Now 8% funnier!

“Why don’t you go and do some writing?” That’s what my wife Kate had said to me.

I returned half an hour or so later with a paragraph or two about how I always hoped Kylie Minogue might break down outside my flat, and how – having discovered that her mobile phone was dead – she’d choose my door (from the multitude of doors available to her) to knock and ask if she could borrow my landline. And this – this seemingly unlikely event – would be how destiny would finally bring the two of us together!

Kate roared with laughter. “That,” she said, “would make an excellent first chapter.”

First chapter? I was just killing time.

But back in September, ten long years after writing that initial scene, I published my debut novel – The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl. The book that Kate had encouraged me to write. The one that she hoped would allow us to sell up and move to warmer climes. The one she never got to read.

top 10

Putting the book out there was pretty scary. I’ve written (or co-written) four other titles, but I wasn’t anywhere near as emotionally invested in those books, as I was in this one.

When the book climbed to number 9 in Women’s Contemporary Humorous Fiction I was besides myself with joy… when it fell out of the charts a few days later, only to fall and keep falling, I was heartbroken. I felt like I’d failed. Worse still, I felt like I’d failed Kate. The money was running out, my days as a full-time author seemed to be numbered.

Well maybe not.

In much the same way that the first edition of ‘Happy’ eventually got the attention of Audible, an agent, and Harper Collins – my little novel found it’s way into the offices of people with considerably more clout than me – and earlier this year I signed not one, but two contracts – the upshot of which means that today, Thursday 21st May, Good Guy Jason Smith gets another shot at the big time. Behold the revamped, re-released, second edition of The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl.

It’s not massively different to the original: A few tweaks here and there to make it a little less ‘blokey’. A brighter, more feminine version of the original cover. I’ll be blogging about some of the other differences between this edition and it’s forerunner in the coming days, but for now all you really need to know is that it’s still the amusing tale of a thirty something guy, and his somewhat unorthodox attempts to find the woman of his dreams at the turn of the century. All made up. Honestly. And the perfect summer read whilst you soak up some rays, or take cover from a monsoon.

Right now the ebook version is little more than a couple of quidthat’s less than the price of a cup of coffee – and you can download it from amazon and read it on your kindle, your ipad, your smart phone, even your mac or pc. Or, if you’re more retro, for a few quid more there’s always the paperback.

And am I scared? No. Well, maybe just a bit. But this time around things feel more ‘right’ than before. This time around I think Kate would be proud.

My hour long talk entitled ‘How I Met Kylie Minogue‘ is the story of how I came to write this novel. Drop me a line if you’d fancy getting me along to your group, society, or ‘after dinner’ event. In the meantime…

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.

Going #Mac – My Experience Of Moving From Windows To Apple

Let’s get one thing straight from the outset; I didn’t choose Microsoft. The choice was made for me. Like anyone who had an office job in the late 20th Century, if the office had a computer, chances are it was running a Microsoft operating system. In my case that was MSDOS, which was swiftly followed by Windows 3.1, then Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP …you get the general idea.

When I eventually got a ‘home computer’, it was inevitably a second hand PC, sold out the back door of a small company somewhere in London who were upgrading their office machines. So again, I was saddled with Microsoft.

In those early days I didn’t have hundreds of pounds to spend on computers, but when I finally did, well – I simply bought the fastest, most up-to-date version of what I already had. Why would I do any different?

Then recently, after a lifetime of being a Windows User, I reached that point where Microsoft had annoyed me one too many times and it was time to give ‘the other guys’ a chance – even if that involved parting with more money for a computer than I’d usually be prepared to do. I decided to go Mac.

You might wonder just what heinous Microsoft crimes I’m referring to. Well let’s start with Windows 95. What a hideous operating system that was. Though perhaps not as awful as Windows Millenium edition. Though both pale into insignificance compared to Windows Vista which was the fastest system I’ve ever used when it comes to losing my temper.

Then there’s various versions of Microsoft Office, which in some way reflects Microsoft’s development ethos best of all. Wait just long enough to eradicate the more annoying bugs in your software, and for your customers to familiarise themselves with how everything works (even if that ‘way’ isn’t all that logical), then change it! Beyond all recognition! Rename stuff for no reason! Move it all around! Introduce meaningless elements! How about a nice animation of a paperclip, or a dog scratching at the floor whilst your computer supposedly does stuff (but probably isn’t)?

