Category Archives: Writing

Notes from the editor

If you’ve never used an editor, you might not know what they do. To be perfectly honest I’m not 100% sure, either. But I might have a better understanding of the need for them than some. I remember what the editors on the Guardian used to do to my blog pieces for them. Some of it good; some infuriating annoying. It’s good to blog on my own here, where I can do as I like. But the paid blogging was good too. Getting paid. Reaching a larger or different audience.

(Can you tell I edit Bookwitch all the time? And still I have Offspring telling me there are two ‘thes’ or a missing possessive ‘s’ and all sorts of other stupid mistakes. I try not to kill them. I don’t always have a feel for what my readers will find interesting. I get things wrong. Assuming someone wanted to make a book from my blog posts; what do you reckon would happen? Are they ready to be printed straight as they are, or would they need endless editing? The former sounds nice and easy. The latter would make for a better product, but would also cease to be Bookwitch the book.)

As you know (if you’ve paid attention!) I get asked to read self-published books a lot. Some are book books, others ebooks or manuscript. Some are offered for possible review, others merely want an opinion. Some are seeking a ‘real’ publisher. Some are doing well, while others are not.

I seem to recall suggesting somewhere on here that people who can spell stand a better chance of hearing back from me. Some writers seem to feel that if they have indeed got the spelling and grammar right, then that’s all that’s needed.

It’s not. What – nearly – every writer needs, apart from the ability to be self-critical, is someone else to offer constructive criticism. Not nearly enough writers take this route. Or maybe they don’t specify that the husband, mother, neighbour or cousin should be truly critical. Not just say ‘that’s quite good, dear’ and let the writer continue in the belief that nothing needs changing.

Do you remember Fletcher Moss? He won the Chicken House competition a couple of years ago, and his published book was out last year. And it was very good. But, the place where Fletcher ended his story was where the editor suggested he had got about a third of the way, and he should write quite a bit more to make it a very different book. That didn’t mean Fletcher can’t write. He can. They, on the other hand, could see what might sell, or at least, sell better. If your neighbour isn’t Annie Eaton at Random, they will probably not know these things.

No one can see what goes on inside your head. You can, which is why what makes perfect sense to you, doesn’t always work when someone else reads your story. Is it even interesting to most people? Might it be a tad too encouraging of illegal or immoral behaviour? (I’m talking children’s books here.)

I know I like things to be smooth and lovely, and I still grind my teeth when there are lots of dreadful obstacles in a (published) book. I wish they didn’t need to happen. Except I know the obstacles are there to pave the way for improvements later. So, you need to have some bad stuff happening. Too smooth is ultimately boring.

A year ago I read someone’s manuscript, and the asked for criticism of what was a very good novel was taken extremely badly. In this case it was someone I don’t see in my daily life, but it was a lesson to be learned. I’m reading a surprisingly similar (in feel, not plot) MS at the moment. I have no need to say anything bad about it, but my heart beats faster, reminding me of last year.

In short (yeah, I know this wasn’t short at all), I may have to change to reading nothing outside mainstream publishing. Flak for money is all very well. Unsalaried flak is a different kettle of fish.

Mansfield Revisited

I can’t but believe that Jane Austen would wholeheartedly have approved of what her colleague Joan Aiken did to her Mansfield Park characters. This reissued sequel is exactly what the doctor ordered for people who loved Fanny Price. I was one of them, because she was such an ordinary heroine, while also being so very extraordinary in her own way.

Joan removes Fanny and Edmund and sends them on a long journey, because we don’t need more from them. Instead we have Fanny’s younger sister Susan, who is now 18 and doing just fine with Lady Bertram. With the whole of Mansfield, in fact, apart from her cousin Julia who will never be pleased by anything.

Add a few new characters, such as the Rev Wadham and his sister Mrs Osborne, who stay in the vicarage while Edmund and Fanny are away. A serpent is also needed, so please welcome back Mary and Henry Crawford! Stir well, and you have yourself a book worthy of Miss Austen herself.

