Archive for the ‘self publishing’ Category

I’m reposting this short review of Crouch End’s lovely Hot Pepper Jelly café just because I happened to be there again the other day after a gap of far too long and you know what? It’s still great. What did I eat? The fantastic Hot Pepper Jelly sandwich of course (see below). Still unusual (I don’t know anywhere else that throws this oddball combination of awesomeness into a sandwich), still delicious.

As promised in my recent  Man vs Food post, today I returned to lovely Crouch End cafe, Hot Pepper Jelly on the Broadway, to take down The Inferno.

HPJ is famed for its awesome bacon, peanut butter and chilli-jam sandwiches, and on my last visit I noticed the addition of a new and hotter version, featuring a chill-jam made with scotch bonnets or habaneros, a chilli registering an impressive 350,000 Scoville units. This is for most people the hottest chilli you’re going to come across (although by no means the hottest around, about which more in a minute).

Here’s a pic of the little beauty:

which looks harmless and  pretty much like any of their other eats. It took a couple of bites for the chilli to kick in and it immediately had that unmistakable, fruity fire you get with habaneros. It’s not unpleasant (you know, if you like that kind of thing) and is certainly not just pure heat.  It was a delicious sandwich and I ate the whole thing with little problem. My mouth went a little numb, but in a good way.

To be honest I was a little disappointed it wasn’t hotter. But then I have recently, after a long search, managed to get my hands on some of the elusive naga or ghost chillies (in Tesco of all places!), reputed to be the hottest in the world (although some will tell you it’s the Trinidad Scorpion and yet others say the Hoxton Serenity) and coming in at a neuron-frying 1,000,000 Scovilles. I made my own ghost chilli sauce and of course couldn’t resit having a little bite of the raw fruit. Shitballs, it was hot! Within seconds my mouth was a sea of pain and within minutes my hands had pretty much seized up, I guess paralysed with whatever neuro-toxins I’d released into my nervous system. So maybe I’m getting a little used to this stuff. Either way it was still a truly excellent sandwich.

More local food challenges please – Crouch end cafes, take note.

In other news, House of Dreams is now on sale at the fantastic Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. And the charming waitress at HPJ took some of my House of Dreams postcards to display, and even said she’d put one up on the loo door – now that’s service!


My good friend and premier client, Callum Jacobs has just had his last novel, urban techno thriller The Geek Manifesto, shortlisted for the top 50 books by independent authors. Have a look and vote for it here


I put his success in no small part down to my abilities and insight as an agent. He says it’s because it’s a good book. Whatever.

So here it is!


My good bud Callum’s new novel, a brilliant and darkly comic satire on the best and worst of cyber society,  is published.

Get it here.

Just as an e-book right now, but paperback to follow in a matter of days/weeks.

And don’t forget to come and hear me and a couple of other local writers reading at the Big Green Bookshop’s, bookswap, at the Great Railway Tavern in N8 on Wed 24th April.

Last week I found myself in the rare position of not having anything to do.

Okay, that’s not quite right, I still had two small children to look after and a job to go to, but I mean no writing to be done and my agenting duties currently on hold. I have just finished my work on my client callum’s next novel, The Geek Manifesto and now I must wait to hear back from my team of unpaid editors and proof-readers. This means there will of course be more work to be done on it, but until I get a  response, there is nothing to do.

It’s an odd feeling.

In the normal course of things, when I’m writing a new book or preparing a completed one for publication, I am in a perpetual state of low-level anxiety, constantly thinking that I should be getting on with it. But now… nada de nada.

I actually went to a cafe the other day (this one, which I am totally digging at the moment mainly due to their really good coffee. Although the last couple of times I’ve tried to go there, they’ve been full! You know what? Crouch End needs more good cofffebars.) and just sat and read a book. Now I spend a lot of time in cafes, but it’s pretty much always to write. I get a coffee, I open my laptop and I barely look up until I have to leave, or as is frequently the case, I am asked to leave¹. This time though, I just read a book. I used to do this all the time before parenthood saw my free time taken up with cooking pasta, wiping bottoms and playing ‘blind pillow whack’² (although I won’t be doing all three activities at the same time again – man, that ended up in a mess!).

The book I read was Bird by Bird, written by American novelist and creative writing prof, Anne Lamott. The book gives her thoughts on being a writer and the process of writing and gives all manner of funny, though-provoking and practical advice on this life we choose, and which has inspired this post on why I write. She quotes a number of great writers who answer the eternal question “Why do you write?” with pithy replies such as ” Because I have to“, “Because I’m good at it”, “Because I can“, and so on.