But what finally did it for me was the day I walked into Harper Collins for a pretty important meeting; I sat down at a conference table with my editor and various heads of departments, started my laptop, and was faced with a blue screen informing me my computer was installing 1 of 32 updates. There was no ‘don’t do this now’ button, no ‘skip’ option – I sat there, embarrassed & humiliated by my computer equipment whilst my colleagues opened their Macs or tapped at their iPads. On that day I vowed to switch to Apple as soon as I could afford to. And when a few months later Microsoft unveiled Windows 8, and I looked at the horror that awaited me, I realised I couldn’t wait that long.

10425354_10153343332947627_7264759703204173029_nA few weeks later I walked into an Apple store, found a bearded fellow in a bright yellow T-shirt (the beard and the t-shirt over the top of a contrasting sweater appear to be some sort of Apple uniform) and started asking him questions. Thirty minutes later I’d come to the conclusion that my best course of action was to actually keep my existing monitors (plural), keyboard & mouse, and to invest in a Mac Mini which would set me back significantly less than I’d originally budgeted for (circ £500).

I set aside a couple of days (coming from a microsoft background I was anticipating a lot more trouble than I ultimately got), and started making lists; what applications did I use? What did I need my Mac to do from day one? What potential problems could I foresee?

I’ll admit to being somewhat nervous about my decision. Other than a passion to be shot of bloody Microsoft I still had no idea whether I was doing the right thing. All my Mac-user friends had told me that I wouldn’t regret making the jump but, well, they would say that wouldn’t they.

My first thoughts after unpacking the solid, but none-the-less attractive, brush-metal box (other than my considerable surprise that my screens, keyboard and mouse all worked without the need to ‘download drivers’ or anything else) can basically be summarised into four words:

Boy, this is quiet.

I’d been used to living with a computer who’s fan was so loud, I’d spent two days sitting at my desk with noise reducing headphones until I eventually opened the thing up and tightened a bunch of screws. The Mac Mini was, and continues to be, absolutely silent.

My second thought was:

This is quite pretty.

I’m referring to the operating system (which at the time was Maverick). There’s something considerably less clunky about it. You get the feeling that it’s fairly robust. Dare I say ‘finished’. There isn’t that awful sense that it needs the words ‘Service Pack’ after it in order to be reliable.

There was a brief wobble whilst I got used to the keyboard. As a windows user I was used to using the CTRL or ALT keys in combination with letters. Suddenly I was being asked to use the apple ‘command key’, although usually in combination with the same letters I used before. I don’t have an Apple Command key. On my keyboard the ‘Apple Command key’ is actually the button with the windows logo on it. The one that I’d never had to use prior to becoming a mac user. Oh the irony.

Then there was the confusion when I discovered the @ sign and the double quotes had swapped places. There’s probably a way to get these to go back to the key from where they came but I haven’t figured it out yet. Oh, and the hash symbol can only be generated by doing Alt-3, which was, and I confess, still is, slightly maddening. Presumably at some point I’ll figure out a way of fixing this too.

It also took me a while to get used to ‘Finder’. For someone who has a quite a complicated virtual filing system of folders and subfolders, Finder didn’t seem anywhere near as powerful as Windows Explorer, and initially failed to live up to its name.

I realise now, that by using the various buttons at the top of the window, in combination with Spotlight (a sort of google-desktop-style super-search: find just anything by keying a few words you know to be in the document), Finder is vastly superior – although I wish Spotlight would give me the option to open the containing folder, rather than the file itself.

maxIn many ways I came to realise that my Mac (or Max as I like to call him) is a little like a Parisian Waiter. Beautiful to look at, and, if you can forgive Max his breath-taking arrogance, surprisingly efficient. So long as you understand that Max knows best.

Learning a new task on a Mac is like trying to find scampi & chips on a restaurant menu, only to be told that there is there no menu, and that scampi wouldn’t be on it even if there were. However the kitchen can knock up whole-tailed garlic flash-fried shrimp, with a side of potato crochets in sea-salt if Monsieur should so wish? Er ok then. I don’t suppose I could have some ketchup with that? No, no, Of course not. I don’t know why I asked really.

Other than my keyboard conundrums the only real problem I had, if you could call it that, was the initial disappointment that Max wasn’t anywhere near as fast as I expected him to be. I’d click something, and then, after a moment – as if waiting to see if I wanted to change my mind, or perhaps translating my broken-French back into English and then into real-French – Max would finally do the thing I asked.

I mentioned this in passing on facebook and several Mac-user buddies chipped in and told me to upgrade the memory. Four gig of RAM is more than enough in the world of PCs, on a Mac however, that’s barely enough to start the machine. A day or two later I’d installed two eight gig chips and suddenly Max was much more attentive. Which was when I found the second reason for his apparent slowness.

