Friday, 7 August 2009

We have a winner...

A panel of international judges deliberated over the entries to my limerick competition last night. (Oh, all right, my husband and some friends over from New Zealand.) They marked each limerick, awarded points after great discussion and finally picked a unanimous winner.

What's that? You want to know who it is?
You want to know who won that amazing parcel-of-books prize?

Oh, okay.






Here goes.....








Keep scrolling down....





I can almost SMELL the tension.....







Nearly there.....






I'm happy to announce that this year's winner is..... PAT POSNER!

Pat! You've won! Send me an email with your address asap and I'll pass it on to the lovely kind people at Macmillan who will pack up the humungous parcel of goodies and send it to you. Congratulations! Round of applause for Pat, please. And a big thank you to everyone else who entered. I did love reading your fantastic limericks and it was a very close-run thing.

Finally, it just leaves me to say that TODAY is the official publication day of Hens Reunited. Please wish it a safe and happy journey into the bookshops and customers' hands! And if you end up with a copy yourself, I hope you like it.

That's all from me for a while...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Competition #2

Okay, this is the big one... the one with the huuuuuuge prize that is well worth winning before you go on your summer holidays. To celebrate the publication of Hens Reunited, I'm delighted to announce competition number two... where you - yes, YOU! - could win a teetering tower of books, all kindly donated by those lovely people at Pan Macmillan. The books that one lucky winner will receive are:

Pictures of You by Jane Elmor

In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde

Housewife in Love by Alison Penton Harper

I Remember by Noelle Harrison

The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas

Guernica by Dave Boling

Devotion by Nell Leyshon

The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran

50 Ways to Find a Love by Lucy Ann Holmes

Beachcombing by Maggie Dana


(Click on the link to see each book's Amazon page where you can find out more.)
(Is this exciting or WHAT?)

So, what you do you have to do to win such a fabulous prize? Well, I'll tell you. All you need to do is to write a limerick which includes the words HENS REUNITED LUCY and DIAMOND (in any order). Yes, all right, I know it was a similar competition last year and clearly I am totally unoriginal, but you were all so bloody brilliant at writing limericks last time and, more to the point, I had such a good laugh reading them that I couldn't resist giving it another go. So here we are!

The rules:
1) The competition closes at 6pm British Summer Time on Thursday 6th August.
2) You can leave your entry in the comments box, or, if you feel shy, you can email it/them to me: lucy at lucydiamond dot co dot uk.
3) The judge's decision is final
4) You can enter as many times as you wish
5) Usual terms and conditions apply
6) To be a true limerick, the words at the end of the first, second and fifth lines need to rhyme, with a different rhyme at the end of the third and fourth. Here's an example:
There was a young lady from Ickenham
Who went on a bus trip to Twickenham
She drank too much beer
Which made her feel queer
So she took off her boots and was sick-in-em

But I'm sure you can do a classier limerick than that, can't you? Can't you?!

I hereby declare that competition #2 is.... open!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

In stock!

Oooohhhhh the excitement! Hens Reunited is now in stock on Amazon. This means I am currently unable to do any work, obviously, because I keep having to check its sales ranking. (A rather lame 27,000 as I write... but hey, it's early days.) It's not officially in the shops until August 7th so this is rather excitingly early. Go, Hens, go! And go, blog-readers, go - and while you're going, do me a favour and tell your mates about it! (Please.)

Other news:

Have just finished The Children's Book by A S Byatt - fabulous, wonderful, enthralling. My book of the year so far without a doubt. (Yes, it's flawed, particularly the ending in my eyes, but don't let that put you off.) A big fat treat for the summer.

My lovely editor (hello lovely editor) has given a resounding thumbs-up to Novel 4, or Sweet Temptation, as I must start calling it. Hurrah!

School holidays going great so far - swimming, Ice Age 3, lots of playing and remarkably little fighting.

It's all good! (Now I just need to finish a new mermaid story before I go on holiday and life will be complete... only two writing days left until the end of August so I've got to make them count, eek!)

Monday, 27 July 2009

Drum-roll please...

After DAYS of suspense, HOURS of nailbiting, whole MINUTES of agony, I can now tell you that the results to my anagram competition are in. The judge has made his decision, and all votes have been counted and verified. Oh no, hang on, that's not right. I've got a bit of paper with the anagrams typed up and my husband has scribbled 1,2 and 3 on anyway.

Just to recap, the competition was to make an anagram from the letters in the words 'LUCY DIAMOND HENS REUNITED'. And without any further ado, I can now announce that in third place, and due a virtual pat on the back and a loud "Hurrah!" is ...







last-year's winner Pat Posner for her anagram: 'Um! Nice horny lads tied nude'

A bonus commendation for rudness, as my husband put it. Well done, Pat!






Next in second place, in for a virtual pat on the back and an even louder "Hurrah!" is.....











the lovely Karen Clarke for "Disenchanted mouldy urine"! Karen, I know you thought you should get your coat but no! The judge said it made him laugh, so you're my worthy runner-up!




Now for the big one. The winner of the Lucy Diamond anagram competition 2009 is...









*isn't this exciting?!*






the lovely AND talented Lily Sheehan for 'Lured into mid saucy hen den'!
Congratulations Lily! If you could email me your address (email me on lucy at lucydiamond dot co dot uk) I will put a signed copy of Hens Reunited in the post to you asap. Well done!

Stay tuned as I've got another fab competition coming up very soon, just as soon as I've blagged a good prize in fact! xxx

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Competition #1!


Are you feeling brainy? Creative, perhaps? Maybe just plain old lucky... well, good news! I'm starting a competition today and YOU could be the winner.

You might remember last year, I ran a few competitions to celebrate Over You being published, and oooh, it was very exciting (well, it was for me, anyway). So now that I've got a shelf full of copies of Hens Reunited, I thought I'd do the same again. The prize this week is.... drum roll... a signed early copy of Hens Reunited, deliverered to your front door, waaaay before it hits the shops on August 7th and anyone else can get their hands on it. (I know, I know, calm yourselves if you can.)

All you have to do is come up with an anagram using the letters in the following words: LUCY DIAMOND HENS REUNITED. That's ACDDDEEEHILMNNNOESTUY if it makes life any easier. You've got until six pm this Sunday evening (26th July) to leave your entry in the comments box. As before, when the competition closes, I will print out all the entries anonymously and ask my completely impartial husband to judge the best. I'll post the winner's book on Monday. Usual terms and conditions apply blah blah.

Clear as crystal? Excellent. Let the anagramming begin!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Books!

The rest of my author copies arrived today. Here they are!






I am so so thrilled. Nearly as thrilled as I am about this, the cover of the Turkish translation of Over You:




It captures the essence of the book perfectly, wouldn't you say? And yes, that is super-sparkly-silver on the dress. Love it!
(sorry, not sure how to turn picture round, you will have to tip your head on one side for full appreciation!)

Have a good weekend everyone...

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

It's Here!

A wonderfully satisfying thump of post falling through the letterbox today... especially as the thump was from my first copy of Hens Reunited. Oooooh! It is so lovely and exciting seeing your own book for the first time and this is my favourite one yet. Hurrah! If I was a bit cleverer I'd display a photo of me holding it in my own fair hands (kissing it even) but sadly such a complex technical feat is beyond my (pathetic) capabilities, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

Only a few weeks now until publication, I can't wait to see it in the shops. And I must think up a few competitions for you lovely blog-readers to celebrate. Stay tuned for some excellent prizes. You could be a lucky winner!

