New Book Coming Soon (but possibly not the one you expected)

Just over a year ago (November 2018 to be precise) I blogged about how I’d just finished my fourth novel and was about to start editing (you can read that post here).

However, about fifteen minutes after writing that post I glanced down at the enormous pile of freshly printed pages – pages that were sitting there patiently waiting for my red pen – and thought… nah.

I wasn’t ready. It had taken me a year to produce that first draft (though it had felt like five), and the thought of going all the way back to the beginning to hunt down and resolve all the inconsistencies and plot holes that I knew were waiting for me… well… I just couldn’t do it.

So I didn’t.

Instead…

I wrote another book.

I returned to my non-fiction, self-help roots, to write a book that had been on my mind for a while. As a result I’m delighted to tell you about this…

EAT LOADS LOSE WEIGHT – My fifth self-help book – will be available from Boxing Day (26th December 2019) (although you can pre-order it right now).

Now you may remember that I co-wrote a similar sounding book, a few years back. 2013 to be precise. That book promised a diet-free way to eat loads, and stay slim. But shortly after it climbed the charts I started to meet more and more people who needed a different kind of book. Something that was a little more ‘direct’. Something for the person who had somehow failed to ‘stay slim’. And four years later – despite being the author of a diet book – I too was one such person! I had somehow managed to pile on the pounds, and was heavier than ever.

Two years ago my partner suggested I lose weight. Now you know you’re in a loving relationship when your partner feels they can say something like that. However, when it came to fighting the flab (again), all of those weight maintenance tips and tricks that my co-author and I had recommended years earlier, failed me.

You know me – I’m a fix-it man at heart! Whenever I come across a problem that needs a solution – or better still, a solution that should work but doesn’t – well… it’s like a red rag to a bull. I started to wonder whether, when it comes to LOSING WEIGHT, there’s a better way. An easier way. One that doesn’t involve calorie counting, low-fat spreads, eating less, moving more, exercise, or any of that other traditional dietary advice that sounds oh-so-sensible, but just doesn’t seem to work.

Turns out… there was.

And it was a lot easier (and more interesting) than I ever could have realised.

So if you’ve already decided that the diet starts the day after Christmas Day, or on January 1st, or whatever date you’ve pencilled into your diary (you do own a diary, don’t you?), why not allow me to be your weight-loss coach? Together we can EAT LOADS and LOSE WEIGHT.

PS. And what about the novel, I hear you ask? You’ll be delighted to know that I have finished editing it. Almost.


How To EAT LOADS And LOSE WEIGHT will be available in paperback, and for your tablet, phone, or computer (via the free Kindle App) from Boxing Day (26th January). Pre-order here, now.

The eBook is a mere £1.99. Less than the price of a cup of coffee. Click or tap here now.

Other ebook formats will be available in the New Year.

If you’re reading this in an email, why not forward it to a friend?

What I thought of… A Star is Born #movie #review

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

I watched a Star Is Born last night. And my overwhelming feeling as the credits started to roll? One of bitter disappointment.

This is a film that’s been remade three times. The plot basically follows the same story as the previous three incarnations, including the 1972 version staring Barbra Streisand: burnt out rock/country star comes across an unknown quirky singer songwriter and in so doing gives her the opportunity of a lifetime.

In this re-telling, ‘Ally’ gets snapped up by a major record label, who proceed to transform her from a likeable sassy singer into a glossy pop princess girating to trashy tacky songs about boyfriends and texting. And because of the (some might say) unlikely casting of Lady Gaga in the title role, we watch as a likeable, streetwise gal gradually morphs into someone who bears more than a striking resemblance to her real life persona – all whilst Bradly Cooper’s character disappears down a drug fuelled drunken spiral of jealousy and despair.

After an hour and a half of watching two celebrities spinning out of control, we finally get to the point where he’s cleaned himself up, and she has to choose between her career and her rock star husband.

Bradley Cooper – who not only starred in, but produced and directed this version – stays faithful to the original plot. And this is my beef with the film. Because whilst the grim ending might be ‘more realistic’, it is, in my mind, hollow and dissatisfying.

