How Do You Track Your Word Count? (And Other Things)

Do not adjust your sets. This really is a new blog post. Yes, new material has appeared on this blog. Be gone, tumbleweeds!

I have been MIA because the last six weeks or so have been crazy. I had three university assignments due on the same day, followed by, oh, you know, 100,000 words or so of a book, followed by an exam that I basically had 24 hours to cram for. (Fun fact: my exam was on the history of the book so I was able to throw in loads of stuff about e-books, and I wrote about Celebration, Florida, for one of my assignments.)

Credit: Kathryn English, Blackstone Publishing

In the midst of all that I also wrote a piece about a real life cruise ship murder for the Irish Times, won an award and, needless to say, watched all of 13 Reasons Why because my motto is No Netflix Left Behind even when you don’t have time to sleep and even if the show is utterly rage-inducing on multiple levels. Side note: roll on Master of None this coming Friday. (I think MON is one of the great televisual shows ever made.)

What else have I been up to, I pretend to hear you ask?

Happy Birthday, Distress Signals

Distress Signals, my serial-killer-on-a-cruise-ship-thriller (nautical noir, we’re calling it) was first published a year ago yesterday, which means it’s been a year since the actual craziest week of my life. You and I can relive all the excitement here.

Credit: Hazel Gaynor

The twelve months since have been tough, trying to write a second novel while also doing a full-time degree and being constantly distracted by the shiny stuff of publication (and, ahem, Netflix), but they have also had so many exciting and happy moments. My launch, getting shortlisted for Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, finding that one of my favourite bookstores in the world, the Barnes and Noble at Dr Philips in Orlando – where I wiled away many a blissfully happy hour – had DS in stock. (This was seriously, like, the BEST.)

I must say a big THANK YOU to everyone who read, reviewed and recommended Distress Signals to their friends and followers. You are all lovely and deserve to drink only good coffee, never instant. To celebrate, my lovely American publishers have slashed the price of Distress Signals‘ digital edition to just $0.99 – its RRP is $9.99 – but only for a limited time. So if you haven’t read it yet, you live in the States and you’d read an e-book, quick, go! Or if you know someone else who fits that criteria who you think might be interested, tell them! More exclamation marks!

While I was typing this, something ah-maze-ZING happened: Distress Signals slipped into the No. 1 spot on Barnes and Nobles’ NOOK bookstore. In other words, it became the top selling NOOK book. Whaaa…? I may have to frame this.

Distress Signals can be purchased for sofa-change from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and Kobo USA, among others.

Events

For some reason May is like peak events over here. I have three coming up: I’m doing a Marketing and Publicity Workshop with Peter O’Connell for Publishing Ireland next week, May 11 (suitable for both publishing professionals and writers), then I’ll be on the Twists and Turns panel at Crimefest, Bristol, on May 18, and finally I’ll be taking part in the How To Get Published Day at Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, as part of the International Literature Festival: Dublin on May 20. For more information on any or all of these, go to my Events page and click on the relevant image.

I’m also going to London next week to hit a few stationery shops, Foyles and Hotel Chocolat, but that’s really just an event on my personal calendar…

Book 2

You guys, as a Youtuber might say, we are almost there. In a couple of weeks, Book 2 will be done*. (Can I just give you some unsolicited advice? If you are an aspiring writer who dreams of getting a book deal, here’s what you need to do the second you type THE END on the submission draft of the book you hope will get you published: open a new document, type CHAPTER ONE and start the book after that. Don’t wait, because if your dreams come true, there’ll be lots of shiny exciting fun stuff that will distract you and your deadlines will crumble to dust.) I can’t wait to tell you about it, share the title, show you the cover, etc. but I can’t do any of that just yet. What I can say is:

  • It’s another standalone thriller
  • It’s due for publication early next year
  • It’s set on dry land and that dry land is Dublin, but water does feature.

*Ready for copyediting.

Book 3 (and How Do YOU Track Your Word Count?)

Book three?! I know, right? How did we even get here? Well, that’s what I’ll be doing this summer: writing the first draft of my third thriller. I have an idea that I’m really, really excited about, as my writing friends will testify to because I’ve been blabbing about it— I mean, um, testing it out on them for months now.