Joan Aiken, Mansfield Revisited

What I admire so much is the way Joan Aiken has adopted what to my untrained eye looks like the true language of the Austen era. It does not feel like a poor modern cousin. I’m sure Joan and Jane would have got on at least as famously as Susan and Mary Crawford do…

Now, it was hard to guess whether Mary was there to be redeemed, or to take up where she left off four years earlier. Plenty of possible future husbands for Susan. The Rev Wadham? Cousin Tom? Henry Crawford? Or someone else entirely? Or will Julia’s scheming for her horrible sister-in-law thwart any dreams she might  nurture? Perhaps Mary Crawford has her eyes set on one of the available men? There’s an interesting symmetry where things appear to mirror what happened four years ago.

Joan kept me guessing. This was a most enjoyable return to Mansfield, and although short, the book contains more than one romance.

When you need more of a boar

I’m hoping to cheat some more this weekend by applying the ‘Offspring long arm’ technique to another blog post. So here we have Son at an event the same evening as I covered Oldham and Daughter met up with the Fife sheep farmer, making us all busy with books. Which is what matters.

Over to my in-house translator:

‘On Thursday evening a group of people braved the cold and dark to find Seminar Room 2 in the University of Edinburgh’s Chrystal Macmillan building. I opted to collect a coffee on the way, so had already run into the speaker – Daniel Hahn – topping up his caffeine levels from the Doctor Who tardis purveyor of coffee. The previous seminar was still going on, so we loitered outside, and the would-be audience and old friends alike took the opportunity to corner Danny.

Danny’s task was to talk about his translation of Stella Dreis’ picture book Happiness is a Watermelon on Your Head. Ever the great storyteller and public speaker, Danny did this with gusto. First he took us through the original book in Portuguese, providing a literal translation of what was going on and highlighting particular elements of Dreis’ fantastic artwork. He told us about the things that he liked – apart from the wonderful pictures, obviously – with particular emphasis on Melvin the boar.

Some of the downsides were the slightly odd style of the story and its selective plot. Danny accurately pinpointed that the story mainly had been written to justify the phenomenal artwork. He described his initial translation process, and getting a lukewarm reception from his publisher. It was clear that the story was a bit flat, and there wasn’t enough of Melvin.

In response to a request for a freer translation, Danny asked whether he might be allowed to produce a translation in rhyming verse. A humorous description of the writing process followed, highlighting some of the particular problems encountered – what do you do when the word watermelon doesn’t fit your verse structure, but is clearly a major plot point?

Finally, Danny presented the result – a great picture book, with the text truly complementing the superb images. Plenty of Melvin, and even the watermelons got in. What’s more, Stella Dreis was more than satisfied. The twist was that Dreis is Bulgarian, resident in Germany, and the Portuguese “original” was nothing of the sort; it was a translation. Danny should never have got the job! As it is, Danny is credited with “text by,” and there are talks for the book to be translated into Portuguese!

Danny then spent ¾ of an hour answering questions about the book, translation, children’s literature, and much more, with an eloquence many of us can only dream of. This was a very enjoyable talk, leaving many wanting more from Daniel Hahn! Hope to see him back soon.’

Daniel Hahn and Stella Dreis, Happiness is a Watermelon on Your Head

I just hope this doesn’t give Son ideas. Unless they pay really well.

Medium fresh chicken

At least the chicken is trying, and part of it is fresh, or it is a little bit fresh. (I know. I am being uncharitable. But I do it so well.)

‘Tastes like fresh milk’ is another one. ‘But isn’t’ is what my mind tells me.

My current proximity to estate agents is making me extra allergic to funny language. We were sent the information they wanted to publish to advertise Bookwitch Towers. We had to ‘proofread’ it. I think they wanted to know about the possible howlers on rooms and sizes and stuff. We were more aware of the poor English. I handed the whole thing to the Resident IT Consultant on account of him being far nicer than I am. He barely corrected a word.

After years of us laughing smugly at the ‘deceptively spacious’ homes for sale, agents have got more inventive. Houses are now simply ‘deceptive.’ Luckily they didn’t say that of BT, which is the kindest of houses, and would never want to deceive anyone.

