HBTV’s Simon Nixon (left) interviews Brown Girls author John Wesley Ireland during the taping of an episode of Chatroom. (Photo: Warren Buckland/Napier Courier)

The last time I wore makeup was when two small children decided to dress me up as a woman. I only held still because I was trying to impress their mother. Considering their mother and I have now been together for 20 years, it would appear enduring the assault on my manliness worked a charm.

My most recent brush with cosmetics came when the lovely Vania applied powder to my face in an effort to make it appear less full-moonish. Needless to say, the procedure used up an alarmingly large amount of her supply.

The reason Vania was doing her utmost to make me look presentable was my first TV appearance since I hosted a news magazine programme for Cook Islands TV. This time, however, I would be answering questions instead of asking them.

The occasion was the taping of an episode of Chatroom for Television Hawke’s Bay. Going into the studio, I still wasn’t sure why anyone would be remotely interested in anything I had to say. But, apparently, station director Judith Sawyer is a fan of this column and thought her viewing audience might be entertained by a veteran journalist with a novel to promote.

While I awaited my turn on the brown couch, I watched host Simon Nixon on the monitor as he interviewed a lady about her anti-fracking stance. She was well-spoken, well-informed and well-dressed. That’s when the nerves kicked in and, for a brief, terrifying moment, I was positive I’d start sweating through my makeup to the point where it would look as if my face was melting.

“Please buy my book before my forehead sloughs into my lap” is probably not the ideal marketing campaign.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Simon and I hit it off right away and were soon nattering away like two old friends meeting in a cafe. If cafes came equipped with really bright lights and three large cameras and a microphone cord shoved down your shirt.

I told him about my journalism career and how I came to write my novel, Brown Girls, and why I’ve decided to market and sell it as an ebook through my own website.

The interview was divided into three segments, each consisting of eight minutes (commercials will fill out the rest of the 30-minute time slot), and my original fear of not being able to fill even one segment was quickly replaced by a fear of not having time to say everything I wanted to.

In the end, we never did talk about the Cook Islands photography book I hope to publish in an effort to raise money for the Red Cross.

Neither did I have the opportunity to mention the “A-ha!” moment.

This, of course, is not to be confused with the “Eureka!” moment or the “Woo-hoo!” moment. “A-ha!” is the noise I make when, while reading about a wildly-successful person, I come across the exact moment when they caught their big break. The hungry fashion photographer who drops into a fast-food outlet, only to stumble across the beautiful girl working behind the counter. Chris Klein charging around a corner in his high school and bowling over a talent scout looking to fill out the cast of American Pie.

We’ve all experienced such moments, the times where, for no good reason we can explain, we turned left when we had every intention of going right, and so met a future partner or the person who hired us for our dream job or somehow changed our lives.

Serendipity? Dumb luck? Good timing? Karma gods smiling? Best not to attempt to label it. Best to just sit back, hold on tight and enjoy the rocket ride to fame/success/riches/wild women.

I didn’t get to talk to Simon Nixon about “A-ha!” moments. Maybe because I’m meant to talk to him about that during our next interview. The one where, after this column is published, Brown Girls goes on to sell a million copies.

Someone should warn Vania she’s going to need a fresh supply of powder.

* The Chatroom interview featuring John Ireland will air Friday, May 11, 7.30pm on TVHB, UHF 51, and be re-broadcast the next day at 7.30am and 12.30pm. It will also be available for viewing at http://www.tvhb.co.nz

* For more information on Brown Girls, visit http://www.johnireland.co.nz


I was thisclose to packing it in. To placing my MacBook in a sack of rocks and dropping it off the wharf at the Ahuriri Marina.

I had once taken joy in writing. Hell, I’d once made my living by writing, in the glory days before newspapers started hemorrhaging money and journalists.

These days, I sit my unemployed ass down in front of my computer and question the wisdom of wasting good electricity on bad ideas.

As a novelist, I’d hit a wall. A huge, hard, intimidating expanse that impeded any forward momentum.

Having grown weary of banging my head against the closed doors behind which black-hearted literary agents sit snickering, I’d edited my book, Brown Girls, for the umpteenth time and posted it on Smashwords, where it is available for sale in several different ebook formats (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1937).

There it sat, glory shining from every polished word, on the Smashwords home page. For about three seconds. Until the next 7,000 wannabe authors did the exact same thing as me — posting their deathless prose, submitting their mailing address and then sinking into the nearest chair with a view of the mailbox to await the arrival of the postman bearing a huge sack of royalty cheques.

In the meantime, to garner more attention (because writers are expected to not only supply their own PR drums but to bang them as well), I joined the Authonomy website (authonomy.com), which, to date, has turned out to be nothing more than the slush pile for HarperCollins (and, yes, I am now naming names after being discreet in Publish or Die! Part 8). The site is basically a popularity contest where the best way to move up the rankings is to play nice with others and hope they reciprocate. And where every Forum features one more writer admitting they have two chances of actually being published by HR: zero and none.

At one writer’s suggestion, I also joined youwriteon.com, which is more of a blind taste test — the samples you are asked to review are generated randomly and you have no idea who is going to be looking at your work, so you can’t cajole them into saying something nice. That all sounds a bit fairer except . . . except to date I have handed in six reviews and have only received one in return.

That’s the bad thing about being between jobs — everyone assumes you have plenty of time to waste.

