May 8, 2013
So finally...some figures. Until 31st March 2013, Tout Soul had sold: 3183 print copies; 3460 ebook copies – a total of 6643 copies since its launch in March 2012 (February 2012 for the ebook).
This means that the total amount raised in the book’s first year (or just over a year) for brain and spinal injury charities, at a donation of 50p per copy, is £3322.
I have donated £1661 to Stoke Mandeville Spinal Foundation which works closely with the National Spinal Injuries Centre.
The other £1661 has been donated to the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at King's College, London, which carries out pioneering academic research into stem cell therapies for repairing damaged brains.
The research team works closely with King's College hospital, which is one of only four major trauma centres in the UK, dealing on a daily basis with patients who have sustained life-changing spinal and brain trauma injuries.
Although the King's website chiefly mentions damage to the brain caused by strokes, the research will also help those who have sustained serious brain injuries and spinal fractures as a result of road traffic accidents and other traumatic incidents.
I am especially pleased to be able to donate to the King’s College research as it is my former university. And because the donation is over £1000, Luis will receive a special mention on the King’s website as part of the ‘Circle donors’.
In both cases the money has been paid directly to the charities, rather than via an intermediary website, which means they will receive the full amount. Letters of acknowledgement from each charity will be posted here in due course.
Thank you to everyone who bought Tout Soul and made this possible.
A great many readers have written privately to thank me for writing the book. Some sent emails to say that despite his flaws, they too had fallen in love with The Lion, felt as if they knew him personally, and were devastated by news of his death.
But the most important question is: would Luis have thanked me for writing the book?
I will never know for sure, but from what I knew of his character the answer is almost certainly ‘yes’. He had a big personality, liked to be the centre of attention and would not have been averse to the idea of complete strangers falling in love with him.
By contributing to pioneering brain research, Tout Soul will hopefully help others with traumatic brain injuries. Deep down, Luis was an intelligent, generous and graceful soul, and I'm quite sure that he would have wanted that.
February 10, 2013
WOOF. She came back! She was gone so long, I wasn't sure she would this time. My pet went to London after Christmas for work and to do some 'research' (I think that means the shops) and left me behind.
I didn't mind too much as I was staying with Sarah and Steve, my other family, and I always have a good time there. I kept myself busy doing dog stuff. (I won't go into detail but there were a lot of cats and chickens in their hamlet!)
On the day my pet came back, I sat by the door waiting (the humans call it 'telepathy') as in my mind I could see her driving very slowly under a thick white sky and an iced-over motorway, to get back to me.
When she walked through the door in the late afternoon, I don't know what came over me, but I threw my head back and howled like a wolf. I've never done that before and the humans seemed quite taken aback, but I quickly got a grip on myself and pretended I wasn't that bothered to see her. A chap has to hold on to his self-respect.
My human is very busy at the moment but has asked me to say that she will be back soon with an update on Tout Soul sales. In the meantime, she can be found talking about herself (again!) on Victoria Twead's blog. Victoria lives in Spain and her latest book is called Two Old Fools On a Camel: From Spain to Bahrain and Back Again.
November 24, 2012
The news that fleecy all-in-one suits are flying out of the shops faster than they can be cranked out of a factory in China, brought a rictus smile to my face this week, reminding me of a close encounter with a 'onesie' – as I do believe such garments are known as, stateside – this summer.
My 16-year-old niece Ari [left] had come to visit me in France, and at the end of her stay, we went shopping in London to buy, among other things, a new school uniform.
‘What else are you planning to buy?’ I asked, as we set off for Oxford Street.
‘What I would really, really like is a giraffe suit,' was the left-field reply.
‘A giraffe suit?’, I repeated.
‘Yes, for Halloween.’
(I should point out that, because she is tall, her nickname at school in the Cayman Islands, is 'giraffe and a half' – or ‘haff’ as it is pronounced there).
‘You can buy many things in Oxford Street but if you find a giraffe suit, I will eat my (very old) Prada bag.’
Less than half an hour later, lost in the hell of a store that I usually avoid for ethical reasons, I heard a triumphant cry.