The film ends with Lady Gaga’s character relaunching her career off the back of the heartfelt love song her husband wrote for her. There’s a fleeting second when it looks as if the screenwriters are going to pull a Sliding Doors moment out of the bag, and show us an alternative ending – one where both characters pick each other over the wishes of their evil money-grabbing manager… but it never comes. Life, so says the film, just doesn’t work that way.

Forgive me if this makes me feel just a teeny bit angry. Because surely our job – as story tellers – isn’t to reflect how the world allegedly works – that if you finally get the creative break you’ve longed for your whole life it will chew you up and spit you out. Rather, isn’t the point of a good story to show people at their very best; how things could be, and should be. Because ironically, when you actually look at real life, it turns out people can come through the shittest of experiences, only to surprise themselves and us. Take a look at “Rocket Man” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” if you don’t believe me. Two movies about the music-industry, based on true stories, where the hero manages to rise above himself and ‘the inevitable’.

By all means tell me a cautionary tale if you must, but at the very least show me how it could have been different.

As my grandfather used to say, I don’t need real-life in my entertainment, I have enough of that… in real life.

What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

How to finish a novel

 

So I just finished typing THE END on my fourth novel, and I’ll be honest with you, it feels a bit weird.

I was beginning to think I’d never get here! My amazing spreadsheet, that calculates my likely completion date (based on how many words I’ve written since the start of the project), reckoned I’d be done by September – October at the latest. But that was assuming the novel would come in at 80,000 words – average novel length, and more or less what all three of my previous works of fiction weighed in at.

However, as I reached that epic word count the story was nowhere near done. It was the writing equivalent of running a marathon only to have someone tell you after twenty six gruelling miles that the finish line has been moved. I had to keep going.

Never mind. At least the majority of the book had been written. And the last time I ‘wrote a novel’… and the time before that… there was something about having the end in sight that propelled me forwards. A sudden sprint to the finish line. But this time, the closer I got to the end of the story the slower I got.

Part of that was because I wasn’t entirely sure how the story should end. In fact, if it hadn’t of been for my chums in my writing group I might still be searching for that elusive ending.

Even when I had the ending, those last couple of chapters were extremely troublesome. This morning I spent almost 5 hours writing approximately two hundred words. That’s 40 words an hour. Less than a word a minute.

But…

It’s done.

Finally.

Except of course…

It’s not.

Starting next week I’m editing: I already have a pile of ‘go back and fix this’ notes. Then I’ll print the whole thing off, and do ‘the big read through’. When I’m done with drowning my sorrows (because traditionally at this point most authors think they’ve written a massive pile of horse poo), I’ll take my big red pen and start slashing and hacking.

I’ll be honest with you, the last two times I quite enjoyed this part – this is the moment when it actually starts to feel like I’ve written a book, something I can be proud of. But I suspect books might be a little like children; you might have had something to do with their creation, you might have created others, but it’s a mistake to let your guard down.

When I’m finally done slashing and hacking I’ll give the book to the half dozen trusted folk who have been waiting patiently to read it. My ‘first readers’.

And when I’m done working through their comments (which could easily range from ‘not sure she should be wearing a yellow dress in this scene’ to ‘this ending doesn’t make any kind of sense’) well… then I’ll send it to my agent.

And that’s when – ‘scuse the language – sh*t gets real.

In my experience, feedback from Agents tends to fall into two broad categories: Either they like your book, but have two or three suggested changes (those changes being ‘the beginning’, ‘the middle’, and ‘the end’), or… they don’t like your book, and would rather you’d written something else.

But that’s a long way off. Months away.

For now I’m just going to celebrate the end of this stage, and feel proud that I got to this point. Again. My fourth novel. My eighth book. That in itself, isn’t bad going.

So, check back again soon to see how the editing’s going. In the meantime, if you’re a writer, feel free to share your experiences of getting to the end of a first draft. And if you’re not a writer, but have always fancied writing a book, feel free to ask me a question or share your novel writing attempts in the comments.

Now then, where did I put my red pen?


Struggling for Christmas Present ideas? Then why not solve all your Christmas Present Conundrums in one hit by visiting The Novel Coffee Shop (98 London Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1PG), on Saturday 1st December 2018 between 1:30pm and 4pm, where I’ll be signing copies of all my books, along with Sci-Fi author Claire Buss, and Children’s Fantasy author Daisy Bourne.

