I want?”

“Well, I thought we were talking about your career but –”

“If you’re going to start handing out wishes, Mr Genie of the Guinness Barrel, I’m not going to waste them on work!”

“Well ok,” I said. “Three wishes, to do what you like with.”

“Right,” she said, repositioning herself and putting her hands in her lap. She looked past me and bit her lip whilst she considered her options and, not for the first time that evening, I suddenly wanted to kiss her. And it was more than a mere urge. I found myself having to exert considerable effort just to prevent myself from leaning forward and –

“Ok,” said Melanie. “Wish number one: I wish I had a pair of Jimmy Choos.”

“Jimmy what?” I asked.

“Only the best damn shoes on the planet!” said Melanie. I frowned.

“You’re going to use your first wish on shoes?!”

“Not just ‘a pair of shoes’!” said Melanie. “Jimmy Choos – they’re in this month’s Vogue and everything!”

“Yeah, but why didn’t you wish for a million pounds or something – then you could buy all the bloomin’ shoes you –”

“What? I can do that?” she asked.

“Well, of course you can do that!” I said, and I picked up my pint.

“Ok – I wish for a million pounds.”

I put up my hand whilst I took a sip. “Too late now,” I said, “you’ve made your wish.”

“What? No! That’s not fair.”

“Too late,” I said again.

“It’s not too late!” protested Melanie.

“Judge’s ruling, I’m afraid.” She let out a long exasperated sigh, then resumed her thinking pose, though this time her face was fixed into a determined frown.

“Ok,” she said after a moment. “Second wish – I wish I could have my first wish back!”

I shook my head.

“Sorry. No can do.”

“That’s not fair!” I held up both my hands. “Ok, ok,” she relented, putting her hands in her hair and massaging her scalp. My eyes dropped to her chest and for a second or two I was back at school, sitting in the orchestra, peering at her from behind my music stand. “Ok,” said Melanie, unaware of my leering, “wish number two: a million pounds.”

I frowned.

“That’s a bit boring.”

“What? I can’t have wishes if they’re boring? Who makes these rules?”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t have your wish – just that it was a bit boring.”

“But you suggested it!”

“Yeah, for wish number one – instead of shoes! I was expecting something a little more interesting for wish number two.”

“Well, I’m sorry!” said Melanie, folding her arms across her chest.

“No, no, that’s ok. You can have your million pounds.”

“Thank you!”

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“I’ve got to tell you that as well?”

“No, I just thought you might have something in mind.”

“Jason,” she said, putting a hand on my thigh, “I’m a woman – it’ll be spent in no time.” She took her hand away and I glanced down, fully expecting to see some sort of glowing sparkly hand print.

“Ok,” I said, after taking a moment to compose myself. “Wish number three?” She sighed.

“That’s easy,” she said, turning in her seat to face forwards. Her shoulders slumped, and a chill swept through the room. “Somebody who doesn’t run out the door twenty seconds after… you know.” Her chest rose and fell as she took a melancholy breath. “Someone who will lie there, just for a little while and maybe talk to me for a bit?” A lump formed in my throat. I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder to comfort her, but – I couldn’t. This was Melanie Jackson. And I’m Jason Smith. Instead I watched as she traced her finger round the rim of her glass, acutely aware that somehow the magic had stalled, and that our evening had begun to nosedive into a black sea of despair.

No. I wouldn’t let it. Not this evening. Melanie Jackson had walked back into my life, lent me the money to buy her a Diet Coke, invited me out for a drink and spent the best part of two hours flirting with me. Either this was destiny or, more likely, destiny had her back turned! Either way, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wasn’t about to let it crash and burn.

“Would you be wearing… anything… at this particular moment?” I asked, with a cough.


“After, you know… the sex?”

Melanie blinked.

“Probably not,” she said

“Well, I can’t see why any man in their right mind would want to run off.” Melanie blinked again. “I mean – this one wouldn’t. Not in a million years. So, erm,” I took a decisive breath, “- wish granted.” She smiled. Not the cheeky grin that I’d seen several times that evening, but the warm, coy smile of someone who recognises when a friend is trying to be nice.

