Tag Archives: Stephenie Meyer

Is it like running?

Overwhelmed as I am by all the new and excellent books I see, I can’t help wondering how they happen. Are written. Get published.

Is it like running faster? I’ve never understood how come people run faster with each generation. Once there was a fuss when someone could run a mile in under four minutes. I suppose there must be a limit to how fast a human being can run a mile? But then Stone Age runners might have thought so too, and their limit was probably far from four minutes. If they knew about minutes.

So do authors today write better books because they know they have to to stand a chance of getting published, or do they write good books because evolution makes it happen? (I’m on very shaky ground here, as you can tell.)

Although, unlike the runners who can’t arrive before they’ve started, I suppose writers could – in theory – write better and better books. Cleverer use of words and better sentences about really exciting new people in new style plots. (Unless schools prevent any sensible written language from evolving.)

Anyway, they say there are only so many plots. And I despair a bit about the state of editing. If I can see it, it must be bad. So I suppose it’s back to the running. And as I was reminded when I looked it up, there is a difference between the normally competent runner, and the really successful athlete.

Or could it be the Björn Borg factor? Sweden was over-run by especially good young tennis players in the years after Björn’s Wimbledon triumphs. Players wanted to be the new Borg, and there were plenty of people able to help train them.

Or were the tennis results simply contagious? Like J K Rowling started us on wizards and Stephenie Meyer gave us romantic vampires. I think tennis-wise that things calmed down after a while. Will books?

Troublesome cats and other airborne coincidences

I own two books bearing the title Cat’s Cradle. One is Nick Green’s soon to be published final Cat Kin book. The other is by Julia Golding, in her Cat Royal series. No, I lie. I believe I also have a copy of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle somewhere.

I don’t mind. If there are only seven original plots, it stands to reason there are only so many book titles as well. Obviously more than seven, but anyway. I doubt Nick or Julia are about to sue each other.

Nicola Morgan has told us about her first novel, Mondays Are Red, which features synesthesia, and its main character Luke. It was published almost simultaneously with Tim Bowler’s Starseeker. Same topic. Same character name. They didn’t sue, either. But when both proceeded to write novels with the fabulous title Apocalypse, one of them changed it. Great minds think alike.

Adèle Geras wrote an adult novel with a similar plot to one by Marika Cobbold. I asked if she knew Marika’s book. She didn’t. It was another of those ‘it must be something in the air or the water’ coincidences. Happens all the time. It’s not plagiarism. Zeitgeist, maybe? (We have to keep in mind the number of plots available in this life.)

When I read Lee Weatherly’s Angel I half thought that she might have been after ‘the next Twilight’ by going for angels instead of vampires. But Lee had the idea 15 years ago, before the world was gripped by vampire fever, and well before all the other angel books we now see in bookshops.

Some writers do jump on bandwagons, because it’s what publishers want. The next wizard, another vampire. And now it’s dystopias. Julie Bertagna barely got the OK for Exodus, because back then dystopias weren’t in. Now they are. And not all of them could possibly have got the idea from reading someone else’s book first.

It takes time to make a book. From author’s idea to bookshop is usually a lengthy process. People don’t plagiarise on a whim. Coincidences happen. Recently I mused about the number of wolves I had reviewed in a short time. There are also several books out now with the name Grimm somewhere in the title.


What I am working towards here, is a troublesome cat. He is causing considerable concern for Debi Gliori. She has a picture book soon out, featuring a cat in Tobermory. The title will be Tobermory Cat. At least it will be if someone in Tobermory stops being unpleasant about it. Debi, who is one of the kindest and most fairminded people I know, has been accused of all manner of things by the ‘owner’ of the name. Not the owner of the cat, mind you.

The links to this public argument can be found on Wikipedia, so I might as well add them here. Link 1. Link 2Link 3 with a reply from publisher Hugh Andrew of Birlinn. TC even has its own facebook page, but I don’t recommend a trip there if you value your blood pressure levels.

I am really, really against bullying.

Apart from the books and coincidences above, I am reminded of another touristy cat at the opposite end of the country, in another picture book; The Mousehole Cat by Antonia Barber and Nicola Bayley. I imagine that book has not exactly damaged the tourist business for Mousehole. I also imagine this was the idea for Tobermory. The new book could have been called something else. And then the tourists could go there instead.