What I should be doing with that time — rather than trying to say something (anything!) positive about the drivel I’ve encountered at both review sites — is writing. I’m about a third of the way finished with the sequel to Brown Girls. I’ve got at least four other books percolating in my brain. I have a completed novel from 12 years ago that is begging to be dusted off and loved again.

And then I hit that wall. That great, soul-sucking vortex of frustration where you could search in vain forever for a single crumb of encouragement.

Smashwords certainly wasn’t supplying it — I posted Brown Girls on May 17. To date, I have sold one (1) copy. I have earned $4.69. Yes, that is in US funds. Yes, that is $7.24 NZ. No, I do not feel any better.

The darkness was nearly complete. I was closing my MacBook and eying the stones in our yard.

And then . . .

And then a young lady calling herself newtowritinggirl happened.

We’re not exactly strangers, her and I. She is, in fact, the owner of the only ebook copy of Brown Girls ever sold. But buying something and liking it can be two different things.

Fortunately for my ego — and my MacBook and any sea critters in Ahuriri Harbour — newtowritinggirl appears to have enjoyed her adventures with Jack Nolan and Nurse Heather and Maina.

She sent this comment to my blog page: “I read it. I loved it. I will rave about it to anyone that listens!”

She posted this entry on her own blog (newtowritinggirl.wordpress.com):

The book was Brown Girls by John Wesley Ireland.  I read a review of it at Workinggirlreviews and had to read it from this.  I don’t know if it was the setting of the novel, the plot or the review, but I knew I had to read it.  Smashwords give you the first 20% free, a very good idea – especially in this case.  Ireland couldn’t have timed it better if he tried.  The last page of the 20% left you on  a cliff hanger.  I had to buy it to find out more.  HAD TO.  I’m very glad I did, it was great. I’ll do a full review of it when I have a little more time.

Today I am feeling better about life. Today, I am friends again with my computer. Today, I want to return to the Cook Islands, or Gisborne or New York state or Greece or B.C. — to wherever my next book is  set.

Today, I am a writer again.

Thanks, newtowritinggirl. Thanks for the puff of oxygen you breathed onto the dying embers of my creativity.

Should we ever meet, dinner’s on me. Anything you want.

Just as long as it doesn’t cost any more than $4.69 US.

Cover JpegJack’s back. Jack Nolan, that is. So is Nurse Heather. And that cheeky monkey Maina Rima. And, oh yeah, the League of Jackals is still up to no good.

Five years after PublishAmerica first printed it, and about three years after I took possession of its rights, my first published novel, Brown Girls, is once again available to the world.

I have seen the future and it’s spelled Kindle. And ePub and LRF and PDB. I have seen the future and it does not include hard copies of books unless your name is King or Brown or Grisham or Rushdie.

For the rest of us commoners, the future is all about the ebook. And so, after years of enduring the rejections of callous literary agents, I have decided to skip right past the naysayers and shove Brown Girls straight into that future.

Which would explain why my first-born now resides at smashwords.com and can been sampled or purcahsed via http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1937.

For you still stuck in the here and now (and how so very quaintly 21st century of you), the manuscript is also available in HTML, JavaText and Plan Text, allowing it to be read onscreen or printed off so you can be transported to the Cook Islands while comfortably tucked into your favourite chair.

Those of you who were kind enough to buy the 2004 edition will note that version 2.0 has been re-edited and polished and, unlike its author, is now slimmer and trimmer, thanks to the punting of some 17,000 words. Included in that cut was every one of the F-bombs, meaning my mother can now safely put down the latest Danielle Steele novel and finally read her No. 1 son’s tome without fear of encountering words you can’t say in church.

If you’re thinking, “I bought the original, it was excellent, now where the hell is that sequel you’ve been promising us for five years?”, you’ll be pleased to know The Blue Beneath is progressing rather nicely, and will continue to do so if you recommend that all your friends buy the Brown Girls ebook, thus proving to Viking Woman that, yes, I can earn money by sitting on my arse at home all day.

That’s the key to marketing ebooks — getting the word out. Unlike hard copies where, with a bit of time and patience, a buyer will eventually stumble across your masterpiece in a bookstore, the World Wide Web is a great big haystack and my book, no matter how significant to me, is but a mere needle.

Placing the book on smashwords.com is a good first step but now, as you might expect, everyone with one knuckle and a keyboard is starting to turn away from POD and vanity publishing and going the ebook route as well, thus avoiding all those pesky editors and agents and publishers who, obviously, have no appreciation for truly great literary art.

Which means Smashwords’ inventory grows larger by the day and, at the risk of sounding mean-spirited, you do have to sieve through a lot of gravel to find the gold. Hopefully, with the help of you, my faithful blog readers, people will manage to discover and buy and read and enjoy Brown Girls.

I will keep you posted on sales figures, if they happen, and comments, if they are filed (and please feel free to add your own review, good or bad, to the Brown Girls page — all feedback is welcomed and encouraged).

My plan, you see, is to sell a million copies. Hey, if Dan Brown can do it, anyone can.

The second part of my plan, once the royalty cheques start to roll in, is to retire to an island in the South Pacific and live in a huge mansion from where I can watch starlets frolic on a clothing-optional beach while nubile Nubian women fan me with palm fronds and attend to my every need and desire.

And then . . .

And then Viking Woman elbows me awake because I’ve been snoring and I realize it’s all been a dream. Well, except for the clothing-optional part. Somehow in the night I’ve managed to lose my pajamas. I’m going to blame the Nubians.