“Thank you,” she said, softly.

“You’re very welcome,” I said. A thought occurred to me. “Ok, look, I feel a bit bad about your first wish – I’m not saying that it was unfair or anything, but I think that in hindsight, maybe I could have explained the rules a little better –”

“Yeah!” said Melanie, poking me in the ribs with a finger.

“So in view of that, and on the strict understanding that this is a goodwill gesture from us in the wish-granting community –”

“I can have another wish?” she asked, clapping her hands together and bouncing up and down in her seat.

“I’m going to let you amend one of your wishes.” The bouncing stopped.

“Amend?” she asked suspiciously.

“Yes. But,” I said, as she opened her mouth to speak, “think about it first! Don’t just blurt out ‘I want another pair of Jimmy blahdy-blah shoes.’”

“There’s nothing wrong with wishing for a pair of Jimmy Choos!” said Melanie. “I don’t think you appreciate just how amazing they are!”

“Yeah, well, whatever,” I said, waving away the comment. She assumed her thinking pose. Her top lip curled and wriggled around under her nose whilst she considered her response.

“Ok,” she said.

“You’re ready?” I asked.


“So which wish are you amending?”

“The third one,” she said.

I moved backwards like I was trying to assist my eyes in focusing.

“The third one?”


“Wha- ok then. So what is it now?”

Melanie took a deep breath.

“I wish that one day I’ll meet a guy. And he’ll be… well, perfect – and by perfect I mean perfect for me. Not necessarily the kinda guy I would pick, because I always pick bastards, but the kinda guy that, I dunno, my mum would pick… if my mum had decent taste in men. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, I’d meet this guy and it’ll be ‘the moment’.”

“The moment?” I asked.

“Yeah. The moment. I might not even realise it at first, but looking back later I’ll realise that that was ‘the moment’ – when my life changed, and everything got better, and all because of him. There, that’s my wish. I want the moment. Can I have that please? Jason?”

“Sorry,” I said, shaking the entrancement out of my head. “I was distracted.”

“What by?” she asked.


“Tell me.”

“Your lips,” I said. “Moving.” She smiled. Not the cheeky Melanie Jackson grin, or the coyness I’d seen a moment ago, but the new, bright, sensuous smile of someone who knows just how powerful smiles can be.

“Melanie –” I said.

“Oh my God,” said Melanie, looking over my shoulder.

“What?” I said, swivelling round to try and see what she was looking at.

“Is that the time?” There was a clock on the opposite wall. I checked my wrist watch.

“Yeah. Why?”

“Oh Jason, I had no idea it was so late – excuse me.” She shuffled down the seat and stood up.

“Are you – are you leaving?”

“’Fraid so. Sorry. I was supposed to be somewhere else half an hour ago,” she said.

“Really? Where?”

“Oh, just this place.”

“Well, is it important?” I asked.

“Erm, yeah,” she said, checking for something in her purse and producing a travel card. “Look, I’ve really enjoyed this evening. Maybe we can do it again sometime?”

“Yeah, that would be –”

“Ok. Great,” she said, leaning forward to kiss me on the cheek. “Well, take care,”

“Ok, but when?”

“I’ll – I’ll call you,” she said as she squeezed past me.

“But you don’t have my number!”

“I’ll look you up.”

“But – look me up where?”

“Sorry, gotta run,” she said as she got to the door, and all but sprinted out of the pub and into the city streets. I stood there, rooted to the spot, my hand on my cheek where her lips had brushed, swaying slightly as if someone had just slugged me round the back of the head with something heavy. For a split second I wanted to run after her, grab her by the arm, and… something. What? What would I do? I felt my knees buckle and I slumped back into the chair. There was nothing I could do. Because she was Melanie Jackson. And I’m just Jason Smith.

My eyes settled on her wine glass, noticing for the first time the lipstick mark on the rim, and I thought about Melanie’s last wish – her amended wish – and ‘the moment’ she craved so badly. I picked up the glass and examined it.

“Wish granted,” I said.

