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Sunday, 28 April 2013

My identity is stolen by a warty pile of pooh, and I propose the RNA takes on WWF.

On Thursday, somebody stole my face.  And my name. What on earth they thought they could do with an expression that looks like a hamster and a name that sounds like a porn star, I cannot imagine, but they did.  Or at least, they cloned it - setting up a Facebook account with my name and a picture copied from my profile - to what end we have no idea. I mean, who would want to pretend to be me? I'm rubbish at paperwork, can't make a decent Yorkshire pudding, and have a face that's mostly made up of cheeks and teeth! It's bad enough that I have to associate with being me, the fact that someone would voluntarily set themselves up for looking like a vampire hamster with the culinary skills of a two year old and the organisational ability of a hurricane..well.

I can only assume that the perpetrator was someone with a name even more embarrassing than mine - something like Dastardly McFannyparts, or Eric Funtle, and a face like a pack of warts attacking a large pooh.  It is the only explanation.  And now it's all sorted out, I would like to point them towards Deed Poll and a large tube of this:
The pooh they will have to sort out for themselves.

And in other news - I was the judge of a Story Slam competition at Whitby! Yes, me! It was held at La Rosa Hotel which is the most brilliantly 'boudoir' place I have ever been in, also with scones. And it's not often you get a boudoir with scones, unless Delia Smith has opened a pole-dancing club that we don't know about. The tea room (hence the scones) is amazing, full of old things (no, no, like decorative, not like a Saga coach trip) and cakes, and downstairs where we had the Story Slam is all red walls and low lighting. Very atmospheric, for stories of blood and darkness.... It was great fun and the stories were terrific and it was a very hard job judging, especially since I'd had a cream tea just before, but I managed to choose a winner, which, for someone as indecisive as me, was quite a triumph.

I do have to admit that I always thought a Story Slam was something like the card game Snap, where people wrote out their stories and then threw them down on the table, and I did wonder how I was supposed to judge this - was it the person who shouted 'Story!' loudest, or first, or was it like a wrestling match, and you had to press the other writers' shoulders down onto the ground and hold them there for thirty seconds or something. And then I found it wasn't, but that I'd come up with a whole new game for the next RNA Conference...
Picture courtesy of The Sun. Yep, makes me wonder too...
If you could imagine this, with Choc Lit authors... It'll be like that. Only with more scones, and better costumes.


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Starbucks, Vampire State of Mind, and me. In a cardigan.

I've been given away again this week.

Not me personally, I have never actually been 'given away', unless you count weddings and such, and even there it was more of a raffle, no, this time it was Vampire State of Mind.  That's one of my books, for anyone reading this whilst being unaware of the fact that I write books, which does happen, especially when someone has googled 'PVC Underwear' or '100 ways to kill someone with a chocolate eclair' and lighted upon my words of wisdomish accidentally. 

This time it was in Starbucks. VSOM (as it is catchily called by those of us who can't be bothered to say actual words) was the free app that can be picked up by the till by those with an extraordinarily well-developed sense of acuity.  In Starbucks! All over the country!

Of course, I had to see this for myself!  I couldn't take it as truth, even though I was being regularly sent pictures of my little book cover lounging around by Starbucks tills countrywide - I had to get to a Starbucks, and quickly!  Unfortunately, living in the wilds of North Yorkshire (it's not that wild, we've got roads and things, and sometimes buses, just not where I live, and we rarely get eaten by wild animals unless being pecked by a pheasant counts) means that there are very few Starbucks near me.  I know, crazy isn't it? Sometimes we all gather round and talk in hushed voices about caramel frappucinos and those little pots of yoghurt that you can put maple syrup in, until we are overcome with longing.  But anyway. I could not take as gospel the fact that my very own book was being made available in the massive outlet that is Starbucks, so I packed a survival kit (containing warm clothing, a shovel, needle and thread, four sachets of dehydrated food and a flask of coffee, which was a bit 'coals to Newcastle' now I come to think of it), bade my family a fond farewell, and set off for my nearest Starbucks, which lay some 30 miles distant, in the far-off, and semi-mystical, town of York.

Actually, I took a couple of members of my family with me.  I mean, if there's going to be a life-threatening situation with pheasants, having some spare people around always comes in handy.  And, besides, I needed someone to hold the camera.