One thing I really want to do is obsessively track my word count. I want to be able to say exactly how long it took me to write this novel. So, tell me: how do you track your word count? I was hoping to use Prolifiko after I read this fascinating article in The Guardian about how long – exactly – it took Wyl Menmuir to write his Booker-longlisted novel, but when I went to look at the app it wasn’t what I was expecting. (And you have to do a five day writing ‘challenge’ to unlock access. Um, no.) Have you used it? Are there alternatives? Any good apps? Or do you rely on spreadsheets, etc?

Let me know in the comments below because I really want something good I can use going forward. Any one who leaves a suggestion/comment on this topic will be entered into a draw for a prize that will probably consist of (a) a signed book, (b) something caffeinated, probably and (c) stationery so I have an excuse to buy some fancy stuff in London. (If you don’t track your word count at all it’s okay to leave a comment saying that. That counts as an entry.)

So, to recap:

  • Sherlock lives— I mean, this blog does
  • Distress Signals is discounted to $0.99 for a limited time – tell your friends!
  • Tell me how you track your word count/novel progress. You might win something…

I just sent out a newsletter. Have you signed up to receive my sporadic musings, eh? You should, if I do say so myself. 

Writers, Amazon Are Coming to Dublin – For YOU!

This morning I have great news for writers who are interested in self-publishing, promoting their books or both, and who either live in Dublin or can get here on Saturday November 19th – BUT you’re going to have to move fast to take advantage of it!

typing

Amazon has teamed up with a host of bestselling authors, publishing experts and Writing.ie to bring a very exciting daylong event to the Davenport Hotel in Dublin city centre on November 19th next: How To Publish Independently With Amazon.

Here’s the thing: if you don’t snag a ticket or you can’t travel here, you can still benefit from the event because – get this – it’s going to be live streamed on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing YouTube channel. The feed will also be shown in libraries across Ireland.

The event will include a wide range of panel discussions and workshops and will be hosted by RTÉ 2fm Presenter and book enthusiast, Rick O’Shea. Sessions will include ‘How To Write a Bestseller’ and ‘An Introduction to Independent Publishing’ and cover topics including editing, cover design, marketing and more. As well as that attendees will have the opportunity to book one-on-one sessions with the authors and experts taking part so they can discuss their specific self-publishing query or problem with someone who’s been there, done that. A number of Amazon team members will also be on hand to share their expert advice on making the most of KDP and CreateSpace.

Authors and experts taking part include Hazel Gaynor, LJ Ross, Mark Dawson, Adrian White, Alison Walsh, Madeleine Keane, Robert Doran and Writing.ie founder Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin who writes as Sam Blake.

Oh – and me!

As regular readers of this blog will know although I have self-published in the past, I am currently on the other side of the fence, getting published. But, I think the ideal situation for any career author is to have a foot on both sides. And even if you’re not interested in self-publishing, there’s so much you can learn from authors who’ve done it successfully – promotion, building an audience, even things like time management – that you can apply to your own career, no matter how your books or other written work gets to readers.

Now, here’s the best bit. This event is completely FREE. Yes, free. But, also limited to 150 places and as I prep this post late on Wednesday night, more than a third of the tickets have already gone. So if you want one, CLICK HERE, quick!

That’s also where you can go if you want more information. Libraries who are interested in hosting a live stream can contact vanessa@writing.ie. Those of you who want to watch the live stream from home, just set yourself a reminder to tune into Amazon’s KDP YouTube channel on the day.

Good luck!

Publication: The Epic Debrief

A word of warning: you know the way I have a tendency to write really, really long posts? Well, this might be the longest one yet. But just think of it this way: I may not blog very often at the moment but when I do, I really do. I’d recommend you go make a fresh cup of coffee before you start. Maybe even grab a snack. Perhaps prepare a packed lunch…?