It's very timely, this copy of Hens arriving today as I've literally JUST finished my edit of book 4. I'm going to read it through one last time on Monday and then send it off to my agent and editor for their thoughts. Gulp...

Friday, 10 July 2009

Living it up, living it down

Oh. My. GOD.
I had such a showbiz night last night. It was the Pan/Picador sales conference in London and I went along to their drinks do afterwards. I had been really looking forward to the evening, right until I saw the guest list earlier this week - the guest list which included Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Andrew Marr, Tara Palmer-Tompkinson, James Herbert, Martine McCutcheon and many many more.... and then I was absolutely filled with terror. OHMYGOD. All those famous megastars... and me. I was convinced I would disgrace myself in some way or another - either falling off my high heels at James Cracknell's feet, or getting nervously drunk and managing to accidentally flash my pants at Jeffrey Archer, or being unable to stop myself from staring and pointing like the village idiot.

I don't know about you, but I find the idea of walking into a crowded room alone, not knowing many people in there, quite nerve-racking. Terrifying actually - that was the bit I dreaded most, having to rock up there on my tod, hoping to see a familiar face (who wasn't out-of-my-league famous preferably.)
When I walked into the party last night, (heart pounding, oh-my-God-just-spotted-Clive-James), I was pounced on by lovely T from the editorial dept whose first words were "Come and meet Tara Palmer-Tompkinson!"
I know I keep saying oh-my-God in this post and I don't want to be repetitive, but really, this WAS an oh-my-God moment. It was totally surreal being introduced to TPT (who looked amazing) but she was so friendly and nice that once I got over the initial shock, it was fine - oh, and get this, she said she liked my shoes! (I was too embarrassed to say that they came from Next though!) So that was a good start to the evening at least...

I was quite excited to see Dwight Yorke was there - I'm a Villa fan don't forget - and I'm afraid I embarrassed myself a bit by asking for his autograph. I know, I know - bit of a tragic fan thing to do - but I couldn't resist. (I pretended it was for my dad but I think I might just have to keep it for myself.)

I also met Martine McCutcheon who was absolutely lovely and soooo beautiful, Lucy-Anne Holmes whose book I so loved and who felt an immediate ally, Emma Kennedy, William Horwood, oh, lots of people. And I even managed not to do any inappropriate flashing/falling over/staring and pointing. Oh all right, I did do a BIT of staring and pointing, but I promise it was discreet staring and pointing...

This morning, I was back to my normal life. School run, washing machine to load, packed lunch to make etc. It all feels a bit of a dream now...

PS James Cracknell VERY handsome in the flesh. Quite wish I HAD fallen at his feet now. Maybe next time.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The perfect hen night...

"I've been playing with all the Playmobil mums," youngest daughter told me today. "They've been having a hen night."

"Oh, that's nice," I said. "What did they do on their hen night?"

"They ate lots of chocolate. Minty chocolate."

"Did they do anything else?"

"Then they did some dancing."

"Anything else?"

"Then they read lots of books and went home to bed."

Now that's my kind of hen night...

Monday, 29 June 2009

Heroics

It's always rather shocking when real life suddenly spins off its ordinary route and takes a more dramatic turn, isn't it? Shakes you up a bit. Makes you think about the what-if and the what-could-have-been in a surreal, did-that-actually-just-HAPPEN? kind of way.

We were coming back from a weekend in Brighton last night on the M4 when all of a sudden a tyre blew on a van about 100 metres ahead of us. The van skidded and swerved and then just flipped right up into the air and overturned, crashing down to land upside down across two lanes. I was still in absolute oh-my-GOD shock but my husband was amazing. He pulled over, stopped the car and got out. "Call an ambulance!" he yelled and sprinted up the motorway to help.

That was his instinct - run and help - while I was in this sort of stupor, stunned, fumbling to get my phone, dialling 999 and still trying to process what had just happened. There's something horrible about calling the emergency services - I've only had to do it a few times and it's one of those highly charged, intense experiences that feels like a dream. I just kept thinking, I bet the driver has died. Surely they can't have survived, the way that van slammed down like that. Is it going to burst into flames? Oh my God, I'm going to see a dead body. I don't want the kids to see a dead body... - and all the while trying to be coherent, saying that the accident had happend just before junction 7 on the M4, no, I couldn't see any smoke coming from the van, I'm running up there now to have a look...

My husband and another guy had managed to get the driver out through the (smashed) window of his door and incredibly, he wasn't hurt at all, just shaken up (understandably). Fire engines and paramedics arrived and dealt with everything brilliantly and after half an hour or so, we were on our way again, all a bit twitchy about what we'd just seen.

I couldn't get over the way my husband reacted though - just running over to help without a second thought like that. I don't want to gush or be melodramatic, but I do find that truly heroic and brave - and just so good. My instinct was far more cautious - I was worried about the van blowing up and I didn't have that same strong urge to spring into action, to run. But he did and even though he shrugged it off a bit later, saying it wouldn't have been so heroic if the van had burst into flames and he'd been injured, the fact was that he didn't consider himself while he was sprinting up the motorway, his basic urge was just to get to the driver. The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing. I'm dead proud of him.

Funnily enough, I wrote the opening scene of a possible new novel the other day which concerns the business of heroism. It's good dramatic stuff, isn't it, someone saving a complete stranger's life, but somehow it's much easier to write about than go through...

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Missed the boat

Remember in my last post I was whinging about turning 40 next year and wondering how I could pack some exciting things into my last thirty-something year? Well. WELL! Turns out I am behind the times. Way behind. There are already masses of blogs out there, it seems, all dedicated to people with great lists of impressive, adrenalin-pumping things to complete before they're 40. One woman with such a blog appeared only to be thirty-two, I was stunned to see. Thirty-TWO! Why is she worrying about turning 40 now, for goodness' sake? Can't she just be grateful that she's only thirty-flipping-two and get on with it??

Anyway, it seems I've missed the boat with my turning-forty musings. Clearly I should have been setting myself exciting challenges for oh, at least the last five years instead of shambling along through my thirty-something decade and wasting all this time on unimportant stuff like motherhood and work and wondering who's going to win Britain's Next Top Model (please not Sophie). Giving myself one paltry year to cram in the proper stuff is just no good.

So... moving on... time to get organised and plan all those crucial things I ought to do before I'm 50, then...

1. Stop caring about stupid lists
2. Grow a beard
3. Call someone 'young lady' - oh, wait, I already do that frequently to my own daughters
4. Give up on dieting and allow myself to become disgracefully fat
5. Learn to walk in high heels
6. Embarrass my teenage children at all times.

...and those are just the start of it. I'm sure there are many more exciting treats in store for me. I'm actually quite looking forward to the next eleven years now. Lots of fun in store. Bring on the forties!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Parties

Went up to London last week for the Usborne party, celebrating their 'five years of fantastic fiction'. I've done (or nearly done) two twelve-book series with them now, so have worked long and hard with various editors there over the years. It was ace to catch up with the editors and marketing people I know there, but also meet some of the designers and other members of the crew too, as well as - best of all - my illustrators for the two series, Jan McCafferty and Maria Pearson. I was really looking forward to meeting them as they are both so talented, and it's been soooo exciting seeing my characters really come to life with their fabulous artwork. And I'd never actually met them before then, only exchanged the occasional email about PLR etc. So did I manage to restrain myself from gushing about how brilliant I think they both are? No, of course not. Never mind...

