Archive | November 2012

The Next Big Thing – Annie Ireson (with make-up, shooting star fingernails and hideous badly-plucked eyebrows)

Many thanks to Jane Risdon for nominating me for The Next Big Thing. Please do pop over to Jane’s blog by clicking on the link above. You can read all about her work in progress which is a crime novel featuring the inimitable Mrs Birdsong, her home in the shadow of the White Horse and who knows, you might even get some clues to help Mrs Birdsong solve her next crime in the varied and intriguing articles you will find there.

Those of you who know me in person will know that I’m quite likely to chop my fingernails off with paper scissors so that they don’t annoy me when typing. I hate wearing make-up and I am disproportionately squeamish and cowardly about plucking hairs from the tender skin above my eyes. I’m afraid I am one of those WYSIWYG type of women who can’t be arsed with glamour and the word ‘elegant’ shouldn’t be used to describe me in any way shape or form.

However, for this post I have full slap on my face – yes, even lipstick! I have put on my best clothes, had my hair done and have perfectly manicured fingernails with tiny shooting stars on the little fingers. All this is just in case, you understand … because, just for one day, I am The Next Big Thing.

Righty ho, here we go. Jane has asked me ten questions about me and my work in progress.

What is the title of your next book?

I am currently working on the first draft of my sixth novel for NaNoWriMo, which has the working title of The Fourteenth Traitor. However, I think my next published novel will probably be my fifth novel – Horns of Angels – which is complete, but needs a bit of work before it is publishable.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I was watching a documentary from the series ‘Heir Hunters’ on television. I was fascinated by the reaction of some of the potential heirs when they were told they may inherit money or property from a distant, long-forgotten relative. I wondered what mayhem would ensue if someone was the sole beneficiary of a large estate bequeathed to them by a perfect stranger, and so Horns of Angels was conceived.

What genre does your book fall under?

This novel is a family saga, featuring two very different families – that of the beneficiary and that of the man who has left his entire estate to someone completely unknown to his grieving relatives. The story is set over one week in October 1962 when the Cuban missile crisis was at its highest state of alert, and then alternate chapters flashback to the period from 1938 to 1962.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Now this is where things really start to get weird. When I wrote the first draft about eighteen months ago, the main character in the 1962 part of the story was called ‘Ella Henderson’. I am now going to have to change the name because of a previously-unknown Ella Henderson becoming a celebrity through the X factor. But the peculiar thing is that she would make a perfect actress for the novel. When I first saw her on TV, not only was her name the same as my character, she looked like her, too!  The main character in the 1938 part of the story is a wealthy man of Greek descent called ‘Geno Petralia’, and I can see see Liam Neeson in that role.

What is a one sentence synopsis of your book?

When a man’s wealth exceeds the number of heartbeats spent yearning for a woman he can never have, the equilibrium between hope and despair can never be restored.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I don’t know. I like to keep dreaming it might be traditionally published and represented, but who knows? I have recently self-published The White Cuckoo following a bad experience with so-called independent publishers. I am glad, now, I followed this route, which was challenging but not difficult. If I decide to self-publish again, Horns of Angels is the most likely candidate. I still worry that I have sold the Cuckoo’s soul to the devil by self-publishing, but that worry is diminishing day by day as so many people are telling me they are enjoying my novel.  I have invested in paperback copies, which cost a lot of money, but I have not only broken even but made a small profit, and sold quite a few Kindle versions, too.

I am really bad at promoting myself, so if any of the readers of this blog who have read The White Cuckoo could find the time to post a review on Amazon, I should be eternally grateful, as I need to build up the number of reviews, apparently. Also, I could do with some exposure as an author. I promise I will wear make-up, do my hair, file my nails and not show anyone up if you invite me over to your blog to do an author interview, but I can’t promise not to laugh inappropriately or trip up the step on my way in.

How long did it take to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Not long. Probably six months or so. The first draft of The White Cuckoo was written in a month. However, I see my first draft as a pencil outline on a huge canvass. It takes many more months to bring the canvass to full colour and perfection.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

‘The Memory Keeper’s Daughter’ by Kim Edwards or ‘Constance’ by Rosie Thomas. I like my books to be multi-layered and thought provoking, whilst being easy to read. I strive endlessly for the elusive ‘unputdownability’ as I call it. Both these books have the ingredients I strive for and I can recommend them.

