Third Time's the Charm
Prepare to Launch
You know how when you've never done something before, the thought crosses your mind to look up how to do it on the internet?
Don't do it. It's a mistake.
We’re having the book launch party today and I'm not afraid to tell you I'm bricking it.
We tried to have the launch party twice before, but for the first date we chose, we didn't have any actual books printed. Then on the second date we had the screening of Dawn Of The Nugget. So, I’m firmly hoping this third time will be the charm.
I’ve never had a book launch event before, but then I've never published a book before. And I probably wouldn't even be doing one now were it not for my pal, Fiona.
Fiona is a very lovely human and lives in a big fancy house. She is properly stylish- even though she's from Leeds. Anyway, when I was over at her’s for a curry last year, she asked where I was having the event to launch my book, and I looked at her blankly.
Then she explained in all her practical stylishness, that if you're publishing a book you have to have a book launch event. So we agreed we'd have the launch at her house. It all seemed completely sensible over wine and curry and friendship. She had some advice on how to do a book launch, and I figured I could just Google how to do the rest.
Don't do that. It’s disturbing. It's not as bad as when a friend looked up ‘LA facial’ and didn't get a beauty salon disturbing, but it’s unsettling nonetheless.
I try not to be judgemental (sometimes), but honestly, some of these people who present how to have a book party are terrifying. And if you get past the video advice and just go for text, then you’re swamped with pop-up advertisements for “finding your inner child’ or ‘how to be authoritative in the workplace’ or adult diapers. I mean, what kind of party do these people think I’m planning to have?
When it was all getting a bit too much, (and there might have been a bit of light swearing from my office) Mark popped his head round the door, and told me just to write down the basic list of guidelines they gave and to ignore the rest.
That sounded fine. So I did.
Work out what your launch party is for:
Well, I wrote a book - kind of by mistake because of writing these weekly notes - but I want to send the book out into the Universe.
Find an intriguing venue.
Easy. My pal Fiona’s fancy house.
4. Have books.
Oh yes. I know that. That’s why we didn’t invite anyone to the first one.
Remember to keep your party in the style of your book.
Wait. What the actual…? What?
How do you style for a book that was written out of a sequence of notes you only started writing, because you woke up one November morning and realized you missed being able to phone your mother?
My mind went blank.
Curse these internet people and their oh-so-fucking-helpful advice. I am completely failing at this launch party thing.
Then an idea came to me. I pondered that as my mother is indirectly responsible for this whole thing, I could consider the kind of launch event she would like.
Well, for a start she would probably prefer that it was Elaine C Smith’s book rather than mine. Elaine C Smith is a Scottish entertainer that my Mum totally loved because she “completely saved the situation with the Arthritis care group.”
My mother and the entire Arthritis group hired a bus and came to see a show of mine in Edinburgh one year. It was very busy and, somewhere along the line, the bus driver got lost when he was coming to pick them up and so there was a glut of Arthritics stranded outside the theatre, looking for a bit of care and a bus, to take them home.
Just as it was all getting pretty stressful, Elaine - who was doing a show in the same venue - appeared, and with complete professionalism and generosity and humor, charmed those Arthritics so much, that some of them later commented to my Mum, that they’d had one of the most enjoyable days of their lives.
Elaine is a lovely woman and would undoubtedly make my book launch better, but she has a life her own and doesn’t need to travel across the Atlantic because I’m a bit insecure. Ok. So if Elaine C Smith wasn’t a possibility, what else would my mother have wanted? …Easy. Sausage Rolls.
Though merely simple sausage meat wrapped in puff pastry, sausage rolls are obligatory for a gathering back in the old country. In fact, in Scotland a party is considered merely just a room with people in it, if there are no sausage rolls. But there's a distinct lack of Greggs the Bakers over in these parts, so I'd have to bake those myself. No problem. I can do that.
Ok, well, if I was doing sausage rolls, I should do sandwiches. Sandwiches too are also a given. If my sister lived here I'd get her to do her cheese and tomato sandwiches. I can make them - not half as good as my her's, but sandwiches nonetheless.
I was writing out a list when Mark popped his head around the office door. I think he was suspicious of the silence. I told him I was writing out a list of food I’d make for the launch party. He tutted.