It was a really good night but oh my God I was in agony by the time I got home - all that standing around in stupid uncomfortable high heels to blame. Had to take them off once I got out of the party and walked to the tube station in my tights, oh I'm just such a lady, you know! (Seriously though, how do other women do it? I am amazed that anyone's pain threshold can be so high.)

Went to a friend's 40th on Saturday which was an equally glam affair - lovely people all in their finery (flatter shoes for me this time though), a seemingly endless stream of bubbly and clinking glasses, gorgeous canapes and birthday cake, the birthday girl herself looking utterly fab in her minxy black dress and new birthday shoes... the sort of party I could never manage to throw myself, basically (but lovely to soak up someone else's goddessery).

Actually it's got me thinking... it's my birthday next week too and I'm going to be thirty-(whisper it)-nine. Gulp. Just one year left of being in my thirties! I need to make myself a list of things to do before I turn forty, things that only a reckless, fun-loving thirty-something can get away with... I need to exit my thirties all guns blazing and slip into the big 4-0 with the satisfaction that yes, I rocked the thirty-something decade to the max.
So, if you've got any ideas or suggestions, leave them in the comments box!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Reading Delights

Is it really two weeks since I last blogged? How did that happen? I have been too busy enjoying myself in the post-first-draft cocoon of bliss, clearly. (Don't hate me for it, the angst and moaning will return when I come to edit the thing next month, no doubt.)

I have been having a rather lovely time anyway, floating about feeling stress-free and cheerful, now that Novel 4 is done (well, awaiting some work, but you know. Done, for the time being.) I've started thinking about future novels - I've got a couple of ideas in mind - and even though I had planned not to do anything about it until September, this morning I found myself writing the first few paragraphs of something new. I just couldn't help it - I thought of a great opening line while I was going to sleep last night, and just wanted to start the scene before I forgot. Felt quite excited about it...

Lovely Milla (hello lovely Milla) asked in the last set of comments how I go about 'growing' ideas for a new novel - and at this stage, it's as if I (oh God, this is going to sound dead pretentious, I apologise) - as if I am 'listening' out for them, as if my ears are pricked up for juicy storylines and characters. It feels like my mind is totally receptive and I'm letting myself tune into various elements of a story - for instance, particular scenes that would be good, themes, a character who comes to me. So at the moment, I'm just scribbling down fragments as they pop into my head, and hope that by the time I come to start writing, proper, I can assemble a coherent narrative of them.
Does that make any sense at all? I'm not sure it does to me either, but there you go. It's hard to explain.

Had a lovely treat this morning anyway as I used my Reading Spa voucher at the fabulous Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, one of the independent book shops in town. It was ace. First, a consultation - well, good old chat, really - with the manager Nic about the kind of books I like and don't like (over a cuppa and some absolutely delicious cake), plus I had a list of authors I had never tried but felt I should and didn't know where to start - ie PG Wodehouse and Iris Murdoch (no, never read anything by either - shame on me etc.) Then he went off and after a bit of discussion with the other members of staff, came back with a huge pile of books they thought I might like. I got to sit in this big comfy armchair in the 'Bibliotherapy Room' browsing through and making my selection. Talk about my idea of bliss. This is what I chose, if you're interested:

PG Wodehouse - The Code of the Woosters
Iris Murdoch - The Sea, The Sea
Carson McCullers - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Jhumpa Lahiri - Interpreter of Maladies
Anita Shreve - Bodysurfing

What do you think of my list? Have you read any? I could have spent a fortune in there, and there were definitely a few I'd go back for another day. Joy!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

HUZZAH!

I have just typed those wonderful words 'The End'... as I've finished the first draft of Novel 4! Woo-hoo!

I am so so happy and so so pleased, you know... it totally needs an edit but that's cool, I've got plenty of time for all that red-pen malarkey. The main thing is the story's all there in black and white, word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page after page...

It's a great feeling. I'm definitely having a drink tonight. Cheers!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Fifteen books

I was tagged by the lovely Jessica Ruston on Facebook recently to post a list of fifteen memorable books. And being lazy - I mean, extremely smart - I thought, hey, there's a blogpost in this. Here's my list and the intro:

Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes...

Okay so here goes with mine, in no particular order:

1. Catcher in the Rye
2. To Kill A Mockingbird
3. The Bell Jar
4. Trainspotting
5. Lord of the Flies
6. Danny the Champion of the World
7. The Wasp Factory
8. Our Mutual Friend
9. The Magus
10. What A Carve-Up
11. The Colour of Memory
12. Rebecca
13. For Whom The Bell Tolls
14. The Edible Woman
15. Claudine At St Clare's

I felt a bit stressed trying to pick THE ultimate fifteen - I'm sure I've missed out loads I should have put in, but hey. That's what 'Edit Post' is for, right?!

Try it yourself - let me know what your fifteen are!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Good news!

Do you remember, way way way back back back through the mists of time, I wrote this post about a picture book text I'd been working on?

Well. Well! I had a very (very very very) nice phone call yesterday afternoon to say... that somebody wants to publish it! Yes! Somebody wants to turn my little story into a book with real actual beautiful colour artwork to illustrate it!

It's a publisher I haven't worked with before, but one I really rate (as a parent AND an author) so I am utterly utterly thrilled and excited. Haven't signed a contract yet so I don't want to jinx it by going into too much detail now... but I WILL just say that I'm particularly pleased because the story came from my son having bad dreams and me trying to think up weird ways to stop them... so there's a personal connection for me which I really like. And ooooh I am just dead excited wondering which artist they will suggest to illustrate the story, and imagining all the different kinds of styles in which it could be done. Hurrah!

Other news... it's been half-term here this week and a very chilled one we've had too. We've had long lie-ins every morning, hung out in our pyjamas quite a bit, been to the park, had friends round, played with Playmobil, made a marble cake, been swimming, watched Night At The Museum (the first one - ace) and the kids have had a jumble sale (or 'jungle sale' as my youngest keeps calling it) where they've sold their toys to each other (strange, but it kept them entertained for ages!)
I'm working today and I'm back on the new novel - yay - and have cleared the decks of other work so that I've got the whole of the next two weeks as well to devote to it. I don't want to tempt fate but I'm hoping to *whisper it* finish the thing by then.... fingers crossed!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Getting E(a)rnest

So I finished For Whom The Bell Tolls last night and all* I can say is WOW. Absolutely fantastic - it took my breath away. Everyone goes on about Hemingway's 'deceptively simple' prose but it's true - the writing is very plain yet beautiful, and somehow or other you are just pulled into the head of the main character and really feel as if you're there, in a pine forest during the Spanish Civil War, hearing gunfire and horses screaming as you wait for the fascists to attack. Who can you trust? Who is going to betray you? Who is going to survive? And all the while the tension is just building building building towards the finale - will the guerillas blow up the bridge? Can they escape? Surely there can't be a happy ending? Honestly, during the last 40 or so pages I was unable to speak, answer the phone, do anything except sit tensely reading, practically holding my breath as I made it to the end. I don't want to sound pompous but... it's a masterpiece. (My only quibble is that the edition I read (Arrow) is absolutely full of typos - on almost every page there's a missed word, or a misspelling or a comma instead of a full stop... really bloody annoying!)

