Category Archives: Life story

’tis the season to be signing…


Signing The Thinking Tank, surrounded by lovely clothes in White Stuff, Stamford!

I’ve been very blessed with some encouraging numbers at book signings, but when the lovely people at Summertime Publishing asked me to write about how I go about approaching customers, I was a little nervous. The way in which you relate to people is very personal, so how can you possibly provide a blueprint for that?

The answer is that you can’t – but what I can do is just tell you straight how it works for me…

The best tip anyone ever gave me about the sort of situation when you want folks to talk to you is to have something to offer them – so, in my case, I have sweeties! Maybe you have a bookmark or other PR-related product but for me, sweeties do it every time.

Wear a smile – it warms people’s hearts – and in my case I really mean that smile as I am so grateful to be invited to sign and meeting potential readers is a real joy.

I also use humour and joke that folks don’t have to buy the novel to have a sweetie, but it gives me a great entrée and it’s a relaxed way of starting up a conversation about why you are there.

Often, a customer will be wearing something striking or different, which you would be tempted to comment on in any circumstances – that’s another way to begin a dialogue – ‘love your sweater…’

In my experience, people are very willing to listen, especially in a book shop – they are probably curious to know what’s new on the market anyway. That said, I sold the second largest amount of books in a signing in a clothes store – just the fact of you being there is food for chat.

Engage people in conversation and offer a few details about your book that you think might appeal, aiming what you say at what you think they might enjoy – or need. So many guys pop into bookshops looking for that last little gift. ‘The lady in your life would love this…’ Ladies out with their daughters are interested in the fact that The Thinking Tank centres on a mother/ daughter relationship, and local people love to see that my novel is set in their area. Those going on holiday would like the fact that it’s partly set in Spain and most folks love a good page turner!

I suppose the loudest message is make it personal and don’t be afraid to come forward. Don’t underestimate how intimidating it might be for a customer to approach you – for all they know you could be dead famous and snooty! Make the first move – the worst that can happen is that they don’t buy your book – the best that can happen is that they buy the book, love it, pass it on – and you’ve made new friends.

And enjoy yourself. This is a huge opportunity and a blessing and even if you sell little, you’ll have met some lovely people – and you never know where that will lead.


Elle Amberley, author of Nowhere Left To Hide

I am delighted to have had the opportunity this week to interview Elle Amberley, author and many time expat, as well as expert in life’s crappy stuff.

Although she is a British author, Elle likes to dabble in French too, and hopes to resume work on her French novel when time allows.
Elle is a bohemian at heart, the result of having lived in several countries as a child. She also enjoys writing articles on women’s issues and whatever she feels passionate about, as well as poetry and short stories. Lost in your time is scheduled for publication in February 2012.
My own experiences abroad and dealing with life’s crappy stuff certainly went into the mix when I was writing The Thinking Tank – so I wanted to ask Elle about how those very things influenced her..
You’ve been an expat on and off for much of your life, Elle. Was this self-imposed or did you follow your family to foreign parts? As a child we lived in various European countries. I did hanker for a place to call home but then I hankered even more for safety, stability and most important love…As a teenager I had to rebuild my life. As the police suggested at one point, the best thing for me was to move as far as possible. Which I did, going as far away as America and Australia, best thing I could have done to free my mind and soul.
Can you tell us where you have lived and what effect you think this has had on your writing? I’ve lived in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and a few more European countries. Each place has had an influence on me, particularly France and Italy. Unbeknown to me my French just kicked back in action after 10 years of not using it at all. I’m now writing in French, a funny consequence to a big drama. A few years ago stricken with grief I’d closed up and then met a very special person who put the pen in my hand and sat me at his desk. Words flowed out in French through the tears. Imagine my surprise when I realised what I’d written.
Being exposed to so many cultures is very enriching and provides many a background.
You are known to be a survivor and a person who has dealt with plenty of life’s crappy stuff. How is this reflected in your work? Readers often comment on the fact I can put a positive spin on difficult themes. I’ve had to be very strong and independent, I think it’s reflected in my novels.

