Monthly Archives: December 2012

A true story for Christmas

You must ‘click through’ and read this! Even on re-reading the true story by Eva Ibbotson (from the Guardian) I found that my eyes developed some inexplicable dampness.

It’s about libraries, war, refugees and more. Eva Ibbotson is no longer with us, and our libraries seem destined to go the same way. Wouldn’t it be lovely if stories like this one could stop library closures, while also opening our hearts more to those who have had to leave their homes, through no fault of their own?

Kensal Rise library

Here is to knowledge and reading and friendship and languages, in and out of libraries!


Gingerbread baby

Gingerbread boy

He looks good enough to eat, don’t you think? He’s not for sale, despite the fact that I found the picture in a mail order catalogue. It’s only the clothes you can buy. If they’d been around twenty years ago I would have bought them like a shot. Although I was quite impressed with the red pyjamas with white trim that was readily available at the time.

We’ve had a few gingerbread boys (never girls, I think) at church the last few years, and it’s a nice soft start to taking part in the traditional festivities for the youngest.

Or so I thought. You just can’t be politically correct enough these days. In the old mother country schools have been known to ban the gingerbread men. And they have banned the accompanying song.

For complete consistency they have banned the biscuits, too.

(Someone might be offended. Never mind the children who are upset because of this.)


So, how are we? All present and correct?

I’m not one to buy into this end of the world stuff. I had actually managed to escape the latest ending of our world until quite recently, when I read in Vi magazine what was happening. Their reporter had been to France and was amused by the restaurant he came across, that offered a spectacular last night meal with entertainment.

Perhaps he has not read Douglas Adams? I suspect the restaurant people might have, unlikely though it sounds.

But it set me thinking apocalyptic thoughts. There is Tim Bowler’s Apocalypse; bleak, but not quite the end of everything. (Unless I got it all wrong?)

There is/was – or maybe not – Nicola Morgan’s novel which tried to be Apocalypse, but changed into The Passionflower Massacre ( a much better title, now that I stop to reflect) in deference to Tim.

Most likely there are apocalypses everywhere with our taste for dystopias and horror. (Quick search in online shop only netted a couple more, surprisingly.)

Some years ago the Resident IT Consultant returned home and mentioned he’d seen a film while away. I asked what film. He said it was called The Day Before Yesterday. Or something. Personally I find his a more interesting title than The Day After Tomorrow (which is what he did see.)

Let’s get on with today…

Hello, is anyone there?

Anyone at all?

Maybe it was a mistake to set this blog post to appear automatically?

My 2012 Book Blog Card

I have the impression that dusty books posing with a lit candle or two is all the rage this year. So here is my personal interpretation of the new style Christmas decorating.


Christmas card

Dangerous, but attractive. (In other words, rather like me.)

The literal link

As a small extra offering for today, you can find the ramblings of a proud mother here. (They never shut up.)

The Dance of Death

Tiresome, I know. But I can, so I did.

When the witch met Petrona

The world of blogging is a rather nice place to be. You meet interesting people, like other bloggers with whom you share so much. And the really good ones make you wish you were that little bit better at it.

Maxine Clarke who blogged as Petrona was one of them. She knew a lot about crime, which turned out to my advantage that evening in 2008 when I invited myself onto her team for the crime pub quiz in Bristol. We’d never met, but she came highly recommended by Declan Burke, so I felt free to borrow the friend of a friend. (We came third, mainly thanks to Maxine and her colleague Karen of Eurocrime.)

I always had the feeling that I ought to know more about the Nordic crime scene because of my background, but it would have been impossible to beat Maxine. From what I knew of her, she had a good job, a family, and she still managed to read all the interesting crime novels and write reviews for her own as well as Karen’s blogs.

By the time I ran out of time for too much daily blog reading, I tended to use Petrona as somewhere I would go to look for information. I could generally be sure of finding anything relevant on there.

Every now and then Maxine would leave a comment on Bookwitch, either because I’d blogged on crime, or because there was something YA that she also knew about. I believe our daughters are about the same age, which is how we ended up reading the same books for that age group as well.

