I Surrender. In a Renault Scenic.

15 Jul

We bought a Renault Scenic last month. I didn’t know it at the time but apparently the Scenic is a Surrender Car. And not just because it is French. Other Surrender Cars include the Opel Zafira, Ford Focus C-Max and Citroen Picasso. They are the cars you buy to say it’s all over. I have joined the ranks of cranky dads loading kids into people carriers outside Smyths Toy Store.

It looks a lot like this

It looks a lot like this

You’ll know us anywhere. We could do with a haircut and our jeans have a raggedy, hanging down arse. That’s not because we are rappers or anything – it’s just the way jeans go after wearing them for six days in a row because you are too tired to find a clean pair.
Anyway, here’s the weird thing about our new Surrender Car. I love it. I love how sensible it is. I love the fact that it’s slightly underpowered compared to our last car. I love bobbing around in it with the kids in the back. (And not just because your car is the one place you can legally restrain your kids out of reach. Although it helps.) I love people knowing that I am one of the tribe of raggedy arse tribe of men you see outside Smyths Toy Store, with our mad looking hair.
This is just another example of what I have suspected for some time. The secret to happiness in this life is simple – you’ve got to love your tribe. And no I don’t mean you need a Celtic away jersey and 26+6=1 tattooed on your forehead. Unless that is where you are in life – in which case go nuts.
No, by your tribe I mean, whatever bunch of people you find yourself lumped in with at any given time. The thing about life is you don’t always get to choose your tribe. Your parents and your job and your age will often take that choice out of your hands. But life works best when you can look around the room and say these are my kind of people.
I’ve been in a few tribes in my time. I started following Man United by accident in 1973. That worked out pretty well. Up to now. I fancied myself as an intellectual in college. That would have meant dickie bows in another university, but this was UCC, so we all wore second hand coats. I was a late raver in my 30s, jumping around Sir Henry’s in Cork with people half my age. I hung around with a gang of armchair Provos for a while because they were mad for the booze.
There was only one tribe that didn’t really work out for me. That was when I worked in Germany for a year. I spent most of my time hanging around with a bunch of ex-pats. A few of them were great fun. A lot of them weren’t. Let’s just say a lot of English people live abroad to make sure they will never run out of things to complain about. I ended up living with two Italian guys who kept trying to steal each other’s girlfriends. They were hilarious but watching two guys screaming at each other in Italian wears thin after a while. I came back to Dublin and slotted in with my old tribe of friends, who had all become professional slackers. Nice work if you can avoid it.
And now I have joined the loading-up-the-surrender-car-in-suburban-car-parks brigade. I know for a fact I could walk over to any one of these guys and fall into easy conversation. (‘Can you get the Peppa Pig theme tune out of your head?’ ‘No.’) The earlier versions of me would have found this depressing. In fact, most of the tribes I have gone through in my life probably hate each other.
The intellectual in UCC would have looked down his second-hand sleeve at the aging raver in Henrys. The raver would have pitied the man in the Scenic, while also wanting to give him a hug. The only interest the armchair Provos would have had in the Scenic is whether it might work as a getaway car. (It wouldn’t.) They would have debated this over a load of pints.
I’ve no regrets. At the heart of every mid-life crisis is the temptation to step back and join one of your old tribes. Here’s the problem – they’re gone. The ravers, the intellectuals and the armchair Provos have all pitched tent and moved on. They were just pop-up tribes that we put together in a moment of time. Myself and the other raggedy arse jeans guys have our own stories to tell, about various tribes that came and went. The only problem is we haven’t got time to tell them because the youngest fella just had a puke. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get my hair cut.

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2 Jul

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Keep Away from those Ferraris by Pat Fitzpatrick

Keep Away from those Ferraris

by Pat Fitzpatrick

Giveaway ends July 10, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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Me and Binky, Up a Tree. Why I love Made in Chelsea.

17 Jun

I love Made In Chelsea. For the uninitiated, it’s an E4 show that follows posh young  people with names like Binky and Spencer and Proudlock around the West End of London. Sometimes they all head off to the Venice or Cannes or New York. You won’t see them in Sunderland.  I can’t recommend it highly enough. (The show, not Sunderland.)

Here’s the thing about posh people. I love them. My first brush with kosher posh people was in 1988 when I travelled up from UCC for a debate in Trinity College. It was like going to a different universe. Or maybe Oxford. The debating society had its own building, where guys in three piece tweed suits sat around reading the Financial Times. I know what you’re thinking. Arseholes. But they were funny and welcoming and had crazy surnames. One of them told me that if I was ever flying from Bangkok to Hong Kong, make sure to go first class because the leg room is priceless. You’d never get that advice back in Cork.

