Monthly Archives: January 2010

Y A blogs

Time for some witching about other bloggers. Please exchange the ‘w’ for the second letter of the alphabet.

I’m not feeling lonely, but occasionally go out hunting for new colleagues. I’m hoping for inspiration. Maybe some great ideas I could steal. Somewhere to leave comments and engage in some mutual fun.

Other than the blogs I already know about, I’m not finding any of the above. I’m finding lots of blogs, but there is something fishy going on. They are all the same. They link to each other. They even have some posts that are the same, by the same ‘guest blogger’. Or someone who made her own, based on the same idea. The layout which I at first quite liked, loses its appeal when you see they are all the same. Must be someone’s template which automatically makes them like that.

Most of the bloggers are young, although adults. Spelling mistakes are OK in daily posts, I feel, but in the set bits of information down the side? Sloppy. They nearly all have rules for what kind of books they will deign to receive for review purposes. I find that rude. Yes, it makes sense for publishers not to send the wrong kind of book, but if they do, it’s their money that’s been wasted, not the blogger’s.

They supposedly have hundreds of followers, but who wants to read these on a daily basis? If you check blog stats, where available, the hundreds can’t be visiting all that often.

And after puzzling over the books they review, most of which I’ve not heard of, let alone read, I’ve come to the conclusion many of them are teen romances. Nothing wrong with that. I lived off romances myself during the early years. But how can you keep reviewing ‘boy meets girl’ over and over?

Does anyone have a lovely blog suggestion for me, please?

Monday – take one

I’m working backwards here, so need to put in the earlier part of Monday before we’re into a new week. By some unexpected miracle your witch managed to fit in an unplanned visit to the Puffin presentation early afternoon. This meant even more authors and book plans in one short day, but after travelling on the same train as Scrappy the ferret, I felt up to almost anything.

I swear (sorry) that those conference rooms have shrunk in the two years since I was last there. What did they do? Wash them?

With my usual skill I plonked myself down on just the right chair to have my coat where all the attending authors could stumble over it on their way in to speak. Or on the way out. None did, though, and it was a Puffin telephone of some sort that was eventually brought down by Jeanne Willis. Or vice versa.

Jeanne was elegant in a black top with leopard skin effect (it was, wasn’t it?) trim, and white blonde hair straight out of an early 1960s film. She has two new picture books on the way, and she had everyone but me singing a song about bottoms. Apparently ‘pythons only have them in their dreams.’ And Jeanne carried some insect cadaver round in a small metal tin. (Just thought you might want to know.)

Puffin themselves will be 70 this year and, surprise surprise, they are publishing some books to celebrate. Cheap Pocket Money Puffins at £3.99, written by some real favourites of mine, which I like the sound of. Classics, naturally. Some frightfully expensive limited edition books that will cost £100.

I’ll happily try out some of their merchandise, like the Puffiny deckchairs, so a couple of samples would be most welcome. There will be samples I hope? Or at least a mug? (Hint – we could do with five.)

Eoin Colfer appeared, but only on screen. Still lovely, and he told us Artemis will be lovely too, and that just isn’t right. Charlie Higson talked about taking your children to see zombies. I don’t think so, Charlie. Trailer for the new Percy Jackson film, coming soon. Rick Riordan has a new series coming. Two new series, in actual fact. The richer authors get, the faster they write.

Cathy Cassidy was another one not caught out by my coat. She has a new ‘chocolate box’ series starting, which sounds great. I have a feeling Cathy’s only thinking of the research, however.

Vampires. Goes without saying. Samurais. Coming faster and faster. How do authors suddenly write twice as fast as before?

Alex Scarrow and David Yelland reprised their talks from November. Alex’s Time Riders is high on the TBR pile, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

The star of the show was Sophia Jansson, Tove’s niece. There is a new range of Moomins on the way, including baby board books, but where are they coming from? I believe they are writing new ones, with Sophia watching over them. What do we think of that?

There will be teen books. I’m still amazed that Sarah Dessen isn’t yet a household name in Britain. She will be! Helen Grant’s Glass Demon is coming and so is iBoy by Kevin Brooks, and I gather it’s a cross between Spiderman and The Wire. Well!

Tasty sandwiches at the end, well worth waiting for, but what do you do with over-mayonnaisey fingers when meeting authors?

I cornered Sophia Jansson before the others discovered her, and we had a discussion in Swedish about blogs and other online nonsense. She, sensibly, has no time for blogs or Facebook or Twitter. This Little My has a Tove Jansson empire to run and a lovely holiday island to spend her summers on. She told us that Moomin was first thought up by Tove’s uncle in order to scare her from having midnight snacks in his kitchen. The Moomintrolls live in the kitchen walls. Perfect for baby books then…

Coffee Candy

They couldn’t believe I’d not been to Carluccio’s before. Truth be told I’d not quite cottoned on to the fact that there is an affordable variety, and that one doesn’t have to take out a new mortgage to dine in Neal Street, which is my normal haunt. (Shoe shops, you know.) So that was nice. Candy Gourlay is a regular, it seems, who doesn’t need to read the menu in order to order. And as mentioned the other day, we had the same food, she and I. Main course sounded good when Candy suggested it, and it was.