Getting published is a very strange experience. I spent fourteen months waiting for publication day to come around and then, suddenly, it was a week to go and I was desperate for another week or two to prepare. There just seemed to be so much to do, all at once. I had more than 30 different blog features to write and Q&As to answer, pieces to write for Irish newspapers and magazines, goody bags to assemble for my launch and what seemed like endless e-mails to tackle.

goodybags1

I was also preparing for not one but two book launches, which involved booking travel, hotels and venues for the drinks-and-nibbles party bit afterwards and, most importantly, losing ten stone in a week and shopping for outfits to cover an A, B and C Irish “summer” weather scenario. I also had to find a way to catch-up with the friends who were flying into Dublin for a weekend so they could attend my first launch, and to watch Harlan Coben’s The Five before someone spoiled it for me.

Oh, and keep plugging away at Book 2, study for four exams and, you know, eat and sleep and stuff.

pariscoffee

Remember how a few weeks back I went to Paris? Well, since I was going by myself my plan was to sightsee and coffee-drink all day and then work on the features I had to write back in my hotel at night. When I checked into my room and found a beautiful little desk near a window with a view I thought, Perfect. But I didn’t sit down at it once the four days I was there. Because, well, Paris.

That meant that my plan to spend the week before my exams cramming for my exams went to pot, because instead I was catching up on (a) all the stuff I didn’t do in Paris and (b) the backlog of stuff I had to do that starting piling up while I was in Paris.

IMG_9111

Cut to Tuesday, the day before my first exam and two days before Distress Signals comes out. I now have just one day to study for my first exam, except… Well, I really need to clean my apartment, go shopping for some industrial-strength shapewear to wear to my launch and collect my dry cleaning… So, ‘studying’ ends up being a SparkNotes speed-read. But it’s very difficult to care about potentially failing an exam when, you know, the only thing I’ve ever wanted is happening the day after it. The exam goes my way (I think – we’ll find out in a few weeks) and straight afterwards I met Eva, she of Mousetrapped fame, who’s flown in from Munich for the launch. We have an over-excitable catch-up lunch, compliment each other on not ageing a day (if we do say so ourselves) and then I disappear back home to tackle the last few emails and blog posts. While I’m there, I get a picture message: the girls (Andrea, also of Mousetrapped fame, and Michelle have since arrived from Orlando via Madrid) are in Dubray Books on Grafton Street, the site of tomorrow night’s launch, and have found my book on the shelves. Exciting!

IMG_9113

That night, we all go out to dinner. I tell myself the G&Ts are to help me sleep. When I get home, I stay up to see if the Kindle edition of Distress Signals – that I’ve shamelessly pre-ordered – will arrive on my device once the clock strikes midnight. Spoiler alert: it does.

IMG_9117

Launch day morning is actually quite calm. I have the day planned down to the minute and every minute before noon is for sitting in my PJs, drinking coffee from my new anchor mug and giddily clicking through all the lovely messages on Twitter and Facebook.

IMG_9118

My parents and siblings are coming up from Cork to stay in a hotel in the city centre for the night, and even though I live in the city centre, I think I should get to stay in the hotel too. I check in and within ten seconds I’ve told the front desk agent that my book is being launched tonight. Same thing in the hairdressers, although that’s really out of necessity. (“Put ALL the hairspray in, okay? ALL of it.”) I have lunch with my editor from Corvus, Sara, who’s flown over from London for the launch too. She’s a very calming influence and talking to her reminds me that the most important thing that evening is that I stop worrying about stuff, relax and enjoy myself. So I do.

A G&T back at the hotel afterwards, just before I have to go get ready, also helps with this.

IMG_9128

Then something amazing happens. My writer friend Hazel will be missing from the launch because she’s in Orlando on a family holiday of a lifetime. This is devastating because Hazel is one third of The Lovely Girls, the other two being me and our other writer friend Sheena, and without the two of them I might still be saying, “I’m just not ready to submit it yet…” But Hazel more than makes up for being away, because she’s at Kennedy Space Center, and she sends me this picture (above). If you know me but at all, you’ll know how much this means to me.