The best thing about proper posh people is they don’t give a shit what other people think about them.  They are immune to the everyday anxieties of ordinary Joes like myself. In fairness that might be because they have very little exposure to what you might call a career. That’s certainly the case in Made in Chelsea.

Every now and again one of them has a super great business idea. (They say super great a lot.) This often involves paying someone else to do something with a vintage handbag. There is an extravagant launch party in a super great night club, where Spencer tries to get off with everyone. We never hear about that business idea again.  (Actually, Spencer doesn’t try and get off with them. Not in the Irish sense of drinking ten pints and then lobbing the gob. He just gets their number and brings them somewhere super great like Rome for dinner in the next episode. Bit of class there.)

You can’t imagine how attractive that is compared to my life. Let me make this clear. I am not watching Made in Chelsea in some chin-stroking postmodern way. I don’t pity the guys for their empty wealthy lifestyles. They are out having super-great chats with stunning Kate Middleton look-alikes; I’m at home watching The Cube. You can see which way the pity arrow should be pointing in that scenario

The show usually airs at 10pm on Monday night. My wife reckons that is a depressing  time to be watching gorgeous nobs living it up on Daddy’s money. So we wait for the repeat on a Saturday afternoon. That’s a good time for a bit of dreaming. It’s encouraging  to watch Binky and co having a super great cocktail before heading off to some buzzy place for dinner with the son of a mid-ranking Bavarian aristocrat. Especially since the closest thing we get to crazy these child-bound Saturday nights is a takeaway curry and half a can of Murphy’s.

I’m cheating on my wife in television terms. (It’s not a problem. I think the wife secretly has the hots for Spencer even though he’s a complete hound. Or maybe because of it.)  Binky is by no means the best looking woman in the show. But she’s the right kind of vulnerable and has a great name. Binky flew off to New York recently to get through a difficult break-up. None of your tub of ice-cream and bottle of vodka for Binky. I bet she flew first class as well.  I harbour this daft notion of changing my name from Fitzpatrick to FitzHerbert and approaching Binky someday with the news that my family owns  super great chunks of Kildare. Maybe we could get a bite to eat in somewhere buzzy on the King’s Road, before I make some kind of social faux pas and she does a runner with the son of a Greek shipping magnate.

I’ve always had a soft spot for this class of a reality shows. But Made in Chelsea has the edge over the Real World, Celebrity Love Island and Towie. The clue is in the name. It’s Made in Chelsea. It’s got nobs in it.  I’m very happy with my middling, workaday existence. It’s super great. But I also like looking at and reading about people who live a more gilded existence. Life would be a lot duller without them around. That’s why I don’t go in for any of the other crap around Made in Chelsea. I don’t want to look at extra clips or read stories about them in the tabloids. I like the fantasy of 20-something nobs living the perfect life in London. I don’t want to hear that Binky sometimes watches Catchphrase with a snackbox and a bottle of Stella. That’s way too much like my life.

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192 Days And Counting

11 Jun

It’s 192 days since I self-published my novel Keep Away from those Ferraris. Here is what I know.

  • Stalking can be good for you. I’m a bit embarrassed about this. Since my last post 14 days ago, my sales went through the roof in relative terms (see my profit and loss section below.) I’m obviously ok with this. I’m also embarrassed about how I did it. This might be because I’m Irish and therefore embarrassed about everything. The nice way to describe what I did in the past fortnight is that I focused my social media activity. The truth is that I picked some well-known Irish crime writers and started following their followers on twitter. I suspect this is what a lot of other people do, but I still feel it’s kind of like stalking. I also feel stupid for not thinking of it before. I had to wait for one my blogger buddies to tell me how she did the same to build up her follower base. Let me say this to my new followers out there. I only chose people who looked like they might be interested in a pacy comedy thriller set in Ireland.  I won’t waste your time with ads about Keep Away from those Ferraris and I will try to be entertaining once a week. That said, please buy my book this summer. Honestly, it’s a perfect poolside read.
Somebody out there is buying the book. One at a a time. But still.

My eBook sales on Amazon. Somebody out there is buying the book. One at a a time. But still.