Click the flyer below to see a bigger version!

No More Sitting On The ‘Reserve bench’

If you follow me on facebook, twitter, even instagram, you might have seen the occasional picture of me, grinning like a maniac, in front of an audience of similarly manic, arm-waving, happy folk (although usually there’s one lone woman, sitting there , arms folded, steadfastly refusing to take part – bless her).

I take these photos perhaps once or twice a week – whenever I’m asked to entertain a Women’s Institute, or a U3A, or a Townswomen Guild, or some similar group, with tales of my writing adventures.

People sometimes ask me how I got into the public speaking lark. I blame my Dad.

Years ago, my father used to run a U3A ‘discussion group’. Each month the group would invite someone along to speak on whatever topic they liked, and then afterwards a discussion would ensue. That was the idea anyway. My Dad loves a good discussion. In reality someone would put the kettle on, a packet of biscuits would be emptied onto a plate, and twenty minutes later my Dad would be washing cups and stacking chairs in the corner, wondering why no-one had actually ‘discussed’ anything.

Dad used to try and plan his group’s programme a good year in advance, presumably in the hopes of attracting a few new members with his trove of twelve tantalising topics. But a year is a long time. Stuff happens. And every now and then a speaker would cancel on dear old Dad, and he’d be forced to do some frantic phoning around in order to find a replacement.

Which is how I got my first gig.

Out of sheer desperation Dad called me and asked if I could step in and do a talk. He’d even decided what my topic would be! Could I speak for thirty or so minutes of “how banks make their money” – thanks very much – see you Thursday – don’t be late.

Now fortunately for me, I had at this point been in credit card banking for about twenty five years, the last ten of which was as a freelance consultant. I could have spoken for several days on how my clients separated the man on the street from his hard earned wedge. But I concentrated my talk on some of the sneakier, lesser known, less ethical tricks, that go on in the banking community.

My talk was a huge success: There was almost a riot when I announced that “in a few months” the banks would be announcing the ‘end of cheques’. “How will I pay the milkman!?” exclaimed one woman – at which point, for the first time ever, a proper discussion ensued. Dad was pleased as punch.

From that moment on I became my Dad’s ‘reserve man’. Each year, for about three years, I’d get a phone call whenever a speaker cancelled and would always be told what my topic would be. For instance, I did a talk entitled “How will I pay the milkman?” – forty five minutes about, amongst other things, how the banks really wanted to get rid of cheques, but at the last moment had changed their collective minds. I promise you it was more interesting than it sounds.

But after a few years I was fed up with being the flippin’ understudy. “Dad,” I said, “I want my own slot in the programme, but more than that, I want to be able to pick my own topic!”

“What do you want to talk on?” asked Dad.

“How to do everything, and be happy,” I replied.

“Hmmm,” said my Dad. “I’m not sure anyone’s going to be interested in that.”

Several years on and I’ve given that same talk – or a version of it – about two hundred times.


If you’d like to hear me speak, or if you’d like to invite me along to your group or society, drop me a line here, or visit my speaker’s website; PeterJonesPublicSpeaker.com

The difference between male and female book covers…

Book covers.

I hate them!

No really, I do. Because the age old advice – never judge a book by the cover – is universally ignored.

Recently my third novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, came out and I couldn’t be more delighted. Like my previous two novels it’s sort-of a romantic comedy, only this one’s about… well, you can probably work it out from the title.

I went through hell and back with the designer working on the covers for my first two novels (you can read about those experiences here and here), but when it came to this book, I was pretty sure it would be a walk in the park. And here’s why:

In the opening chapter of My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, there’s a silly joke about our hero’s girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend being soooo perfect that there’s probably a Tibetan temple dedicated to him. It would be your standard Tibetan temple; chanting monks, a sixty foot golden statue – only obviously the statue would have an extra pair of arms so that Sebastian (the perfect ex-boyfriend) could hold various symbols and representations of all the wondrous gifts that he brings to the world.

That, I thought, would make a great cover for the book. I put all this in an email to my wonderful designer and this is what he came back with.

