Tag Archives: Helen Grant

…and the Christmas tagliatelle

The Fledgling Girls booked themselves in for Christmas lunch at Corrieri’s yesterday, and they allowed me to tag along, in all my un-Fledglingness.

Moira McPartlin, Alex Nye, Bookwitch and Helen Grant

It was good. Corrieri’s used to be somewhere the Resident IT Consultant’s relatives gathered for Christmas Eve pizzas in the semi-olden days, so it has Christmassy connotations for me. And what could be more seasonal than mushrooms and tagliatelle? Fish and chips. Pizza. It was all good.

We exchanged gifts and cards.

We exchanged opinions on a lot of things, from all that stuff in the news, to literary agents, authors having large incomes (hah), second husbands, incidents with cars, art, lemon desserts, having nice offspring, 1980s music, getting on with one’s parents. You know, perfectly normal conversation.

At least I think it was…

We might have stayed longer than the restaurant expected us to, but it’s hard to stop chatting mid-gossip. If there is a next time, I’ll have Moira’s dessert.

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Killing me

I don’t know if you noticed me mentioning Fleshmarket Close last week, and how I avoided walking down it with Helen Grant? It pays to be careful around someone like her. Helen likes horror, and kills quite a few people – characters – in her writing.

Some time last year, I think, I might have moaned a bit on social media. I wasn’t bad, but Helen must have thought I felt worse than I did. Which was kind of her. To notice, I mean. And she then asked if I’d ‘feel better’ if she put me in the short story she was writing just then. Which was kind of her.

Not one to turn down an opportunity to feature in fiction, I agreed. Helen made it quite clear I wasn’t going to survive.

Rosemary Pardoe, A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror

Well, last week Helen handed me my own copy of the anthology where her story is published. It’s called A Ghosts & Scholars Book of Folk Horror, edited by Rosemary Pardoe. That’s why I felt that avoiding dangerous-sounding narrow alleys in the dark might be at least a little sensible. Just in case.

There are many more stories in this anthology, but I dived straight in to read ‘mine’ first. And I feel it needs to be mentioned separately.

The Valley of Achor is of course not about me. It is far more about Helen herself, or someone like her. Someone who likes old ruins and who doesn’t mind crawling about in the cold and the mist, actually touching ancient stones and other weird things.

The only thing I’m sure about is that I have stayed in the B&B where ‘I’ stay in the story. Minus the whisky, of course.

And just like you should never walk up those deserted stairs in that haunted house when you’ve heard an odd sound in the night, then I’d not have…

Oh. No.

The Dublin Ghost Story Festival 2018

No, I did not attend this Dublin book festival, but I am not above borrowing freely from others.

Helen Grant who is heavily into ghosts, as we know, was invited to attend, and she not only met Joyce Carol Oates, but she moderated her panel!!! According to Helen’s blog post about it, this was her first moderation experience. Well, to my mind they couldn’t have picked a better ghosty moderator. Or do I mean ghostly..?

Ray Russell, Helen Grant, Andrew Michael Hurley, V.H.Leslie by Diala El Atat

It seems that Dublin was wonderful and the bookshops were wonderful and the people attending were also a bit wonderful. And Helen shook the hand of John Connolly. (Beat you to that, dear.)

On the other hand, it’s not easy pleasing the fans. Helen had gone looking on Goodreads to see what people thought of the masters of ghostliness:

‘M.R.James:
I can’t finish these.
Extremely overrated.
L.T.C.Rolt:
I had high hopes for this & all i can realy say is this book didnt meet them.
Sheridan Le Fanu:
a bit amateur-ish and poorly derivative.
Bram Stoker (Dracula):
overall, it was shit.
Don’t read this book. It’s awful.’

I suppose just because a book is old doesn’t mean it has to be good…

Ghost launch #2, take #2

I completely forgot the Mars bar. I’m the kind of witch who gives authors in need Mars bars.

Che Golden and Helen Grant

We launched Helen Grant’s Ghost last night. This was the second Edinburgh attempt, after the snow in March, and this time we were successful. Author Che Golden had mentioned the need for a Mars bar in her reverse psychology sort of invitation to the event on social media the day before. Che was chairing, so clearly felt the need to entice people to come. Online, Helen and Che have been known to call a spade a spade. And worse.

In person, Che is disappointingly polite.

Helen Grant and Ghost

We had a full room at Blackwells, and not just because both Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant came. There were a few authors, like Alex Nye, Joan Lennon, Philip Caveney and Roy Gill. Also a Ghost, except it was just some lunatic covered in a bedsheet, who later turned out to be Kirkland Ciccone gone bananas. And some perfectly normal people.

The bananas were later visible on his shirt, which he’d teamed quite nicely with a sequinned jacket. So while everyone else was also beautifully turned out, no one was quite as bananas as Kirkie.

Kirkland Ciccone

Once the silly photographs had been tweeted, Che went to work with a host of questions. Helen continued the fruit theme by mentioning The Pineapple, where you can stay for a holiday, and the deserted ruin nearby, which is one of the many places to have inspired her.

Helen Grant

She said again how hard Ghost had been to write. The dream would be an agent who reads her new novel immediately, loves it and calls with a book auction offer of £5 million. Helen doesn’t want to write more YA, but prefers to work on traditional ghost stories.