Still, that aside, the book is probably the perfect pre-read to Guernica which is next on my list. That was neatly done, hey? (I'd love to pretend it was because I 'theme' my reading but in reality it was pure coincidence.)

Better start doing some work now. Inspired by Hemingway, I'm going to write some raw, honest, 'deceptively simple' prose of my own now... about mermaids. Hmmmm - this should be interesting...

* Not strictly true, as it turns out.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Changes

Youngest daughter starts school in September (eek) and I'm all too aware that after nearly nine years, the kids-at-home era is drawing to a close for me. That is a long LONG time to have spent most of the week at baby yoga, Tumble Tots, a million coffee mornings, infant ballet class, swimming lessons, gym tots... and that's just the stuff outside the home. There have been many many fairy cakes baked, many finger paintings daubed, many dens built, many Hama bead creations ironed, countless stories read, half a ton of PlayDoh squished... I could go on. But the point is, it won't be going on for much longer. Ohhhh, I'm sad! But also... kind of excited. I have turned down so much work in the last few years, turned down a lot of festival events and school visits too, because I've chosen to spend the time with my kids instead. Come September, though, with all three of them out at school, I'll have so much more time to myself... I can't believe it. Who fancies going out for lunch, then?!

(We went into school last week, youngest daughter and I, to fill in some forms and to have a one-to-one chat with one of the reception teachers, as part of their starting-school procedure. My daughter was unusually quiet, a bit overwhelmed by it all, I think.
"Is there anything you want to ask the teacher about school, while we're here?" I prompted.
She thought about it carefully, then spoke. "What colour are the walls and ceilings in the classroom?" she wanted to know.
I was SO glad she'd come up with such a crucial, insightful question. I can tell she's going to go a long way, that one...)

Talking of school visits, I did a couple on Thursday for the Federation of Children's Book Groups, as part of their 'Share-A-Story Month' launch. I went to two schools and spoke to 240 kids at each one... berloody hell, talk about crowd control. It was quite - okay, VERY - loud, especially when I got them all to do troll noises - oh yes, and a bit of gratuitous screaming, too. The poor teachers were wincing but I think the kids all enjoyed themselves. Sold over 100 books too so that was brilliant but my God it was knackering, and I was soooo ready for that glass of wine when I got back. I don't know how teachers manage it. Respect!

So tell me... what are you reading at the moment? Anything good? I'm halfway through 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' by Hemingway at the moment - trying to better myself with a heavyweight book, see - and am finding it surprisingly enjoyable. I bought it ages ago but kept putting off reading it, because I thought it might be a bit grim and serious and maybe too boys-own for me, but it's actually very readable, and lots of the dialogue is *gasp* brilliantly funny and sarcastic.
Have naughtily just ordered a load more stuff from Amazon - The Children's Book (couldn't resist), Sarah Waters' new one (a pre-order) and, becacuse I love him and he makes me laugh, Jonathan Ross's book. That should keep me quiet for a while...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

And into the closing stretch...

Woohoooooo! After a few fabulous writing days, I'm galloping towards the end of Novel 4, and God, it feels great. Just one chapter left to write for each of my (three) heroines, plus an epilogue, and then it'll be time for that magical can't-be-beaten moment of typing 'The End'. Ahhhhh!
It's a way off being finished-proper, obviously; once I've reached 'The End' I'll want to leave it a few weeks to stew, and then pull it apart in an edit, but most of the meat is on the bones now and I'm sooooo happy about that. I really like wrapping up all the storylines and dishing out the happy endings, and I need a good juicy come-uppance for a super-bitch character too, not sure what yet, but she's definitely gonna get it...

Anyway, I've got all sorts of treats lined up for myself when I finish it - I'm going to use my 'book spa' voucher at Mr B's (lovely independent book shop in town), I'm going to buy myself a new bead for my bracelet, oh, and I think a nice bottle of bubbly might be in order too, don't you?

It's all very timely, I must say, this book-finishing, because an excellent new character has popped into my head this week, and she's looking like she'll make a fab (and funny) heroine for another book. Hmmmm...

Talking (writing) of books, I've just started The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse, which I'm enjoying. Fabulously atmospheric so far, I suspect much creepiness to come. Lovely stuff. Am currently eyeing up The Children's Book by AS Byatt which I spotted in Waterstones this afternoon, oooh, just the most beautiful cover, I almost bought it for that alone...

It's hen party-tastic in Bath today, hordes of girls in L-plates, tiaras and matching T-shirts all out on the prowl. I have to restrain myself from tipping them off about Hens Reunited, out in just 3 months now, you know!

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Being Romantic

Off I went to gorgeous Richmond on Thursday for the New Romantics' launch at the town hall that night and oooh, it was a fabulous do, if I say so myself. There were four of us on a panel - me, Kate Harrison, Jojo Moyes and Veronica Henry - talking romance and relationships, as well as reading excerpts from our books. We had a fab audience - about 70 or 80 people, according to the library manager - and there was a great atmosphere, with lots of laughs. A roaring success, all in all, hurrah!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Parcels

Oooh.... don't you just love parcels? The knock at the door, the what-could-it-BE? excitement, the frenzied unwrapping, the "Ooh, look!" denouement... What's not to like?
I've had some lovely parcels in the last few days. The page proofs of Hens Reunited have come through which is v exciting - so nice to see all my words set out in proper pages rather than in my bog-standard Arial 12 on tatty sheets of A4. It gives me a little frisson, the realisation that my story is actually going to be a REAL book... and not too long to wait now!

I've also been sent a big parcel of books from my editor which, I must be honest, is even more exciting than the page proofs. She sent:

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
I Remember by Noelle Harrison (love this cover!)
Pictures of You by Jane Elmor
and Guernica by Dave Boling which I've read so many brilliant things about (and also has a fab cover).

So that will keep me quiet for a while... As will the third parcel I received, completely out of the blue, which was two bottles of Cuervo Margaritas which we sampled last night.... delish. We also tried out a salsa dancing DVD (in the name of research) which was so bad it was hilarious - a dead cheap one-take production where the presenters kept fluffing their lines. All together now... One, two, three... Five, six, seven!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Rockets

This is not my story to tell, but it really made me laugh, so I'm just going to tell it anyway...

My husband took the kids to the park the other day and was pushing the four-year-old on the swing. "Can I have a rocket, Dad?" she asked.
A 'rocket' is a really hard swing-push that my husband has devised over the years of parenting which involves him holding the swing back really high then basically dropping it while somehow managing to run underneath it. Cue screams of delight from the kids, cue me having to hold my breath for fear of injuries/whiplash etc.

"Okay, you can have a rocket," he said. "Ready.... whoosh!"

A bit more swinging took place and then, "Dad, can I have ANOTHER rocket, please?"

"Okay, another rocket coming up," he said. "Ready... whoosh!"

A bit more swinging, and then, "Dad, can I have a different sort of lettuce now?"

Bless her...

Friday, 17 April 2009

Lightly grilled

The burning questions asked by our children this week are:

The 8-year-old: Mum, in real football matches, are players allowed to pinch each other’s bottoms?