SO FRAMING IT.

cropthis

Here’s the thing with the launch, THE launch, my first one, in Dubray’s on Grafton Street: it’s been like a wedding. It feels as if not more important. I’ve been thinking about it and daydreaming about it and planning for it for more than a year. (Well, the daydreaming was definitely going on before that.) There’s a pit in my stomach where all the doomsday scenarios are hanging out: nobody will come, nobody will buy the book, everyone will come and everyone will buy the book and we’ll run out, I’ll get a ladder in my tights… And I’m really nervous about speaking, which is something I normally love doing. It’s all getting a bit much.

Is it too late to have another G&T?

(Yes, because the industrial-strength shapewear takes at least ten minutes to get off and back on.)

DSlaunch5

But… the launch goes amazingly well. It really does. And the main reason for this is that I get to enjoy it. As soon as I see friendly faces arrive, I start to relax. Even the speech goes really well. I start by talking about how it isn’t my first launch in Dubray’s; because I’ve such a talented bunch of writer friends, I’m at launches there all the time. “So,” I say, “please forgive me for this, but the first thing I want to say is… FINALLY! It’s my turn.”

DSlaunch84

That gets a good laugh, as does my top tip for getting published (“writing something”) and my instructions that, should I faint, just grab a scissors and cut me out of the underwear that is currently dissecting my spleen. There is one little moment when I realise what I’m doing, i.e. making a speech at my book launch, and my voice cracks and my vision blurs. Uh-oh. I’m crying. But I take a deep breath, tell myself to cop on and power through.

DSlaunch49

My writer friend Ellen sent me a lovely quote via Instagram that morning – “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable” by Mary Oliver – and I think it’s the perfect note to end the speech on. But I don’t trust myself to say it so I get her to instead. It’s all great fun and at one point, even if it’s just for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hot second, #DistressSignals trends no. 1 in Dublin.

DSlaunch24

You can find all the launch pics on my Facebook page if you want to see more than what I’ve posted here. Huge thanks to Ger Holland who took all the professional shots on the night. Not only do I now have wonderful pictures to look back on, but she made us all look totally fab in them too. Hooray!

night

I’m in bed back at the hotel by a very reasonable hour (in my Distress Signals-matching pyjamas) but I can’t sleep. I’m too jazzed and am up scrolling through Twitter and Facebook well into the night. The next morning I’m hungover and sleep-deprived, so downing a bucket of Starbucks is the first item on my To Do list. After that I do a radio interview with a station in Cork and then hit the road with my publicist, Declan, to sign stock in Eason’s branches around the city and suburbs.

stock1

This is something a lot of authors do here in Dublin, but I wanted to add another element to my stock signing trip, namely something that would tie into Twitter. So: I brought goody bags. Remember all that blue, nautical stuff I was buying? That’s what that was for. At each location I left one or two behind and tweeted that the next person to buy a copy of Distress Signals would get the gift of a bag too.

books

Seeing piles of the book in store, signing them, meeting with booksellers – it was all so much fun, if completely surreal. And then, on the very last stop, I notice that I’m piled high next to Harlan Coben’s new book, Fool Me Once. This is the most surreal moment of the day, because Coben is my hero. Back in 2007, when I was living in the Netherlands, I took a train to Paris and back on the same day so I could attend a signing event he was doing in La Defense. When I got to the top of the queue, I found that I couldn’t coherently speak. I just kept smiling and nodding and let my friend Sheelagh do the talking for both of us. I was mortified, but hey, I’d met the great Harlan Coben and I had my signed book. Now, nine years later, I was looking at my book – my book?! – next to his. I put this on my personal Facebook and tagged him in it, and he left a comment on my post.

FB

Bestseller lists? Awards? Good launch hair? Forget all that – Harlan Coben left a comment on my Facebook post!

So it was a really great, fun day, made even greater by the fact that I was home by mid-afternoon and so had time for a disco nap. Then it was back out for another gin-soaked dinner with Andrea, Eva and Michelle, who were all flying home the next morning. More fun, except—

Saturday morning. Back down to earth with a thud. All the excitement of the last few days, the running around, the dreams coming true, the gin… It’s all hitting me now and I can barely lift my head off the pillow. That’s a problem, because I have an exam at 2pm and I was supposed to get up with the dawn so I could try to cram enough facts about post-colonial literature into my brain to have something to write down come the afternoon. I keep hitting the snooze button and next thing I know, I’m out of time. I message my college buddy, Elaine, and tell her I’m thinking of not coming in, that I don’t think there’s any point, that I’m so underprepared there’s no way I’ll pass. She says, “Are you serious?” Well…

No. No, I should go. So I haul myself out of bed, throw myself into the shower for a second (I can get another day out of my launch hair, right?), eat an avocado with a spoon, swallow two espresso shots and run out the door. Do I pass the exam? I’ve no idea yet. I know I did better than I would’ve done if I’d stayed at home though. To get over the trauma, we head to a bar afterwards and have a French 75, which contains gin.