Who, or what, inspired you to write this book

As I said above, I was watching ‘Heir Hunters’ on television when the inspiration to write Horns of Angels tapped me on the shoulder. Generally, my inspiration to write comes from being a serial daydreamer. It’s a wonder I ever manage to concentrate for long enough to get my minutes down in a Council meeting. I constantly analyse everyday situations and ask myself “what if …”

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s everyone’s dream to win the lottery, or come into a large inheritance, but is it worth all the chaos, innuendo and trouble that goes with it?

Well, that’s it folks. This is Annie Ireson – the self-published author who said she would never self-publish. As Annie says, though, changing your mind or direction is a sign of strength, not weakness. Never be afraid to admit you were wrong because people will respect you, even though you feel they are pointing sarcastic, I-told-you-so fingers in your direction. Everyone makes errors of judgement or mistakes – it’s part of being human. ‘Human’ by the Killers is one of Annie’s favourite songs. Now I bet you didn’t know that!

I am nominating five other talented people to be The Next Big Thing. Not all of them are authors, though, but they all have one thing in common – TALENT.  For details of who these talented people are, please check-in again later this week. I hope you have enjoyed my interview and thank you for popping by and leaving a comment.



The White Cuckoo – Book Launch

My grandchildren with their copies of my book

My book launch really began a couple of weeks ago when I received two hundred copies of The White Cuckoo. My husband rang me at work with the news that eight big boxes of books had arrived.  He had opened one of the boxes. “They look really good,” he said. I was a bit miffed he had opened them, because one of the things I had looked forward to was opening a box of my books.  After school, my grandchildren couldn’t wait to hold them, and so I picked them up on my way home from work.  Here they are with their copies of ‘Granny’s book’.

Preparation for the launch then began in earnest, and I made 100 really cute little invitations to give out to family and friends. I was bitterly disappointed though, when I was told I could not use my work e-mail system to let my work colleagues know about The White Cuckoo. There is a lesson to be learned here.  Sometimes it is better just to do something and not fanny about asking permission. Had I just sent a very short email, no one is likely to have even noticed.

I then revised my original plans, and set about telling people about my launch instead – in the loos; in the corridor; in the car park; the canteen etc.

Some people had said they couldn’t come to the launch, so I decided to start selling copies of my book in advance. I sold 30 copies or so before the launch, so it did give me a head start on the 89 I needed to sell to break-even.

Then all preparations had to be put on hold for a week or so for the very boring Police and Crime Commissioner Election, which wasn’t completely uneventful (for Northamptonshire, anyway, with the Labour party candidate fiasco) . It was sod’s law that this period also included the Civic Ball and Remembrance Sunday, so practically all my time during the two weeks prior to the launch was eaten away by work-related events.

When you wish upon a star …

Finally, on Wednesday last week, I could relax and enjoy the process.  I had my nails done by a colleague – Rachel – who gave me shooting stars on my little fingernails. I needed to have smart hands for all those signings!

I bought new make-up with my doubled-up Tesco clubcard rewards, and chucked out all my ancient make-up. I bought some new clothes on a 20-minute shopping trip a couple of weeks ago, but very stupidly couldn’t get my hair done because I had booked my appointment for Election Day on the 15th November and only realised my mistake a couple of days before. Sadly, I couldn’t rearrange it at such short notice, but never mind. It’s just hair! I can’t get excited about trivial things like hair and make-up. I know I am a sad excuse for the feminine half of society and a disgrace to womanhood. I’m not going to change at my age, though, so if you think you will get another opportunity to see me in a bit of slap with shooting stars on my little fingernails you can think again!

Thursday was taken up with making cupcakes – all 200 of them. We made chocolate ones and orange ones, all decorated with white icing cuckoos.  I had lots of help with the baking and decorating though, thanks to Rachel, Carol and Emily. Kelly and Christie helped by stamping out hundreds of white cuckoos, too. My ancient food mixer packed up on Wednesday night, so I was in Tescos at 10 pm buying a new one. The little excursion saw me signing three books in the car park, as a neighbour and two of the cashiers who had overheard our conversation bought copies and wanted me to sign them.