The 6-year-old: Can we play in the garden with real knives?

The dog-obsessed 4-year-old: Dad, your dad has died, hasn’t he? (Yes.) He used to be my granddad, didn’t he? (Yes.) And now Grandma lives with Olly (a dog), doesn’t she? (Yes.)
Pause, and then, sympathetically: Dad, maybe Olly can be your dad now?

On the subject of questions (can you BELIEVE how smooth a segue that was?) I went to London Town yesterday to be interviewed and FILMED for this children’s writing competition I’m helping judge. Five of us authors have started off a story and the competition is for kids to write the rest of the story. There are really good prizes for the kids including a school visit from the author in question! (So please, if you live somewhere really beautiful like the Lake District or Cornwall, persuade your child to finish my story, so I get a chance to go there.)
Anyway, I felt a bit nervous about being filmed. I just hate hearing my own voice on a tape and I was quite sure that on film I’d be even more of a spanner. Still, I had my confidence-boosting new dress on (a bargain in the White Stuff sale) plus a load of slap, so I felt as prepared as I could be. However, while eating lunch beforehand, I managed to drop a blob on tuna mayo on my new dress (which left a mark) and then, just before the interview itself, I noticed there was a tiny hole in the back of the dress. So much for confidence-boosting, then. Ahh well. Sometimes you just have to face facts: I am not and will never be one of those chic, immaculate types. Which is a shame.
The interview itself… hmmm. I think I wittered a lot, quite incomprehensibly most of the time. Great. They are going to edit the whole thing way down though at least… hopefully I managed one coherent sentence out of it.

Afterwards I went for a cuppa char with the lovely ladies at Pan. It was so nice to have a chat and discuss publicity ideas and to get a brand spanking new cover proof of Hens Reunited. Hurrah! Very exciting. (Mind you, back to the subject of burning questions, eldest daughter has just walked in and picked it up. "Ooh! Ladies' bottoms!" she exclaimed. "Mum, why has your new cover got ladies' bottoms on it?" Sigh....) I did also get an extremely NICE question while at Pan yesterday, one of the best questions in the world in fact: “Would you like any books?” I had to stop myself from whipping out a bin bag and saying, Yes please, fill ‘er up.
So that was all very lovely and I even had time for a bit of shoe shopping before I had to get my train. I managed to rein myself in at a mere two pairs which felt quite restrained, the good mood I was in.

Nearly the end of the school holidays now, and oh, I have enjoyed them so much. Largely because the kids get their own breakfast these days if we leave out the cereal packets on the kitchen table the night before, and ohmyGod that little bit of extra time in bed is worth any amount of sweeping up spilled Shreddies later in the morning, believe me.

Now that I’ve got that little lot off my chest, it’s down to work for me: back to the new novel to try and up that word count. Have a good weekend everyone.

Monday, 13 April 2009

I've Lost That Blogging Feeling...




Pathetic slackness on the blog front lately, I apologise. We've just been away for a few days in the Highlands where Best Mate and her family live now... wow. It is amazing up there. Huge skies, vast empty white-sand beaches, glittering lochs around every corner, brooding heather-covered hills with swathes of pine trees.... okay, so I sound as if I'm writing the copy for the Highlands Appreciation Society, but really, it was stunning. And we had gorgeous weather too the whole time we were up there. I reckon that whole 'It always rains in Scotland' line is a myth, you know, to stop tourists flooding the place and wrecking it for the locals. We went to two different beaches (Dornoch and Polin, if that means anything to you) and it was fabulous, especially Polin which we had pretty much to ourselves. Lit a fire, toasted marshmallows, made dams and castles, even did a bit of paddling (not me, too much of a wuss). And in the evenings, we drank far too much booze and ate far too much chocolate, so all in all, it was pretty blooming perfect.


Happy Easter!


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Talking about books again

Back to Oxford again yesterday for an event as part of the Lit Fest's 'School Days' which went really well. I met some lovely friendly authors there and had a very lively audience who were just fizzing with imaginative ideas. I love it when the kids come up to me afterwards and say they want to be authors, or they're going to write stories, or they've thought up a great title, or whatever. Very satisfying.

On the train going in yesterday morning, I finished reading Wife in the North which I absolutely loved. It's so funny and moving and well-written - so honest, too. I was sorry to finish - especially as I didn't have anything else to read on the way home. Trauma or what. Obviously I remedied that asap with a swift trip to Borders and bought fellow New Romantic author Veronica Henry's new one - Just A Family Affair. Ooh, I'm hooked already, it's fab.

I am really looking forward to doing some writing again now - it's been great going off and doing these events this week and last, but now I am dying to get back to writing stories rather than talking about them. I've hit the 60,000-word mark in Novel 4 and that feels like a good point to stop and read through the whole thing so that I can pick up any loose threads I may have forgotten about, so I have printed it off and it's sitting there ready for me to get stuck into it on Friday. But for now, I'll have to get on with the edits for Secret Mermaid book 7 before playgroup and school pick up....

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Home and Away

Hello, hello, hello and sorry, sorry, sorry... it has been ages since I last blogged. Still, I've got plenty of good excuses including a long weekend in Wales and a small-but-exciting author tour of various Oxfordshire libraries speaking to hundreds of children (and getting them all to make loud troll noises and scream at various parts of my stories - am now slightly deaf as a result). Anyway it all went really well - stopped off at lots of gorgeous rural villages, met some lovely librarians who were all passionate about getting books to children, stayed in a hotel in Oxford and oohed and ahhed at the gorgeous old buildings, got taken out for a nice dinner... oh, just non-stop good stuff really, although I was very very tired at the end of the ninth hour-long event and am full of renewed admiration for teachers. How do they do that crowd control thing all day, every day?
And ooooohhhh it was just so lovely to come home on Thursday and see my children and husband again. I was beginning to ache for them, I was missing them so badly. My youngest has basically refused to leave my side ever since, I have become a mummy-slave to her, and only Mummy will do when it comes to teeth-brushing, hand-holding etc but frankly I am delighted to be so adored, to be honest, and don't mind at all.

In fact, I am feeling greatly adored today, it being Mothering Sunday - I know it's only a matter of time before I swing back to being general servant to the kids (my usual appointment) but today I have felt mightily appreciated, what with the cards, breakfast (and newspapers) in bed, flowers, chocolates, cake... even a flashing 'Best Mum in the World' badge. Yes, I did say flashing. Multi-coloured, too. No expense spared for me, you know.

Right... off to make a dent in those chocolates and loll about indulgently before Lost. Hurrah!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Words and pictures

Back in the olden days, when I was a lowly skivvy - I mean editorial assistant - at Random House, I decided that writing picture books was surely the easiest way to make money on earth. All you had to do was bash out a few words - a few hundred, tops! - and then an artist would do all the hard work. Best of all, you'd get the same sort of advance as someone writing thousands of words worth of fiction. What was not to love?

Only... over the years I've realised it's actually not that easy. In fact, I've found writing picture books to be tantalisingly difficult - the Holy Grail of children's books. Sure I've written lots of TV tie-in picture books (that's different) but only ever had one proper picture book published (here it is) and countless rejections for my efforts.