(I’m sensing a theme here. I really should have got Hendrick’s to sponsor this post.)

french75

Dublin the next day – Sunday – is all blue skies and hot sun, but I’m spending it on a train to Cork. Launch No. 2 is Monday evening in Waterstone’s Patrick Street. Vanessa O’Loughlin, AKA Sam Blake, is coming down to launch it for me.

IMG_9222

My attitude to this launch is totally different. I’m completely relaxed. I’m wearing a dress I’ve owned for years, I’m doing my own hair (badly) and I’ve arranged to meet Vanessa for a drink – yes, more gin – just before the bookshop bit. I’m that relaxed. But I shouldn’t be, because I’ve picked the absolute worst day for a launch. It’s a Monday, it’s raining like it did when the storm hit Isla Nublar in Jurassic Park and there’s been a traffic accident somewhere that makes the traffic absolutely apocalyptic. It’s going so slow it looks like that scene in The Walking Dead where Rick is approaching Atlanta while an endless line of abandoned cars snakes out of it. I think I’ll be walking into an empty shop, and wonder how long I can push the start time. But I’m actually one of the last to arrive. (My hair is disastrous, but we’ll get over that.)

My uncle took a video (above) of the Cork launch: Vanessa introducing me, me winging it and then my brother John reading the prologue of Distress Signals. (The speeches start at 1:35.)

IMG_9145

Can I just say: it was very special for me to have my launch in that shop. I’ve been buying books in there for as long as I can remember – especially the “how to write books” kind of books. When I was as far away from my dream of getting published as I could be, I would go into Waterstone’s and buy a new one, and just reading it would spur me on. Getting to have my launch there was really special and BIG thanks to John and the rest of the staff for making it such a fab night, despite the rain and the traffic!

cork

After a very late night, I was up early the next morning for more stock signings. This time, my brother was my chauffeur. I met some more lovely booksellers, saw my book in some more exciting places, and signed some more stock. Around lunchtime John and I are sitting in a Starbucks when I see that the piece I wrote for the Irish Times has gone up online (‘Catherine Ryan Howard on the secret of getting published: it’s all about the book’) and down the end of it is this:

irishtimes

?!?!?!?!?!?!?

I had no idea I was getting reviewed, so that’s excitement enough, but to know already what that review is going to say, and for it to be that brilliant… It’s just too much. The whole point really of the trade paperback (which is the print format Distress Signals has been published in) is to lay a foundation for the mass market paperback (the smaller one) which will come out a few months later. One of the key ways to do is to get reviews that you can put on the mass market paperback’s cover and here, not even a full week after publication, was ours. I was smiling to myself the whole way back to Dublin on the train, and not just because I had two bottles of champagne carefully wrapped in towels in my bag…

The plan was that I’d take the next day, Wednesday, off, i.e. have a sweatpants and Netflix day, and then starting Thursday it’d be cramming o’clock for my remaining two exams, which were one after the other in seven days’ time. Yes, that was the plan.

IMG_9255

During my sweatpants and Netflix relax-a-thon, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up with an almighty crick in my neck. But no worries, I thought. It’s just because I slept funny. It’ll go away soon.