Co-operation is a good word here. Not that I’d want to co-operate with TC’s ‘owner’ if I had a choice, but before this argument began, just think of the effect they could have had together, for Tobermory.

Could there be more than one Bookwitch? Unfortunately, yes. There are. There were some before I went public, and more have popped up over the five years you and I have known each other. But the point about it is that I sat down and thought long and hard about what to call this blog, and once I’d arrived at the answer, I went online and found I wouldn’t be alone. But I am a Bookwitch, so couldn’t – wouldn’t – have picked another name.

I can co-exist.

Will leave you with one more cat. In fact, I give you a book idea for free. Here is the Linköping Lynx. At this point I must point out I’ve not checked* if there are any other LLs out there.

Linköping Lynx

The more the merrier? Surely one of the seven plots must fit? It’s my firm belief that Lynxes are the next big thing. Remember that some time in 2014 or 2015.


Now for some romance before it gets dark!

Last week several authors linked to this blog post, which primarily moans about sequelitis in the world of romantic fiction, and especially that aimed at younger readers. At least, I think so. Mercifully I have not read them, but I can imagine what they are like. Or perhaps I can’t.

The thing is, the post was written by a fan of this type of book before publishers lost all sense of proportion.

Now, I grew up on plenty of romance of the fictional kind. I was actually under the impression that I was awfully grown-up when tackling Barbara Cartland, who was perpetually serialised in the weekly magazine I liked so much that I spent my pocket money buying it, until Mother-of-witch gave up and paid.

I saw the light – eventually – and moved on to Alistair MacLean and other mature books.

In my brief course on children’s literature at university we were ordered to read two unexpected books alongside Anne of Green Gables and other worthies. One had to be a cheap romance, and the other an action story like Nick Carter. The reason being that children, or young adults (long before the term was invented), were reading them. Ergo, they counted as children’s books.

And now we have vampires.

The cheap action type novel has plenty of modern alternatives. And I suppose Twilight & Co are better than my old Barbara Cartlands? Miss Cartland reputedly spent all of two weeks on every book she ‘wrote’, and whatever your opinion of Stephenie Meyer, she must have worked somewhat harder on her writing.

Dark romance

I suspect young girls are hardwired to want romance at some point in their early reading lives. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the romance is allowed to end and the readers move on to new things. That’s where it might be worse now, because vampire novels and similar books look so much like real books. Mills & Boons look exactly as what they are. Cheap romance. Some of them pretty good. Some not.

Now publishers are milking the black and red covered cash cow. Endlessly. I want to sit down and cry when previously sensible publishers bring out their own Twilight.  I could almost accept it, if it weren’t the case that these Twilights are squeezing out real books. Not all of them, but there are many excellent books that never get published, or that sell so badly that they don’t stand a chance in the shadow of romance.

There is good YA romance. Recent examples that come to mind are Mary Hoffman, Celia Rees and Gillian Philip, who all write real, and romantic, novels. It’s not my intention to come up with a long list here. I just want to say that there is choice.

We had very little of that in the 1970s. Cartland and M&B on one side and Jane Eyre & Co on the other. Although, in my late teens I did find a couple of authors who were capable of writing light but intelligent romance with death and excitement on the side. M M Kaye and Mary Stewart were both authors I inherited from nearby adults. And unlike the cheap stuff, I still remember them well.

Those which sold

‘But do they sell?’ asked the Retired Children’s Librarian in a puzzled sort of way while we chatted on the phone recently. I had thought she’d be interested to hear about Annika Bryn’s contribution to the proposed book about Stieg Larsson. She’s always had an interest in crime, and her heart ought to swell with pride over the Swedish trilogy doing so well across the world.

At first I got confused, thinking she wondered about the sales-worthyness of books about famous people. The penny dropped when I realised she didn’t feel that Stieg’s achievement had been all that great. I assured her he had done quite well in sales. ‘Have you read them?’ was her next question, clearly having forgotten we’d been over this ground before.

This conversation took place when I was virtually sitting there holding the fresh 2010 Nielsen sales figures in my hand, where Stieg’s book was number one. And number two. And number three. But you can only manage that much convincing on the phone so I gave up.