And then Mum Clare said we just had to have pudding, so we obeyed. That’s where the coffee ice cream comes in. It’s Candy’s favourite, and I hardly ever come across it, so jumped at the chance. Luckily I hate coffee, so didn’t attempt what Candy did, which was to have a cup of coffee at the same time as the ice cream. Our Italian waitress took some time to grasp the idea, and then she proved that she hadn’t grasped at all. Something (the coffee?) arrived in a jug next to the ice cream. The waitress was not amused at being told this was wrong. Once she grasped, you understand.

So I would not recommend doing this.

It’s weird meeting someone who’s your friend on Facebook. We’ve been aware of each other for close to two years, during which Candy has not only blogged and Facebooked avidly, but designed websites, and just happened to have redesigned her own site the day before. As you do when you have nothing better to occupy yourself with on a Sunday afternoon. Very computer savvy, in other words.

In between these things Candy wrote Tall Story, her first novel which is published by David Fickling in June. I found out how and why she wrote it, and how on earth she managed to get herself a good agent and how the book ended up with David.

Last summer Candy attended an Arvon writing week, tortured by Melvin Burgess and Malorie Blackman, which apparently was great. I should think so! Though she had already written most of Tall Story by then, so the two MBs can’t claim to have done any ghost writing.

Speaking of such literary giants, we soon moved on to general gossip about famous authors and anything else we could think of. I suspect that the secret behind getting your book published is to have the right cleaner. One who thinks nothing will come of all that frantic typing in north London. You’ll just have to ‘show her.’

Hope all my other Facebook friends I have yet to meet are as nice.

Drinks with Ellie

In my mind I call her Penelope.

I work visually when it comes to words and names, which is why I still have great difficulty keeping Birmingham and Liverpool apart. The Resident IT Consultant has never understood this.

So after weeks of being able to think of Eleanor Updale as just that, she suddenly turned into Penelope on Monday. Can anyone see why? Please. Everyone else refers to her as Ellie, which I with my strict use of names will have to work hard to adapt to.

Drinks on Monday evening, even if it was in the King’s Cross area, was an innocent affair. Eleanor had coffee, and I had tea and Clare drank water, which means we were all very sober. I’m really exceedingly grateful to Eleanor for sparing some time, since she was on her way to something else afterwards and had come from yet another event before. The social life of authors…

Had I had my wits about me, I would have taken a photo of her, as she looked stunning in red, which is often hard to do. And I feel vaguely guilty that she had to cart around this fascinating bagful of novel-inspiration, just to show me.

You can tell she’s a historian from her understanding of what makes sense to find and collect. I got a thorough lesson in old coins (although I am so old that I did visit England while they existed), and we had a peep at some old newspapers. She brought the ones she felt wouldn’t disintegrate in transit. And there was the peace mug from 1919, which got her started on Johnny Swanson.

In return for all this knowledge, I went on to shatter both Eleanor’s and Clare’s beliefs in Sweden as the promised land with white uncluttered rooms and where everything is lovely, although the police are morose. I shall have to learn to tread more carefully in future. It is nice, honestly. Just not paradise.

Then we did what women do everywhere; talk children and universities and other titillating stuff.

My Random day

I’d like to claim that the dog ate my ‘homework’ and that there will be no blog, but that would be cheating. So here is brief summary of Tuesday at Random, and I’m hoping to be able to get in lots of Random puns in this, I can tell you.

The coffee ice cream on Monday night kept me alert a little too long, but I was up and sufficiently awake by the time Random’s Catherine (thank you!) arrived to walk me to the office. They walk fast, those Random ladies. Or is it the witch who walks slowly? Didn’t think of that.

Breezed into the acquisitions meeting on the dot, except MD Philippa Dickinson had already begun. Oh, well. It is so embarrassing being introduced to seventeen people staring at me. Limelight is not for me. At the covers meeting next, it was all I could do to refrain from offering up my opinions all the time. The smokey blue with orange looked fantastic, I thought.

Then it was Georgia and a look into the future. There will be books. Next came Lauren’s ABC – or more like A to Z – of life in publicity. B is for bloggers, but I couldn’t help feeling it should be amended to B for bookwitch.

