Lex In A Teacup

 

 

As previously mentioned here, each time one of my books comes out, my Mum gets me a gorgeous book teacup designed by the eminently talented, and fantastically named, Bethan Lloyd Worthington. Bethan is given a list of keywords from the book, and designs the cups from these so that they are based on elements from the story. It’s like getting a front cover, only even better.

Lex Trent versus The Gods is due to be published on the 4th February but Amazon are sending it out already, and I hear that it has been spotted in some book shops, so I have my teacup a little early.

Photos don’t quite do it justice because the fine detail is easier to see in real life, but they should give the jist. You also cannot tell from the photos that the cup and saucer have both been sandblasted in order to make it appear that they have been lost in the sea for a few millenia – or a few years, at any rate. Whilst I was in Las Vegas last year I went to a Titanic exhibition that showcased some of the exhibits they’d pulled from the wreckage, including cups and plates, and so I can personally attest to the fact that the sandblasting effect is remarkably similar to a cup that really has spent years beneath the sea.  

This is the Medusa Lex battles:

 Medusa

Medusa

 

 This is the whiskerfish that Lex . . . ah, well, perhaps I’d better not say as I don’t want to give key plot points away, but take it from me that this strange little fish is very important to Lex indeed.

 Whiskerfish

Whiskerfish

 

Inside the cup is a magic hat and wand. Magic hats are very important in this book, and lead to all sorts of trouble:

Magic Hat

 

And in the top right hand corner below is the gigantic sand castle in the sky where the first round of the Game takes place:

Sand Castle

 

So there it is – my fabulous Lex Trent book cup, which I will no doubt spend many happy hours staring at, especially when in need of inspiration. If that doesn’t make you want to buy the book, I don’t know what will. As I said, it’s available from Amazon right now so there is no need to wait any longer, peoples! Flying ships, medusas, floating sandcastles, magic hats, whiskerfish and much, much more (crones, enchanters, duckigs, space ladders, nasal lice – the list is endless) can all be yours when you buy Lex Trent!

 

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Lex Trent Cover Revealed!

Lex Trent versus The Gods

Yes, the Lex Trent front cover is finally here in all its swashbuckling glory, courtesy of illustrator David Wyatt (http://www.david.wyatt.btinternet.co.uk) and designer Nick Venables at Headline, who have both done an amazing job. It is, quite clearly, very different from my Gollancz covers, for the simple reason that this is a very different type of book, but I am every bit as pleased with it.

This cover is the most literal interpretation of a book that I’ve ever had, and when my editor first mentioned having Lex himself on it, I wasn’t too sure. I didn’t think an artist would be able to get him right. Lex, after all, exists only in my head, and as I cannot draw to save my life, there’s no way of getting him out of there to show the artist what he looks like. But as it turns out, the Lex on the cover is exactly the way he appears in my head. The fact that you can’t see his face properly helps with that, I suppose, but everything else – the way he’s standing, what he’s wearing – is spot on.

Lady Luck – the blonde woman rocking the white toga – is also perfect. It’s almost as if Mr Wyatt really did reach into my head and pull the characters out. Because Lex and Lady Luck have been done so well, it’s a real thrill for me to see an image of something that actually takes place in the book.

I’m extremely pleased with the font as well because if Lex were to sign his own name, it absolutely would be with a flourish like that. Having a front cover always makes the book seem more real, and legitimises it in my own head so that I can think: ‘yeah, it’s a proper book, and I wrote it!’ rather than: ‘this is meaningless drivel that no one but me will ever read.’ And now that the book has such an awesome front cover I am looking forward to it finally being out on the book shelves even more than I was before.

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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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Paper versus PC

Something I get asked about a lot is whether I write on paper or on the computer. The answer is that I write on the computer, partly because I’m lazy (and so have no wish to spend time typing up handwritten stuff later), and partly because that just works better for me. I wish that I could write on paper. Somehow it seems more writerly to be sat there with a pen and notebook. Very Austen-ish and Bronte-ish and Poe-ish. But, quite aside from the fact that my handwriting is almost illegible, even to me, and that I would almost certainly lose the notebook eventually, the main problem I have with writing on paper is that it’s too difficult to move paragraphs around or rephrase sentences. You end up with a lot of messy crossings out and scribblings. I can make notes on paper happily enough, but actually writing part of a novel directly onto paper is something I find quite trying.

Recently, though, I’ve been forcing myself to write on paper sometimes for the simple reason that I can then go out to the garden. This is nice because it means that Moose can run around and release some pent up energy. It’s also good because I can be working whilst at the same time eating ice cream and drinking beer. Or wine. But not too much beer or wine, obviously, because writing when you’re drunk doesn’t tend to yield particularly good results. Ahem.

Anyway, the point is that working in the garden with sun and ice cream and beer, at hours that suit me, is one of the great things about being an author. I cringed recently when I heard of a company that insists their employees raise their hands and ask permission to go to the toilet in order that the time they’re away from their desks can be timed. Eh? What? Seriously?

I still prefer writing on the computer because I hate having to waste time typing up stuff later. But I’ve found that I can write on paper if I have to, as long as I have a really pretty, girly notebook, and a funky pen. Thankfully, having been to America recently, I am well stocked up on funky pens, including some particularly cool ones from the Rainforest Cafe. 

On a related note, I can’t write if there’s music on, and I certainly couldn’t write in a coffee shop as I know some other writers do. I need quiet because I need to be able to think, and I generally can’t do that if there’s too much going on around me.

Lex Trent is the exception to the above. I’ve written scenes for Lex whilst on a packed train, on holiday, and various other noisy, public places. This is not something I would ever usually be able to do but Lex comes to me so easily that I believe I could write a Lex Trent book on the walls of a cave using nothing but a stick of charcoal. He takes over my head so completely that I’m simply not aware of anything else that may be going on around me. Lex aside, though, much as I have enjoyed being all Austen and stuff, writing in a notebook underneath the pear tree in the garden whilst the dogs enjoy a rare bit of sunshine, and the tortoises walk mashed up bits of food around their pen, I still would take the PC over the paper every time.

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