I don’t begrudge anyone on that list their success. (Oh, all right, one or two of them.) I just wish you could find more quality on there. Or is that of necessity an oxymoron?

After the successful crime writer, I only checked the list for children’s books. Stephenie Meyer, naturally. Then The Gruffalo, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I Shall Wear Midnight (yay!), Gruffalo’s Child, more Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson (film tie-in), Thomas the Tank Engine, Magic Ballerina, more Wimpy Kid, and the Beano Annual.

No doubt I’ve missed one  or two.

Surprised to find no Jacqueline Wilson or Francesca Simon.

It’ll be a while before the above books become motorways around the country. I was interested to see Hilary’s (McKay) comment yesterday that she doesn’t mind her own books being turned into roads. Maybe it’s good that we don’t all lose our heads and take in more strays?

Incoming Angels

This is a road movie, with the hunter and the mechanic escaping the bad guys. Well, it’s a road book, really, and it’s about two teenagers trying to get away from the angels. Same thing.

Angels are bad.

They are so bad, that they are what Alex – the hunter – kills for a living. His next angel victim is Willow – the mechanic – who doesn’t even know about angels, let alone that she is one herself. When they meet, Alex doesn’t kill her immediately, and pretty soon the two of them are fleeing the wrath of the angels.

You could look at L A Weatherly’s book Angel as just another romantic thriller about a couple who take to the (US) roads when chased by bad guys. But you’d be missing out on a terrific adventure if you do.


Angels are the new vampires, and I mean that in the best possible way. From what I gather Lee (for it is of course Lee Weatherly) has been living with her angel plans for quite some time, and it’s unlikely that she woke up one morning and decided she’d come up with the next big thing after Twilight. But I think it could well be the new craze for girls – and hopefully some boys – and even for us oldies.

Angel is a fast paced, heart stopping kind of read, and I found myself racing along to get to the end, heart going thud thud thud.

Willow is an anomaly, a half angel. It’s not possible, but she is. Alex is only 18, but has been killing angels for most of his life already. To begin with there weren’t so many angels, but now our world has been invaded and if nothing is done the angels will take over and ruin the world as we know it. But it’s beginning to look as if Alex may be the last remaining Angel Killer, so what can he do?

Lee draws some pertinent parallels with the religious bible belt of the southern states. I can see that that might not be popular with everybody. She also has an almost ‘daemon’ scene worthy of His Dark Materials.

For a romance Angel is surprisingly chaste. I’ll be interested to see how things are allowed to develop in the next two books. For this is the first in a trilogy. Naturally.

Going viral

There is a new novel, not yet published, popping up in the letterboxes of bloggers and reviewers all over the place. Or popping may be a little optimistic, seeing as it’s a brick of a book. It’s going to be the next big thing in the adult book world.

I don’t think it will be, but it’s not for want of trying. I’m searching my mind for a recent novel that has been pushed like this and which actually delivered by becoming a million seller. Harry Potter went quite slowly to begin with, and it was successful more by word-of-mouth for the first three.

Personally I only heard of Stephenie Meyer when she had three books out, and I don’t know why I missed Twilight before that. But I’m guessing that it owes much of its success to girl readers who just happened to discover it and then told all their friends.

Stieg Larsson came to my attention just before publication of the first Millenium book. That was mostly journalists musing on the bad luck of their colleague who died just as his books were accepted, and maybe some surprise that he had actually written all three by the time he died. I’m sure his publishers knew they had some good books on their hands and hoped they’d do well, but no one could have imagined the worldwide sales the books have had. It happened. It wasn’t forced.

This new large brick in my life ticks so many boxes you can barely believe it. It’s not trying to be one, or even two, recently popular genres. It’s trying to be all things to all men. Or more likely women.

I googled it to see if I could find out more, and worked out that most book bloggers in the English-speaking world probably have a copy by now. Many have already blogged about it (I think the American ARCs were sent out earlier) and all are so enthusiastic. I wonder if they are feeling flattered. Many are only repeating what the press release says, but it makes for a massive online presence.

Despite this, I don’t believe in the book.

