Mayfair Madness – Book Launch Party!

DB-Mayfair026_smWas I going to manage to get away to London for my book launch party? Spend a couple of nights at the University Women’s Club which was the venue for the event? If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I’m trying to juggle writing my debut novel, promoting my new book: Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business, and nursing Edward, my estranged husband! He’s going through a punishing cycle of chemotherapy, and has been rushed to the A&E five times during the ten treatments.

I went to London the night before – this was a noon until 2pm party – slightly uneasy about the patient. But he assured me he’d be fine and to say hello to everyone.

Next morning I was up early at the club and breakfasted with a delicious Bucks Fizz to start this special day. I raised my glass and toasted myself, to the amusement of the handsome Hungarian waiter who wanted to know what I was celebrating.

DB-Mayfair022_smMy aunt and cousin, then my sister arrived along with some friends. Time for the party to begin. We climbed the wide elegant staircase to the first landing where a table had been set out with champagne glasses and soft drinks.

A waiter poured us our first glass of bubbly and we wandered into the library.

DB-Mayfair012_smI think the library at the UWC is one of the loveliest rooms in London. The sun was bouncing off the chandeliers and there were a few cosy groups of tables and chairs, but leaving plenty of space in the centre for the guests to mill. Lorraine, the events manager, had already set up an oblong table with a ‘pile ‘em high’ display of Seller Beware together with copies of my previous book: from Bad to Wurst: Bavarian adventures of a veggie cook.

DB-Mayfair010_smThe guests strolled in. Crysta, who had flown in from Frankfurt and Genevieve, from Paris; John, an estate agent from Tunbridge Wells, who used to be one of my competitors; Kris, a Polish decorator and his wife;


DB-Mayfair017_smIain Dale, of Biteback Publishing, who brought with him Sam, my editor, Suzanne in PR, and Charlotte, their newest employee. DB-Mayfair021_sm




DB-Mayfair035_smI met Harriet from Cornerstones literary consultancy and a few new faces who were friends of friends. I was honoured to see my philosophy tutor with his wife and a few students from our class. Writerly friends included Carol and Sue with whom I had spent the most wonderful writing week in a villa in Portugal last year.

DB-Mayfair079_smBut the most fun was seeing people who hadn’t seen one another for months, and even years, kissing and hugging. And that was just the men!

David, the photographer, was snapping away, dodging this way and that, with instructions to take the most flattering photographs (I’d primed him well!) and the waiters handed round the most delicious canapés. There was much animated talk and laughter enhanced by champagne glasses being constantly refilled.

Around one o’clock I made a short speech, telling how Kris, my charming Polish decorator, put me in touch with Iain, my lovely publisher (see a previous blogpost). Everyone laughed at my anecdote. But would they buy the book?

I breathed a sigh of relief when I noticed Lorraine, who had offered to be cashier, taking their tenners, and I began the delightful process of signing books. Everyone gave me lavish compliments on the event and the venue, along with regrets when they had to break up the party, and promises to meet up again very soon. It couldn’t have gone better, and I looked forward to a quiet evening with Crysta, who was also staying the second night at the club.

It was not to be. My sister rang me to say Edward looked poorly and was running a high temperature.
‘He’ll have to go to hospital immediately,’ I told her. By this time it was ten o’clock. She rang me a few minutes later and said they were on the way to the A&E.

Of course I couldn’t sleep. Finally, at one in the morning, my mobile jangled into life.
‘I’ve just got home,’ my sister said. ‘They’re keeping Ed in overnight.’
Well, at least he’d be safe there, was my last thought as I dropped off.

Can you see any pattern in the following? I took Edward to the hospital two hours before I was to appear at Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells to give a talk on Seller Beware. The Mayfair party ended up with him having to go into A&E that same night. Let me put this to you: I’m due to give a talk in Pembury library on 14th May. The question is – will I be taking Edward into hospital before my talk or after? Whatever the case, I’ll be prepared.

At last – the Book Launch of Seller Beware – Part 2


Waterstones, Tunbridge Wells. 16 April 2013.
The first ticket holders arrived – a family – and all close friends of mine. Gill, Peter and their 30-year-old son, Stu. Peter and Stu had volunteered to do the drinks and had dressed for the occasion in their DJs. ‘You look very handsome,’ I told them, ‘and easily spotted by everyone when they wonder where to go for their glass of wine – and  refill,’ I added, laughing. Gill got to work straightaway, lining the baskets and bowls with napkins and shaking out the nibbles.

Alison, my writing critique partner (left, with Richard Milton), was another early arrival, as I needed her to help prepare the ‘stage’. She’d given a talk on her first published novel, INCEPTIO, at the same branch of Waterstones the previous month, so she knew the score. I left her to position the tall banner emblazoned with the front cover of the book.