The Zombie was also going frantic, trying to prepare its display ready for the launch, so Thursday saw me collecting display boards for it to use when really I should have been baking cupcakes. Emily turned up to help decorate them and I hadn’t even finished baking. My kitchen was a kaleidoscope of splattered brown and orange icing by the time we finished, but I was too tired to clear up – that had to wait until Friday morning.

The big day came and boy – was I nervous! What if I didn’t make the magical 89 sales? What if no one turned up?  I cleaned up my kitchen from the cupcake frenzy of the previous day; had my nails mended from where I had grated them on the cheese grater; plastered my new make-up on my face, chucked on my new clothes and tried to style my uncut hair into something that looked reasonably writer-like. I don’t usually wear make-up and haven’t a clue how to put it on, so I hope I didn’t look too clown-like.

Kevin and Denise arrived on the London train at Kettering station at around 1.15 pm, so Emily collected them for me and brought them to the Stirrup Cup. I almost cried when Denise gave me a launch present in a lovely cuckoo-themed gift bag – a gorgeous guest book. We spent a very pleasant hour over coffee and lunch, chatting about writing, which calmed my nerves somewhat. Then my first guest turned up for a book, half an hour before the start of the event. She had written ’10 till 3′ in her diary instead of ‘3 till 10’ – but never mind, it was nice to have a practice run with the first signing and chat to her.

The book cover guys – Fat Zombie – had done me a huge banner, which was put up outside the venue. Then Craig (half of the Fat Zombie) unveiled the most grotesque/beautiful thing I have quite possibly ever seen. I was completely floored when he said “I did this – its composed of squares – a bit different, but I’m pleased with it.”  Staring back at me from the canvass was … me!

I was completely unprepared. It was absolutely brilliant – a perfect likeness. But it was me and I don’t much like my own face. I didn’t know what to say. I was rendered utterly speechless. If you look closely at the painting, you can see the squares and rectangles

Then, with hubby, daughter and sons all missing, the book launch began.Where the heck had they all disappeared to? Typical, eh?

At three o’clock people began to stream through the doors. Oh no, I thought to myself. They are all coming this afternoon – there will be no one in here tonight!

My friend, Andy, bought me a drink. “You’d only better have one,” he said with a sardonic smirk as he handed me a nerve-calming Martini and lemonade, knowing that I rarely drink alcohol and two or three drinks sees me going a bit squiffy. It was about the only drink I managed to have for the rest of the day. I didn’t have time for a cupcake, or even a cup of coffee. It was relentless – I had very few breaks where I could actually circulate and talk to people. I had nothing to eat because I didn’t have time.

The Mayor came at seven-thirty and I managed to have a bit of a break where I did a reading (and made some people cry, apparently). Then it was back to work. I began to get worried I was going to sell out of books.

I scrambled in my bag for my camera. “Can someone take some photos?” I said, realising I should have organised the photo-taking beforehand. Consequently, I don’t have many photos, but I think other people have, so I shall need to collect them all together later. In any case, Denise’s lovely guest book has ensured I have a much better record of the day in the form of personal messages from so many of my guests. Besides Kevin and Denise, writers Tony and Morgen had also attended the launch and it was great to see them, even if I didn’t have much time to chat.

Craig and Jamie had a good time, too. I didn’t sell out of books – in the end I had a few left, so despite Andy nagging me that I should have ordered 300 instead of 200, I am glad I am not going to be left with four boxes of unsold books. I can always order more if I need to. The printers have said they can print another order within seven working days if necessary.

It was ten o’clock before my daughter thought to get me some chips. (Prospective parents please note: daughters are much better at looking after their mums than husbands and sons who are very good at sitting with other relatives, swigging beer, indulging in much jollity and generally leaving their perspiring womenfolk to just get on with it.)

My book launch was a huge success. I not only broke even, but I actually made some money! So far I have sold quite a few e-books and 186 paperbacks, and the royalties and profits are all mine. Had I still been with the publishers who disappeared like a worm down the eighteenth hole, I would have had to pay them 60%. So as I sign off from this post I can definitely say to all my fellow writers that continuing the process myself has paid off.

My objective in carrying on was to break-even on the costs of this little self-publishing exercise. I didn’t want to self-publish and have been quite firm in the past that I wouldn’t ever do it, but I don’t regret it one little bit.