Fancy reading the rest? Right now the paperback is about six or seven quid – something like that – whilst the ebook is normally just over £2. BUT, right now, amazon have the novel as part of their July Summer-Reads Promo – which means if you’re quick, you can download the entire thing for just 99p, and help push me up the charts! Go on, help out a struggling author 😉


‘Kylie’ Blooper reel



You will probably remember that last week I sent a copy of The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl to pop-star Kylie Minogue, as a thank you for being the original inspiration for the novel.

Well a week later and oddly Kylie hasn’t been in touch. Yet. But then she’s probably still reading the book, isn’t she? Yes, yes – of course she is. That’ll be the reason.

In the meantime however, the video I recorded explaining what I was up to, seemed to go down REALLY well.

So as a sort of thank you to everyone who shared it, and to brighten up your day if it isn’t sparkly enough, I thought you might like to see the blooper reel; “Peter Jones – he has this thing…”

Click here if you can’t see the video above or you’re reading this in an email

TGGGTGTG sidebar

Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Why I'm sending a copy of The Good Guy's Guide To Getting The Girl to Kylie Minogue!

video still small

Last year I sent a copy of The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl to pop-star Kylie Minogue to thank her for being the original inspiration for the novel all those years ago.

Thanks to Bono from U2, she probably never received it.

However, now that there’s a new edition available (click here to check that out) – well, it seems like a marvellous opportunity to try again, and this time I have a cunning plan…

Find out more by watching the 3 minute video below (just press play), and check back here (or on facebook) in a few days time to see if my plan was a success!

(If you can’t see the video, click here to jump over to YouTube and watch it there).

TGGGTGTG sidebar

Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

The Frustrated Novelist’s Guide To Good Cover Design


Behold the cover for The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl! Lovely isn’t it. Isn’t it? Yes it is. No, no, really – it is!! And I won’t have anybody tell me any different because God knows how much pain and suffering I went through before we (my agent & I) finally settled on this beauty!

This post probably seems a little familiar. And so it should. It’s recycled, and updated, from the last time I thought I’d ‘finally’ decided on the cover. But no. Here we are again. Let’s hope this is the last time – for this book at least. I’m beginning to realise that the words ‘finished’ & ‘finally’ are dangerous things to say when talking about books.

So, just for fun, I thought it might be kinda cathartic to share with you *some* (and I really do mean some) of the designs that ended up being seriously considered, but ultimately tossed on the scrap heap. Everybody ready? Then buckle up people and prepare yourself for an emotional ride.

book jacket1

Above is a mock-up book jacket which I designed back in 2010 to help motivate me whilst I was writing the book. I figured if I had something I could see which represented my wildest fantasies of having the book  published and then subsequently made into a movie, not to mention big name authors taking the time to give me a by-line I could use, I might be more inclined to get a move on and write the thing. I never really intended to show this to anybody, but it hung on my wall for months and months and months. Until it fell off.

Incidentally, that actually is my office wall. I took a picture of my Kylie calendar and my pin board and used those elements as the basis for the cover. And I realise that isn’t Kylie Minogue. In a deluded paranoid moment I decided to swap her picture for someone else in case her lawyers decided to pay me a visit.

just the cover

When my third & fourth books were published I realised I was missing a trick if there wasn’t at least a mention of my forthcoming novel at the back – and a ‘mention’ would be a whole lot more powerful with an image to accompany it. With this in mind I quickly bashed out this cover which is unashamedly based on the original edition of Della Galton’s novel Ice And A Slice. That cover featured an image of a girl with a drink (because that features strongly in the story) so logically I chose a fella with a camera.

At the time I really liked this. I liked it’s simplicity and I thought the bloke would appeal to female readers – a plus given that the book is actually classified as Women’s Contemporary Fiction.