One by one, couple by couple, they came in. There was much laughter and chat as I met people I hadn’t seen for years, and they in turn met one another whom they hadn’t seen for years. It was all very jolly. I kept to a half a glass of pink champagne. A full glass and I’d be squiffy!

It was 7.15pm. People were beginning to take their seats. My good friend, Richard Milton, a published author of both fiction and non-fiction, sat on the front row next to my sister, Carole. He watched me glance at my five ‘prompt cards’ and said: ‘It will look much better if you don’t use them, Den. You know what you’re going to say. So just say it.’ Immediately, my heart started to thump. I said: ‘I’ll leave them on the table, in case…’

DB-Waterstones32_sm7.20pm. Time to begin. Voices suddenly stopped and there was complete silence. I swallowed. This was it. I looked at the 70-odd friendly faces, opened my mouth and started (unrehearsed) by asking everyone if they would turn to their neighbour, give them a good once-over, then glance at them occasionally throughout the talk.

Photo0009_croppedIf they noticed anyone looking shifty, or squirming, or acting in any kind of suspicious manner, to report it to the nearest member of staff.

‘In light of the contents of my book and the characters,’ I held up Seller Beware, ‘we could be inadvertently harbouring a spy or two. But,’ I went on, ‘if there is one, even a spy has to have a night off sometimes.’ They started to chuckle (I expect the wine had already got to them) and I was away. I forgot about cards and prompts as I told my story, along with some amusing anecdotes, which made them laugh. Oh, the power…

DB-Waterstones10_smAt the end I completely forgot to ask them if there were any questions, but as my talk had gone on a bit longer than the allotted time, it probably didn’t matter. My aim was to tell them something about my sorry experience when I sold my estate agency to the wrong buyers, and for them to read the complete story of ‘one woman’s road to ruin’ (the strapline of Seller Beware).

‘So, please form an orderly queue,’ I joked when they’d finished clapping, ‘and make sure you tell me your name – spell it out – so neither of us is embarrassed because of my failing memory.’ And they did.



That evening I sold 55 books, which Waterstones said was a great success. Bowing my head in humble fashion, I agreed.

Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business
Published by Biteback Publishing £12.99 on Amazon and all good bookshops

At last – the book launch!

DCF 1.0I thought I was all prepared for the book launch for Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business on Tuesday evening, 16th April at Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells. After all, I’d had weeks to plan it.

My several pages of the talk were now reduced to five lined index cards with odd words highlighted to prompt the (often failing) memory. I’d packed a box of spare books, special bookmarks, wine and soft drinks, corkscrews, nibbles and bowls, tablecloths, new Cross pink girlie signing pen (pen wasn’t cross; it was the make!), the banner, and some business cards.

I’d rehearsed my talk. I’d bought a gorgeous cerise-coloured frock.  My foot with the broken bone squashed nicely into one of the pair of shiny black wedges (none of my evening shoes would fit) and I was ready.

Nothing could go wrong.

I planned to leave at 5.30pm on the Tuesday to give myself plenty of time to unload all the stuff and help the staff to prepare the room ready for the expected 60 – 70 people.

On the Monday evening my estranged husband who is temporarily staying with me so I can look after him after a big bowel cancer operation followed by chemotherapy, didn’t want his supper. Next morning (my launch day) he only ate a small bowl of porridge. No lunch. By mid afternoon he was still in bed so I thought I’d better take his temperature. It was up. When that happens he has to go straight to the A&E.

Off we went. Thankfully, I live in Pembury where we have a brand-new hospital in the village, so it’s only a five minute drive. We sat in A&E, me looking surreptitiously at my watch every couple of minutes. I’d had no lunch and there’d be no time to eat now.
At 4.15pm I told him: ‘I’m going to have to leave you or I’ll be late.’
He nodded and mumbled: ‘I know. Good luck.’ He closed his eyes.

Feeling awful, I left him on a horrible metal chair in A&E, but at least I knew he’d be in safe hands. I rushed home, had quick cup of tea, showered, did hair, zipped into pink dress, earrings, necklace, shoes, and packed up the car with all the stuff. The car was out of the drive at exactly 5.30pm but I was trembling.

DB_Wstones_windowI arrived at the back of Waterstones where you can unload, telling myself I had to block out everything now, including Edward, and concentrate on the talk. The show had to go on!

So did it? All will be revealed in the next post…

Book Launch at Waterstones – Tuesday 16th April 2013!

champagneIt’s been rather exciting since Tuesday when my book Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business was published by Biteback Publishing. I’ve had several editors of local newspapers and magazines ring me saying they wanted to interview me or print extracts from the book. That’s the easy bit – answering questions and deciding what extracts would be suitable for them.

The nerve-wracking bit is the book launch.  It’s to be held at my local branch of Waterstones on Tuesday, 16th April at 7pm. Tickets are apparently flying out of the door so I’ll be bringing gallons of pink champagne and red wine and soft drinks – yes, so far, so good. I’ve asked lots of family and friends, ex-colleagues in the estate agency business who I haven’t seen for decades, present staff of the new estate agency business, along with my co-director, and hopefully some members of the public off the street, so to speak.