I was tempted to blog about it, mentioning the title and naming the author, but felt it would mean me adding to the buzz and I was hoping not to. Hence the anonymity. The book has even been personalised for me, which I took to mean they were hoping to prevent me selling it, until I noticed they also suggest I pass it on after reading, so they really are thinking viral.

So not only are we readers only given what the publishers feel safe publishing, but they have the nerve to tell us what will sell well. Surely that is what happens when we find we really really love their book?

Change – who wants it? #2

Not the banks. That’s for sure. You can barely give it away. Well, actually, you can. And I did, mad witch that I am.

The 50 öre coins are going. Son apparently told me this ages ago. I paid as much attention to this as is to be expected. He told me again. So, being a coin hoarder, I finally collected all my little 50s together and took them to the bank. The lovely looking young man on the cash counter at my bank said I had to take them out and put them through the machine to deposit them into my account. ‘You have an account with us, do you?’

I took them out. ‘Machine turned off. Seek assistance.’ I sought assistance from lovely looking young lady on the customer counter. She panicked. She sought assistance and was told machine is full and they need help to empty it. I did my ‘difficult older woman’ bit, and in the end she said to give the 50s to her and when the machine is empty she will feed it and put the money into my account…

Of course she will. I’m sure she will. It’s only £4 worth, or so, but it seemed stupid throwing money away.

Don’t get me started on my professional money counting days. I’m an expert at counting money. I’d love a job counting money. (No, maybe not any more.)

You know the optician who wasn’t there? The one who moved. Anyway, he recommended a shoe shop. I think the shoe shop should pay him commission, since even with my shoe finding skills I’d never have found it. It’s wonderful..! Oh, the shoes…

Ahem. Let’s move on. Just remembered the Resident IT Consultant reads this.

(The optician often gives us a 10% discount for having come all the way from England.)

I sent Daughter and the Resident IT Consultant home. Mr and Mrs Vet’s Saab had to be returned, so we arranged for it to be left outside Grandmother Vet’s house, and she promptly drove the Resident IT Consultant to the train. Then she invited me round after my shoe sh… After my walk round town. I bought two pastries, hoping to exchange one for a cup of tea. She had prepared ‘legs’ for lunch, before coming to a belated realisation that I most likely don’t eat ‘legs’. (Suspect they were drumsticks.)

So we had tea from Blå Eld cups and bemoaned the state of the banks and other businesses. Then she took off to collect Mrs Vet and Miss Vet. One to collect the car (are you still clear on which car is where?) and one to go and see Eclipse in the cinema. Her car registration number is 666, which is a number I would love.

I had noticed that there was a funny looking copy of a Stephenie Meyer novel on her coffee table, and it was only as Grandmother Vet explained she reads it in French that the penny dropped. (Better not take that to the bank, either.)

Ten years ago I introduced the Vet family to Harry Potter, and I’ve been pleased to hear that it’s now a perennial favourite, which sort of makes up for the vampires. Though, I’m reading a vampire book myself, right now.

The day before, Daughter had had a kamikaze bus driver, and the one I got for my trip back lasted all of 50 metres, or so, before he stopped and started shouting in some foreign language until two more drivers came running and one of them took over the bus and drove off. Have noticed that buses are kings around here. Or rather, their drivers are. There was a very surprised looking car – or car driver – on a roundabout, who hadn’t quite imagined that our bus would just cut in, right in front of him.

So we kind of kamikazed along. No need to go abroad for your bus thrills when the drivers come here.


And I know I’m abroad. Except I’m not.

Bookwitch bites #16

The fruit from my January Random trip turns up now and then. I don’t mean that I forgot an apple in my bag, but that at this distance from all those meetings I attended, things are trickling through, having become real. One of the latest is the news that the novel written by the neighbour has got a contract. Annie Eaton’s neighbour Lindsey Barraclough has persuaded the powers at Random that her Long Lankin novel really was worth publishing. So it’s hopefully a happy ending for her now.

In fact, the end is all I read. Various people at the meeting had been given various parts of the novel to read, and I had the last fifty pages, which is a surreal way of approaching a book. So basically what happens is that they *** and after that it gets really tricky when ***, but it sort of ***. Maybe.

Captain Jack is going to write a sci-fi children’s book, which should have the cash tills ringing, unless they’ve totally been abolished by next summer when the book is published. John Barrowman will write the book with his sister Carole, who seems to work well with her baby brother, judging by past efforts. I know someone who will want to read it.