Over time though I began to suspect it was a little dull. Worse still, friends I showed it to actually thought it might be non-fiction, rather than fiction – which you can’t really blame them for given that I have four self-help books under my belt. So when the time came to settle on the final cover design I decided to start with this idea, but tweak it as much as possible to make it look a little more ‘chick lit’.

paperback - illustrated man, white background

Dear God. It’s difficult to know how this can look less finished than the previous version. I appeared to have gone backwards!

paperback - photograph

So the thinking here was take the previous idea, but turn the picture of Jason (that’s the protagonist) with his camera into a ‘polaroid’ laying on a coloured background. Except that, unless you had the paperback and could see how the image wrapped all the way round to the back (where there was a second polaroid image of Melanie – the love interest), it’s not at all obvious what’s going on here! Most of my friends said “what’s that purple bar thing at the side and top?”

TGGGTGTG final cover proof

And so we arrive at what I thought, for quite a while, was the final version. The polaroids look like polaroids and we’ve got something for everybody; a handsome guy for the gals, and an absolute babe for the lads. I was a little worried that the title was getting lost but I was more than happy to live with it. Notice too how we’ve returned to the original ‘office wall’ background colour. All in all a job well done.

How wrong can you be.

A week or so later the cover was circulated around a couple of dozen potential readers (mostly ladies), and the general consensus was that this is not a good cover. The vast majority of women did not like the lady in the polkadot bikini  – some said that would be enough to put them off buying the book! Worse still was the reaction to Jason – many people felt he looked like he was ‘hiding’ behind his camera, thereby making him seem creepy!

TGGGTGTG new jason proof

Never mind, thought I, all those issues could easily be addressed by re-casting Jason (notice how he’s not hiding behind the camera), and for that matter, Melanie (could she be any more ‘cute’?) Also, in this version my previous concerns about the title were finally resolved, and I love the interesting use of the multiple fonts.

However, something about it just isn’t right. Somehow in attempting to address all the issues raised we’d lost something along the way. This didn’t feel like my book any more, and I wasn’t sure it reflects the tone of the story. Not that my concerns mattered. Once the book was circulated again and feedback was – at best – luke warm, I decided to go back to the drawing board.

TGGGTGTG nick hornby2

Take a look at titles by David Nicholls or Nick Hornby and you’ll notice the newer editions are very graphic, and it’s that element that we were trying to capture here. This was one of about six similar ideas, each with a different female face or profile. Personally this image was my favourite, but the title doesn’t quite fit and there were some fears that the woman is slightly too pretty, thereby alienating female readers (again!)


Which is why we finally settled on this one. And I have to say at the time I loved it. And I wasn’t the only one; here’s one of my favourite bits of feedback:

I love this one! I like the striking image and the colours and it’s exactly the sort of book I am drawn to pick off the shelves. I know that’s extremely subjective… I would assume (perhaps wrongly!) that this would be slightly more clever & comical than your average chick-lit offering.

This was the cover that I launched the book with back in September 2014. You can read about how that went here, but the short version of the story is, the book did really well… in the first week. After that, not so much. It did however land me a deal with a new agent, AND a publicity deal with a very large online retailer. For boring legal & financial reasons we couldn’t just carry on with the same edition, it needed to be republished under a new ISBN. And if we had to do that then there was an opportunity to tweak a few things. Things like the cover.

I could have shot myself.

However, the general consensus was that whilst the image itself was probably ok – probably – the whole thing needed to be brighter, and it definitely needed to be more fun, to hint at some of the hilarious shenanigans inside the book. And even more female friendly to really attract that Women’s Contemporary Fiction audience. (But, but.. I want to be like Nick Hornby….)


So, here are the five ‘final’ ideas we were presented with. Once we’d been around the houses a few times deciding on a new font (which is  – I hope you’ll agree – more ‘fun’). My agent was delighted… but it took me a while to get used to the brightness, and the, er, pinkness. It’s very pink. Very very pink. I can’t quite believe that I’ve written a pink book! But then on the other hand, when I look back at the ‘first edition’ I can’t believe how drab that was!

Personally my favourite of these is number 4, the one in the bottom left hand corner (I like red). However, from a contrast point of view (important when you reduce the covers to the size of a thumbnail) numbers 2 and 5 are winning… which is why number 5 became the cover we went for in the end.

However… maybe we’ve got it wrong? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.