Before I made ‘the leap’ I knew I was going to have a problem writing to my NTFS formatted external hard drive. Macs can read NTFS no problem, but they steadfastly refuse to write to them. All the forums I came across suggested that I get a new external drive and format it as FAT32 which can be read by both Macs & PCs. What they failed to mention however was that FAT32 has some pretty severe limitations when it comes to file sizes or the number of items in a folder. This option wasn’t going to work for me.

Then I came across a piece of software called Paragon that promised to give my Mac the ability to use my NTFS drives unhindered. I purchased a copy and it worked. Sort of. Until one day when I was having trouble transferring documents from one folder to another, and the next thing I knew the Mac was restarting – my first Apple OS crash! When I relaunched Finder, the folder in question, and it’s contents, was corrupted. And whilst I keep daily backups I was stuck with a folder that wouldn’t be moved, renamed or deleted – regardless of whether the drive was plugged into the Mac or my old Windows machine.

This happened two more times before I realised Paragon wasn’t quite up to the task. I bit the bullet. I bought a new external drive, formatted it for Mac, and copied my files across.

The transfer took a couple of hours, but once done my Mac no longer had to speak NTFS, and as a consequence the speed that I’d been expecting from my small grey box was suddenly there. No more pregnant pauses from Max. I’d ask something of him, and it was done. Get me a crocodile sandwich and make it… oh thank you very much. Is that real crocodile?

Max was so fast that a couple of times I couldn’t understand why he didn’t seem to be doing anything. Answer: because he had already finished.

Take for example backups. Now I had an extra external hard-drive, I reformatted my old one for Mac and switched on Time Machine. About ten minutes later Max had copied everything that had taken a couple of hours before, back to the old drive. I was still trying to find some sort of ‘percentage complete’ indicator when I figured out this had happened. What’s more, now I had a backup system that kicked the arse of anything I’d used before. I don’t use this phrase lightly. Suddenly I was in awe of my Mac. My friends had been right.

So is there anything I miss from my old Windows days? Honestly? No.

I confess I did decide to buy Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac. I’m not sure this was a wise purchase but my thinking at the time was as a writer I needed to be up & running, fast, on something that was familiar. What actually happened was that it took me a while to find the correct office product (ie. the one that isn’t expecting me to cough-up for a new license every year), and even longer to get to grips with Outlook and Word which aren’t Mac versions of the current Windows products, but are completely different versions in their own right. All I can say is that google is my best friend. There isn’t a day when I don’t type a phrase similar to “How do I do this thing in Word 2011 for Mac” into the search box. This one purchase probably inoculated me against ever looking back at my old computer with wistful longing.

Of course, I’m still coming up against the odd thing that has me foxed for a few minutes.

For instance; where is the Mac equivalent of scheduled tasks? Answer: buried deep within the built in calendar application.

Or how do I rename a whole load of related files (file01, file02, file03 etc) in one go etc. Answer: upgrade to Yosemite, otherwise you can’t.

And I’m still scratching my head over malware protection. Is it necessary? On my PC I’d scan my entire system every night, along with a lighter, hourly scans. But on the Mac my normal level of paranoia seems less justified.

But on the whole I’m glad I made the jump. Crocodile sandwich anyone?



A chat with Michelle Ward & Sylvia Kent of Phoenix 98 FM


A few days ago I met up with the very fabulous Michelle Ward, singer and presenter on Phoenix FM, as well as writer, journalist and fellow author Sylvia Kent. We talked in general about books, book titles, as well as How To Do Everything and Be Happy, How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim, and How To Start Dating and Stop Waiting.  The conversation span off into dating disaster stories where, perhaps fortunately, we eventually ran out of time.

To listen to the interview click the play button in the box below, or (if you’re reading this in an email) click here to play clip on YouTube.

Doing Everything. Being Happy.

walletThe eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that it’s been a while since I posted an entry on this blog. I’d like to tell you that I’ve been ludicrously busy, and whilst that wouldn’t be a lie (these past few months have been possibly the most manic I can remember) it certainly wouldn’t be the whole truth.

The thing is, I’ve been feeling a bit of a fraud.

This is my author blog – it says so right there at the top of the screen, but with only book to my name, published through my own company, there have been times this past year – quite a lot of times – when I’ve felt that calling myself an author is akin to the average man on the street buying himself a second hand lute and declaring to the world that he is a musician. But no more.

Allow me to give you a potted career history of Peter Jones.