“That's a ridiculous idea,” he said. “All you need for a party are some crackers and a big lump of brie.”
I explained that there were possibly around 60 people coming to the event, so then he gulped, muttered, “Ok, maybe a bit of food then, and a big lump of brie” and retreated quickly back behind the door.
I continued thinking. What else…?
My mother used to always have a salad because she said it would “cheer up the table.” Nobody ever ate the salad so, even at the end of the night, the table still looked thrilled. Here in LA though, people really enjoy eating leafy vegetables. And I don't want to do stuff you need a knife and fork for. So a salad wouldn’t work but veg and dips might. It may not exactly cheer up the table, but it might make it smile a bit.
And then because I was thinking vegetables, my mind went to the pile of pumpkins we grew that we’re trying to get rid of. I rejoiced at the thought of making some inoffensive pumpkin muffins.
And then, Genghis is on the front cover of the books, so there ought to be eggs. No problem. Cluckywood-Devils coming up.
I thought about what my Dad would suggest. As long as there were sausage rolls he wouldn’t mind, but he’d want there to be fizzy stuff to drink to mark the occasion as being fancy. So we raided Costco for their Prosecco. While we were there, Mark pointed out that my Dad did often comment on the rejuvenating qualities of red wine, so we grabbed a vat of that as well.
Throw in some soft drinks and water and tah dah, I felt like I had it sorted.
Keep your party in the style of the book:
Yes! Take that bloody annoying internet party planners!
And then yesterday it hit me.
I was in the kitchen prepping some of the food, and it descended like a ton of bricks.
Doubt. Big fat crippling doubt.
I'm not a proper booky person. And this sort of stuff is made for people called Quentin or Penelope. They are proper writers who have waiters coming round with wee trays of canopies of footery stuff with French names. They have deep thoughts, and big words, and they discuss deep philosophical ideas about shit, where the deepest thought I've considered this week was who first decided that a salad had the mystical ability to alter the emotional balance of a piece of furniture. I can't ask people to come to this kind of book party. It’s ridiculous.
Then, just to keep doubt company, fear joined in.
You know, there is a possibility that nobody at all will come. They'll forget. They'll have stuff to do. They don't want to be spending their Sunday afternoons with you droning on about stuff. There will be nobody there. Though maybe that's a good thing. That way you won't embarrass yourself.
It was all too much
“I didn't even mean to write it.” I suddenly blurted out. “It was one November morning and I was thinking about my Mum.”
Mark and Fergus who were pottering about in the kitchen, both stopped to take notice.
“Are you Ok?” Mark said.
Fergus pulled one earphone out, “What did I miss? Did something happen?”
“What if.” I said reasonably, “Uhm…. What would we do if nobody comes to the party?
Fergus considered, as if this were a trick question, “Well I’d have the sausage rolls,” he said, stealing one, giving me a quick cuddle, popping his earphone back in, and heading off back to his room.
“A party is a party when there’s a big lump of brie.” Mark said, “And I think if you look there in that refrigerator, you’ll see we’ll be having a party no matter what.”
Lachlan walking past with a pile of laundry asked what the matter was.
I was about to tell him I was scared of doing the book launch. Then a thought crossed my mind of something my Dad once said. If you won't do something because you're scared you’ll look like an idiot, that's when you’re in danger of really becoming one.
“I just suddenly felt like a bit of an idiot”. I said.
He shook his head. “You're no idiot. You’re just a bit out there that's all”.
“Yeah. You're right. I am.” I said.
“Anyway,” he said, “ You can't be an idiot. You wrote a whole book”.
I smiled. “Thank you, son. Yes. So I did”.
“No problem. Can you help me out with this laundry?”
“Sure”. I said. “Happy to”.
“I want to get my shirt clean for the party tomorrow”.
I have no idea how well the launch party will go today. Though I’m pretty sure that even though Elaine C Smith won’t be there, my mother would probably approve.
Here’s what I can tell you though: Vulnerability sucks. For everyone. All the time. But it only ever rears its ugly head when you are dealing with something that matters. Something that hits you at your very core.
Sometimes it’s really really difficult not to let doubt and fear pull you under. But there is no alternative. Not if you don’t want to be an idiot, that is.
Wish me luck.
Till next week
The Audiobook version is available now on Apple Books and Audible.