I haven't tried writing one for a while but am working on a new one right now, which I feel quite excited about. It has come back to me twice from my agent already with advice to cut, cut, and cut some more, and to think visually rather than as a fiction writer, leaving room for the illustrations to tell the story just as much as (if not more than) the pictures. BUT the idea is good, she says, so I need to keep trying. It is a delicate art, I have come to realise, shaving a line here, giving the artist space there, making every single word count - rather like painting in miniature. I am grafting on it every bit as much as a longer children's story, pruning, polishing and perfecting.
It started off at about 2,000 words (which is ridiculously long for a picture book) and is now about 600. I feel like I am nearly there... fingers crossed!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Mad March mare

Sorry... I have been a bit slack on the blogging front lately, am having a mad March in a headless chicken, running around frantically sort of a way. Roll on relaxing April, I say.

I'm off to Oxford next week for THREE WHOLE NIGHTS away from the kids... I have never been away from them for so long, so I feel a bit strange about that. I am this year's 'Reader in Residence' at the Oxford Literary Festival (don'cha know) which involves me doing nine hour-long library events over three days. I'm launching my new Secret Mermaid series so will hopefully give that a good start and lots of publicity but I think it's going to be pretty knackering, and I'm sure I will be crawling back home at the end of it. Having said that, I do feel quite excited about a) going back to Oxford (I lived there for about a year ten years ago) and b) staying in a hotel! It's the little things...

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Kate Atkinson

Went to see Kate Atkinson as part of the Bath Literary Festival last night. She is definitely one of my favourite authors, I think I wrote a post last summer about how When Will There Be Good News? is the only book which has ever made me burst into tears with shock (and if you've read it, I'm sure you know the bit I mean). Birdsong and a couple of other books have seen tears running down my cheeks whilst reading but this was the most intensely anguished a book has ever made me feel. Now that's a sign of a bloody powerful writer, I reckon.

Anyway, she was just so interesting and inspiring last night. So funny and quick-witted and articulate, I really warmed to her, especially as she said when writing a novel she's always convinced it's rubbish. (I can relate to that.) And I was surprised that she's not a plotter kind of author - especially when you think how tightly wound her plot threads are. She says she knows her starting point, and where she wants to end up and the fun part is the middle where you find out how it all happens. (I can relate to that too, although I don't know if I could ever describe the writing as 'fun'. Mind you she did also say that she finds writing very tedious!) The interviewer asked if her characters 'lived' in her head, whether she heard their voices speaking to her and, after a perfectly timed comedy pause, she replied, "Oh, no. Because hearing voices in your head... well, that's called madness, I think, isn't it?"

She read a passage from When Will There Be Good News? - it's the chapter where Reggie and Ms MacDonald are introduced - and at first everyone in the audience was laughing away at all the funny bits. But then, by the end of this piece, she got to the bit about Reggie's mum dying and my God, the room just turned completely pin-drop silent. I think that's amazing, the way she can flip from comedy to pathos so smoothly.

Feeling guilty as I have to work today to catch up on deadlines but am so inspired by last night, I'm going to make sure every word I write is brilliant. Well, here's hoping anyway...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Reading aloud

It's the Bath Literary Festival at the moment, and last night I went to see Rose Tremain, Helen Dunmore and Jane Gardam being interviewed by Sara Davies (Radio 4) at the Guildhall. Wow and wow again. What a stellar line-up - all so inspiring to listen to, and absolutely fascinating when talking about their research methods, and how ideas come to them. During the intro, Sara Davies pointed out that two of them had won the Orange prize, one shortlisted, two had won the Whitbread, one shortlisted, two had been shortlisted for the Booker... between them, they'd been on every major literary award list. I think that calls for another wow actually.

Jane Gardam made everyone laugh with her tip for budding authors: "Never - NEVER - set a scene on a train. Somebody will always write in and tell you that actually, the 5.15 from Manchester doesn't go to York, and you can't change at Carlisle for the Glasgow train or whatever..." And they all had different views on research - Helen Dunmore says she needs to know absolutely everything before she starts, so that it's like being able to walk around a room in darkness and know exactly where everything is. Rose Tremain disagreed slightly - saying she likes to have a fifth of her 'room' visible but prefers to leave the rest for her imagination to fill in. She made a good point about how you have to draw a line with research because if people feel as if they're reading a text book, you've killed your novel...
Lots of discussion about short stories v novels too. Rose Tremain said she loves it when she gets a new novel she knows she's going to enjoy because it's like curling up with the most wonderful companion who's always there for you to turn to whenever you want. But a good short story should pierce you, Helen Dunmore added. It should be perfectly constructed, every word in the right place, a jewel. (I'm paraphrasing all of this, my memory is hopeless.) All extremely inspiring anyway.

Anyway, I had an event of my own today, although not quite the glamour and glitter of the diamond-chandelier-decked Guildhall. I went to talk to a junior school not far from here, just a half-hour assembly talk as part of their World Book Day week celebrations. "How many children will it be?" I asked the teacher on the phone yesterday. "250," she said. Gulp. All at once! They were great though - laughed in all the right places, got excited about writing stories and had loads of questions. And it did feel quite something to be speaking to so many children at once and the room being absolutely dead quiet, all eyes upon me... Well, most of the time, anyway....

Monday, 2 March 2009

Dear Tooth Fairy...

Best tooth fairy letter EVER discovered under son's pillow last night:*

Hello Tooth Fairy
My name is Tom, what's yours?
Please can you give me £5.50. I am saving up for a DS. You have got to reply or I will chop your head right off and by the way you smell.
All my love Tom xxx xxx

...seems to be written in his big sister's handwriting. Hmmm.... I suspect a stitch-up!


* obviously never to be alluded to in front of him if you know us, I don't think I was meant to see it!

Friday, 27 February 2009

Shouting

I've had quite a few discussions with youngest daughter (aged 4) about quiet voices and SHOUTY VOICES this week. Of course I am glad that, as the youngest of three, she is not a down-trodden little pipsqueak who gets overlooked and daren't stick up for herself but all the same, I can't help wishing she wasn't quite so bloody-minded and LOUD.
There have been rather a lot of conversations like this:
Me: Holly, get your shoes on, it's time for playgroup.
Her: No.
Me: Now, please, we're going to be late.
Her: NO.
Me: Holly, just do it, please, without shouting.
Her: I AM NOT SHOUTING!
Me: Stop arguing and put your shoes on!
Her: I AM NOT ARGUING!

It cracks me up, that 'I am NOT ARGUING!' Most of the time.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Bookworm

I've been caning it through lots of books lately - don't know why, perhaps a combination of crap telly and many Nights In recently, but I'm making a considerable dent in my always-towering To Be Read pile and very enjoyable it's been too. I was lucky enough to be sent an early copy of White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi which has one of the most beautiful gothic covers I've seen - even the spine looks gorgeously and perfectly designed. I hadn't read anything by her before but she writes like a dream. (Sigh... and she's so young too... really trying not to be jealous...) I've written a review of it here if you're interested anyway.

Then, by way of complete contrast, I read 50 Ways To Find A Lover by Lucy-Anne Holmes which is out in April. My lovely editor sent me a proof and I can honestly say it's one of the funniest books I've read for a long time. It's based on the author's blog and is the story of Sarah Sargent who, crushed when the bald bloke in her local turns her down for a date because he'd rather watch the Narnia DVD, sets up a Spinsters Quest blog in the hope of finding the perfect man. She goes speed-dating, signs up to a dating agency, tries 'the older man' and visits a fetish club all in the name of a blog challenge and details everything in brilliant and hilarious detail. Honestly, it's fantastic, totally unputdownable, and is just going to be massive. You heard it here first...