‘It’s time to eat your Prada bag,’ shouted my niece swiveling her hips in a victory dance and pointing to a giraffe print all-in-one, hanging limply on a rail.
Then her eyes then grew even wider. 'Oh. My. God. LOOK AT THAT.'
I followed her gaze to the zebra equivalent of the giraffe suit, hanging next to it in all its 100% polyamide glory.
‘I’m so buying that for you,’ said my niece.
‘Ahh, that’s very kind Arianna, but I honestly can’t think of any circumstances in which I would wear a zebra romper suit. Plus it might scare Biff.'
‘Oh pleeese let me buy it for you. We could both wear them to the airport tomorrow. Look, it even has little padded zebra feet.’
Such was her enthusiasm that for one foolish moment I actually did consider accompanying her to Heathrow dressed as a zebra.
The problem would have been the return journey, when I would have trotted onto the Heathrow Express alone, padded feet and all, looking for all the world like I’d given my care worker the slip.
Salvation came in the form of a tiny frilled black skirt.
‘Screw the giraffe,’ declared my niece, emerging from the changing room with a wiggle and a ‘My dad’s gonna kill me’.
'Don't worry about him,’ I said. ‘Get that. Definitely. And look, there's a really high pair of studded ankle boots to go with it.’
And so, with such diversionary tactics, I escaped the zebra suit. Back in France, I told this story to my friends Sarah and Steve.
When he had finished choking on his glass of Madiran, Steve declared that the image of me in a fleecy zebra all-in-one with little padded feet, was so very funny that it would forever be etched on his temporal lobes.
My brush with a zebra romper suit gave everyone a good laugh. But in the light of this week's news – 'We've all gone crazy for onesies' was the headline in the Daily Mail – I'm beginning to think that my niece was on to something.
November 22, 2012
WOOFS from London, which is where I am at the moment, doing important and dynamic things, such as cat reconnaissance, squirrel surveillance and taking my human to pick up the newspapers each morning or visit the bank and Post Office.
Well, actually, since my last visit doglets have been banned from the Post Office. As we got to the front of the queue yesterday our way was barred by a woman wearing a badge that said, 'HELLO, CAN I HELP YOU?'.
Why is it that when humans say, ‘Hello, can I help you?’ in a certain tone of voice, it often means the exact opposite?
I thought she was going to be helpful and offer me a bowl of water or a biscuit. Instead, she said the words that no four-legged chap likes to hear:
'Dogs aren't allowed in here.'
'But what harm is he doing?' said my human.
'He might pee on the carpet,' said the official.
'I promise you, he won't,' said my pet.
'Not everyone likes dogs,' said the official tersely, though the people I'd met in the queue seemed to like me.
'We live in strange times,' said the customer at the next counter, shaking his head. 'They'll be banning humans next.'
It made me feel a little better but honestly, why would anyone want to deprive a dog of the pleasure of queuing for a couple of hours in the Post Office?
Accompanying our humans to buy stamps is a canine rite of passage and one of the first things that we four-pawed folk learn in puppy socialisation classes.
Still, I'm enjoying my city break. So many wonderful smells and so many people stopping me in the street to ask my human what breed I am. ('A breed of his own,' she usually replies, which makes me feel very proud.)
I heard her mention 'cocktails at Claridges' on the phone the other evening. It sounds quite fancy – exactly the sort of thing I enjoy. But somehow, I don't think I'm invited.
October 16, 2012
One of the best things about writing books, I've discovered, is meeting other authors – either in person at literary events, or in cyberspace via Twitter.
Perhaps it's because we mostly work in isolation, spending long hours alone at a computer but it's been a revelation to me, how friendly and supportive other writers are of each other.
Recently, my cyber pal Victoria Twead (@VictoriaTwead), author of the very entertaining Spanish memoir 'Chickens, Mules & Two Old Fools' invited me to take part in a web event called My Next Big Thing, where authors answer questions about their latest project.
So here goes:
What is the working title of your book?
Sweet Encore (sub-title to be confirmed).
Where did the idea come from for the book?