At lunchtime editors Sarah and another Clare had drawn the short straw, so marched me off for some pizza and book chatter. Very nice. They even tried to edit away ten minutes of the fifteen we were late back for me to see the head mistress. Sorry, I mean boss Philippa. Just imagine, a simple bookwitch and the boss lady herself. I was quite impressed to find that she had located an ADHD book for me, which hopefully has added itself to the ginormous pile with my name on it. They decided that my arms didn’t need to get any longer, so it will be the end of my postman instead.

Digital marketing is the future. Take my word for it. After admiring trailers and websites and fiercebook (they can’t spell, obviously), I was actually given a quarter of an hour in which to do nothing. After which Clare (‘Mum’) and I set off at that Random speed again to catch a train to the National Theatre, where we snuck in through the stage door.

We were whisked north in a green carpeted elevator (padded cell?). On arrival your witch met up with the real witch specialist Terry Pratchett, who ‘just happened’ to be there for a platform appearance somewhat later.

The DiscWorld King had spent so long being interviewed by important and real people, that when he got to me, all he wanted was a Mars bar. Or something. Which he didn’t get, I’m sorry to say. I’d have come equipped myself if I’d had the slightest inkling. Instead he got the bookwitch interview experience, which is an entirely different kettle of fish from chocolates.

The Random day finished with Terry’s platform, in the company of Philippa and other important people, like Terry’s PA Rob, as previously seen on television. It was meant to be a Q&A session on Nation at the National, but not surprisingly it turned into more of a DiscWorld fan convention. The short version.

Post-platform I made my way to another platform. The kind with the train home. Quick detour to Drummond Street for a pakora or two.

Thank you to all! (I still don’t know why you wanted me to come. By now you will be asking yourselves that, too.) And as I mentioned towards the end of my day; I had intended to take photos of everyone, but that good intention vanished as my brain scrambled.

And There Is No Dog.

Monday – take two

Authors, for instance. The lovely, but misguided people at Random House have invited me to come and visit them. Hence the travelling. Random’s Clare, who despite still not being blonde, can be my new Mum, because she is almost better than the witch at doing personalised timetables for people and things. She even made sure I had all the books I needed and the real Mother-of-witch never got that involved.

And to entice me to come (that wasn’t necessary, you know) she has been offering up authors for me to meet as though they were candy. Hang on, one of them was Candy. Candy Gourlay, the new star in David Fickling’s literary stables. I have just read a very early draft of her debut children’s book, Tall Story, which isn’t out until June, and it’s so good. So very good. Definitely something for all to look forward to. I recommend you do it impatiently, if you can manage it.

Candy and I and Mum Clare had dinner last night, and other than having a really great time, Candy and I have worryingly similar tastes in food. Lots of juicy gossip, of which there will be none mentioned here, and some deep literary discussions took place. But not only am I short of time, because Clare set me homework for Tuesday, but I need to conserve my baby’s battery as the hotel has power points not geared for Macs. Shall have to refuel at Random, where I hope they do have normal sockets, positioned in normal places.

Before dinner I had drinks with Eleanor Updale, which felt very grown-up sort of behaviour for a country witch. I was introduced to Eleanor briefly in October, but we didn’t really talk then. We talked this time, in a bar near King’s Cross and it was almost as exciting trying to get there as you’d think. (As in ‘is that a normal, cheap hotel, or is it a ..?’) Only Clare almost got lost, so age won out.

I had just had time to finish reading Eleanor’s next book for David Fickling, and it was good to be able to confess that up until almost halfway I felt so anxious reading it that I could barely contain myself. But then luckily some awful things happened in the plot and I felt fine. Eleanor seemed to find this useful knowledge. Note that this new Johnny Swanson is also a very good book, which you needn’t wait quite so long for. March, I think.

More gossip that can’t be mentioned here, plus a good look at 1920s ‘things’ that Eleanor had brought to show us, which had helped her with writing Johnny, including the catalyst for the whole book which was an old chipped mug. Be careful what you buy in jumble sales.

Unless amnesia sets in I will return some more to these two ladies and their novels later.

I’m off

to London this morning. Can’t tell you what for, since it hasn’t happened yet. But I’ve been busy preparing, and working out how small a toothbrush I can get away with packing. It’s hard to travel light in the book business. First you probably need something connected to why you’re going, and then you might want to read on the train. A spare is always good, so that there is no need to buy an emergency Terry Pratchett at the station like that other time.

Pendolino broomstick

And lovely though it is, you may get given a book. Or five, or ten. So an extra bag for that happy possibility.

My reminder notes telling me where to go and when. Possibly even why. Emergency snacks to ward off migraine due to unusual meal times and the (happy) stress. Two decent teabags for the hotel room. Have you any idea how much nicer it is with Nairobi Earl Grey than Twinings?

Any relevant background material to do with what I’m doing. Train tickets. Oystercard.

Last but not least, laptop. That very heavy baby that it’s possible to live without, but if you, dear readers, are to be served a fresh blog in the morning, the baby has to come too.

That’s my packing done.