Tag Archives: Donna Moore

A second Saturday of EIBF 2018

Our second book festival Saturday was mostly spent chatting to author friends we’d made earlier. And that’s a very nice thing; this meeting up with people who’ve all come to the same place. It’s also a rather bad pun to indicate that the first event yesterday morning was chaired by Janet Ellis. I got slightly more excited by this than my Photographer, until I did my maths and realised she’s too young for Janet’s time on Blue Peter. But us oldies enjoyed the BP-ness of it.

Kit de Waal

We had to get out of bed really early to get to Edinburgh to hear Jo Nadin and Kit de Waal talking to Janet. But thank goodness it was in the Spiegeltent, where you can buy tea and cake to revive yourself. I reckon we survived until well past lunch on those calories. It was so early when we got to the gates that the gates were actually not open, so we joined the queue, where we were discovered by SCBWI’s Sarah Broadley. My eyes were not open enough to see anyone at all just then. (That’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, in case you were wondering. It is, even if you weren’t.)

Jo Nadin

Once my eyes had opened a little more, I saw Alex Nye arriving for her event chairing A L Kennedy. And when we were back by the yurts after the first event, we watched A L being given the Chris Close treatment, although I think she might actually have given Chris the A L Kennedy treatment. She had her own ideas of what to do, like covering her face with a mask.

Jo Nadin and Kit de Waal

We also hung in the signing tent while Jo and Kit did their thing, meeting young miss Nadin for the first time, and after that they were ushered out to the photocall area, which brought back fond memories for Jo. And us.

Sent the Photographer over to catch perennial weekend morning favourite Andy Stanton and his long signing queue. It’s nice with traditions.

Andy Stanton

While getting ready to cross to George Street, we spied Barry Hutchison coming away from his morning event, and I could have sworn that was Chae Strathie who turned up as well. Barry came over for a hug. Two hugs, really, but that was before my Photographer mentioned the squirrels. We were treated to an impromptu show about a banana drink and a piece of popcorn in the wrong place (Barry’s throat; the wrong part of it) before he was called on to drive his family home.

Lari Don

There was a queue for the SCBWI event with Lari Don, Candy Gourlay and Elizabeth Wein, but it was all right. We got in and we got seats.

Candy Gourlay

Elizabeth Wein

Afterwards we hung in the George Street signing tent talking to the various SCBWI members and waiting for Candy to be free to socialise. Even Mr Gourlay turned up for a moment before deciding it was hopeless and walked off again. When the wait was over and Candy had promised not to talk to anyone else – hah! – we went for tea in the yurt, where we had such a good time that we forgot that Candy was going to be photographed by Chris Close, and she had to be extricated to high-five herself and to smile at the unlikeliest props. (At least she didn’t get the head with the black and white-chequered cloth covering!)

Candy Gourlay

Finally met Barbara Henderson in person, a split second after I worked out that’s who she was, and mere hours after talking about her book at home. Chatted to a charming **illustrator, whose name I forgot immediately, and her charming son, who will go far. Caught a glimpse of Donna Moore and then Photographer and I disagreed on whether we saw Jenny Brown or not. But it was definitely Yanis Varoufakis outside.

When there were more SCBWIs round the tea table than you could shake a stick at*, we decided we needed to run for the train we had picked as reasonably safe from too many Runrig fans heading to Stirling. Seems most of the 20 000 or so had not chosen our train. Just as well.

*There is obviously no such thing. I have plenty of sticks.

** Hannah Sanguinetti!!

(Photos Helen Giles)

Bookwitch bites #108

Please open your wallets and empty your bank accounts (just a little) for Donna Moore. After a year of almost complete silence this lovely writer and fan of crime emailed to ask for money. Seeing as it’s for a good cause (Glasgow Women’s Library), I decided not to object, and even to pass her request on to you. Donna’s already got 98% of what she hopes to raise, so you (yes, you) could be the one to tip the scales and make her agonising ten km run, excuse me, walk, a total success.

Donna Moore

Rather her than me, I say. It’s tomorrow, so don’t delay. (It’s going to rain, isn’t it?)