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Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

Who could play which part in a movie of 'The Good Guy's Guide To Getting The Girl'?


A while back Michelle Ward of Phoenix FM asked me – live on air – who would play which part, were The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl ever made into a film.

At the time I didn’t know how to answer the question, but only because I have an absolutely shocking memory for names, and when asked to recall the name of someone I should know, unless they’re called Mum or Dad, there’s a gaping hole in my memory where that name should be. (It’s so bad I once turned up at my local writer’s circle and made everyone wear name badges for the evening. True story.)

ANYWAY… truth is, I did know, and have always known, who would (or could) play each role, were my novel suddenly destined for the silver screen.

Back in those early heady days of bashing out the book, my friend Wendy criticised me for being a little scant on my character description. “I don’t know what these people look like,” she said. I mumbled some rubbish about wanting my readers to make up their own mind and she probably gave me one of her looks, because I went straight home and spent the next few hours on google finding images of actors & actresses that reminded me of the characters I’d created. I printed those pictures off, stuck them on the notice board in my office, and glanced up at it frequently whenever I was writing.

Here then, are those pictures. And I’d love to know what you think. Post your thoughts, feelings, or alternative casting ideas in the comments at the bottom of this page (or here if you’re reading this in an email)

Alex (Nick Frost)Alex (Nick Frost)

“This mine?” asked Alex. He drained two thirds, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, let out a satisfied belch, then sat down next to me. “Where’s yours?” he asked, after a moment or two. I stared at a fleck of melting snow caught in the stubble on his face and the pathetic strands of damp blond hair glued to a forehead that had once sported an impressive quiff.

I’ve always admired Nick Frost, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he’d be absolutely perfect for the role of Alex so long as someone keeps him in a permanently bad mood throughout the shooting of the movie. (Alex doesn’t smile. Or laugh. Or joke.)

James Corden might also be good for the role if you could get him to stop smiling for two seconds.

Melanie (Jessica Alba)Melanie (Jessica Alba)

“Jason?” I looked up into two gorgeous emerald green eyes, and froze. Those were her eyes. My field of vision widened to take in her nose. Regal in nature. That was definitely her nose. Then there was the slightly coy, but nonetheless playful smile. And those beautiful white teeth. And that hair, tumbling out from under a cerise beret – even though she was now a blonde my heart wasn’t fooled for a moment; it was still her. And all at once I was fourteen again, trombone in hand, looking across at her from my place in the brass section.

It’s just not possible to make a movie these days without a token American – not if you want that movie to be shown anywhere other than good old blighty. So here’s mine. Jessica Alba. She’s the kind of woman who you imagine she’d probably be in soft focus, even if you met her in real life, and as such she would be absolutely perfect in the role of Jason’s old school crush, Melanie.

Liz (Rachel Weisz)Liz (Rachel Weisz)

She was wearing one of my sweaters. And though it was gigantic on her petite frame, it looked good on her. Certainly better than it did on me, although any hint of a bosom was lost within its deep woollen folds. Still, I liked the way her hair fell long and straight to the centre of her back, and though I’d long since given up on seeing her in some sort of skirt or dress, those skinny jeans were very flattering. I could almost fancy her if she wasn’t – well, if she wasn’t Liz.

Jason’s girlfriend Liz – who becomes and ex-girlfriend pretty much by the end of the first page – needs to be played by an actress who can pull off fierce & domineering, but not in such a way that you’re left wondering why Jason would go for such a woman in the first place. Rachel Weisz – seen here pulling her hair out in frustration – is such a actress.

Sian (Rebecca Hall)Sian (Rebecca Hall)

“Jason – come on!” said Sian, leaning back in her chair and opening her arms. “I’m a ten minute cab ride from you! I guarantee there will be no boring people, everything Sainsbury’s has to offer in the way of alcohol and, best of all,” she lowered her voice for a moment, “it’s fancy dress!! Woohoo!!” Sian jigged around in her chair with as much energy as office etiquette would allow, her skinny arms going up and down like pistons, her head rolling from side to side to the sound of the music in her head, all in an effort to demonstrate what larks awaited me at her party.