I was pleased. Okay so it’s not perfect by any means. It’s quite difficult to read some of the words against the patterned background, but as a concept it’s pretty darn close to what I had in my head. However, even though I really like covers that wrap around the spine and continue on the back, it seemed a shame that we couldn’t see all of Sebastian. Plus I had a nagging feeling that despite the cartoon style grin, this cover didn’t necessarily scream romantic comedy at anyone casually looking for a new book to read.

So with that in mind I decided to familiarise myself with covers of other women’s contemporary humorous fiction, written by male novelists, and from a male viewpoint. And here’s what I found:

I think you’ll agree, there’s definitely a style. Lots of flat colour. Slightly cartoony. Silhouettes seem popular. Oh, and all of them (with the possible exception of two) are EASY TO READ – particularly when reduced to a thumbnail. So – Mr Cover Designer Man – would it be possible to take that original design for my cover, and tweak it so that it wouldn’t look out of place when filling that gap in the bottom right hand corner?

Oh, and could I have a couple of ideas to pick from? Thank you.

Here’s what I got back.

 

Wow!

Now remember, these are just rough-and-ready sketches, so any weird blobs or lines wouldn’t be there on a final finished version, but even so, my gob was well and truly smacked. I loved them. All of them. Not equally of course, but each one was a massive improvement on the original, and I was utterly convinced that with a bit of tweaking we had a finished cover. All I had to decide was which one.

It was an easy choice.

Now obviously this one is a clear winner. No doubt in my mind. I was a little worried about my name getting lost at the bottom there, but really the title’s the more important thing.

However, just to be absolutely sure I’d picked the right one, I decided to ask some other authors. Specifically romantic fiction authors. Specifically female romantic fiction authors. I uploaded all six new designs (plus the original design) into one of the private facebook groups for the Romantic Novelists Association and asks my fellow novelists to vote.

I’m not going to lie to you… I was shocked at the result.

With the exception of one person (Hello Sue Lovett), every single woman chose one of the following:

This left me scratching my head. I was so sure my choice was the better cover and yet here I was being out-voted by 10 to 1! (Incidentally, Sue chose the original, first design).

So I asked my partner what she thought. Along with all her (female) work colleagues, she too picked one of the two covers above, with the majority of her colleagues picking the version on the right.

Not only that, but almost every woman I’d asked took the time to tell me that, although they liked the design, they hated Sebastian’s orange tie! One woman (Hello Virginia) said it reminded her of Halloween!!

Still reeling from this new information I decided to ask my male friends which one they would go for. With the exception of one person (Hello Patrick – there’s always one isn’t there) they all picked the same one I’d chosen, or a near relative.

So this left me with a rather interesting conclusion and a potentially troublesome conundrum.

Conclusion: Different covers appeal to male and female readers.

Conundrum: Do I pick a female cover, or a male one?

It really wasn’t a hard choice if I’m honest.

I write Women’s Contemporary Humorous Fiction. 90% of my readers (possibly more) are women. If I’m going to continue trying to make a living out of this writing lark then I had to choose the cover that the RNA ladies and my girlfriend’s colleagues had gone for.

Thing is, I didn’t like it.

The strap line seemed sort of lost at the bottom, and my name seemed a bit lonely up there at the top. And the two new silhouettes (which are supposed to represent Adrian and his girlfriend Paige), well they just seemed to be plonked either side of the word PERFECT for no reason.

I went back to Mr Cover Design Man with these thoughts and a couple of days later I went back to my girlfriend and novelist buddies with these four variations:

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be much of a difference between them so let me talk you through the key points.

  • In three of the designs Adrian and Paige have been resized to create a sense of perspective. Now we have a ‘scene’ being illustrated. In fact, in two of the designs they even have their own shadows!
  • Two of the designs obviously have borders whilst two don’t, but in all of them the colour of the tie has changed to match the word perfect, and my name has been tinkered with to make it look more ‘fun’.
  • Finally in one version the grin has made a reappearance, because I like the grin. I thought it was funny and would make people laugh. Turns out I was wrong. Most people told me the grin was off-putting and scary.

Everyone liked the pink tie though. And aside from comments about my name being hard to read, and the strap-line being too long, everyone chose either the second or third version.