Aside from her work for this unusual library, I believe Donna is working on the Bristol CrimeFest, which is now sold out. That’s great news, except for those of us who are not travelling down to Bristol in three weeks’ time to rub shoulders with the best of crime.

Someone who’s going to be there is Martin Edwards, who recently did some travelling of the kind that instantly caused his facebook friends and blog readers to turn green. Martin travelled on the Orient Express, and it looks even more marvellous in his photos than I had imagined. And as I went looking for the link, I couldn’t help noticing that his crime blog currently resembles a seductive holiday brochure. I’m going to have camp outside Martin’s house and follow him wherever he goes.

Instead of sponsored running or walking, I can see myself living it up on an elegant train. Or hotel. Or just some downright wonderful seaside.

I should get out more.

Doors Open

Whenever I see Ian Rankin I feel so pleased. It’s like meeting an old friend. Then I have to remind myself that he doesn’t know me, and that I haven’t actually read any of his books. One short story. Maybe two. But now, now I have actually read one of Ian’s novels.

With our usual flair for things we bought two copies of Doors Open for Christmas. I gave Son the one I bought. The Resident IT Consultant bought one, possibly for himself, even. That’s the one I took on holiday with me, intending to ditch it at the other end once read. I hadn’t calculated on how long it would take me to finish, so the ditching has now taken place at the home of Pippi instead, but she likes Edinburgh, so all is well. It may even go some little way towards offsetting all the food she gave me, not to mention a bed for the night. (And I’m the guest from hell, just so you know.)

What did I think? Well, for all that the Resident IT Consultant liked Doors Open, I found it slow, and long. I’m not sure what Ian could have cut, but it was too long for me, for the plot. Which is an Art heist, which is sort of fun and very cultured, albeit against the law.

Ian Rankin's fictitious Monboddo

You meet the perpetrators and get to like them so it’s hard to know what to think. Should you approve of crime, when it is ‘just’ helping yourself to some art?

But then you meet a really bad baddie, even though he drinks coffee at Cento Tre. But then you almost like him. And there is a worser baddie than him. And then you get to know the detective, so I wasn’t sure where to place my loyalty. Although I came to dislike the policeman after a while.

The main character, Mike Mackenzie, is quite ‘nice’, but perhaps too rich and unthinking to be totally likeable. The heist goes well-ish. But you know something will be very bad, because that’s how the novel begins.

Things are bad and things are good. Halfway along I got pretty anxious, so Ian was clearly projecting something in my direction. Some of the ending was good, some justified, and some just plain ‘was-that-all?’. The epilogue also ends with too much of a ‘what-is-about-to-happen-here-then?’

So, what I really thought after what was a pretty solid performance from our Mr Ranking, was that it was OK and quite nice as Edinburgh crime goes. But for fast-paced heist type books that make you sit up and laugh and really engage with the characters, whether good or bad or just plain stupid, you want Donna Moore’s Old Dogs or Declan Burke’s The Big O or Crime Always Pays.

Take my word for it. Donna and Declan don’t make quite as much money from their writing as Ian does. But they should.

And I still love Ian Ranking, sorry, Rankin.

(The mis-spelling became an in-joke while I was reading, and as innocent people have to be protected I can’t say any more.)

Now I suppose Ian will never be my ‘friend’.

Bookwitch bites #41

Our libraries have been in the news again this week, and the speech made by Philip Pullman has viralled all over the internet. Mary Hoffman was there, and her report from the meeting in Oxford is on her blog. I know that what Philip said is mostly common sense, but the man has a nice way of phrasing common sense.

Sally Prue does not only have a new book out next week, but has started The Word Den, a blog about words. She claims to be not very techie, but expert that I am, I think it looks just fine.

Donna Moore has had a good week, and also a somewhat bad week. The good news is that she has been nominated for THE LEFTY: Best humorous mystery novel for Old Dogs. My fingers are crossed.

The iconic Richard and Judy

In a press release this week I learned that ‘iconic presenting duo Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan’ have been made into cartoon characters for the launch of their Children’s Book Club, with them working alongside Booktrust. The club is made up of three categories with six titles in each; Reading Together, Reading by Yourself and Fluent Reader, and aims to help parents choose great books which children will love.