But whether I shall do it again with my other five books remains to be seen. I still hanker after a traditional publishing deal for what I see as the jewel in my author’s crown – my trilogy.

I’ll keep everyone updated on progress, and thank you so much everyone for your brilliant support and good wishes.

Watch out later this week for The Next Big Thing – and be warned I am looking out for five buddies to be nominated at ‘The Next Big Thing’.  I have decided, quite randomly, that I am not going to be sticking to authors, so watch out!

Tuesday, 20th November

NaNoWriMo Diary

Tuesday, 20th November

Quotation that sums up my day:

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”   Oscar Wilde

Exerpt for 20th November

The first time Seymour had met Calman O’Rourke he had been draped casually across his chair in the Council Chamber like a human Salvador Dali clock the morning after his election as a local councillor. He recalled thinking the man was much too confident, flippant even, as he had cast his eyes skyward and mouthed “or arsenic” to Councillor Louise Byman, who, flustered, had dropped into the chair next to him muttering that the Chief Executive appeared close to mental breakdown and needed to pop a Prozac that morning.

Seymour couldn’t have been more wrong about Cal – underneath his jokey, extrovert veneer he had proved to be an intelligent and eloquent orator and a loyal ambassador for the town. Now, ten years later, Calman O’Rourke was about to become next year’s Mayor.
©  Annie Ireson

Bad Manners

I was going to re-commence my daily diary today, as well as add a couple of thousand words to my NaNoWriMo novel, which is now entitled The Fourteenth Traitor, but I was so incensed by something that happened to me last night, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to write about what I see as a degradation of British society: the spread of ‘bad manners’.

Bad manners is a creeping disease of distastefulness that is increasingly invading our daily lives, and, quite frankly, being displayed by people who should know better because they are forgetting some basic lessons they probably learned as children, but these old-fashioned lessons no longer have a place in a society that dishes out fashionable human rights like free sweets at a children’s party but forgets how to butter the bread.

I have a grandson who has just turned two. His parents have painstakingly taught him to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. They are now working on table etiquette and not interrupting someone when they are talking to someone else. I have no doubt that, in the years to come, Charlie’s parents will teach him not to drop litter; respect for his elders; how to become a good citizen and to expect to have to work for a living.  Charlie has two shining examples to follow – his two older cousins, who have already been taught their Ps and Qs.

My own children were brought up the same way (although I do sometimes have to remind them – even now they are parents themselves!) I can remember once, my own parents having a confrontation with my brother – who must have been about five at the time – that lasted for an entire afternoon when he had thrown a pen at Mum in anger. The pen had fallen to the floor and Dad said to my younger brother: “now pick it up, and say sorry to your mother.”

Steve wouldn’t pick up the pen and he wouldn’t say sorry. Three hours later, and with many tears shed by both my brother and myself (who got into trouble, too, for answering back) he picked up the pen and said sorry to my mum.  Anyway, enough of the past. I am very proud of my grandchildren and the way they are being brought up, but sadly bad manners are now evident everywhere.

Not so many years ago Great Britain could hold its head up and showcase itself to the world as the undisputed world leader in good manners. Sadly, our country’s halo has now slipped alarmingly – and it is not cultural diversity that is to blame, either!

I think the changing man/woman roles in society is to blame. Years ago, on the whole women were homemakers and mothers and traditional family life ensured the majority of children were brought up with loving but firm boundaries and realistic expectations. Nowadays, every child has to be a genius when we all know that most of them are gloriously average. Sadly, nowadays being average is not good enough, and for those children who, deep down, know they are normal and average it is immensely stressful for them to strive for a level of attainment that was always going to be unattainable. This equals inevitable and predictable failure, which is demoralising as well as burning deep scars of inadequacy that could quite possibly last a lifetime. What is wrong with setting realistic expectations? If we give young people a goal they can stretch themselves to reach, but at the same time making sure that goal is within their reach but not outside of it, we are surely helping to create more confident and happy citizens than by telling them all they have to get straight Grade As and have to go to university to get a degree.