 

  • I’m back on Smashwords. I’m a bit embarrassed about this too. I should have been back three months ago. For those unfamiliar with the self-publishing ecosystem, Smashwords is how you get your eBook onto platforms other than Amazon and readers other than Kindle.  I unpublished from Smashwords back in February because I wanted to enter Amazon’s KDP Select program and one of their conditions is that the book can’t be available anywhere else. I never bothered with KDP Select in the end — all the evidence is that free promotions do little or nothing when you are only selling one book. I also never bothered re-publishing on Smashwords. I’d like to be able to say this is because I have decided to focus my marketing activities on Kindle owners. The truth is spelt LAZY – I just never bothered to re-publish on Smashwords. Until now. Look out iPad, Nook and Kobo people – I’m coming your way.
  • Stay in Bed. My top tip this week for all you novelists out there. I’m at about 37,000 words on the sequel to Keep Away from those Ferraris. I’m moving it along scene by scene, but  something keeps blocking out a clear path for the next 10,000 words. (I’m not a roadmap type of writer, who knows the middle before I’m finished the beginning.) Anyway it turns out that what was blocking the way forward was one of my main characters. I had killed her off, or at least told the reader that she might be dead. Lying in bed the other morning I realised I need her back in the book and sharpish. She’s alive and kicking and so are my next 10,000 words. So don’t be in the rush to get out of bed every morning and plonk yourself down in the writing position. Take some time in the thinking position. And while you’re at it, maybe have a lie in altogether. Life is too short for seeing in every day in at the dawn.
  • Profit and Loss. As I said above, it’s been a good fortnight sales wise in relative terms. I sold 5 paperbacks and 5 eBooks since my last post. That brings total units sold up to 204, with estimated royalties of about €224. So I’m still about €1280 in the red when I account for my costs (editing, cover design and promotion.) So I told the people from Lifestyles of the Incredibly Rich Snobs magazine that there is no point in doing a photo-shoot this week. I’m not ready for them yet.

See you next time.

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178 Days and Counting

28 May

It’s 178 days since I self-published my debut novel Keep Away from those Ferraris. Here is what I know so far.

You can’t judge a book by its cover. At least not mine. That’s according to blogger, reviewer and professor in NUI Maynooth Rob Kitchin. (That’s one busy man.) Rob pointed this out in an otherwise very positive review of Keep Away from those Ferraris over on his site, The View from the Blue House*. Here’s what he said.

The only thing I didn’t think worked was the title and cover, neither of which is really reflective of the book’s style or themes and wouldn’t ordinarily have compelled me to try it – so if you have similar feelings set them aside and cut to the content.  I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.”

Here’s the thing – I completely agree with Rob. Almost. This is no reflection on the cover designer I hired for the job. He did exactly what I asked him to do. Which was to shoehorn the book into an airport thriller rack where it didn’t belong. I basically got my genres wrong. I won’t make that mistake with the next book. The cover needs to match the content, or else someone is going to feel cheated. I might go for a redesign of Keep Away from those Ferraris down the road, particularly if sales of the sequel show some signs of life. That’s a while off yet. I am about €1300 in the red as it is for my debut. So the cover stays for now. Here it is – let me know below what you think?

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By the way, the reason I don’t 100% agree with Rob is that I still like the title. So much so that I’m thinking of calling the sequel Revenge of the Killer Ferraris. That might change though.

There’s a time for everything. And the last few weeks have been a time to get some sleep. That’s in rare supply with a nine week old in the house. In the last post, 20 days ago, I said I loved getting up at 6:30 am every morning to add another 1000 words to my latest novel before getting stuck in to my other work. Maybe I had inhaled too much of my wife’s gas in the labour ward.  I was definitely getting energy and delusion from somewhere. Now, not so much. Getting up at 6:30 these days means I’m not getting up at 7:30. That’s a non-runner. So the novel is currently running at about 1000 words a week. And my weekly blog is anything but. It might take me a couple of months to get back up to speed. Any longer, and I’ll sneak back into Cork University Maternity Hospital for some of their sweet sweet labour-ward gas.

You need to store your coffee beans in a dark place. Hang on, I haven’t gone crazy. At least not yet. I work from home. Anyone who does this will know that you need a bit of ritual to get your day up and running. Mine is to grind some coffee beans, make a café con leche and imagine that we live in San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain. If you’ve been there, you’ll understand. Anyway, my con leches haven’t been up to much recently. Until my wife pointed out that it was probably foolish to store the beans in a glass jar in direct sunlight on the kitchen counter. I moved them into the press. The café con leches have me back in San Sebastian again. My ritual is back. My writing is better. That’s all.

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My new improved cafe con leche, framed by my book. Beat that for an amateur bit of marketing.

Profit and Loss. It’s been a quiet 20 days on the sales front. One paperback and one Kindle edition won’t open any bottles of champagne.  After 178 days, I have sold 194 copies with €204 in revenues. My costs so far (cover design, editing, promotion) are €1500. That’s almost €1300 of a loss, as things stand. No panic yet. Successful self-publishers will tell you that it takes 3 to 5 books before you reap some rewards. That’s why I plan to get out a book a year for the next 5 years (children allowing.) The question is, can I afford it?  And how long before my wife asks could I switch to a slightly cheaper dream. Let’s see.

You can read Rob’s review here.

You can read all my blog posts on self-publishing here.

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