With the power that R&J (or more precisely, whoever chooses for them) have, it would have been nice to have seen fewer ‘best sellers’ on the list, even though I agree that those picked are great books. The opportunity for more obscure – but equally suitable – books is a shame to lose.

Finally, for those of you who read Swedish I suggest you head over here to see if you can win a copy of Meg Rosoff’s What I Was when it’s called Den Jag Var.

Bookwitch bites #25

Author-wise it was a busy Wednesday over at the local bookshop. Not only did Cathy Cassidy do her friendship thing for younger readers, but she had barely left when it was time for Adèle Geras and Sophie Hannah to do their event. In fact, she hadn’t left, as Adèle arrived too early and caught her as she was running for her train. It was admiration all round, as they are fans of each other’s books. Adèle read from Dido, and Sophie read from her latest crime novel, A Room Swept White.

Another criminally minded lady is Donna Moore, who can now add the job title Writer In Virtual Residence at the schools in the Kuspuk School District in Alaska. Donna was last there in the spring, yoyo-ing between schools, talking to the students about writing. When we saw Donna in Charlotte Square in August, she was saying how she hoped this would happen, but wasn’t sure they’d want her! Of course they want her. I think she’ll be really good for these children in the middle of ‘nowhere’.

And as I almost mentioned last week, Fiona Dunbar has a new series of books for 8-12s about a girl called Kitty Slade who develops ‘phantorama’, the ability to see ghosts. Each story contains a mystery that she solves with the aid of her phantorama. Fiona started out wanting to do a sort of Famous Five for the 21st century, but ended up with something more like Ghost Whisperer for kids. The first title is Divine Freaks and it’s out next spring.

To avoid this being an all ladies affair, I’ll round off with Alan Garner, over in Alderley Edge. It’s not far, but I don’t go very often. I mainly dream of the date loaf from the baker’s. It’s fifty years since The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was first published, and there is a new special edition, along with the paperback of The Moons of Gomrath. Alan Garner is the kind of author everyone admires tremendously. Coming to his stories as an adult, I may not have the same feelings for them as those who grew up reading Alan’s books. We used to listen to them in the car, and I have to admit to never having quite understood The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Lots of running around in tunnels under the Edge. I think.

This is no vicarage

I think I get it now. This fascination for Nordic crime. People like Adèle Geras, who can’t have enough of the gritty crime from our cold and dark countries. And me, who shudders at the mere thought of some of the bleak grittiness.

I’m currently reading a much talked about Swedish crime novel, which can remain anonymous for the time being. Started it on Friday night and read solidly for an hour, or about 100 pages. Then I thought to myself that it was so unpleasant that I might as well give up and save myself the remaining 500 pages. Ghastly crime (I know they all are, really) and not a single likeable character.

Then for good measure I continued yesterday. It’s scary and off-putting and I still can’t stand the characters. I don’t like the Stockholm setting, because although I don’t live there, I feel I could do. In which case I do not want that sort of stuff happening on my home ground. I can see myself leading that kind of drab life and I feel vaguely sick.

But that’s what you like, isn’t it? If it’s grim and it’s grim in a different place, for people not living your kind of life, then it’s just ‘nice’ to watch from the safe distance of your armchair. While I can see myself there, I’m scared.

I used to have this theory that readers with ‘cosy’ British lives enjoy the murderous Ikea life style in the glow of the Aurora and all that. You’re safe in your semidetached lives. And I used to think that I adore cosy English crime because it’s different. Set in charming surroundings, with interestingly different characters, and totally unattainable.

Now though, I find crime like Stephen Booth’s – for instance – a little bit too close to home. But still quite enjoyable, as the Peak District is still a few miles down the road.

And isn’t that why we like Agatha Christie? Most of us can’t aspire to that kind of life (partly because it’s now in the past), and feel secure in the knowledge that we won’t be murdered in any mansions or vicarages anytime soon.