The fact that the ‘how to get there’ instructions contained three left turns, where three right turns would make the venture far more successful, doesn’t matter. Some of us are never quite sure about the difference between left and right.

(And I know that somewhere in this post I am bound to have produced a real whopper of a mistake. I will proofread until my eyes bleed.)

I went to the shops the other day. Near the pedestrian crossing there was a sign, promising me Brow Bar Here. That was definitely a double-take kind of moment. I visualised some sort of railway sleeper at hip height (because that’s where the sign was) onto which you’d bend down and rest your brow. Not sure why you would, were it not for seeing the sign. I read it a few more times, while metaphorically leaning my brow on the imagined railway sleeper, but eventually the penny dropped. (I still don’t know how they do it, though. Do you lay your head down on a bar?)

My local newspaper has provided me with the final quote for the day, ‘woman who can’t stop stripping.’ I feel you’d have to stop when there are no more garments. Or maybe not.

Bookwitch bites #115

Steve Cole had some great news to share this week. He will be writing four (yes!) new Young Bond novels, with the first coming next autumn. He even had to go get a nice new photograph of himself, as befits an Ian Fleming replacement.

Steve Cole

Some longlists are longer than others. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award list is longer than ever this year, with 238 names of hopefuls. 54 are there for the first time (which just goes to show people get nominated and nominated until they win…), presumably getting all excited about the possibility of winning five million kronor.

I was going to say that the Nordic countries have put forward more names than others, but I happened to notice that the UK list was longer still. See below. For the rest of the 238 you have to download the pdf yourself.

UK nominees for ALMA 2014

This week also saw the announcement of other Swedish related prizes, and I’m pleased for Alice Munro and Canada. A bit shocked to learn that only 13 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, however…

The other Nobel Prize that made the Bookwitch family very happy was the Physics prize to Peter Higgs. It almost feels as if we’d been awarded the prize ourselves.

Peter Higgs

Malorie Blackman has announced ‘a campaign to support fiction for young adults in the UK during her two year term in the post. A highlight of this will be the first ever YA Literature Convention, hosted at the London Film and Comic Con in July 2014. Blackman will also be working with Booktrust on a search for the rising stars in the UKYA community.’ I think that sounds terrific, and I’m looking into ways of splitting down the middle so I can go to lots of events all at once.

And finally something on a smaller scale, but who knows? ‘Anyone’ could make it to be children’s laureate or discover a boson or write James Bond books. Here is a challenge for students doing A-levels. The Connell Guides are giving £1000 for the best essay in a competition to be judged by William Boyd. Submissions in January, but they want students to start writing now. So I suggest doing just that. Write! Who knows where it might end? (In Stockholm, shaking some royal hand.)

‘Children have the right to read rubbish’

Malorie Blackman

The children’s laureate was in Manchester yesterday. If anyone has the right to say something like that about children’s reading, it must be Malorie Blackman. And she was only saying what Patrick Ness said the other evening. I think we can all (well, most of us, anyway) agree that reading everything can only be good.

This was another school event organised by the Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Children’s Book Festival, and Malorie was talking to Jackie Roy, who is a favourite chair of mine, someone who asks all the right questions. The event was at Z-arts in Hulme, which is a suitable venue for children of immigrant background in particular to find out how far you can get in life, and that it’s got nothing to do with what colour you are.

Malorie Blackman behind fans

The place was packed, and they even Livestreamed the whole thing to interested parties who were unable to attend. Until this year Malorie has also been unable to come, despite being asked by MLF every year, but as they say in Sweden, trägen vinner.

Malorie spoke about how far equality has come, but pointing out there is a long way still to go before fiction is ethnically diverse, with books featuring disabled characters without being disability books, and where people have a place regardless of sex, race, culture, and so on.

She read very little fiction at home, as her father said it wasn’t real and you ‘never learn anything from fiction.’ So Malorie practically lived at her local library from the age of seven until she was 14 and got a job and could buy her own books. She’d take a packed lunch every Saturday and spend the day, returning home with as many books as she could take, hoping they’d last until the following Saturday.