But it didn’t. The next day I went and got some heat packs (which look exactly like sanitary pads? Did nobody think that through?!) and some anti-inflammatories. They made me feel a bit better, but Vanessa Ronan’s launch for The Last Days of Summer was that evening, I was going, and I couldn’t really show up to it with what looked like a sanitary pad stuck to the side of my neck. So I just had to grin and bear it. Afterwards, I called into Dubray Books to see Distress Signals at No. 1 on their in-store chart for myself (below). By the time I got home, my neck was worse than ever.  Cue me trying everything: more heat packs, heat packs and a travel neck pillow, Ibuprofen gel, pills which made my stomach hurt, excessive sleeping …

IMG_9289

In the midst of all this, there was lots of newspaper-related excitement. I’ve self-published in the past, as you know, so seeing people talking online about your book, reviewing it, recommending it, etc. while absolutely wonderful, is something I’ve experienced before. Traditional media coverage, however, not so much. I’ve never been reviewed in newspapers. And the weekend after my Cork launch – the second weekend of Distress Signals’ published life – I was spoiled with coverage. There was the aforementioned Irish Times review, another wonderful review in the Irish Independent, a feature in the Irish Daily Mail’s You magazine, a mention in Woman’s Way magazine and I wrote the ‘My Week’ feature for the Irish Sunday Times, in which I fit everything I’ve blogged about in this post into just 850 words, something you’re probably wishing now I’d done today too.

(You can find out more about the reaction to Distress Signals here.)

papers

But my neck was still killing me, and nothing was working. Finally, the same college buddy who’d told me to get out of bed and go sit my post-col exam recommended something called wintergreen oil which I had to go buy from a Chinese medicine shop and just trust that it was wintergreen oil, because the label was in Chinese. And even though I was dubious and it smelled awful, it was a miracle worker. Almost from the first application, the pain started to go away.

But by the time this happened, it was Sunday evening. I’d lost nearly all my study time and now it was just forty-eight hours until the first of two truly awful exams. But they were the two last ones, so I crammed in as much as I could and just got them out of the way.

I took the last one the day after Vanessa O’Loughlin’s launch (for Little Bones, as Sam Blake – yes, it is book launch season in Dublin, in case you’re wondering) which involved a spectacular after-party in a secret speakeasy (that we needed a password to get into! Best launch EVAH) during which I drank yet more gin-based cocktails. I felt so sick the next day, I nearly threw up all over my Realism: The Novel paper.

(But I didn’t. That’s the main thing.)

In the midst of all this, the wheels started turning on the American publication, which is currently slated for October. Distress Signals will be published in the States in hardback, e-book and audio. I saw the cover for the first time last week and I can’t WAIT to be able to show it to you, because I love, love, LOVE it. It’s really amazing. And now we’re getting ready to go through the manuscript again, copyediting with American English and Americans in mind.

chart

And this morning, more newspaper excitement, because Distress Signals is at No. 8 in Ireland’s Original Fiction chart! Not only that, but I hear copies of it are lurking in some CrimeFest goody bags…

DSlaunch43

This is one of my favourite pictures taken at the launch in Dublin. It’s me laughing about the fact that I’ve started crying again, because when I first met the wonderful Monica McInerney at an Inkwell workshop back in 2010, she inscribed a copy of one of her novels to me with a message that said she couldn’t wait to read mine. I was reminding her of this when I started crying again.

Three thousand words later, I just want to finish with thanks. Thanks to everyone who has bought, read or reviewed the book. Thanks to the amazing book bloggers who have written reviews that I want to print out and keep in a book that can be used to ward off self-doubt in the future. Thanks to everyone who came to the launches, and who helped me annoy everyone else on Twitter by tweeting about it incessantly. Thanks to Jane Gregory, Corvus/Atlantic and Gill Hess. Thanks to the booksellers and all my writing friends. Thanks to YOU, for reading this.

Now, back to Book 2. I’m actually itching to get back to it after all this non-writing excitement. Between now and next weekend – when I’m in Enniscorthy for the Focal Wexford Literary Festival – I’m locking myself away to finish it. The reaction to Distress Signals has been truly amazing, but, um, it is piling the pressure on… (First world problems, I know.)

Distress Signals is currently just £1.99 on Kindle. Tell a friend! Or tell an enemy. I don’t mind. If you want to find out more about it first, you can do so here. In short, it’s about a serial killer on a cruise ship. (Or IS it?! Dum-dum-DUUUUUUUMMMMM.)

Now please excuse me while I go lie in a dark room and watch Bates Motel.

