Upcoming Events

Eeks, October was a crazy busy month for me – hence the lack of blogging. This was partly due to the launch party we had for Lex Trent. I love launch parties (in fact I love any kind of party), and the ones I had for Ninth Circle and Jasmyn just flashed by too damn fast. So, this time, we decided to make a weekend of it with a murder mystery at Stratford with some of my favourite people from the book world.

And before anyone can make any shrill accusations of cronyism or nepotism or whatever kind of favouritism this might be considered to be – I must point out that, of the three reviewers who attended, only one of them (Amanda Rutter from Floor to Ceiling Books) had actually given me a good review. And Amanda is my favourite because she stays up drinking with me until 5am, not because of the review (although that certainly doesn’t hurt – I like a person who has good taste in literature.) Amanda’s write-up of the event, complete with a small selection of the less obviously drunken photos, is here: http://floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.com/2010/10/its-murder.html

So October was a bit mad, and it looks like the rest of the year is going to be pretty much the same.

First up – there’s the Richmond Literary Festival where I will be holding a Fantasy Adventure workshop on 13th November for kids from 10 years up (older kids and teenagers are also very welcome – the workshop will suit both). Please note there will also be chocolate and prizes because . . . well, I really like chocolate and prizes.  Here is the facebook event link: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=162168253815519&index=1 Here is the link for the Richmond Festival: http://www.richmond.gov.uk/literature_festival And here is the Chainsaw Gang flyer advertising me and my fellow Chainsaw Gangsters, who are also doing workshops over the festival: 

I have no idea why they’ve used the book covers to advertise Gordon, Sarwat and Alex’s workshops whilst using my face to advertise mine. Either they really dislike my book cover, or they really like my face.  Anyway, moving on . . .

Secondly, I will be attending a Local Author Evening at Waterstones in West Quay on the 18th November from 5.30-7.30pm. I’m not sure of the exact format of the evening yet but it will be a multi-author event to coincide with the turning on of the Christmas lights at West Quay and, last I heard, there was talk of mince pies being present as well (win!)!

Thirdly, I will be doing a panel event for teens at Redbridge Book Festival on the 11th December. I believe the other panellists will be fellow Chainsaw Gangsters Sarwat Chadda, Alexander Gordon Smith, Sarah Pinborough and Sam Enthoven. That’s all I know at present so will try to remember to confirm details of those last two events once I have more information.

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Headline Bloggers Party

Last week I went to the fantastic Headline Bloggers Party in London. After meeting up with my new BFF, Amanda, from Floor to Ceiling Books, at Waterloo, we made our way to Headline Towers an hour early so that we could have a coffee and a gossip first. On the way we happened to run into a group of other bloggers who had also arrived early, and who came along with us. There was Jenny from Wondrous Reads; Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time; Carla from The Crooked Shelf; and Carolyn from Book Chick City. I had never met any of them before so it was great to have a proper chat before the event, and put some names to faces.

I’ve seen that a couple of these lovely ladies have hinted at scams on their blogs. Despite the merciless teasing at the time, it seems they’re all too polite to name and shame me outright but I’ll do it happily enough – it was me. I’m the one who got scammed. Whilst we were sat there drinking coffee, a rather sleazy looking guy in a cheap suit came up and said he’d left his oyster card at home, that he had a meeting to get to in the next ten minutes, and that he wanted two pounds for the bus. It was so obviously a scam, but I’m ashamed to say that whilst the others treated this request with the cool scepticism it undoubtedly deserved, I was practically lunging for my wallet. Even though I knew it was probably a scam, I just couldn’t stop myself. It’s quite embarrassing really, when you consider that my Headline book is all about a conman. I ought to know better. So if any readers of my blog happen to meet me in the flesh, please don’t ask me for money, because I will probably give it to you. I’m just a sucker that way. Sometimes I wonder how I manage to survive out there in the real world. The one inside my head is so much easier to cope with.