Back in my early twenties, a series of poor choices and lucky accidents resulted in me becoming self-employed and working for most of the UK’s Credit Card banks as a freelance business consultant. I was (and I suppose, still am) an ideas man, and a fix-it man; wealthy men would ask me how to make even more money using the tools they had at their disposal, and I would tell them. Though it pains me to admit it, the credit crunch is partly my fault – not my idea, but I was most definitely pulling the levers and pressing the buttons that made it happen.

It wasn’t a bad way to make a living – the money was nice – but whilst I enjoyed the problem solving, and the company of the people I worked with, as the years rolled by I became less and less comfortable working in that industry. By the time I met my wife Kate I wanted out, and much of our time together was spent trying to find ways to use the few skills we had between us to create an alternative career. We tried everything from website design, to property investment. None of those things really worked. And when she died, it felt like my dreams of escaping credit card consultancy died with her.

How wrong I was.

What actually happened was that my focus changed. And instead of trying to dig myself out of the pit I’d spent almost twenty years getting myself into, I concentrated my solution-finding skills on seeking out the very thing that I seemed to lack; happiness. I read a lot of books, made a lot of lists, and tried anything and everything I could think of. Most of the ideas didn’t work. But some.. did!

One day a good friend of mine (hello Tina) suggested I ought to write down some of the quirkier ideas. Several months later I found that I’d accidentally written a book.

Around that time one of my banking contracts was drawing to a close, so I took the somewhat risky decision to dedicate the next few months to publishing my strange work of accidental non-fiction, first as an e-book, and later as a (Print On Demand) Paperback. If you’re a regular visitor to this blog you’ll also know that not only did I achieve that but that the book was quite successful. And when I say ‘quite’, I am of course being extremely British about the whole thing. I’m using ‘quite’ in the same way that some Americans might use the world ‘wildly’. By Christmas of last year my sales were such that I’d started to wonder if I could actually get away with not returning to my previous life – whether I could achieve the impossible, fulfil a child-hood dream, and become a full-time author.

So, in January I set myself the following goal:

“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”
December 2012

By March, and thanks to the persistent efforts of my assistant, I found myself one of the many authors taking part in the prestigious Essex Book Festival. A few weeks later I signed a three book deal with audible ( | .com), the world’s largest supplier of audio books. I asked if I could audition to read my own book – I passed the audition, recorded the title, and timed the second e-book edition of How To Do Everything and be Happy to launch alongside the audio in June.

It was always my intention to bring out this updated version in paperback too but events took a slightly different turn. The cover with drop shadowebook success and audible deal got the attention of an agent, who in turn was able to get the attention of some fairly major publishers. On August 31st I officially signed a deal with publishers Harper Collins to relaunch the book that got me here in the first place. Essentially How To Do Everything and Be Happy has broken into the mainstream.

What does this actually mean?

Well firstly the book has a brand new funky cover. Secondly, the e-book is now available EVERYWHERE, for every e-reader on the planet, from all good e-book retailers. Thirdly, it’s still only £1.99 (or your local equivalent).

And last, but by no means least, a brand new paperback version – with all the lovely second-edition extras & goodies – will be on shelves, in bricks and mortar UK book stores, on the 17th of January 2013 (a little later in the US – be prepared for half a zillion pictures of me in bookstores up and down the country on facebook in the New Year)

That said, you can pre-order it right now from your favourite online retailers ( | | other options) – amazon have even slashed the RRP price down to a mere £5.99. That’s £3 cheaper than the original paperback ever was.

To celebrate the re-launch of the paperback I’m planning on having a book-launch thingamy. I’m not a huge fan of book launches, or indeed any social gatherings (you seem surprised?), but even I’ve got admit that this can’t go by without something to mark the occasion. And so long as I’m left in charge of organising it please consider yourself (and a friend) invited, because I could never have got this far without you!

So does this mean I’ve achieved my goal?? Am I no longer worrying about bills? Pfff! Not quite. But I’m a good deal closer, and I’m still working on it.

The next book – How To Eat Loads and Stay Slim – is finished. In a few days I’ll be able to tell you where and when it’ll be available. And right now I’m half way through writing a third book, and about to start a fourth. I am quite frankly stunned at what I’ve managed to achieve. Not proud – just stunned. Pride will follow shortly I’m sure, but right now I’m still reeling on a daily basis from how much you can achieve if you set your goals correctly, and put some effort in.

And you’ll be pleased to know I’m feeling a good deal less fraudulent. Expect more frequent author blogging from this point on. At least, assuming I’m not too busy.

The official announcement in The Bookseller