Now, by way of another complete contrast, I'm reading The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry which is very good. Reminds me of The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox in so much as there's an old-lady-wrongly-locked-in-mental-institution-for-years element and I'm dying to find out how she ended up there. And I've also just treated myself to The Writer's Tale by Russell T. Davies which looks wonderful. And great research too, of course... ahem...

Half-term here so had better go - the house is ominously quiet which means there is no doubt some silent carnage and wrecking going on!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

OFFICIAL: Romance alive and well

(subtitle: Things that make you go Awwwwww)

Feels very odd to be sitting here on a Sunday morning (not a time I am usually at the computer) but I have wangled a day's work today in exchange for treating my husband and kids to seeing Bolt at the cinema later. I have soooo much work to do, it is really stressing me out, so we have negotiated a few Sundays here and there so that I can catch up. It's either that or youngest daughter has to have extra childcare and, even though she's four, I don't want her to have to go anywhere except playgroup. She starts school in September so I need to make the most of her while she's still little and at home. (Can you believe it... from September there will be no kids at home in the day for the first time in nine years! I'm not quite sure how I feel about that... a bit sad, to be honest, but also quite excited at the prospect of all that freedom again.)

Anyway, before I get stuck into this book I need to finish, I'm just warming up my typing fingers (and brain... am slightly hungover after lovely dinner out last night) with a quick post-Valentine post. I've called this 'Things that make you go Awwwww' but I know that for some people, too much mushy stuff makes them go 'Ewwwwww', and if that applies to you, you'd better look away now.
I am firmly in the first camp, though - the Awwwwws - and obviously many fellow Bathonians are too. We went up to see the Sham Castle yesterday, a fab old folly up on a big hill near the university. The kids were charging about through the trees and generally spoiling the romantic mood for all the hand-holders up there - and then my eldest daughter discovered a bag which had been hidden behind a tree. "Please do not move - secret Valentine surprise!" someone had written on it. How sweet is that?? I'm not sure what was in it - I forbade my daughter to open it (even though I was dying to know) but presumably it was some lovely gift that a romantic person was planning to spring on their unsuspecting beau. Forward planning! Fabulous.

Then, as we were heading back over the fields, we saw a young, rather sweet-looking couple - and he was shyly carrying a wicker basket, obviously planning a picnic up there (even though it was cold and vair vair muddy.) Bless!

And then, as we drove home, someone had spelled out 'Happy Valentines Day Bear' one letter at a time on posters pinned to the trees along the road. I mean... you've gotta love these romantics, haven't you? They really go for it. My cockles felt thoroughly warmed, I can tell you.

PS Car music update - Best of Jimmy Cliff yesterday. I am quite enjoying this, forcing my kids to listen to 'proper' music for a change.

PPS Villa v Everton this afternoon - a nail-biter, I'm sure. Come on, you Villa!

PPPS Have reached ten work-outs on the Wii Fitness Coach so have a 'Physical Challenge' in store from it later. I'm scared.

PPPPS Don't forget to check out the New Romantics website - I am sooooo excited and proud to be a part of it!

PPPPPS Can you tell I'm not really in a working mood? It's Sunday! It feels so wrong. But needs must. Here I go...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Love is in the air...

Happy Valentines Day, one and all. Hope you are feeling the lurve!
If you're in a romantic kinda mood, may I suggest this as the perfect place to go? Enjoy!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Brrm brrm

Great excitement in the house today. Huuuuuge. We have a new car!

Well... I say 'new', although obviously I mean new-to-us, rather than brand-spanking-smell-that-newness-new but hey, it's a mere three years old this one, as opposed to ten and a half, like the decrepit banger we've just got rid of. I am soooo not going to miss that knackered old thing. Breaking down on the M5 ("we're all going on a summer holiday... oh, no, we're not, actually"), the engine cutting out repeatedly on cold days, the strange (and worrying) noise the clutch had started to make as you changed gear, feeling that any moment the beast was going to give up and conk out somewhere really impractical. I am not a keen driver at the best of times but it was really starting to bug me, the way you had to sit with the engine running for five minutes before you could go anywhere, just so it would be warm enough not to splutter and die in the middle of the road whilst turning right into the A4 (yeah, cheers for that, you stupid unreliable lump of metal).

But those days are gone. Oh yes! Now we have a silver-gold Xsara Picasso (or 'beige' as it says rather more prosaically on the sales sheet) with... wait for it... a CD player. "Can we have Best of Girls Aloud on the way to swimming?" eldest daughter shrieked as she got in from school, sprinting up to her room to retrieve it. Oh God, the arguments, there are going to be such terrible arguments from here on in, I can't even bear to think about them.
Before, in the Old Crap One, we had a tape player or the radio. Boy, am I glad to see the back of those Horrid Henry tapes, now relegated to the living room. I love a bit of HH, don't get me wrong, but we all know all the stories off by heart now. (I still laugh at the hypnotist one though, and "I'm a nudey! I'm a nudey!" has become a favourite bath-time catchphrase, thanks to Rude Ralph.) And oh yes, good riddance to the awful Sleepytime lullaby tapes we've had since the kids were all babies, and Kipper, and the Large Family... Goodbye, the lot of you. And farewell, old car. We've gone all posh and beige now, I'm afraid.

Mind you, I haven't actually driven it yet. You wait, I'll have crashed it by the end of the week, distracted by the heated Girls Aloud versus Rainbow Fairy CD arguments. Anyone know where I can get a soundproof bubble to fix onto the driver's seat?

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Books, telly and books

Exciting parcels arriving today... 20 copies of Prince Jake and the Dungeon of Doom in paperback (out next month and looking wonderfully purplicious) and two copies of Oliver Moon and the Potion Commotion in Armenian which was extremely exciting. Ooh, hurrah, it still gives me such a thrill to rip open precious parcels containing beautiful new books wot I wrote.
IN FACT, I know this might sound unbelievable, and as if I'm making it up in order to sound a more competent blogger than I actually am, I did take some photos of my office the other day in which you can see with your own eyes piles and piles of the beautiful new books along one wall. Or at least you would be able to see them with your own eyes if I could only find my bloody camera. Someone, obviously not me, has put it in a remote, neglected corner of the house (I'm afraid there are many of those) and I can't put my hands on it right now, but I will, I will! And then, if I can just manage to remember how to move pictures from my camera to this here blog, I will have some actual real-life pictures on this blog to break up my inane wittering. That would be good, wouldn't it? Don't hold your breath though...

Talking of children's books, as I was, did you see that wonderful Michael Rosen programme on BBC4 the other night? Wasn't it a heart-warmer and isn't he fab? I just loved seeing those 'I hate books' boys reading to younger boys at the end of it - what a brilliant idea. And that woman in the library - I thought she was going to cry at the hordes of children who were now streaming in to borrow books. Fabulous. (On a less cerebral note, did anyone watch America's Next Top Model last night? OMG. First series I've ever watched this programme and I am LOVING it! The bitching! The posing! Benjy Ninja or whatever his name! Sheena and her are-they/aren't-they boobs! Goddess Tyra and her words of wisdom! The screaming! And Isis... oh, it's ace. Favourite new Guilty Pleasure.)