It's a continuation of a series of books about life in France.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I'd choose Joaquin Phoenix (minus beard) for Luis, and obviously I would need to be on set for the filming; Biff would have to play himself, as would Delphine my French mayor friend, as no one would be able to capture their characters.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
More adventures from the Poitou-Charentes with a 4,000 mile road trip around northern Spain and Portugal thrown in.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Er...I haven't actually written it yet.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Not sure I would compare it to anything.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My readers, who email me to say they are waiting for a fourth book and to ask how long is it going to be.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, it features one very popular little black dog, who played a starring role in my previous books.
And now I’d like to pass the torch on to four other writers and fellow Francophiles, so that they can tell us about their Next Big Thing.
Emma Lee-Potter (@EmmaLeePotter) is an author, journalist and Francophile – who writes about life, books, teenagers and France (she has a house in Provence) at her blog, house with no name. She has written six books and novellas, including her latest 'School Ties', a romantic comedy set at a top public school.
Julia Stagg (@JuliaStagg) is the author of L'Auberge, the story of an English couple who take over an auberge in the French Pyrenees. Her latest book is 'The Parisian's Return' - more entertaining tales from the auberge (and a love story) set in the small commune of Fogas in the French Pyrenees.
Amy Thomas (@GodILoveParis) is the author of 'Paris My Sweet', the story of an American girl with a passion for cake and all things sweet, who moves to Paris to work as a copywriter for Louis Vuitton. Amy blogs about cake, confectionary and Paris at God I love Paris.
John Dummer is the author of two memoirs spilling the insider secrets of the antique markets of southern France (much to the chagrin of his wife Helen, who still works in them). His latest book: Son of Serge Bastarde: Mayhem in the Antiques Markets of Rural France is as poignant as it is funny. I met John at the France show, where we were both giving talks a few years ago, and he is a thoroughly nice bloke with a passion for animals and er... Eminem (but let's not dwell on that).
October 4, 2012
WOOF. My pet is on Witter or whatever it is that humans do when they stare at a flat screen for hours on end (KW: it's Twitter, not Witter).
Twitter. Witter. Whatever. Anyway, I'm doing a quick blog post to remind everyone that the bi-annual book sale for the Hope Association animal rescue starts tomorrow.
There will be thousands of books, all at €1 euro each. The last sale raised €8500 for animals in distress; so do come along and support us four-legged folk.
Hope Association Book Sale, 5th, 6th and 7th October 2012, at the Salle des Fetes, Clussais la Pommeraie, 79190. Doors open 10.00 am – 3.00 pm. www.hopeassoc.org
September 1, 2012
WOOF. Biff here and I must say that I'm a little miffed that there is no mention of me, or my contribution eg, public relations, in the blog post below. Honestly, not even a thank you for all those signings that I have attended, looking my very best with clean paws etc, and sitting politely under a table or posing for photographs as required. I think I might have to put my pet on the naughty step.
August 30, 2012
Watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympics last night was an emotional experience for many people. It certainly was for me.
As many blog readers will know, someone I loved spent the last nine months of his life confined to a hospital bed and, on good days, a wheelchair, unable to move from the neck down, following a car accident.
During the two years that I worked on Tout Soul, I was determined that something good would come from tragedy – the coma, paralysis and untimely death at the age of 33 – and that a percentage of each eventual book sale would be donated to a worthwhile charity.
I didn’t plan to announce this, partly because I didn’t want Tout Soul to be perceived as a ‘charidee’ book; I wanted it to stand on its own merits.
Six months after its launch, not only have I had the most amazing feedback from my readers – the sort of feedback that a writer can only dream of – but it has sold close to 5000 copies: after an initial print run of 3000, the book is about to be reprinted; while 2329 copies have sold on Kindle.
The sales figures are light years away from those of EL James or JK Rowling but in a world where ninety per cent of books sell less than 1000 copies, they're respectable – and I'm proud of the fact that they were achieved entirely by word-of-mouth.