This is what makes it especially sad that Maxine died earlier this week; leaving someone young behind. Because for all her expertise on the Scandinavians, it was sharing YA books that I found the most fun.

Bloggers at Crime Fest copy

I stole this photo of Maxine (left) with Rhian, Karen and Declan some years ago. I’m not sure who from, but it was in a good cause.

There is a collection of blogs posts about Maxine here.

(And as an amusing aside, I have to thank Rhian for pointing me in the direction of a long ago post by Maxine, featuring Mark Harmon. If only I’d known…)

The #1 profile – Philip Caveney

He’s got a lot happening. Philip Caveney won the Oldham book award for his first cinema book – Night on Terror Island – set in Stockport. That was a few weeks ago. Shortly before this Philip had launched his latest book – Crow Boy – set in Edinburgh.

Philip Caveney

And now that he finds himself on the Bookwitch best of 2012 list with Spy Another Day, there can be no better start for the new feature on this blog than to find out some odd bits and pieces about local boy Philip. Faster and quirkier than a regular interview, this is where I let authors loose on their own.

Over to Philip Caveney:

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

My first published book, The Sins of Rachel Ellis (1977), was my third serious attempt at a novel. But before that, from my teens onwards, I had written scores of short stories, most of which will never see the light of day.

Best place for inspiration?

Train journeys can be good for ideas. There’s something about staring out of the window across empty fields that gets my mind ticking. But ideas can come to you just about anywhere…

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I have already published three teen romance novels under a female pseudonym… unfortunately, I signed a contract that prevents me from revealing the name. But the ‘lady’ even got fan letters from young female readers!

What would you never write about?

Umm… I’d write about anything if I genuinely believed I wasn’t being gratuitous.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I met my German translator at an event in Glasgow once. That was certainly unexpected. And I ended up in Portugal at a medieval festival watching a performance of Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools. I even had to get up, dressed in period clothing and talk to a huge crowd of people, none of whom could speak any English. Doesn’t come much stranger than that.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

A lot of people have suggested that I AM Max the buffalope, from the Sebastian Darke books, because of my proclivity for gloominess. But I’d probably most like to be Mr Lazarus, from the Movie Maniac books, a man who seems to live forever and can leave all his infirmities locked up in a reel of film.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

Good, in that it would raise my profile and bolster my bank balance. Bad, because in all probability, they’d make a dog’s dinner of it. They generally do.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

How long it took me to ‘make all those books on the table.’ Youngsters don’t always have an accurate idea of how publishing works. They think of it as a kind of cottage industry. It’s more of a collaboration.

Do you have any unexpected skills?

Loads! I can sing, play the drums and I qualified as a graphic designer.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Oh dear. I have to admit to never having read a single Famous Five book. Just wasn’t my kind of thing. As for Narnia, I liked the first two books, but thought they started to get a bit tedious after that. I gave up somewhere in the middle of The Horse and His Boy. Yes, I know. Sacrilege.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

Can I have four? Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida. It would seem churlish to separate them.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

There’s a room full of Billys in our apartment, a mixture of my books and Susan’s books, just crammed in to the available space. One of these days, we’re going to put them in some kind of order (or so we keep saying). Then there’s a special red bookcase that has only books that I’ve published. When you add in translations, that’s quite a bit of acreage. Having no more room for physical tomes, we now arrange our latest purchases (very neatly) on her kindle and my iPad. It works.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

Well, one of mine, obviously (we authors are shameless self-publicists) but failing that, I’d go for Ray Bradbury’s classic fantasy novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s the book that made me want to be a writer and even after all these years, it still delivers.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Writing, I guess, but it has to be said that all writers should read and that without reading, I doubt that anyone would ever become a writer. I’m always appalled when I meet would-be writers who say they don’t read because they don’t want to be influenced. How arrogant is that? As writers we begin by imitating the best. Eventually we find a voice of our own. Then look out!

I’m surprised he didn’t pick Max von Sydow as his favourite Swede, but what do I know? And Philip has written romances!!! We didn’t know that.