Moving swiftly on – the event at Headline was brilliant. There was a big table heavily laden with cakes and other food, and the room was stuffed with books for people to help themselves to. There were loads of lovely bloggers there to chat to, and it was great to meet the five other Headline authors – Dan Wells, Carole Matthews, Paul Magrs, Sean Cregan and Jonathan L Howard.

I did some schmoozing, signed some books, had some laughs, grinned like a fool for some photos, yadda yadda. And then the authors were split up for the quiz. I was in a team with Carla from the Crooked Shelf, Sophie from So Many Books, So Little Time, and Becky from the Bookette. We . . . er . . . didn’t do terribly well, but there were only four of us in our little team, compared to a whopping six in the winning team. If we’d had six people, we would have won that shiny trophy for sure!

After all that we went to the pub for some well-deserved beer. Much fun was had, and I was delighted that the midnight train was running for once. Unfortunately I did make a small fool of myself on the train on the way back home. Whilst attempting to put my Burger King bag in the bin (don’t worry, it was a veggie burger – I wasn’t that drunk), the lid snapped shut and pulled my ring off – just as we were pulling into my station. It may be a cheap, plastic, Jack Skellington ring from Disneyland but I love it dearly (partly because it reminds me of the singing ring in The Tenth Kingdom), and they don’t make ‘em like that any more – I know because there was this other time when I thought I’d lost it and tried to get another one online, only to find there were none to be had. Of course, it fell right to the bottom, so I’m afraid I had to resort to shoving my hand in, grabbing pieces of rubbish, and throwing them out like a crazy hobo person. An expensively dressed hobo, to be sure, but a hobo nevertheless. This was shortly before 2am and, trust me, you really don’t want to know what kind of stuff is inside a train bin at that hour. But I wasn’t forsaking Jack and – damn it! – I managed to get that ring, and even stuff most of the rubbish back in the bin before I leapt from the train – even managing to land on my feet despite the high-heeled boots – just mere seconds before it was pulling out of the platform! Oh yes, it’s an exciting life being an author. And fear not, I washed my hands, and the ring, most thoroughly when I got home.

I didn’t take my camera to the Headline event, so I don’t have pictures, but if you head over to Wondrous Reads (http://www.wondrousreads.com/2010/03/event-report-headline-meets-online.html) and Floor to Ceiling Books (http://floor-to-ceiling-books.blogspot.com/2010/03/headline-party-ftcb-on-tour.html), both these fine blogs have some great snaps of the event. Many congrats to Sam Eades, and all the other lovely ladies at Headline for the very first bloggers party being such a success!

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Loving Jamaica Inn

I love Jamaica Inn. For those who do not know, it is an ancient coaching house from the 1700’s, situated on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, spectacularly shrouded in ghosts and atmosphere. It is also the inspiration, and setting, of Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name – a fantastic story of smuggling, murder, romance and intrigue. She wrote the book after becoming lost on the moor, and finding Jamaica Inn in the fog, where she was then entertained by the local vicar with ghost stories and tales of smuggling.

If I lived closer to it, I would be a permanent fixture in the Smuggler’s Bar. They have six reasonably priced vegetarian options on the menu (SIX! Arghh!) (one of which is veggie sausage and mash – arghh, arghh, have I died and gone to heaven?). I love the timelessness of it – especially when you stand in the courtyard outside in the dark, with the sign creaking ominously, and all this mist pressing in. I can practically see Daphne du Maurier riding across the cobbles on her pony. They even have a little brass plaque on the floor in the bar saying ‘On this spot, Joss Merlyn was murdered.’ For some reason this plaque delights me profoundly. I try not to spend too much of my time staring at it when all the locals are walking past it in such a blasé fashion. Plus I do realise that Joss Merlyn is a fictitious character created by du Maurier and so was not really murdered on that spot. In fact he wasn’t murdered anywhere but in du Maurier’s own head. But still, when I see the plaque, I can’t help thinking: wow, Joss met his well-deserved end right here on this spot!