Daughter and I threw ourselves at Eclipse as soon as it was ready to be viewed yesterday (not counting previews and other cheats), and that was not because I couldn’t wait. I just reckoned that if I didn’t get it over and done with now, I’d not get to it at all. Still not having read a single one of Stephenie Meyer’s books I have to say that the progression of the films suggests that I’d do best to stay away by now. This was a dire film, even by my ‘easy-watching’ standards.

Less trashy is the new novel Trash by Andy Mulligan, the arrival of which I mentioned here earlier. Let’s just say that now that I’ve read it I’m a fan of a fantastic book. Only Trash by name. I would prescribe impatient waiting until September.

Shame about the name

Didn’t cotton on to the why, when I read a few weeks ago that Jacob and Isabella were the most popular names last year. Thick, that’s what I am. School Friend produced a little Isabella over twenty years ago, so I just thought it was a nice name. And they may have been vampirically inspired (or should that be werewoofically?), but they are real names.

Cullen on the other hand follows the US tradition, recent though it may be, of giving surnames as first names. In the UK you get that by going to public school, which of course is private when you’re elsewhere, so that is also confusing. Your name is Edward, but they call you Cullen.

I was relieved to read a blog touching on this phenomenon a while ago. Jeff Cohen on Hey, There’s a Dead Guy in the Living Room was musing on this new idea of surnaming children. I had thought it was an older and deeper thing, that I just didn’t get. I’m glad to hear Jeff doesn’t get it either.

And whether your new baby is called Edward or Cullen, if you live in an English speaking country it’s at least a name that makes sense, and you and others can pronounce it properly.

At primary school I was in a class with Cary. That may look perfectly all right to you. But this was 45 years ago and his surname was Gustafsson, which doesn’t ring so well, unlike Grant. Also, it was pronounced ‘Kerri’ and since this was in southern Sweden the ‘r’ is a throaty one.

A girl I encountered at work in the late 1970s was a Loretta. You can tell where her mother got her inspiration from. She just didn’t look like a Loretta at all. That name must have been a burden. But then there are social connotations that come with names, and they are different for every place.

Offspring narrowly avoided the names Hamish and Troy. Hamish after all Scottish Hamishes, and Troy after Ngaoi Marsh’s Mrs Allingham. (Yes. I know.) As for myself I would dearly have loved being a Georgina. You can tell how original my mind used to be. That would have been a dreadful mouthful in’ the old country’.

In place of Cary and Georgina they now call their babies Kevin. Or Kewin, for a ‘really English’ way of spelling. That would be ‘Queue in’ then? It’s a well known fact that ‘v’ turns into a ‘w’ in English.

And School Friend’s baby? She became Pizzabella to my little Hamish. We quite like it like that.

Can’t trust anyone, then

Not only does it seem that we can’t trust reviewers not to bore us or give too much away, but they want a little extra money for their trouble. (I can tell you that my halo feels really heavy today.) From the same source as the $25 payment for reviews I gather that we can’t expect ‘staff picks’ labels in bookshops to be genuine, either.

Or maybe we can. Replies coming in suggested it works both ways. Some say that of course we can’t think that individual staff members read and recommend books in shops, and others say that in their experience it’s all genuine.

I’m rarely in the big chain shops, but had some time in a Borders not too long ago. Forget why, but I spent time waiting for whatever, by looking over the teen books section, and seeing what they recommended. Good enough selection, but disappointed by the very predictable ‘recommendations.’ So maybe they were head office recommendations. Or maybe it was just staff not reading anything terribly exciting or different.

I’m not saying they mustn’t read, like or recommend Harry Potter or Twilight, but it’s just that little bit too obvious. I’d love it if they read some more unknown titles and told shoppers about them, enticing people away from the commonest purchases.

What little experience I have from the local indie bookshop is that the shop likes to steer ‘shelf talkers,’ both as to which books should have them and what they should say and how. I used to feel this defeated the purpose of using customers, and in particular child readers, recommending something they had loved. ‘You can only love and recommend what we want.’

Do you find they assist you picking books to buy? Would you like to put up a shelf talker where you shop?