Having come to this brilliant conclusion I had to try and decide what type of crime writing I do like and feel comfortable with. Irish fantasy. Quite safe. V I Warshawski, safely far away in Chicago. Mma Ramotswe. Very far away. And yes, Stieg Larsson. Because for some reason I can’t see myself living in his settings. Anything with humour, really. Like Donna Moore’s mad capers. Not real. A reflection on society, but not my life.

I yearn for more Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Safe time, safe class. Yes, I want safe crime. Something that is unlikely to reach me.

Bookwitch bites #22

Let’s return to my bites after a bit of a bite break.

Had this link sent on by Beverley Naidoo. Her book Burn my Heart has been dramatised by the Trestle Theatre with Blindeye, and they will tour theatres up and down the country for a couple of months, starting on September 21st. Not enough of the upping and downing for my taste, since they have cut a wide circle round anywhere near me. Burn my Heart was one of my very favourite books a few years ago.

Horrid Henry Rocks

If you want to read about Horrid Henry and his beloved band the Killerboy Rats, then Horrid Henry Rocks is out now. I trust that none of you would prefer Perfect Peter’s Daffy and her Dancing Daisies? Francesca Simon was in Manchester on Friday, or so I’ve been led to believe. Before exhaustion hit, I’d fully intended to pop along, but I can tell you that very little popping will be done for a while.

It may be pink, but it’s still about reading. Voting for your Queen of Teen is open until Thursday 9th September. I can’t tell people who to vote for, but there are a few good ones on that shortlist. Think pink. Or not.

Then a final begging paragraph on behalf of Donna Moore, on behalf of a worthy charity (the Grandfather used to be involved with it). Signed books from authors, or possibly signed  – or even unsigned – books from non-authors, to put in a raffle. Donna, of the floral Doc Martens, is feeling self-conscious donating her own Old Dogs, and is hoping her book can hide between lots of others. Old Dogs has nothing to be ashamed of! But there is no harm in more donations. I might go and see if I have anything to donate. Perhaps I wrote and published a book without noticing, that I can sign and send?

Hair apparent,

Nick Sharratt

and not. Bald is in, and didn’t even qualify as a description for when I went looking for Michael Grant. Not that that is his name. Plenty of other bald men in and out of yurt. Nick Sharratt at least has a beard. Found him signing on Sunday afternoon, wearing my favourite colour.

Ally Kennen

David Almond

Ally Kennen and Lucy Christopher had to squeeze up and share a table, but they looked cheerful all the same. David Almond had one to himself, and a pretty long queue. So I didn’t get my book signed. Sigh.

Lucy Christopher

Joyce Carol Oates was on early, for a Sunday, and we only just caught her at her signing, with not a hope of getting there for the official photo call. I was interested to see that some fans didn’t hesitate bringing out piles of their favourite books. With that long a queue I wouldn’t have, but we’re not all the same.

Joyce Carol Oates

Francesca Simon was the star turn of the day for us. She’s still not blonde, but she assured us that her lovely dark hair is now nit-free. (She brought the subject up!) Never having seen Francesca in action, her Horrid Henry talk was high up on my wishlist. I even managed to get my Horrid Henry non-fan to come along, which isn’t bad going. She, and I, were very taken with Jolly Josh who seems like a dream young man, not averse to the HH limelight. Rabid Rebecca was there as well, and I wouldn’t hesitate having her as my babysitter.

This Anglo-Saxon expert told us about alliteration, her horrible younger siblings and her badly behaved niece and nephew (I can see the next family get-together will be a real success), and had the nerve to admit that she’d sent Josh to dance lessons. There were pink Polish underpants, and the sign language interpreter did a lot of jumping about, making funny faces. It’ll be the HH effect.

Francesca’s beautiful dress appeared to be fully zipped up, unlike that very embarrassing moment in the past. We were treated to the world premiere of a reading from Horrid Henry Rocks, and children were carried out, and carried back in again. The brave Francesca even sang her own heavy metal rock number, which isn’t bad, considering she doesn’t know anything about heavy metal.

Francesca Simon

And then we all ran to make it to the front of the signing queue. Obviously we didn’t all make it to the front, but I didn’t do bad for an old witch. Even got to meet lovely PR lady Kate at long last.