(Thank you!)  

Dublin launch pics by Ger Holland Photography. Cork launch pic and video by Tom Ryan. Additional photos by Eva Heppel, Waterstone’s Cork, Marianne of Eason’s Mahon Point Cork, Gill Hess Ltd and Hazel Gaynor. 

6 Reasons to Watch “Fade Street” (Now Bear With Me…)

I never really blog about television, which is odd considering the astonishing amount of it that I watch. TV is the perfect reward at the end of a long day’s writing as far as I’m concerned: it’s always there (and thanks to the wonder that is Sky+, so are your favorite shows and at any time), it doesn’t take much effort (so you can splay yourself on the sofa, stretching out your curved spine), it doesn’t require travel, changing out of your pyjamas or making yourself resemble a homo sapien (all time-consuming activities that either eat into your writing time or your post-writing relaxing time) and it’s a way to get a story fix (without opening a novel, which I try to avoid while trying to write my own). All in all, the perfect post-writing, pre-bedtime activity.

I love TV and always have, and have no time for people who talk about it rotting your brain and corrupting your children. I’m at a loss as to why it gets such a hard time. Yes, you sit and passively watch TV – but you also sit and passively read books, don’t you? Last time I checked turning pages wasn’t exactly an aerobic exercise, you know.

There’s one aspect of TV that gets more hate mail than any other, and that’s reality TV. (Tip: if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Simples.) And while I don’t agree that all reality TV is bad – some of it, in fact, is pretty darn entertaining – there is one reality TV show I’ll actively encourage a deep-rooted hatred of.

Let’s address the “reality” thing for a second. We all know that no reality TV is truly reality – by it’s very nature, it can’t be. Even on something like the very first Big Brother where they merely sat people in a house and filmed them, without getting involved with tasks and tricks, there was still someone somewhere deciding which bits to show and which bits to leave on the editing room floor. Once you accept this and don’t take what you see on screen too seriously, some reality TV can be quite enjoyable, especially those glossy soap operas produced by MTV: Laguna Beach, The Hills, The City – yes, even Jersey Shore. (It’s not quite as bad as people make it out to be, and drunken violence and bad fake tans aside, it can be quite funny. Pauly D is especially quite endearing.) Moreover, MTV is a privately owned network that we have to pay to receive; they can do what they like with their money, and if we don’t like it, we can stop subscribing.

The cast of Fade Street. L-R: The One Who Isn’t in it As Much as The Others, Vogue (yes – that’s her actual name), The One Who Spends Most of Her Time Fully Made Up on the Sofa and Frowning at her iPhone, The One Who isn’t from Dublin. (P.S. I stole this picture from the RTÉ website. They stole my money to help make this show, so now we’re even.)

RTÉ, the television network owned by the Irish state and funded by our TV license fees, recently decided to get in on the action and produced a reality show called Fade Street, named after the street in Dublin where the main characters live.

It is, quite simply, horrendous.

HORRENDOUS!

But what’s really horrendous is that they won’t admit it’s horrendous, and are blaming the Fade Street backlash on the fact that we don’t want to watch vapid spoiled brats go off to Marbella on holiday (even though they work as unpaid interns – go figure!) while the rest of us are facing a bleak future of budget cuts at the hands of the IMF. And that’s true, we don’t – but that’s not what’s wrong with this show.

Trouble is, it’s too late to do anything about it now. They’ve already spent our money and since we don’t have much of these days, all we can do is try to make the most of it. To help, I present 6 reasons to watch Fade Street:

1. The fridge/freezer

In the shows Fade Street is deludes itself into thinking it emulates, the characters live in swanky apartments with sweeping views of New York City and beautiful LA ranch homes with jewels of swimming pools and professionally designed interiors. Alas RTÉ seemed to be keeping the majority of their budget for stocks of dark brown eyeshadow, and so stuck the two main girls in a small, featureless flat in Dublin city centre. In between the living room (a sofa) and the kitchenette (a sink and some cupboards), an enormous free-standing fridge/freezer sits in the middle of the floor and dwarfs everything else around it.