Conveniently, Jamaica Inn also allows dogs. Moose was very warmly welcomed despite her huge size. Not only that but she was even provided with her very own private doggy water bowl. This is what I call service.

We’ve been in Cornwall since yesterday, and as a result of peoples’ reactions towards her, I am starting to suspect she may have sneakily got bigger without my noticing. She just looks medium to me. But when you hear people remarking upon her size in shocked voices, it does make you wonder. She has started leaping right over Loki in the garden, but I just sort of thought perhaps the Doberman was shrinking. But it has to be said that she takes up significantly more room on the back seat of the car than she did last time we came to Cornwall in May. In fact, there is not really room for me on the back seat as well but I manage to squash in there somehow. If she had any sense she would just put her head on my lap but, being a little afraid of the car, she prefers to sit on my lap as much as she possibly can. This is very sweet, because she becomes very cuddly in the car – like a nervous child – but it does mean that by the time we get wherever we are going, I can no longer feel my legs, and I am covered in slobber (because Moose has a propensity to motion sickness, which causes her to drool). My favourite cap is now quite ruined.

But, anyway, I am sure that she thoroughly enjoyed her time at Jamaica Inn, even though she had no idea that she was snoozing just mere feet away from where Joss Merlyn was murdered! Perhaps I will consider moving to Cornwall in the future. That way I can go to Jamaica Inn every day, and perhaps get lost on the moors and have an amazing idea for a novel. Or perhaps go back in time. Every time I go to Jamaica Inn I can’t help half expecting it to happen. And I am always just a little bit disappointed when I open the door to the Smuggler’s Bar to find that there are no bloodthirsty smugglers in tricorn hats gathered there, all staring at me murderously. Maybe next time. Hope springs eternal, and all that . . .

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Call Me Phileas Fogg

Thanks to the insatiable appetite my parents have always had for travelling, I have been well-travelled since about the age of six. By that time I had been trudging fairly extensively around the Far East as well as the usual places like Europe and America. And I have been thinking recently about how travelling has helped me as a writer. It might sound clichéd, but travelling really does broaden your horizons, and if you can do it from a young age, I think it’s even more useful.

I was a little kid when I went to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, and so it didn’t occur to me to think: these people look different, this food tastes different, the air smells different, am I happy about this? In many of the photos from these holidays I’m either sat on a filthy pavement cuddling a stray cat or sat on a filthy pavement reading a book. But I put the cats and books down for the sightseeing, obviously, even if I sometimes had to be forced to do so. I have seen the Great Wall of China, and the hieroglyphics in the tombs at the Valley of the Kings, and climbed the ruins in Chichen Itza. I’ve ridden on elephants and camels (although not at the same time, obviously); sat in a sled pulled by huskies (and even runaway huskies on one memorable occasion), and swam with dolphins. I’ve held giant snakes, fed giant tortoises, and had my sandwiches snatched away by monkeys (all right, so maybe I gave the monkey my sandwich because it tasted horrible and I didn’t wish to eat it). In the Far East I’ve been caught in a sudden downpouring of rain so heavy that you’re soaked within seconds, and I’ve walked out of air conditioning into heat so intense it feels like you’ve been smacked over the head with it. We have been swindled, robbed and tricked during our travels – which perhaps is no great surprise given the kinds of back street places we have been known to wander into. My parents are such seasoned travellers that they can now spot a scam a mile off. Not me, though. I’ll fall for any con going. In addition to this, I’ve seen the most beautiful crystal waters on beaches in the Caribbean, and soon got used to the jellyfish bobbing around in the sea on beaches in the United Arab Emirates.

From a very young age, my brother and I did everything on holiday that my parents did. There was none of this going to bed early crap; there was certainly none of this being carried or pushed in pushchairs nonsense (we knew we would have been laughed at if we had even suggested such a thing); and there were absolutely no Kidz Clubz (shudder), which I absolutely loathed, possibly because they did not allow me to sit quietly in a corner and read my book, but instead insisted that I participate in group games with the other children (although I do still have the cap I won in the coca cola drinking contest). I ended up in such a club just once in Jamaica only because my brother was so keen to go. There was a bit of an incident when I ran away at the first opportunity and, I’m happy to say, I’ve never seen the inside of one of these clubs since.