It will be great to see so many friends again, and reminisce about the ‘good old days’. Still, so far, so good. But when 7.15 comes around, the Waterstones staff will announce it’s time to give my half-hour talk. That’s when my heart will start to pound, my stomach will start doing cartwheels, and my brain will start to pack up.

I read somewhere that many surveys have been carried out asking people how they feel about giving talks. Apparently, ‘death’ is at the top of the list! People would rather die than stand up and give a talk. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it is nerve-wracking – until you get started. Once I begin I’m fine, secretly enjoying the attention. And it’s brilliant when you make ‘em laugh with your incredible wit. But my fear is that my mind will go blank. Of course, that’s what everyone fears. That they’ll look stupid. Actually, it doesn’t bother me to look stupid – it happens too often for me to take much notice – but I really want to get across certain points, and I pride myself on not reading from the script. But I do rely on my handful of little cards with prompts, in case I veer off course or forget entirely what I’m on about.

So please think of me this coming Tuesday evening, and raise a glass to all authors who have finally got themselves ‘in print’, bringing upon themselves this stressful situation. Another glass of champagne, please.

PS I’ll let you know how it goes and maybe even post a few photographs.

Publication Day! Tuesday 9th April

Seller Beware_smWhen Iain Dale, the publisher of Biteback Publishing said, way back in October, that he wanted to publish my non-fiction manuscript Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business, April seemed a long way away. I knew I was very lucky that I’d found the perfect publisher so quickly, and that Iain had given me a publishing date only six months away, as usually it’s more like a year before it becomes a precious book.

The weeks and months from October to April slid by in what’s called ‘life’, sometimes dragging, sometimes flying. I’m looking after my estranged husband who has undergone major surgery and is now having chemotherapy. Having a man in my house where I’ve lived alone for the last 20 years is quite a shock, let alone in a new role of carer. However, it’s not been as bad as I’d feared, as he’s got a positive attitude and is quite a grateful patient most of the time. If he’s not acting grateful I don’t hesitate to remind him to become so!

But if I hadn’t had the book to look forward to being published, getting stuck into the final polish after Sam Carter, my lovely editor, advised me on a few minor points, and the excitement of looking at the book cover, ordering bookmarks, a banner, arranging book launches/talks in Tunbridge Wells and London, and a myriad other things to do, I would have gone cuckoo feeling trapped in my own house.

Sometimes I’ve managed to get away for a day, or an evening. I think it’s important for carers to try to get away on a regular basis. I always come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle my nursing role again.

Publication day was last Tuesday (9 April) and I decided to slip away to London and stay overnight at my club in Mayfair, the University Women’s Club, to celebrate, even if I had to down a couple of glasses of bubbly on my own. I just wanted to feel it was a special day. Luckily, I have a sister who lives close by and she said she would give my husband his supper and keep an eye on him.

At the Club the Events Manager, Lorraine Carroll, introduced me to a new member, an American woman called Monica, who was waiting for her friend, Jenny, also an American. They were both career women and married to Englishmen, so the UK was their home. What delightful companions they were. They insisted I join them for dinner. The Club excelled itself and the bubbly, followed by a good white wine, flowed as easily as the conversation. I really enjoyed it as they had made it feel so special. I ended up nviting them to my launch party at the Club on the 30th April, and they said they couldn’t wait to read the book.  We’ve all promised to keep in touch. Jenny mentioned a close friend, an American called Chris, who is a literary agent and works in New York. He could come in useful for my future novels…

A case of pre-launch nerves

Photo0004I’m excited and nervous. It’s only a week to Publication Day, 9th April (I’ve put this in capitals on purpose) of my book Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business.

Yesterday, I went into Waterstones to take in a new colour poster about my talk on the 16th April. But I forgot the damned posters!  That was my whole point about going in. Grrrrr.

Anyway, I had a nice chat with one of the booksellers.
He said, ‘Good news.  The books are in already.  But we were a bit surprised as we can’t sell them yet.’
‘Well, it’s not officially published until 9th April,’ I told him.
‘We can usually start selling books a couple of weeks before publication date,’ he said, ‘but your publishers have put an embargo on Seller Beware until Thursday.’
‘What exactly does that mean?’
‘If anyone comes in to buy the book before Thursday we’re not allowed to sell it to them,’ he said, adding, ‘This happens occasionally, but only if a national paper is going to serialise it or the authors happen to be Dan Brown or JK Rowling.’
‘Well, isn’t it nice that those two are in such good company?’ I laughed.

That’s probably the only time my name will be linked to the likes of bestsellers Dan Brown and JK Rowling, but I couldn’t help giving a little hop and a skip when I got outside the shop.