Back to books before I skidded off to Trashville... I have had a new cover image for Hens Reunited emailed to me today and it's great. Really like it. I think there's some tweaking to be done with the title lettering but other than that, I have a cover!

Now...what did I do that with that bloody camera??

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Some hurrahs at last

Right! Onwards and upwards etc. All (just about) well here, the injured one improving daily and definitely on the mend. Hurrah!
We've had our heaviest snowfall overnight so the world looks beautiful. Hurrah!
I'm having a Get-Fit Feb in an attempt to blast away the lingering Christmas love-handles and am really into my Wii Personal Trainer. Hurrah!
And I've stopped panicking about how I'm going to get all my work done by making myself an extremely strict schedule which allows no time for daydreaming and looking out the window. Hurr- Oh.

I've just read Engleby by Sebastian Faulks - anyone else? What did you think? My thoughts went like this: Hmmm, not very keen on this protagonist, bit of a creep, and how come he's got so much money and a car if he's meant to be a working-class student? As if. Don't believe it.... Ahh, okay, so we're meant to think he's a creep, mmm, and a pretty unreliable narrator.. Ooh, liking it now, that makes it much more interesting. So are we meant to assume that...? Yes. I think we are. I think he did. That is really horrible. He is scary! Please let nothing bad happen to Charlotte.... Oh, right. All confirmed. That's a bit early, isn't it? How is this going to end? Hang on, I'm not interested in this bit. This all reads like filler. Please let there be a big twist at the end, rather than it petering out. Please let there be a great big twist that I didn't see coming... oh. The end.

So, good in parts but petered out to nothing, in conclusion. I wish the last 50 pages or so had been cut out, frankly. (Sorry, Sebastian, if you read this, I know nothing, obviously.)

I've just gone through the copy-edit of Hens Reunited - exciting! - and have hopefully combed out all the repetitions and mistakes... I could fiddle around tweaking it for ever, but must rein myself in and stop. No cover yet but I like the sound of what they're planning... I'll post it here as soon as it's been agreed on.

Right, nearly 9 o'clock so must crack on with the new novel. Must try to get to 45,000 words by the end of Feb... do you think I can make it? Place your bets.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Catching up

Sorry for the silence... things have been a bit shit here lately. I'll spare you the details but let's just say there have been some scary A&E visits, tears, sleepless nights and general angst - you get the picture. Anyway, I think everything will be all right now, thank goodness, so normal life is returning gradually.

Back to the positive stuff: I'm working on the new novel today and it feels blissful to be back on it, I am really enjoying writing this one. It's another three-hander and I'm in the middle of my favourite character Lauren's latest chapter - she's really spiky and a bit of a cow, actually, although there's a heart of gold buried in there somewhere.... anyway, she's great fun to write. I'm hoping to crack the 30,000-word mark by school pick-up time... wish me luck.

I'll write a proper post soon, honest...

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Fan Mail

One of the nicest things about being an author is getting lovely emails and letters from complete strangers telling you they liked your book. I am always really touched and flattered that someone who doesn't even know me has made the effort to get in touch... I have to try my hardest to hold back from gushing too much when I reply.
If you're new to the blog (hello!) you might not know that I also write squillions of children's books under my real name, Sue Mongredien - and so I get lots of brilliant emails and letters from children too. I must share this corker I've had recently from a little girl. The letter ends "Well done, Sue, you have written a lot", and then she's included a whole sheet of questions. These go as follows:

How do you write a lot of books like that?
Why do you choose to write them books?
Why do you like them books?
Why did you want to write them books?
Do you like them books?
Why are you writing them books?
Do you like them books?
Are you going to write more of them books?
Why are you writing them books?
Are they exciting, Sue?
Are they great books?
Are they interesting?

If you read them all out loud, it's like something from the Fast Show. Bless her for asking. Yes, Leah from Lincoln, I love them books, and I hope you do too!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The End of the Chocolate Orange, and Mr Y, too

I finished the last piece of my chocolate orange last night - so I can hereby announce that Christmas is definitely over. *sigh* (I'm saying this as if I've heroically made one single chocolate orange last from Christmas Day until now, but perhaps just to reassure that it is really me typing this, and not some health-freak impostor, I'd better add that AT LEAST four other boxes of chocs have also been scoffed during that time.) I'm starting to get a bit fed up of winter now. Can we have spring early, please?

Still, on a cheerier note, I started this month's book group book last night - it's The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas. Oooh, I'm enjoying this one. I loved it as soon as I picked up a copy in a book shop and saw those elegant black-edged pages and that funky cover. And once I began reading, I was hooked in immediately and have been completely bewitched ever since. It is so well-written and intriguing and the author must be some kind of bloody genius to have put it all together... loving it.

Right, an hour and a bit left while my youngest is at playgroup, must get on with some work while I can...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Greetings!

Hello world! I am back. So, how are things?

I am very well, cheers, although have so much to report since last August (eek!) that I'm going to cop out pathetically and not even try to tell you the half of it. Apart from to say thanks for all your lovely wishes and that the wedding was fabulous. Happiest day of my life. Brilliant, loved it all, and never knew being married could be such fun. Hurrah!

So... I know what you're wondering. Tell us about the Lucy Diamond merchandise, you're thinking. We need to buy some! Give us details immediately for God's sake!
Well, I'm sorry that this is post-Crimble and therefore uselessly too late for that perfect niche gift, but if you're in the mood to treat yourself, you could do a lot worse than to buy yourself a splended print of a gen-u-ine Lucy Diamond cover. You think I'm joking, don't you? You think I'm making it up as I go along. Well, I'm not. Have a look here if you don't believe me...

Oh, okay, you've rumbled me. Different Lucy Diamond. She's the original, the Lucy Diamond who wrote lots of children's bible stories in the seventies. I'm just the new pretender who nicked her fabulous name as my glamorous (well, I think so, anyway) pseudonym. But I kinda like the print, I have to say. I know it's a 100 squid so bloody expensive in these miserable credit crunch days but I might have been tempted to splash out if they'd only put poor old LD's name on the cover, where it rightfully should be. Give that author some credit, I say, she churned out loads of those Ladybird bible books, they could have named her at least.

Anyway, I belive you can also get a print of the 'Shepherd Boy in Bethlehem' cover, if you're interested, or one of Moses. And yes, yes, yes, I did stumble upon these when shamelessly looking myself up on Amazon, it's a fair cop.

Writing-wise, I have finished the second draft of my third novel, Hens Reunited and that's about to go off to copy-edit which is always a bit exciting... makes it feel like it really is going to turn into a REAL, ACTUAL book, rather than stay as a mere figment of my disturbed imagination. And I'm about a quarter way through novel 4 which I am enjoying enormously.

And reading-wise... I have just started The Beacon by Susan Hill, which I got for Christmas - signed, first edition, thank you very much! It's brilliant - such clean, spare prose and I was sucked into the story almost from the first page. Just what the hell did Frank DO that has pissed everyone off so much? I am on tenterhooks, waiting to find out.

So... tell me all. What are you up to, what are you reading, and who is going to win Celebrity Big Brother for God's sake?