I have used locations from my holidays in both my Gollancz books, and I have drawn on my experiences from them for the Lex Trent books, even if only indirectly (although the midnight markets are created straight out of the night markets I visited in Hong Kong and China). I don’t ever remember a time when I was not well travelled, and I am extremely grateful to my parents for taking us to those places and giving us those experiences rather than molly-coddling us in some English-only hotel year after year. You don’t get a feel for the country if you never leave the private beach, after all. Better to intrepidly venture forth in search of adventure and new experiences and glory! Even if this does mean that somewhere along the line you may get scammed, or robbed; or find yourself horribly lost; or stranded in the middle of nowhere with a flat tyre; or bitten by a really huge bug; or, as in my brother’s case, have copious amounts of blood gushing out of your head on at least two occasions that I can think of. But that, perhaps, makes my parents sound a little more happy-go-lucky than they actually are. They did mop up the blood, after all, and they were only accidents. But, yeah, travelling is great, and all writers or aspiring writers should do it. Just try to avoid the blunt trauma to the head thing – especially when out on safari in the African wilderness surrounded by wild lions, because blood is much more difficult to clean up under those circumstances. And the lions dislike the screaming.

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Parties and Panels

There’s been a lot going on this week, which means I have not managed much writing. But I have enjoyed a rare burst of social activity that should keep my recluse metre topped up for the foreseeable future so that I can get some actual work done.

The Gollancz party on Thursday was splendid as always. I met (and re-met) Gavin Smith and Sam Sykes – new authors for next year who I expect to be deeply envious of some time soon. I had several people express their shock and horror at the fact that I love the Roadkill toys. People seem to think it’s out of character considering my vegetarianism and animal rights activism. And the more they go on about it, the more I start to feel a little bit shocked and horrified myself. Why am I so fond of my gory rabbit? Is there something dreadfully wrong with me? But mostly I just feel a vague sense of amusement that meat eaters can be uncomfortable with a squished soft toy that, actually, is not really dead, yet they don’t mind paying a butcher (or their supermarket) to chop off a cow’s head. Strange, eh? But – everyone’s shock and horror aside – the Gollancz party was a great bash, and I was tremendously pleased that the midnight train was the last one running rather than the usual half past ten.

The panel I took part in at the Havant Literary Festival yesterday was also a success. Fortunately, my hangover from the Gollancz party the night before had worn off by then. At least, I think it had. No one suggested to my face that I still looked hung over anyway. The panel was very well attended, and I was particularly pleased to see the lovely Neil C. Ford in the front row, especially as he had the foresight to bring a Lex Trent ARC – something that never occurred to me (possibly because of the hangover thing).

I believe I spoke relatively coherently, although I may have blanched a little when the moderator suggested we read aloud from our books. The whole concept of an author doing readings from their own books completely baffles me. This is, essentially, a form of acting. I could no more speak convincingly in Lex’s voice (or any of my characters) than I could get up and sing a piece of Italian opera. I am no actor. If I were forced to read aloud from one of my books, it would therefore probably come out as something of a dull monotone. I lack the theatrical flair. Writing it and speaking it are, after all, very different things. I’m always amazed that so many authors seem happy to do readings at conventions and other appearances. This is certainly not something I would ever voluntarily do. Fortunately Mr Ford, perceiving my discomfort, offered to read a section on my behalf, which let me nicely off the hook. And, indeed, he read it much better than I would have done. Henceforth, I shall refer to him as Lancelot, and expect him to accompany me on all and any events I may attend – just in case.

A big thanks to everyone else who made it to Havant last night, and an even bigger thanks to those of you who bought one of my books. Think of me again in February when Lex Trent versus The Gods will be out in all its fantastic, stupendous, awesome, breathtaking, shiny book glory.

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