If you’re a long time reader of How To Do Everything and Be Happy this might seem oddly familiar. And so it should. The original book jacket for ‘Happy’ was very similar – different colours, different silhouette, but the same basic layout and iconic star burst background. It proved a popular cover, but when Della and I came to think about this book there was another very good reason why it was time to dust off the old design and give it a new lease of life.
Just like it’s predecessor, throughout the new book you’ll come across various ‘Action Points’. The idea is that you stop, address the action, and then continue. But where ‘Slim’ differs is that each of the Action Points has a ‘star rating’.
You earn one star just for buying the book (did you spot that line of blue text along the bottom?), and with every additional star you acquire you will steadily increase your chances of being able to eat loads AND stay slim. Collect enough stars (thirty or more would be a good target to have) and Della and I personally guarantee that a slim figure, coupled with a healthy but satiated appetite, are yours for the taking. And all you have to do to earn a star is complete an action point.
Back to the cover though. Della and I can’t really take any credit for what you see before you. Both covers were designed by my good friend Ellen – who having taken our suggestions into consideration, ignored them completely and blew our socks off with the colourful creation you see today.
Ellen is an extremely talented young woman. Together with her business partner and fellow wordsmith Dan (hello Dan), they work for an advertising agency that’s going places. As well as the rather funky clothing company extragged.com
To finish up I thought I’d share with you the following video that Ellen helped create for Sir Paul McCartney (to be played behind him and the band during the American leg of his world tour)! It basically involved locking Ellen in a room for two weeks with a huge blackboard and getting her to draw whatever came to mind to the song Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, with occasional input on the phone from Sir Paul himself. The result is pretty stunning. Like I said, talented young woman.
If you’re reading this in your email or you can’t see the video – click here
The 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.
“I am supporting myself
doing the things I love & enjoy,
and no longer worry about bills.”
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 (.co.uk | .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 ebook 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)
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.
I’m back! Did you miss me? What d’you mean you hadn’t realised that I’ve been away. Tch! Typical.
The truth is I’ve been working on a number of things – so many things that at times it’s been hard to see the spinning plates for all the broken crockery – but finally, after many weeks, a couple of these projects are coming to fruition, and I’d rather like to tell you about them.
How To Eat Loads and Stay Slimisn’t a diet book. Not in the traditional sense. It’s a book packed full of thought provoking, scientifically-provable, ideas and changes you can make to your life to increase your chances of being slim.
It’s a mixture of hard science (eg. how hunger really works), quick ‘cheats’ (eg. how to make zero fat chips), psychological techniques (eg. why focusing on your food as you eat is really important), ingenious strategies (eg. how to cut down on sugar without going cold turkey), and easy peasy recipes (eg. my roast potato & egg smashup breakfast or my co-author’s apple ginger clafouti) – all wrapped up in an easy-to-digest, humourous read from authors who’ve been where you are now.
Yes that’s right. Authors. Plural.
I’m co-writing the book with author, teacher, editor, dog-whisperer, regular contributor to Writers’ Forum magazine and slimming guru, Della Galton. Della has had about a thousand short stories published in various magazines over the last twenty years (I’m not exaggerating – 1,000 short stories) as well as goodness knows how many books (every time I think I know about all of them she casually mentions another published under a different name, or by a different publisher, or in large print only, or on Mars). It’s a little daunting writing along side a real author. Obviously I’m a real author too, but she’s, well, you know, MORE real.
Actually, whilst we’re talking about Della I might as well mention that today is her twenty eighth birthday (hang on, doesn’t that mean that she was first published when she was… hmmmm..) And, just to prove my earlier point, it coincides with the release of a short story anthology series, ‘Daily Della‘ – bite sized chunks of fiction ideal for your daily coffee break.
Being an observant lot it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that over there on the right hand side is a mysterious box with a button next to it that says SUBSCRIBE.
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve been wondering what that means, right? What would you be subscribing to? How much would it cost? What on earth is a post? Or a blog come to that?
Ok, ok – settle down.