And so, I figured that my readers should know that some wider good will come of it. The specifics are this: 50p** from the sale of each English language version of the book – both print and Kindle/ebook versions – will be donated to charity. In territories where the wholesale price or amount of money I receive for a book is less than £1, then 25 per cent of the proceeds will be donated.
The sales figure will be audited by my accountant each year at the end of January* and the proceeds will be split between two charities.
While watching the ceremony last night, and after hearing of the work of the pioneering work of the late Dr Ludwig Guttman – the neurosurgeon who is regarded as the founder of the Paralympics – at Stoke Mandeville hospital, I decided that one of those charities should be Stoke Mandeville Spinal Foundation.
It’s mission statement is as follows: ‘Research will be concerned with practicalities of living with spinal cord injury, but also with a commitment to pushing back the scientific frontiers of spinal cord injury.’
As for the other, I would like it to be an organisation where the money goes directly to front line research into brain injury, as if there is one thing that the terrible events in recent years taught me, it is how very little is known about the human brain. I am still doing my research and will announce the charity in due course, but I feel very lucky to be in a position where I can do something useful in Luis's memory.
*Since posting this entry, I realized, that for several reasons, it would make more sense to calculate sales at the end of March each year – partly for accountancy reasons; and also because the print book was launched in March 2012.
**50p is the royalty that an author usually earns on a traditionally published book. It was the decision to publish Tout Soul myself that has allowed me to do this.
August 4, 2012
WOOF or should that be Bom Dia! as they say in Portugal. Biff here with a little update and apology for the lack of blog entries recently. Not only have I had house guests to entertain, which means lots of shoes to steal and bags to poke around in, but I've also acquired a second human pet (the niece of pet No 1).
Anyway, I''ve been having a marvellous time in Portugal, admiring Gothic arches – those Portuguese certainly know how to build a church – and dipping my paws in the surf. Tomorrow, we are driving back through Spain, which is not the most hospitable country to four legged folk, it has to be said – and then up to the Dordogne for our book signing at the Cave d'Eymet this Thursday, August 9th (see below for details and invite).
In addition to the main event, Lynne, the lady who runs the B&B where we are staying, La Maison Ancienne, is throwing a little tea party for us, and fellow author Peter Hoskins, from 3.00 - 5.00 pm on Wednesday 8th (for which she is making a nominal charge of €2).
In the meantime, I’m back by popular demand on the Paris Breakfasts blog, where you can see some excellent new pictures of me, out and about and socialising. If you’re interested, you can also read about how my human pet landed us in hot water (again!) with the French police at here. Hope to see you at Eymet later this week.
June 11, 2012
As readers of my books might have noticed, I’m a bit of an organic zealot. I believe very strongly that products grown naturally, without the addition of agrichemicals, are better for the land, the people who work the land and the people who consume them.
One area of organic produce that I haven't really explored is organic wine. But on a recent visit to Eymet in the Dordogne, I discovered the Cave d'Eymet, a wine shop bang in the centre of the bastide town, selling an excellent selection of organic and biodynamic wines. (Biodynamic wines are a supercharged form of organic, produced in close harmony with nature and following the rhythms of the moon and stars.)
According to the owner, Mitch O'Sullivan, who has a raft of wine qualifications to her name, wines produced without chemical fertilizers not only taste crisper and fresher, but have lower levels of sulphur dioxide, so there is less chance of a hangover or a headache. Anyone need any more persuasion?
I mention this because on Thursday, August 9 I’ll be signing copies of Tout Soul at the Cave d'Eymet, between 10-1.00 pm, along with local author and historian Peter Hoskins, who walked over 1300 miles across France, while researching his book, In the Steps of the Black Prince, the Road to Poitiers, 1355 -1356.
It’s a market day in Eymet, and we’d like to invite anyone who happens to be in the area to join us for a pre-lunch glass of organic wine from Clos le Joncal an organic vineyard in Bergerac, and a wine-tasting. Books and fine wine: an excellent combination. I'm incredibly excited about this signing. No booking necessary, but hope to see you on the day.
Cave d'Eymet, 23 Place Gambetta, 24500, Eymet, the Dordogne