For myself, I can’t imagine not writing, and of course like all writers I would love a big advance, a deal with a mainstream publisher and some critical acclaim. For many writers, these are the goals, the marks of success. Anne Lamott says otherwise. Okay, she actually is a successful published writer, she can say that, but it crystallised a feeling I’ve had for a while now. In the end it won’t really matter to me if I ever achieve those goals. Okay, I’m not gonna turn them down if they come along, but I don’t think it will matter one way or the other. And in some ways, the burden that would come with it might make the whole thing seem too much like actual work.

What I’ve come to realise and to be thankful for, as a non-professional, barely-published, part timer, is that I can write, but I don’t have to. On days when I don’t want to write anything, I don’t. And no-one’s going to give a  flying fuck. No-one’s waiting for anything from me. At least not anything I write. Maybe just some pasta, or to be hit on the head with a pillow.

So I haven’t made a fortune, or won a prize or got to hang out with Jon Franzen, but that’s okay. I write because I want to do it.

Most of the time anyways.

¹This would be because the cafe is closing, not because I have done something of the nature that would see one ejected from a cafe.

²Not a complicated game and requiring little more explanation that it’s name suggests but rarely played without something being damaged or tears being shed. V. popular with my two children.

For 48 hours only, and starting right now, Sunday 25 Nov 6pm, you can get a free e-book copy of my buddy Callum’s novel House of Dreams at Smashwords. Just go to the Smashwords site and enter coupon code EQ53D at the checkout. What you waiting for?

And watch this space. My own foray out from under the shroud of the lit agent and into the murky world of the novelist is looming on the horizon. God Steals Gin, a fast-paced, wholly ridiculous, 100% true and deeply offensive novel, will be out soon.

And of course I’d love to know what you think of it.

Last weekend I took part in the inaugural Royal Parks Ultra, a race of 50km (31 miles) from Hyde Park to Bushy Park (somewhere near Hampton Court; nope I’d never heard of it before either). 5okm, it turns out, is one fuck of a long way.

It is of course less than 5 miles further than a marathon, but as anyone who has run those kinds of distances will tell you, it’s those last few miles that really hurt. For me it was all fine up until about 47km, but those last 3 were a different story. Hard to credit that ‘just’ 3 km could be so tough, but man, those bastards seemed to drag on.


Still, I took it down in 5hrs 13 mins coming 99th out of 250 that started (163 finished), and it was an awesome day (apart from kms 47-50). It was also the most well organised and supported race I’ve ever done, with fantastic marshals along the way handing out bananas, electrolyte drinks and cheerful words in equal measure.

So, what’s next? A regular ‘thon is gonna seem a little pedestrian now.

In the meantime I’m making fine headway with editing up my second novel, The Geek Manifesto. It’s really, really good. Out hopefully by the end of the year. And I’m writing today back in groovy little Crouch End cafe The Blue Legume, which happily stays open late and has lead me into the dangerous area of ordering a glass of wine instead of a double macch. Can’t see that as being a good trend.

Today I stopped by  The Rocking Chair Cafe, latest in a never-ending stream of coffeebars to appear on the bloated, Crouch End restaurant scene.

I love the ridiculous over population of these quirky little Indy cafes in the N8 ‘hood, I do. And it seems as though the upscale residents around here can support  a lot of them, but, you know, they’re not all gonna be winners.

From the outside, on the little strip along by Kiss the Sky and opposite Rock Around the Clock, The Rocking Chair Cafe looks just peachy. It’s got that whole, let’s-get-a-bunch-of-mismatched-furniture-from-wherever-we-can thing going on, and the menu makes a a big fucking deal about organic produce and an ethos that promotes environmental niceness and blah blah blah, you know the kind of thing. Nothing against that, of course, but always a bit suspect to labour it quite so much I think.

There was nothing about the place I liked.

The afore-mentioned furniture was uncomfortable, with the table legs just getting in the goddamn way of your feet. The coffee was just coffee, and I had a latte which they served in a tall glass – man, I hate that.

I ordered a plate of organic scrambled eggs on toast, always a good test of a kitchen, right? These failed on pretty much every level: under seasoned, overcooked and hard, served with a side salad (WTF!) and the toast was burnt ( and which, the burnt toast, they tried to hide under the scrambled egg)! I mean come on, my kid can make freakin’ toast!

And you know how the guy in the apron who runs Riley’s just exudes an air of trust in what he says, I just didn’t buy these guys’ organic claims.

And then… then… whilst I’m composing this very post, the waitress sweeps in and clears away my UNFINISHED coffee! Now most times, anybody tries that with me and they’re likely to lose a goddam finger at best. Irony was, I was so busy writing about how I didn’t really like the place, I missed her swipe my Joe.

Only good thing about the place was eavesdropping the group of new mums with tiny babies who were meeting at the next table. Man, I miss those cosy chats about sleepless nights, electric vs. manual breast pumps and poo.

I still asked the cafe owner to put up a postcard advertising House of Dreams, though!