The middle of the afternoon passed in a bit of a blur, but I know we toed and froed. Had been having an exchange of messages with Michael Grant about where and when to meet up for a brief interview (a witch has to make good use of his rare trip to Europe, all the way from California). In the end we just accidentally ran across each other, so sat down on that well used decking for a chat. I believe I even prevented the poor jet-lagged man from drinking his much needed coffee. Now that I think about it.

Michael Grant

Michael then went to get ready for his event, where his fondness for Mac Keynotes caused a wee hiccough while all available computer nerds rushed to his aid. I suspect he was seconds away from phoning his son for help.

This was another talk where there were a good number of readers in the audience, by which I mean it wasn’t full of parents. And that’s always good. Michael wanted to show us what it’s like to be hungry, so experimented with ‘moral ambiguity’ on two basically decent volunteers, who were willing to bash each other with a baseball bat for a Snickers bar.

He played us the theme songs he’s chosen to identify his characters by, and told us how he met his wife. We know they cleaned toilets for ten years, before deciding to earn piles of money writing books. There was also the question of whether Stephen King ripped Michael off, or vice versa.

It seems Michael doesn’t plan his writing, but instead writes ‘as he goes along, freaking out every day’. And this two-finger typist likes the grossest scenes the best.

Gone signing

It was like Piccadilly Circus in the bookshop at five thirty, with three authors and their queues competing for attention. After the photographer was done, we met up with the lovely Donna Moore, who had come all the way from Glasgow to see us. (And for a party, it has to be admitted.) Donna wore her summer Doc Martens, which was a relief to me who had imagined nothing other than heels would do.

Donna Moore

We went to the Spiegeltent for drinks (tea, you know), where we swapped information on what we’ve done and what we want to do and all that. Talked Old Dogs and who can be permitted to read it. (Neither the Grandmother nor Donna’s parents’ elderly neighbour.) She’s writing more capers. Two at once, or something. And we talked about Bristol and Alaska.

Left the Spiegeltent before we were kicked out. The tired witches to ‘go home’ and Donna to her party.

Bookwitch bites #17

Big Beat From Badsville

I’m satisfied beyond belief by the above screen cap. I have worked so hard and for so long and until now everyone has been nothing but kind and polite. Thank goodness for someone like Donna Moore who understands my level of sickness.

Another clever woman, also based in Scotland (could it be the water?), has an excellent idea for the forthcoming Edinburgh International Book Festival. Look here for Nicola Morgan’s plans for meeting up in Charlotte Square.

Continuing with the ladies, Lucy Christopher won the Branford Boase award for Stolen this week, receiving the prize from the fair hands of Jacqueline Wilson. Wish I’d been there. Wish I’d read the book. I don’t know what’s become of me. No time for anything at all.

And finally, I need to announce the birth of Photowitch. There can never be too many witches, and now there is somewhere for you to go when all you need is something to look at, without tiring yourself with reading. Tortoises, roses, whatever next?

Charitable crime

The best kind, perhaps. I’ve had Crimespotting, an Edinburgh Crime Collection introduced by Irvine Welsh, on the TBR pile for a year now. Donna Moore was singing its praises on her blog and I hastened to buy it. Yes, buy it. Actually. Felt that since it’s in aid of charity (the OneCity Trust) that I should pay. I hope there is a slight logic in this.

Ten well known crime writers have each written one short story featuring a crime that has some connection with Edinburgh. Some I liked a lot, others less. There was one I didn’t quite get, and one where there was an uncalled for attack on homeopathy.

Ian Rankin’s one was clever and scary, although I did wonder about one fact which jumped out at me. Margaret Atwood has written a nice historical/modern tale featuring Elizabeth I among others.

James Robertson’s 19th century story made me think of Sherlock Holmes with a conscience. Denise Mina’s contribution is very short, which just goes to show how brief you can be and still have an impact.

And then there’s Duncan’s mother, aka Lin Anderson. Duncan is a Philip Pullman fan, which is how I’ve heard of him and his mum. And now I’ve sampled Lin’s style, I know I’d like to read more. Her Dead Close is a mix of forensics and ghosts.

Before I’d even read this collection, Donna blogged about another one. I somehow suspect I’ll never quite catch up.