This right here – what you’re reading right now – is a ‘post’; an entry into a kind of online journal which for reasons that I can’t be bothered to look up is called a ‘blog’. I know. Computer people are weird. But we’re relatively harmless. If you click the blog link right at the top of the page you can see all the posts in (reverse) chronological order.
New posts are added as and when, and each one usually invites comments (at the bottom). Feel free to have your say, I read every comment that’s posted – but if you’d like new posts delivered to you via email (thus saving you the trouble to pop back), you can sign up for that via a free service (from google) called feedburner! Simply give feedburner your email address (completing the “are you a human” test), and when the confirmation email arrives, click the link. And you’re done. New ‘posts’ will come to you via email. (If you don’t get a confirmation email, check any spam filters you may have).
It’s all entirely automated. I don’t even get told who’s subscribed or when. And although I can find that information out, I absolutely promise that I’ll never ever pass your email address onto anyone else – the only thing I’ll use your email address for are blog updates.
And if you ever want to unsubscribe, either drop me a line via the contact page, or click the link at the bottom of any of the emails from me.
Six and a half years after starting my novel, the end finally in sight.
I have almost finished my novel.
Let me put that into perspective: the book that I started writing on or around the 10th of October 2004 is almost complete. So why has it taken me so long? What – you may ask – have I been doing for the last six and half years?
Let’s back up a bit. First you need to know that I never intended to write a novel. Originally it was just a short story that amused my wife. And that was fatal, because having made her laugh she then suggested that I ought to continue the story, and turn it into a book.
Easy for her to say! This was the woman who would read a novel a week, sometimes two! This was the woman who would pack at least half a dozen books in our joint luggage, and supplement those with two or three tomes that she’d purchase at the airport. As far as my wife was concerned telling me to write a novel was akin to suggesting I put the kettle on and make a brew – whereas from my perspective she may as well have asked me to walk to India to pick the tea-leaves, and fetch the water from the frozen glaciers of Tibet on my way home.
But then, curiosity got the better of me. Maybe I could write a book. And maybe the way to tackle the task at hand was to treat it as a series of linking short stories? Write a chapter, and when I was satisfied that it was the absolute best it could be, move onto the next chapter?
And that was my first mistake. After three long years I’d written half a dozen chapters of utter rubbish. They were indeed ‘the best that I could do’, but the truth of the matter is, ‘my best’ just wasn’t very good.
Fortunately, around this time Apple invented the iPod. And soon after someone invented the podcast. And as a direct consequence Mur Laffety became a regular part of my car journeys. It was she who gave me (and the other listeners of her excellent podcast ‘I should be writing‘) the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever had: when writing a novel, write the WHOLE book – start to finish – BEFORE going back to edit. And in the absence of anything that was working, that is exactly what I did. A year and a bit later (29th of March 2009 to be precise), I’d finished the FIRST draft.
Several other things had happened too. I’d joined a writer’s group. I was reading and listening to every bit of writing advice I could lay my hands and ears on. And most important of all, I was a much better writer.
This, it turns out, was the power of Mur’s advice. There’s something about putting one word in front of another that makes you better at writing, just as putting one foot in front of another makes you better at walking, or running. Have you ever watched a toddler learning to walk? Right after they’ve fallen flat on their face, they pick themselves up and try again. They don’t analyse the last few steps, or wait for feedback from their peers, they keep moving forward. It’s how they get better at walking. And it’s how I got, and continue to get, better at writing. Just a year or so after I churned out diabolical chapter number six, I was two hundred thousand words better equipped to fix it. That, and the other forty four chapters.
The last two and a bit years have been spent editing. Yes I know what you’re thinking. Two and a bit years!! Only now am I getting to a point where I think I might have a handle on what proper editing involves – that however, will have to be the topic of a future post. What I’m keen to know is if this tale rings any bells. How long did it take you to finish your first novel? Why was that? And what lessons did you learn along the way? Post your comments below – I look forward to reading them. In the meantime, I’ve got a book to finish.