There were no black children in those books, and it might have been this which made Malorie write on, despite receiving 82 rejection letters from publishers. (She said that she almost gave up after no. 60, but vowed to carry on until the 1000th.) She wrote what she would have wanted to read as a child.

Malorie Blackman

While trying not to tell her readers what to think, Malorie presents a dilemma, and then asks questions to make her characters explore the things she herself is wondering about. It could be animal organ transplants as in Pig Heart Boy, or being a whistle blower versus allowing some things ‘for the greater good,’ like in Noble Conflict.

‘Oh my god, I thought that was an enormous spider!’ I’m not sure what she saw, but something almost made our laureate jump out of the sofa and run…

As a child – and still, actually – she loved comics, using her pocket money to buy them. Their use of cliffhangers has influenced the way she writes. Malorie describes how a teacher at school took her comic away from her and tore it to pieces, because it was ‘rubbish.’ The fact that Noughts & Crosses is about to become a graphic novel gives her great pleasure.

Her careers teacher told Malorie that blacks don’t become teachers, and that she would not pass her English A-level. She laughed as she described walking away from that advice session thinking ‘I’ll show you, you old cow!’

The young Malorie got hooked on computers instead and her first novel was Hacker, which Transworld took on, despite ‘all of it’ needing re-writing. This taught her how to plan, so she wouldn’t waste time writing, and it won her an award, which turned into a wonderful holiday to Barbados.

Malorie Blackman

‘Is that water for me, or has it been here for a long time?’ Malorie pointed to the water next to her when her throat felt dry. (It was for her…)

She’s currently writing her 61st book, and hopes to go on until at least her 100th. And if she didn’t write, she’d have some other book related job. Or maybe she’d be an English teacher. She laughed at that.

When asked if she’d be willing to become the next children’s laureate, her gut reaction was to ask if they had the right person. They were very big shoes to fill, with so many great authors who had done it before her. But she knew she wanted to do it, and it’s an honour to be able to spread her passion for books and reading.

Her mother would be very upset if she didn’t say she supports Arsenal, but to tell the truth she is not a football fan. She has rarely been recognised when out, except for one stalker incident in Sainsbury’s which was ‘well creepy.’

This lovely children’s laureate got the audience to sing Happy Birthday, when a girl asked if she could wish her friend a happy birthday. Our laureate also admitted to having carried around a leotard and tights and a utility belt for a couple of years in secondary school, just in case she ever needed to turn into a super hero in a school kidnapping scenario…

Malorie Blackman

Every book is like opening a new door to somewhere. Malorie loves crime and Jane Austen and can quote most of the first Narnia book. She admires many writers, including Benjamin Zephaniah, Melvin Burgess, Anne Fine, Patrick Ness, Jacqueline Wilson and Jackies Kay and Roy.

The character she feels is mostly her is Callum, and much of what happens to him in Noughts & Crosses has happened to Malorie in real life. As a teenager she was once told to go back to where she came from, so she asked for the bus fare back to Clapham.

Spookily, the launch for Checkmate was on 7/7 seven years ago, and she was having her hair done in central London, when the whole city shut down, and Malorie felt as if she was almost inside one of her own books. She doesn’t condone terrorism, but she can see why people become terrorists. Because of the book connection, she was interviewed on television that time, and there were even people who wanted to ban her book.

Malorie Blackman and Jackie Roy

I’d say that by now Malorie has shown that ‘cow’ a thing or two. The fact that there were two black women on that sofa yesterday made me very happy. One of them is a university lecturer and the other is the children’s laureate.

As I was waiting to go in to the event (gobbling down sandwiches again, having been driven there by the Resident IT Consultant, and trying not to drown in the incredibly deep sofa we hid in) I noticed Malorie disappearing off in the company of a young lady. I was introduced to Sophie (that’s her name) a few minutes later, and she turned out to want to interview me. Yikes. First Malorie. Then me. (Good taste, I have to say.)

Malorie Blackman

And now that Malorie has finally been, she promised she’d be back if the MLF would let her have one of their t-shirts. That seems like A Very Good Deal, so please don’t forget to put one in the post!

Malorie Blackman can be our superhero in a literary T-shirt. No leotard necessary.