Please tell us a little about your latest novel, Nowhere to Hide (Indio Press): A young woman seeks to escape her past. She grabs the chance she’s given to go and study in California, despite the difficulties. In Santa Barbara she finds a new way of life, far away from her tormentors and childhood ghosts. She shakes off the labels and finds friendship and love. But what will she do when her visa expires and her boyfriend asks her to marry him?

Was there a particular life situation that inspired the themes? Yes, definitely. I know only too well what’s it’s like having to run from your home.

Elle's books are available on Amazon

 I understand that you have adopted a pen name. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to share their own experiences but through fiction? The reason I adopted a pen name was to protect myself. I did have to change my name because of what happened to me. It was a freeing experience, another label off my back. Difficult to explain without going through all the nitty gritty. I think as authors we all put our own experiences into our books. However, this is not a memoir even if it is my most personal novel to date. I think memoirs have their place and I find writing to be a wonderful healer. I have resisted so far the calls to write my own memoir. You should never say never but I don’t think this is for me. I much prefer to use my imagination run free.

Finally, what do we have to look forward to next in terms of your writing, Elle? Quite a few more short stories, poems, a French novel and LOST IN YOUR TIME my next novel to be published in February 2012.
 Thank you so much for having me on your blog. Fabulous questions, I’ve enjoyed answering them.
The pleasure is mine, Elle – thank you for your time.
More information about Elle and her writing can be found at the following links:
                    Elle on amazon UK

Writing a novel: Author to author: Jae De Wylde interviews Elle Amberley

Writing a novel: Life in the Tank


The TV monitor above the Tank relieves the boredom and alone-ness

My treatment in the hyperbaric oxygen tank was like nothing else I had experienced. When you have a condition that is pain-related, it’s hard for people to understand what the whole fuss is about. I get that. We all get that, those of us who have silent illnesses – the sort you can’t wear, which aren’t signposted by crutches, slings, wheelchairs or sticks. So telling people I was to spend two hours a day, five days a week in an oxygen tank felt a bit like making a bad joke.

 It was even more difficult when I got to the hospital. HBO is used for diseases of the nervous system but also for open wounds that won’t heal. Sarah in The Thinking Tank encounters such a situation when she meets a woman with damaged tissue on her face. If I dig deep, I guess what it made me feel was a fraud. Like if I don’t have some outward badge of pain, then I can’t possibly deserve this treatment. And when you feel like that you get all apologetic for even being there. Hats off to the amazing staff at the former Edith Cavell hospital in Peterborough who were real earth angels and did all they could to make visits to the HBO unit like a coffee morning. But that alone-ness, when everything is cool and separate in the tank – even the earth angels could not fix that.

Which is where the telly comes in – if you want it to. I’ve included a pic to explain a bit about how it works. It is surreal, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s hard to visualise. The monitor is outside the glass cylinder and sound – someone talking to you or sound from the TV – is piped in through an intercom system. And it works both ways. You can be heard too from the outside. It’s another way of making you feel less diconnected but the truth is, there is nothing like two hours in a treatment chamber to underline your disconnectedness – the fact that no one else on the planet can feel your pain – that pain is personal, be it physical or metaphorical, and let’s face it we all tend to think our own pain must be the worst. The truth is that whatever your worst is, is simply that – your own personal worst. We live by degrees. We get hurt by degrees. The more pain we encounter in life the more we are likely to cope with more pain – or if not, we go under.

We each of us live life in our own tank. We just don’t always know when we are there – and we forget that to connect we need to reach out from our tanks, from our pain and from our own private worlds. Sarah gets stuck in hers and to move forward she has to uncover the secrets that keep her and her daughter apart.

 Like Sarah, I watched film after film in my oxygen tank. The difference is that whilst I chose my own films and the tank, the catalyst for The Thinking Tank, chose me, Sarah’s films choose her  – and try as she might to make them stop, the tank just thinks for itself…