And here is the result. (warning, it's a picture that's got me in it, so you may wish to shield your eyes and remove sensitive individuals from the room before you look).

No, I have no idea what I'm wearing either. Or why I look as if I'm about to tear out someone's throat. But, that there, hovering just above my left hand, that is VSOM on its little App card thingie.  Just in front of the sign that tells you that Starbucks will make your drink the way you like it.  As opposed, presumably, to making it with solid carbon dioxide and lumps of yak pooh, or something, I didn't ask.  I just got the picture, drank my caramel frappucino whilst making little 'mmmmmmm' sounds of pleasure and savouring every mouthful since I probably won't taste another for about five years (see above), and went home.

Where I had a cup of coffee, and started another book.  Well, life has to go on, doesn't it?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hubble Bubble countdown - plus a teeny, tiny extract to whet your appetites. But, apparently, no diamonds....

It has come to my attention that it is not that very many weeks now until Hubble Bubble leaps into life before your very eyes.  Or after your eyes, if you've had a night on the ginger beer and HobNobs, as has so many times been the occasion in this very house.  So I thought, for anyone interested in my wandering processes, that you may like to have some sneaky-peeks in between those glorious pages.

Well, firstly, there is a page that looks like this

It's the page that goes between the one with the acknowledgement on and the actual words.  It isn't, you will be glad to know, the most exciting page in the book. Unless you get really excited about blank space, which I know some people do.  Brian Cox, for example, he's really, really interested in space, and I may try to persuade him to buy this book just for the bits that come at the end of every sentence and between the words.  He'll like those more than the words themselves.

Ah, to the words!  There are many occasions of words in the book.

The fridge had definitely exploded. The small squat box, now minus a corner, leaned slightly forward into a green patch of ooze, sides bulging and its front flapping from one impotent hinge. It looked like R2-D2 after a really hard night on the Crème de Menthe. I bent and tugged at the line of rubber door seal, which pinged sullenly back at me. ‘What the hell did you have in there, fusion fuel?’
Megan looked at her toes and mumbled something. Her black curls fell over her pretty-pug face but I could see she was blushing by the darkening shade of the mocha-coffee skin visible between her hair and the back of her neck.
‘And since when did you eat’—I held up a dripping fast food wrapper between finger and thumb—‘this kind of stuff?’
Her mutters became more audible but more defensive. ‘It was the last meal Tom and I had before he …’
‘Stop trailing off when you talk about him as though he went off to a tragic hero’s death! He’s living in Wolverhampton, and he’d been two-timing you, and she’s a topless model.’ Only my best friend could keep the leftovers of the meal during which she split up with her boyfriend. Only she could keep them until they went critical, anyway. ‘Oh, Meg,’ I said helplessly. ‘If ever there was a man who’d had his chips, it was him.’ I picked up a newspaper from the recycling pile and began scraping unidentified runny stuff off the floor of Megan’s otherwise pristine kitchen.
‘I don’t know why I asked you over. I knew you wouldn’t understand, Holly. You are very unsympathetic. I think it’s because you don’t get attached to men like I do.’ She clasped her forehead dramatically. ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be in love.’

These, those words there, those very words, are the opening to the book! Obviously when you read them within the covers they will look different, they will be carved on solid silver sheets and inset with gold and precious gems, diamond, ruby you know the kind of ...oh, hang on.  Phone call from my publisher...

Well, that's embarrassing.  Due to difficulties sourcing silver sheets, gold inlay and diamonds they've had to cut back on producing my book in the aforementioned version, and it will only be available in the conventional 'paper/ink' layout.

How vexing.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Some tips on Researching Places for Setting your Book. Look, it's mostly 'drink tea and eat cake', all right? Oh, and smells.

Research.  It's not a dirty word.

Well, I suppose that all depends on context and volume, if I were to run up to you yelling "What the researching research have you done with my researching papers, you researching son of a researcher!" then, depending upon my tone, you may conclude that a) I am rather angry about something, or b) I have become 'stuck' on the word 'research' like a record with the needle jammed in the groove, and need a good shove to dislodge the word, and move on to something more appropriate, like '*&!!*'

In fact, neither of these are the case.  Is the case.  Whatever. In fact, I have been indulging in a little research.  Now, I know that I am usually a research denier, on account of the fact that I have such a short attention span that, during research, my brain wanders off and has been known to sign up for backgammon tournaments, file buttons according to size and recover a sofa in tofu during attempts to get it to look into the history of something.  So, here I am to give you some of my own personal tips on attempting research without driving your brain into reckless hobbies or making you go blind, or anything. 

