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


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!