I have so many questions: why is the fridge there? Why didn’t they put it in the kitchen? Why do two girls who are never seen eating, let alone cooking, need all that refrigerated space? The mind boggles, and the fridge/freezer dominates every scene it’s in. It’s surely the show’s most talked about character.

Walking and holding a hand bag in the crook of your arm at the same time took a lot of concentration, but Louise knew it’d be worth it in the end.

2. “Act” “natural”

Overly-groomed American twenty-somethings have an innate ability to act natural despite being surrounded by a camera crew and producers, and there being a guy holding a large furry microphone over their heads. And we Irish are good at a great many things, but we are no good whatsoever at that.

Fade Street is a bit like The Hills: The Pantomime. Being angry is conveyed by deeply furrowing your brow; contemplating something is conveyed by deeply furrowing your brow and looking upwards; being annoyed by someone or something is conveyed by deeply furrowing your brow, looking upwards and frowning. (For maximum dramatic effect scroll through your iPhone at the same time, or look down so we can admire your dark brown eyeshadow.) All speech is over-pronounced and stilted, but I guess it’s hard to sound natural when you’ve already rehearsed it so many times, isn’t it?

In one of my favorite Fade Street scenes in the three episodes I’ve watched so far, the One Who Isn’t From Dublin walks into the kitchen of her family home and informs her mother and sister that she’s moving to the bright lights of the big city. Mother and Sister are sitting side by side at the island with cups of tea in front of them (which is of course the way you sit when you’re talking to someone – right next to them, facing the same way) and mother is wearing a sparkly top, too much fake tan and a full face of make-up (as you do, for afternoon tea drinking). Her objections to her daughter’s decision make Keanu Reeves look like Robert DiNiro.

Bonus: people in the background wearing tracksuits and carrying Tescos bag, waving shamelessly at the camera. BRILLIANT.

3. The phrase, “Oh mee GAWD, like!”

If you dream of a world in which you hear this phrase seventy-three times in a twenty-five minute period, stop looking – you’ve found it!

Fade Street wondered what it could have possibly done to deserve being associated with a TV show that bad.

4. The Underpants Gnomes

In the fabulous How Not To Write a Novel, one of the mistakes is called The Underpants Gnomes, a reference to a South Park episode where characters had a not very thought out business plan. (Step 1: Collect underpants. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit!!!) In novels it means omitting crucial information or events, leaving you with a series of unrelated happenings with no cause and effect, instead of what is commonly called a plot.

Another prime example of this is the editing of Fade Street. In last week’s episode, Sofa Girl goes to Marbella. Sofa Girl can only go because she told the place she pretends to work at that she has “family issues.” In Marbella, Sofa Girl runs into Vogue – how surprising and random! – who also pretends to work at the same place Sofa Girl pretends to work at. CUT TO: the following day, when Sofa Girl and Vogue are both back at work. Fashion director comes over to say hello. She hugs Vogue, the implication is she knows her. Sofa Girl is called into the office of the Boss (the only person, incidentally, who I think comes across as a non-robot on this show) who reveals she knows Sofa Girl didn’t have family issues but was in Marbella. Sofa Girl admits this is true and puts on a suitably regretful face. Sofa Girl returns to office with a slapped wrist and is short with Vogue. She seems angry with her. ROLL END CREDITS.

Huh?

Presumably, we are supposed to come to the conclusion that Sofa Girl believes that Vogue ratted her out due to her pre-existing relationship with the fashion editor one, and is therefore angry with her. But is that actually in the show? Not even a little bit. Thus watching Fade Street is like playing a game of join the dots against your will.

5. The Fade Street Game

Speaking of playing games, here’s a good one:

Watch each episode with a friend, and then in the ad break and at the end, challenge each other to recount what events have taken place thus far. It is only when you try to recall what you’ve been watching that the true extent of this program’s problems will reveal themselves to you, because all that ever happens is SWEET F–K ALL.

Seriously. If you think nothing ever happens in shows like The Hills, watch Fade Street. It makes The Hills look like Inception.

6. Um… did I already say the fridge?

I did, didn’t I?

Episodes of Fade Street are available on RTÉ’s online player for your viewing pleasure/pain.