Che reminisced about how on their first meeting Helen took her to Innerpeffray Library, and showed her the leper squint. It’s what she does for her friends, I find.

Che Golden

Che also pointed out that while she has read every single book Helen has written, Helen has not read any* of Che’s. This is possibly not true, but a sign of how they insult each other. I occasionally wonder if I shouldn’t have introduced them, but then, where would I learn such a varied vocabulary?

Helen sets herself an amount of words to be written every week. If she has worked hard, she might get Fridays off. That’s when she relaxes by visiting solitary places, for the atmosphere. She can recommend graveyards.

Philip Caveney and Susan Singfield

And on that cheerful note it was time to buy copies of Ghost and to mingle and chat. There was wine.

Roy Gill

After I’d given Mr Grant a quick Swedish lesson, it was time to go home. Which, is easier said than done on a Thursday, with still no evening trains. We lured poor Kirkland to come along with us, which meant his debut on the Edinburgh trams as well as probably getting home considerably later than he’d have done under his own steam. But we meant well.

*I can recommend them.

Ghost in the press

I might not have anything new and fresh to say about Helen Grant’s Ghost, what with the lack of a second launch this week. But luckily this ‘mum-of-two’ has got herself mentioned in the local press to mark the occasion.

Sunday Post

Isn’t it incredible how women still have children when they are mentioned for any reason at all, while I’ve noted a distinct lack of dads-of-two – or any other number – writing books? (Despite that, it’s a very good article.)

No multitasking for the men.

Strathearn Herald

Snow stops play

So. Snow.

It can be quite annoying, at times. Even if all that white looks pretty, what with the beautiful light coming into your rooms and everything.

We had a full Thursday planned. I was going to Edinburgh for some Swedish church stuff. Daughter was flying in from the continent to join me. (At one point it looked like both the Resident IT Consultant and Son were going to come along too. Unheard of.)

After that we were going to hang out somewhere nice for a bit; maybe Dishoom.

And then we’d go to Blackwells and launch Helen Grant’s Ghost again.

But you probably know what happened. Snow closed airports and railway stations and the trains and the planes went nowhere. One Scottish children’s author managed to leave the country on what must have been about the last plane out of Edinburgh on Wednesday.

Ghost was postponed. Personally I blame this weather on the children’s author who was going to chat to Helen about her book at the launch. She had gone out and bought garden things, envisaging some imminent opportunity for sitting out in the garden over drinks.

At one point it looked like church was cancelling itself too, but with the help of higher powers the minister found a train out of Newcastle. On the other hand, I doubt she had many ‘customers’ as I suspect most of the others couldn’t get anywhere either. I certainly couldn’t.

And with snow closing Geneva airport as well, Daughter could no longer blame it all on the UK and its way with snow.

I remember The Big Snow in 1968. It’s just that back then we had few plans for our time. It didn’t matter too much. Today, Son is/was due to go somewhere [ridiculously far] for the day. Dodo’s family are/were coming north for the weekend. The Resident IT Consultant even had to cancel a phone call due to snow.

But it does look quite nice.

Snow

Is last best?

I’d been all set to muse a bit about third books in trilogies, when Helen Grant mentioned another [potentially bad] aspect of writing trilogies, at her Thursday launch.

When asked about the likelihood of a sequel for Ghost, and the question then sliding quickly on to trilogies, Helen pointed out that one awkward thing about them is that for the author who carefully plots books one, two and three, there is much that needs to be written after the first book. But if that doesn’t sell well, the publisher might decide against the next two books.

And then where will you be, a third into a story and no end in sight?

It is, of course, what initially happened to Nick Green’s The Cat Kin. He self published the second and third books, before the whole trilogy was picked up by Strident.

But as Helen said, while she was lucky with her Forbidden Spaces trilogy and it did get published, there was perhaps rather too scant attention from the publisher towards the end.

So, there is every reason to stick to standalone novels. There is always the possibility of sequels by public demand.

Anyway, what I was really getting to here, is the seeming lack of interest from publishers when book three is about to be born. Increasingly, I hear nothing about the ends of trilogies, and there are no review copies available.

I always feel a bit guilty at this point. Am I merely seen as looking for a free book for my own reading pleasure?

Probably.

While I can see there might be less of a need for a big fanfare or a highly publicised launch for the end of a trilogy, a few review copies won’t cost much, compared with other kinds of advertising. Maybe not send out unsolicited book threes, but send to anyone who inquires?

Because I feel third books have often been the best. It’s as if the whole trilogy has been moving towards this point. Not that it’s only a book much the same as the first two and what’s the fuss?

Helen’s Urban Legends was riveting. Especially page 38! And the third books in Michael Grant’s Front Lines and Lee Weatherly’s alternate WWII series were masterpieces of great YA writing. Maybe publishers assume that the fans liked the first ones, so they will discover a way to the end, without reviews or mentions of the books.

These days I find myself looking at sequels to books I’ve never heard of, or the last in a series of books where the publisher has dutifully sent out both proofs and finished copies, when I’ve not shown interest in any of them.

(And, I don’t actually know this, but did J K Rowling get a contract for all seven Harry Potter books? From the start, I mean. Also, there didn’t seem to be any lulls in the publicity when we got to books five, six or even seven. We should have been tired of them by then, surely?)