Secondly, what is so wrong about a young girl who aspires to be a mother and homemaker? Imagine the horrified gaze of a teacher of an academically-average fifteen year-old girl who says, when asked about her career choice. ‘I want to be a mum so there is no point in my taking my A levels. What can I do instead?’  instead of ‘I want to be an accountant so I need four grade As’ ?

Women used to be respected for their work in bringing up the nation’s children and creating a comfortable home life for the men in their lives, who were the main breadwinners. Nowadays, women are slated for wanting to follow their natural instincts to stay at home and look after their own children. Instead, they are expected to go out to work and pay someone else to look after them. With respect to the many wonderful childminders out there, how many of them are prepared to spend an entire afternoon teaching their charges respect for their elders and how to say ‘sorry’.  Not many, I suppose.

So everyone, lets all embark on a campaign to bring good manners back to Great Britain and go back to basics, teaching our children respect for parents/teachers/elders, to always say please and thank you, to hold open doors, give up seats when required and generally grow up into good parents who will pass their good manners on to their children as surely as if it was embedded in their genes.

As adults, we need to revisit the good manners of yesteryear and practise what we are preaching in our everyday lives.

Monday, 12th November

NaNoWriMo Diary

Monday, 12th November

Quotation that sums up my day:

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves.  From each of them goes out its own voice… and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart.  ~Gilbert High

Paragraph for 12th November (word count at 11,693 – So far behind now. Hopefully I can catch up after 23rd November.

‘Emma curled up on her bed, with her head under the pillow. The news was so shocking it filled every space of her mind, body and soul until she wanted to scream and shout at the unfairness of it all.  She had killed someone, and it wasn’t just any old someone, but the Rt Hon Sir Digby Hart, MP, the Minister for Justice. Once, she had asked Bruce if he had ever killed anyone when on active service. He had stared at a point just over her shoulder and the man behind his eyes had momentarily been replaced by a number, an identity tag and a rifle. “Don’t ever ask me that, Emma,” he had said, with a robotic shake of his head. The moment had passed within just a few seconds, but Emma had known that the man she loved had killed another, perhaps many times. It was just circumstance, the same as this thing she had done to the Justice Minister was just circumstance. She sat up in bed: already the guilt and and unpalatable truth was being erased by ‘circumstance’.

©  Annie Ireson

Sunday, 11th November

NaNoWriMo Diary

Sunday, 11th November

Quotation that sums up my day:

I miss you now, because you were the one I wanted to share this with. Tears of pride would sparkle in your eyes because you would know how hard I have worked, and the sacrifices I have made, to achieve this ambition. I miss you whenever something worries me or plays on my mind, because you were the one who understood me so well. I miss you when I cry because your shoulder was always meant for crying on. I miss you when I laugh because you were the one who shared my sense of humour. I miss you all the time, but never more than when I lay awake at night and think of all the happy times we spent with each other because I know now that those times were some of the best times of my life.  I love you Dad. x

Anne Ireson, only daughter of Brian Joseph Beasley (10.2.30 – 7.12.01).

Paragraph for 11th November (word count at 11,300 – I am falling still further behind).

‘I hold you all personally responsible for this mess,’ the Prime Minister bellowed. ‘I had my reservations about Digby’s appointment as the Minister for Justice from the very start – the man’s a known philanderer, and there was that funny business last year which, quite frankly, was most distasteful. He was lucky to keep his job.’

©  Annie Ireson

Saturday, 10th November

NaNoWriMo Diary

Saturday, 10th November

Quotation that sums up my day:

I just wish my mouth had a backspace key.  ~Author Unknown

Paragraph for 10th November (word count at 10,579 – I am falling still further behind).

Seymour stopped mid-sentence, horrified. Now what was he going to do? He felt suddenly very hot.

‘No officer – I can assure you I most definitely did not spend yesterday with anyone. And I am not gay – I’m a happily married man with two daughters. For goodness sake, I am the Mayor of Eastbury and my wife is the Head Teacher at St Brendan’s Primary School.’

‘I didn’t say you were gay, sir. I just reminded you to think very carefully about the repercussions on yourself if your statement is found to contain inaccuracies as to your whereabouts yesterday,’ said the investigating officer as he made an almost imperceptible adjustment to the controls on the recording machine, subtly reinforcing the message that whatever Seymour said was being recorded.
©  Annie Ireson