You’re never too young to write a book

And then they all turned around and looked at me.

Yes, you!

(That should teach me to sit by the emergency exit.)

I had just enough time to leave the Royal Exchange on Monday and make my way to the People’s History Museum for an afternoon with Eoin Colfer. It was for schools only, so don’t fret if you feel you’ve missed it. Well, you obviously have missed it, but unlike me you are not a school. Just outside Kendals (House of Fraser) I encountered the Waterstones team bound for the same place. The boxes of books almost fell off their trolley, but righted themselves at the last moment.

At the museum a very nice helper asked me to pick a stool (adults had to rough it, as it was fully booked) and to sit at the back (like by the emergency exit), and then as I went to look at the book display I returned to find my stool almost walking away. (You’ll be pleased to hear I wrestled it back.) Left my stool again for ‘other business’ and was rewarded by meeting Eoin’s publicist Adele. (I know her. I don’t have to ask stupid questions like I did the other day.)

Eoin Colfer

In case any of the children were upset to miss an afternoon of school, Eoin mentioned that as a teacher he is legally qualified to hand out homework. He sounded very Irish when he said that.

So, WARP, the new book, is about time travel, and the reason Eoin picked this ‘original’ subject is all to do with Ireland in the 1970s. They had nothing (although Eoin had – still has – three younger brothers, and he hates younger brothers). Television offered only the bible channel and the farming channel, until a friend got BBC, which had wonderful things like Doctor Who, which they could watch through the window…

Eoin Colfer

There were more tall stories about how Eoin came to watch BBC and Doctor Who, which had to do with semi-nudity, a fierce dog and an air rifle. But anyway, this confirmed his determination to write about time travel one day.

Then he told us some rubbish about trying to scare his sons with his writing, but they have watched the Powerpuff Girls, so don’t scare easily. His eldest son is a cruel teenager who flicks his hair and no longer tells his father, who is in charge of all the money, that he loves him. Or whatever.

(For that kind of money I’d be more than willing to tell Eoin I love him.)

The younger one has a wrestler’s death move he uses on his defenseless dad, and there was a long story about the little one’s toilet habits. It sort of makes you want to go, but you can’t very well amidst all the peepee and poopoo and old Frenchmen.

Eoin Colfer

When Eoin returned to his teen disco experience, I knew I’d heard it before and recently. But where? I remembered after a while only to forget it almost immediately. (Preston.) Then remembered again.

There were more dancing memories. Someone very sweetly asked how he met his wife. At a ceilidh, at a very young age. His wife was also responsible for getting Eoin writing, because he was forever saying things like ‘he could do it better’ until she snapped and told him to do it then. Thank you, Mrs C.

His goal is to write fifty books. Current tally is 24. Eoin loves books, but has no plans to marry one. The second WARP instalment will be Hangman’s Revolution which will be published in April.

Kaye Tew for mcbf

Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer

Before Eoin went over to the signing table, he signed some books standing up. They were prizes for the winners of the various categories of the Postcards from the Past competition, launched a year ago. I rather liked the one from the iceberg that did for the Titanic. I didn’t know icebergs could write postcards.

Eoin Colfer with Adele Minchin

This time I almost succeeded in being last in the signing queue, and I’d brought my adult Eoin Colfer books along, seeing as I missed him a few weeks ago. I hope none of the short ten-year-olds in the audience has even an inkling as to what they are about. But they’ll grow up one day, and then they will be allowed to read them, and they will be taller than they are now, and Eoin will be forced to hate them. (I am very short, btw.)

Eoin Colfer

And then it was time for lunch

First I need to get the pink pyjamas out of the way by mentioning them in passing, like this.

Right, that’s that done then.

For a very long time I didn’t meet Teri Terry. And then I see her twice in eight days. Which was very nice. On Tuesday she had some librarians to talk to at Waterstones Deansgate, and being a friendly sort of person she inquired as to how many willing and able lunch companions Manchester had to offer for a meal beforehand.

George Kirk, Jon Mayhew and Teri Terry

Seven, in the end, as some people were working, and some people remembered in the nick of time that they are parents and would actually need to pick up their children from school.