And those comments were easily addressed.

I present to you, the final version:

 

And I have to say… I love it. Of all the covers on all my books, this one is most definitely my favourite.

It’s perfect.

Or is it? Let me know what you think in the comments.


Click or tap here, to visit amazonHot news! 

My latest novel, My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex-Boyfriend, is just 99 pennies for a limited time only. Click or tap here to visit amazon or type BuyTheBook.TODAY into your web browser.

And remember, you can follow me on social media via the links below

1983

So, here’s the thing. I’ve been working on a new novel.

That probably hasn’t come as much of a shock – that is, after all, what
novelists are supposed to do.

Here’s how my writing regime currently looks.

  • I average 2 writing days, per week.
  • I average 5 hours per writing day.
  • And I average, 200 words per hour.

Now, I used to post these kind of writing stats on facebook, along with my expected completion date and a funny or curious picture relating to the scene I’d been working on but then I stopped.

“Why?” I hear you ask (okay, okay – you didn’t ask but I’m going to tell you anyway.)

Because those writing stats aren’t really very good. Two days a week!? Only 200 words per hour? That’s pathetic! Most of my writing chums could equal what I turn out once a week, in one sitting.

So I stopped.

Although that’s not the real reason I stopped.

Want to know what was? (Okay, okay – you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyway!)

Because I’m afraid of completing this novel.

Right now, I think this book is probably the best thing I’ve ever written, by far.

BUT I am taking a few risks:

It’s quite a deviation from stuff I’ve written before; for one thing it features a female protagonist. Who’s 18. And I am, in case you hadn’t noticed I’m a man.

It’s also darker, less comedic, and based on a true story.

It’s set in 1983 and at the moment, there’s no clear happy-ever-after… blimey.

So if I finish this thing, and no one likes it well that’s a LOT of time I’ve just wasted!

Hence my procrastinating!

Fortunately however I have YOU!

How d’you fancy being part of my personal cheer leading squad? It’s quite a simple job. All I need is for you to ask me, every now and then, how the book’s coming along. Ask m how many words I’ve managed to churn out recently. Ask me if I’ve started editing yet. Ask me if the book will be finished by Christmas.

You can also help inspire me. If you were around in 1983, what memories do you have of back then? What clothes did you wear? What music did you listen to? Did you have big hair? All this stuff is useful to know.

Leaving a comment below, or on facebook, or even on twitter.

In the meantime I best get back to writing.

What I thought of… The Greatest Showman #movie #review

Back when I was a wee lad, my parents took me to see the stage show Barnham. I can’t remember much about it to be honest. Other than barely being tall enough to see over the seat in front of me, let alone the person sitting in it! However, the fact that my parents thought I might enjoy it, and took me “all the way to London” (we only lived in Chelmsford) left its mark on me. Ever since then I’ve always been curious about both the show, and the story, of Barnham.

So a few weeks back, I like many many other people before me, went off to the local pictures to see The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman etc, and… well.. I was disappointed.

I wanted to like it, really I did. I really thought it would be my kind of thing. Just as I also thought it wasn’t a musical. Am I the only one who was surprised by that? When I saw the trailer a few months back, I could have sworn there wasn’t any music in it!

Not that I have a problem with musicals, oh no; Dream Girls for instance, is a very good film. Moulin Rouge, also good. Heck, even The Sound Of Music would be considered by many many people as an all time classic! However, in this case, the music – which wasn’t bad – just seemed to get in the way of what could have been, and should have been, a really excellent film. Each and every time we the audience should have been learning more about a character – their background, their motivations – along would come yet another dance routine, to stomp all over the opportunity. It was tiresome. Irritating even.

In the end I stopped paying attention (because there really wasn’t much to pay attention to) and my mind started to wander, and ponder, and do all those things that it does when faced with something that clearly isn’t working. The conclusion I came to was that the film might work better on stage. In fact, the more I thought about it the more I began to suspect that this movie might just be the beginnings of a larger strategy, to syndicate a long running show here in the West End and/or on Broadway?

By the time the film came to an end the whole thing felt like unsatisfying froth.

But that’s just me.

What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.