Jason’s party loving work colleague needs to be played by a slender woman, who looks every bit the efficient project manager, whilst at the same time being able to carry off an outfit made entirely of black feathers, with a bottle of vodka in her hand.

Gary (Jack Hudson)Gary (Jack Huston)

Though the Batman mask covered most of his face, I knew who it was from the sheer arrogance of his swagger. Whether he was walking to the photocopier, or jumping the queue in the staff canteen, Gary swaggered like he owned the very ground beneath his feet. And now he was swaggering in our direction.

Tricky one this. And I confess to getting some help when it came to finding an actor who would have every woman in the audience swooning, whilst at the same time being a complete and utter bastard. Mr Hudson looks like he’d have no problem playing such a role, though I’m sure he’s positively delightful in real life.

Charlotte (Keira Knightly)Charlotte (Keira Knightly)

If anyone ever doubted the existence of God, Charlotte was proof that he was alive and well. No one that beautiful could have come into existence without some kind of divine intervention. Tall, slender, elegant, and utterly sexual without even realizing it. Even her starkly conservative, prim and proper clothes became uncharacteristically erotic the longer they remained in contact with her.

Clearly, Business Analyst Charlotte needs to pack some punch when it comes to elegant beauty. Let’s hope Keira Knightly is available.


Ria (Gemma Arterton)Ria (Gemma Arterton)

That was the moment I should have slid back out of the door and made my retreat, but instead I craned my head to see the owner of the voice, and saw the confident, swaying, curvaceous rear of a slender woman in tight three-quarter length trousers and strappy heels that flirted with the floor just long enough to keep her upright. Hands with long fingers drew small circles at the end of beautiful bare arms, whilst freckled shoulders supported a head that rolled and flicked a punky mop of the most vivid, poppy-red, bobbed hair I’d ever seen.

Sassy salsa dancing nurse Ria, needs to be played by an actress with the attitude to match. And for several years this picture of Gemma Arterton, which is still on the pin board even now, was consulted each and every time I needed to describe Ria’s beguiling features. What though, you might be asking yourself, would Ms Arterton look like with red hair? I confess that I’d absolutely love to find out.

Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)

“Yeah, but he’s not exactly Hugh Heffner, is he?” said a male voice from around the corner created by the stairwell. The owner of the voice walked into view, a cordless phone wedged between his shoulder and ear whilst he used his hands to light a cigarette. He was taller and older than I’d expected, skinny to the point of being undernourished, but the ripped jeans and faded Iron Maiden t-shirt were somehow exactly what I’d envisaged.

Every movie needs to good cameo appearance, and Bill Nighy would be bloomin’ awesome in the role of glamour photographer Dave Fells

Jason Smith (???)Jason Smith

“You still here?”

I sat bolt upright, startled by the sound of someone else in my flat.

“Err – yes. Hold on!” I yelled back, whilst I tried to manage the questions filling up my head: Who was I? Where was I? What time was it? What day was it? Who was the person downstairs? Why were they announcing their presence? Why did they seem surprised that I was here? And why did it feel like I’d only had four hours’ sleep?

Answers started coming back, though not necessarily in the order that I’d asked them: Martin the builder. He had a key. I was at home. In bed. He expected me to be at work. Which meant that it was Monday, past nine in the morning, and I’d overslept, again, because I’d been surfing the internet until the small hours. Which meant I was Jason Smith, from Essex, England. I felt both better and worse all at the same time.

The one thing I really can’t stand, when reading a novel, is creating an image of what the lead character looks like in my head, only to discover a few pages later that I have him or her completely wrong. Especially if I’m supposed to identify with this character or fall in love with them. So forgive me if I seem somewhat reluctant to share my casting ideas for Jason, because until that momentous day when someone does decide this story is worthy of the silver screen, I think it’s important that Mr Smith looks exactly like you want him to look. That said, I am quite intrigued as to  what that would be… so feel free to share your Jason casting thoughts with me (and everyone else) in the comments.

TGGGTGTG sidebar

Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.