Marnie Riches, Jo Dearden, Nina Wadcock and Lorrie Porter

But the rest of us met up for lunch, with Jon Mayhew the lone male, surrounded by lovely women writers. And me. It was great food, and great fun. I’m so discreet, however, that apart from the pyjamas I will say no more.

Well, not much more, anyway. We talked ebooks at my end, and praised Harry Potter (yes, really), and there was some publishing gossip. And people brandished their copies of Teri’s and Jon’s books for signing. (We never forget we are fans first.) Marnie Riches who came despite being a parent-picker-upper left early. Which was a shame, but better than nothing.

Teri Terry

The day started with me boarding Teri’s Pendolino* in Stockport, so that I could gently guide her from Piccadilly towards Deansgate, and by happy circumstance interview her as well. I felt Waterstones café was a suitably bookish venue for this kind of thing. Teri bribed me with apple juice, so I will only say nice things about her. (I would have, even without juice.)

Marnie Riches

Marnie, eager to get in early to make up for parenthood, joined us there, and I saw the attraction in this and appointed her my photographer. The rumour must have spread, as Jon also turned up early, but by then the camera had been packed away. And in order to feed Marnie before she had to leave, we crossed the road to the Mexican restaurant someone had suggested.

Their cheesecake could have done with being half the size.

*That makes me feel like a cowboy who jumps from his horse to the stagecoach for a daring rescue.

Good craic

I heard several people say Good craic yesterday, and each time I thought ‘oh, so that’s how you say it’ and immediately knew I’d never be able to replicate it myself. (Or is it so simple as to be ‘crack’?)

Whatever this craic is, it’s what Colin Bateman was scheduled to do with fellow funny Irishman Eoin Colfer, and ended up sharing with newcomer James Oswald instead. James might look like a benign younger version of Gerry Adams, but he sounds as English as, well, as the English. He was described as a farmer from Fife, who self-published his first two books and sold hundreds of thousands of Kindle copies, and won prizes, before being given a ‘real’ paper book contract.

James Oswald

They were talking to Liam Bell, who asked if they wanted to do rock, paper, scissors over who would go first…

James realised within minutes what I could have told him from the beginning; you just don’t want to do a reading after Colin Bateman. Eoin might have got away with it, but only just. So the fact that James’s book actually sounded pretty good in its funereal setting, even after Colin’s reading of The Prize, has to mean it’s not a bad book at all. (I got a copy, so one day I might be able to tell you if I was right.)

Colin Bateman

Colin talked about how he started out, and then he moved on to this collection of short stories that he has recently published himself (which he sold under the signing table). The Prize was one of the stories from Dublin Express, and if you want a copy, I suppose you first need to find a table from which it can be sold.

Then James talked about his first book Natural Causes, and why he went down the self-publishing route. Basically, no one fancied a police procedural teamed with the supernatural. Or at least not until it got attention and won things. Having an editor is brilliant, apparently, and his could see immediately that stuff he’d added to the book for all the wrong reasons, should be the first to go.

He might live in Fife, and he might have lived in Wales when he wrote the book, but he set it in Edinburgh, with the help of maps and memories from his student days. Although James did – accidentally – change the reputation of some areas of the city. He likes Ian Rankin and Stuart MacBride, but otherwise prefers non-crime by Iain Banks and Neil Gaiman, as well as comics and writing fan-fiction.

The reason Colin writes so fast is he has a short attention span. He writes so fast that he frequently has too much time on his hands, which could be why he embarked on his Dublin Express venture, and also the musical he wrote, based on 21 songs by the Undertones. Once it was all ready, they changed their minds and would only allow him the use of one song, so it is now more of a play…

Coming from middle class Bangor, he felt unable to write fiction set in the tough cul-de-sacs (sic) of that town, and went for the mean streets of Belfast instead. No planner, Colin makes it up as he goes along. And he doesn’t necessarily have to know what he’s writing about, having written a 500-page book set in the Empire State Building, based purely on a tourist leaflet.

