Friday, May 31, 2013


The US Huffington Post have just published one of my short stories. 

I've been wearing so many hats these past few years, the mini biography I had to provide concentrated the mind somewhat. When I'm asked what I do I often hesitate. "Writer" can invite all unpredictable come-backs. "Yes but what do you do for a living". For a long time saying I was a publisher felt way too pretentious, like I was pretending to be one of the big boys. But actually, no, not any more. The business continues to grow, so at last I finally realise it's fine, and pretty cool really, to be everything.

I am a writer, I am an editor and I am a publisher. A hybrid author. Not much done lately on the writing side it has to be said. But that looks like it could be set to change as I have a meeting with an agent next week.

Meantime have been busy on the publishing front. I am so proud of the 3 new titles we've produced this month and am really excited about the 3 authors set to publish with us through to the autumn. Just out are:

A 53,000 word sampler of extracts from Susie Kelly's wonderful comedy travel books. Includes an extract from her amazing new memoir I Wish I Could Say I Was Sorry...    FREE IN ALL EBOOK FORMATS FROM SMASHWORDS AND KOBO, 99c/77p on Kindle.

"Can a child be born strange? Or does it come from some early forgotten experience?" Susie vividly portrays a small child's experience of emigrating from 1950s London, in every shade of grey, to the technicolour splendour of Kenya and growing up as part of a dysfunctional family.  This had me in tears twice. And the proofreader, too, in his own description - "a roughty toughty bloke who hadn't cried at a book since Dickens". It's also funny. Because she's naturally funny - esp amidst adversity and all that.... $3.99/£2.68 Kindle/$14.99/£9.82 paperback.

Exeter university student Elle was our intern last summer (amongst other things she drew the cover for Susie's Swallows & Robins). A massive talent, her book pitch was totally irresistible and here it is. Already drawing praise from popular Twitter pages like SkintLondon (fab things London a tenner and under + News & More) and Twitter budget consumer queen Pennygolightly, it's a unique budget style guide. How to fund the fabulous, via the chicest of charity shops and the coolest of bars and clubs, on the tightest of student incomes and less.  The strapline is "Essential reading for anybody travelling to London who would love to live like the cast of Made In Chelsea without being 'in' diamonds".  Kindle $2.99/£2.02 Paperback $9.79/£6.11.

And recently-published For The Love Of Cats spreads its paws as an interview with Christina Hamilton is set to feature in South African glossy cat mag CatsLife's 50th Birthday Special. This fun illustrated book answers the following questions and a lot, lot more:

* Who named all his cats Sam?
* What is the truth, exactly, about Isaac Newton’s invention of the cat flap and did he really have a cat called Spitface?
* Which famous medieval French Cardinal revealed his black sense of humour when he named his cats Ludovic Le Cruel and Lucifer?
* Who had a cat called Joss Stick?
* Why does a famous National Trust property always have a marmalade cat called Jock permanently in residence?
* Which American rapper called his cats Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra?
* Who named their cats 1,2,3,4,5,7 and 8, and why did he miss out 6?
* Which famous author called cats love sponges?
* Can you guess why Pope Benedict XVI Emiratus used to leave the Vatican late at night and all alone?

Kindle $2.99/£1.77 Paperback $11.99/£7.89

It's still raining pretty constantly in London. Everything is so green. This is our garden square at the moment. Almost tropical. Which brings me back to my short story, The Long Pig, in the Huffington Post's Featured Fifty Fiction slot, set on a remote Pacific island in Micronesia.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2013 - An Unexpected Award

Last week my friend Tonee and I went to the Press Freedom Awards at a central London hotel to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. There, I and a whole host of journalists from many different countries were each presented with a wonderfully grand engraved shield and certificate. 

The invitation came via Blackbird Digital Books' Associate Editor Sarah Tomley at The organisers, Alhaqiqa TV, had been in touch with her and had asked her to pass on the invitation to me. I contacted them to find out more. What for??? Why?? In thanks for my "high morals" in contribution to journalism. I was a bit mystified. The business of Blackbird Digital is run on Buddhist Diamond Cutter principles, but this was related to journalism. I haven't done much journalism lately, and when I do it's usually to do with healthy home cleaning tips and my long-running Guardian Space Solves column. It was to be a sit down dinner in a 5* hotel hosted by a royal Sheikh. I'm also a romantic novelist, so, having checked I could take a friend, off Tonee and I went...

We were greeted warmly by the Managing Director of Alhaqiqa TV, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Hashimi

and shown to our seats

We were placed next to a young Polish couple who were able to fill us in a little on the Sheikh and Alhaqiqa TV.  She was a nutritionist, a fellow classmate, who had studied with the Sheikh. It turns out he's a very wise and learned man - a doctor of herbal medicine, passionate about helping people find natural ways of recovering from illnesses. This work is affiliated to his tv stations which broadcast in Arabic all over the Arab world and in London. We were shown a film featuring all the different studio locations

He has also set up many health centres, including one in London: The Alhashimi Centre For Natural Herbs.

Alhashimi Centre For Natural Herbs
Honey is an important ingredient, the nutritionist told us. So the link to my work as a journalist became a little more clear. My very first ebook (and later paperback) being:

Done & Dusted -  The Organic Home On A Budget

As the cleaning guru for The Guardian’s Weekend Magazine Space Solves column from 2005 to 2011, Stephanie Zia has helped hundreds of readers solve their impossible stains and cleaning catastrophes. This book gathers together 100+ of the best of her columns. PLUS
• Cleaning without chemicals – the housework hater’s healthy, quick cleaning guide.
• Non-toxic stain removal – the knowledge. Learn the quick, easy way to identify and treat stains instantly without the need of a chart.
• How to avoid the nasty chemicals lurking in everyday household products with links to online experts for further study.
• What about the vinegar? The best uses for vinegar, baking powder, lemon juice etc – what works and what doesn’t.
And much, much more.

Done & Dusted is not anti-non-organic or anti-chemical – everything is made of chemicals – but about balance. How to avoid the possible nasties and make informed, affordable compromises. You’ll find plenty of top tips for using everyday non-toxic products you have around the home for cleaning and stain removal, but also the occasional recommendation for chlorine bleach and oxalic acid.
40,000 Words.

“I admit to being the worst house-cleaner of anybody who has ever lived. I hate housework. But not any more! Done & Dusted has CHANGED MY LIFE! BRILLIANT book. It should be required reading for every housewife/househusband.” See Full Review here

“I was partly expecting it to be yet another ‘lemons and white wine vinegar’ kind of book, but it’s actually full of interesting new ideas and products. ” Penny Golightly Consumer Website For The Bon Viveur

So it wasn't a mistake! Hurrah. 

When I was interviewed for Alhaqiqa TV I didn't speak about Done & Dusted, however, but my very first job at the BBC when I joined the Russian Section as an office junior, age 16. 

The iron curtain was very much still up at that stage. Though at the time it was all a little lost on me (I was a bit miffed I hadn't been placed at Radio 1) I appreciate now what a remarkable place it was to be. My prized role was selecting the fill discs for the end of the broadcasts. A job I took very seriously, blasting T Rex and David Bowie into the Russian heartland.  So I was able to say my bit about what freedom of speech meant to me. Along with the engraved shield came a certificate:

and a slap up meal

It just goes to show, when you're a writer you really don't know what's around the corner. 

Thank you Alhaqiqa TV and Sheikh Bin Rashid Al-hashimi. 

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Springtime in London

Lady Tree, Edwardes Square, London  W8

Browsing, London South Bank

Woodland path, Holland Park, London W8