Category Archives: Think Tank

#57 on Amazon Women’s Fiction Bestsellers – definitely NOT life’s crappy stuff!

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Captured on screen at #59!

Last week, when Summertime Publishing named me their Best Selling Author, 2011, I didn’t think the week could possibly get better. But it actually did…

And, OK, Jo Parfitt (www.joparfitt.com), you were right! An author’s ‘backstory’ really does make a difference.

When the Gulf News Friday Magazine published my story by the excellent journalist, Antonia Hoyle (www.antoniahoyle.com), I felt like hiding under the duvet (www.gulfnews.com/life-style/general/belly-dancing-saved-me-from-my-grief-1.960098). I just had this idea that my novel was this separate entity, that needed to be other than me, rather than sharing my history and my sadness. Stupid, I know, when you look at it because what else does an author do other than pour out real emotions, layered onto the characters and their situations? Even so, my novel is fiction and I thought that my ‘backstory’ might somehow infect what I had created. I don’t do ‘poor me’ and anything that smacks of that just doesn’t sit well.

But the support since last Friday has been incredible such that I would never have dreamed possible. Even people from my past have been back in contact. Then, on Sunday afternoon, The Thinking Tank went to #57 on Amazon Women’s Fiction. Extraordinary. Me, on Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers’ list? 23 places ahead of Costa Coffee Shortlister, Chris Cleave, and only 37 places behind the wonderful Jodi Picoult. That is just bonkers.

So, Jo was right, I was wrong. There. I’ve said it.

And a great big stonking THANK YOU to everyone who has been in touch. There are comments on the Friday magazine article – but most have come via FB messages or email. To know that my story has made a difference, to know that it has helped some of you who are bereaved take a baby step forward – that is huge.

As to the ratings – what an amazing blessing from the universe…

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’tis the season to be signing…

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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.

Writing a novel: Life in the Tank

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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…