Asked if either man would be happy to write about someone else’s characters, James said he’s not brave enough, and there is a risk he’d put ghosts in as well. Colin has written a Rebus for television, with Ian Rankin’s blessing. He could do what he wanted to Rebus, but mustn’t change his taste in music.

We finished on the note that crime writers are very nice, while romance writers are ‘catty as hell.’

A Bloody Scotland Saturday

Stirling Highland Hotel

Through the archway we went, studiously trying to remove ‘I wanna be like youuuu’ from rotating forever in our minds. My driver had a childish fondness for the archway at the Stirling Highland Hotel (one of the venues for Bloody Scotland), so was very pleased she could take me there. She unwisely confided in me that she had had the song from the Jungle Book running through her head all morning. That sort of thing is contagious, it is.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Anyway, I got my tickets, handed a few back as the good little witch I am, was given another by the kind Lisa, had a pre-event sandwich on a bench in the sunshine, watched authors coming and going, and couldn’t help noticing the twins we tend to see at every Scottish book event.

Stirling Highland Hotel

Went to hear Linda Strachan and Sophie McKenzie talk about ‘Breaking the Boundary,’ which was pretty good. Sex, arson, that kind of thing. (More of that later.) Briefly said hello while they were signing books afterwards, and then I had to run, due to this extra ticket which changed my whole afternoon.

Linda Strachan and Sophie McKenzie

It's all downhill

I hobbled downhill. With some difficulty, but you ‘always get down,’ don’t you? One way or another. Did I ever mention how steep it is around Stirling Castle? Made an assumption that Arne Dahl would still be signing at the Albert Halls after his event (which I missed), and I was right and he was, so I took more photos.

Arne Dahl

Left to go hunt for a salad or something in M&S, which I then ate sitting outside in the sunshine on another bench. Very nice. Went inside for some tea. Went outside again. Yes, I yo-yoed in that lift, up and down, up and down. It was so warm in the sun that my knees, which wore black jeans, almost self-ignited. Such a relief that the forecast for Sunday is rain and winds; ‘it was a dark and stormy Sunday…’

The Albert Halls

Went back in to buy a book. Yes, actually to buy a book. They didn’t have it. Got another instead. Chatted to Colin Bateman who’d just arrived, and apologised for not buying his first book, which they didn’t have. We worried a bit about his lost event partner, Eoin Colfer.

Then I spied Arne Dahl again, and went over to introduce myself. As you do. (We had already facebooked a little, so I wasn’t totally out of the blue.) ‘Do you fancy..?’ he said. ‘Yes, I do fancy. But I no longer have time for anything,’ I replied. So that was that. Nice while it lasted.

Colin Bateman

By then it was time for Good Craic (which I will never be able to pronounce properly!) with Colin and Eoin’s replacement James Oswald, which was great fun. (More of which later.) At the signing after the event I asked Colin if he had more of those books that came from under the table. He did. And then he did that very nice thing and said I could have a copy for free for being such a lovely witch. (Actually, that’s not how he described me, but it was very kind of him. Jolly good thing he writes crime and not romances.) Colin had read from his Dublin Express, so I knew I wanted to read it. James did some of his signing standing up, which looked polite, but uncomfortable.

James Oswald

Val McDermid

I swigged some water and then it was time for Craig Robertson to keep Val McDermid and Stuart MacBride in order in The Great, the Good and the Gory. It was most enjoyable, but not in the slightest orderly. (You know the drill by now; more about this later.) Caught them at their signing afterwards, before I elbowed my way into the room for one final Saturday sitting; the Jo Nesbø event.

Stuart MacBride

Daring to Thrill, where Jo chatted to Peter Guttridge, was planned to be the highlight of the day, and they even used the balcony for people to sit to fit them all in. After which I had a family dinner to go to, because the Hungarian Accountant was in town, so I never got the opportunity to see if I could have sneaked in to hear who won the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year at the fancy dinner they had. I couldn’t quite fork out £40 to eat with these lovely, but murderous, people, but would not have been averse to the odd bit of sneaking.

Peter Guttridge and Jo Nesbø

And as I’ve said, there will be more details of the day as soon as I have recovered. See you later!

Bateman, Dublin Express