(I should point out here, in the interests of full disclosure, that I am researching a town as a location for my forthcoming book, not knitting stitches or the history of armour or anything useful, so you may want to skip this post and go and drink some tea or something.  After all, any tips I can offer on anything are basically going to boil down to 'eat cake' and 'sit down a lot', so, you know, usefulness - not so much).

1. Walk around alone.  This is great if you are researching a location, not if you are researching ladies' clothing through the ages, when it will just get you arrested.  But, for investigating places, walking alone through streets and looking up are to be recommended - skylines can be very revealing places.  If you go with someone, you will be distracted by their chatter and desire to go into teashops.

2.  Take pictures.  Honestly, however much you think you will remember, you won't.  Also buy local tourist guides (I mean the booklet things, not the people, they won't even let you rent a tourist guide person to take home) and maps.  Remember to point the camera at specifics, the building where you think your characters may live, or the graveyard in which they meet.  It is always worth pointing this out, since I inevitably get home to sixty thousand long-shots of a town, and one, inexplicable, shot of a pigeon.

3.  Sit and listen to local dialogue and patterns of speech.  Harder in some places than others, but you will, if you listen hard enough, inevitably pick up some variants of local dialect and accent.  I recommend park benches for this, but, and I cannot stress this highly enough, do not attempt to take notes while people are talking.  They always think you are spying on them. Which you are, so, fair enough, and don't expect me to stump up your bail money.

4.  Make a note of smells.  This may sound a little strange, but smells are very important.  When books mention 'local colour' they don't mean actual colour like 'the trees were that particular shade of greenish brown that you get when you leave a coffee cup for six months with half an inch of coffee in the bottom', they mean all the things that make that place that place, and not somewhere else.  Rivers, for example.  In a town a river might smell of old weed that's been dredged out and left on the bank, or rusting shopping trolleys, or that kind of mud that children love to poke with sticks. In the countryside it mostly smells of ducks.  Smells are important.

5.  Absorb the atmosphere.  Yes, all right, this is basically sitting down a lot and eating cake, but you can absorb while you're doing it.  If you absorb sufficiently you can't get your coat on again afterwards.

I hope this helps.

My research location.  Smells like Teen Spirit, oddly enough.

Monday, 1 April 2013

I know this is a day late, but I was trapped inside a chocolate bunny. And then eaten by a HUGE monster...

I've often been accused of having too much imagination.  Now, this is unquantifiable, of course, because how much imagination is too much?  I suppose it depends on the circumstances - now for me, being a writer, having a huge imagination is a very important thing.  I can't just write the same book over and over again only changing names, locations, hair colour and the length of ...well, I was going to say first kiss, but you fill that one in for yourselves, all right?  So I need a massive imagination.
Just one of the many places I have downloaded my imagination recently.

But, for example, when flying..well, I don't have to tell you that an overactive imagination is not the best friend of being shot into the air whilst strapped into a metal tube, do I?  And, just for the record, simply sitting there rocking and muttering 'oh god, oh god, we're all going to die' isn't really imaginative.  No, imagination curses you with the visions of exactly how you are going to die, your grieving relatives, the number and type of flowers at your funeral, and the terrible way in which the loss of you is going to affect every single person on the planet.

Oh.  Just me, then.  Well, never mind, the principle stands.

Surely though I'm not the only person to look up and wonder what it must be like to be a tree?  Does everything down at ground level look as if it's moving in 'speeded up motion' like an old black and white film? Is night time just like one, long blink? And what colour is time travel?  And if I were left-handed instead of right(ish) handed, would my whole life be different?  Would I be a different person?  Or just me with worse handwriting?

So for the rest of today I am going to sit somewhere, surrounded by chocolate (it is still Easter, isn't it?  I mean, Monday counts...) and tea, and imagine myself on a desert island, surrounded by coconuts (it's fine, I like coconuts) and a hazy sea...

And now I'm wondering where pilchards come from and how big they get if they don't get caught and put in a tin.  Do they eat people if they get big enough?  Do pilchards swim around desert islands....?
Yes, they look harmless enough, but forty thousand of anything can kill you...