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Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas. Now with extra gin.

Oh.  Hang on a know, one of those..thingies.  Moment, that's it.  Moment.  Hang on one of those.  Just got to...thing you do with drink...

That's better.  Now, where was I?  Ah, yes.  Christmas.  Hope you all had a jolly.  Er.  Merry. That's it, merry.  Merry Thingmas.  With tinsel.  And pudding.  And drink.  Oh dear, yes, much drink.  Started drinking Christmas morning, drowning... now what was it?  Thing like sparrows... Ducks?  No, sorrows, yes, that was it, sorrows.  Doesn't, as it turns out, take much alcohol to drown ducks...sorry, sorrows.  So, once they'd gone down for third time, carried on drinking.  Christmas tree looks better after several drinks.  Not so lopsided, although I fell over twice.  Tinsel also very very shiny after drink. Took tinsel down, ow head.
 Thing.  You know.  Like... begins with W.  Or T.  Or maybe S, I forget.

So.  Christmas, yes.  Hope you all had one.  Talking of which, I'll just pour myself another small one... 'scuse me a second... Oh.  Bugger.  Now see what's happened?  Gone all over the place and I'll have to lick the lino again.  That pattern seriously scary.  Some of it not really pattern but peas that got trodden on, during Great Sprout Panic, but impossible to tell until actually swallowing.

Anyway.  Where was I?  No, seriously, have forgotten where was.  Where am, in fact.  Place looks familiar... could be home but home not smell of old gin...


Well.  Must dash now, off licence only open two more hours.  Just popped by to wish you, you know, merry thing, and happy New...err...other thing. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all, my lovely, lovely blog readers... I love you all, I really dooooo... Hic.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Tips for surviving Christmas - The Bacon of Disguise... lost batteries, and hoping that no-one has to wear a bin liner this year.

All right, now I don't want to alarm anyone here, so if you are of a nervous disposition you may wish to cover your head with a blanket for this bit.


Yes, that's right, a mere seven days separate us from the howling festival of panic that is Christmas day.  You know, that day when the dog eats three rolls of sellotape and a metre of tinsel and spends the morning doing gift-wrapped vomits behind the sofa; the cat manages to eat a large chunk of the turkey you left in that supposedly secure cupboard to defrost and you have to perform origami with bacon to disguise the teethmarks; several children eat so much chocolate that they regard your lovingly prepared and cooked dinner with cries of revulsion (and you only have to hope that it's because of all the chocolate and not because they've seen beyond the Bacon of Disguise); all available batteries fall down between the sofa cushions into the Land that Lies Beyond and are never seen again, meaning that you sit and look at all those wonderful new (battery operated) devices you were given and make 'brrm brrmm' noises as you try to work out what they are for; it rains, and the wonderful family walk you go on to work up an appetite for Christmas dinner is blighted by the lack of wellington boots and coats and the smallest child has to go out wearing slippers and a bin liner, whilst you wear riding boots and your smart coat and are mistaken for a Cossack.

That day.

So, as you increasingly desperately wrap the presents you bought in a feverish panic last weekend whilst trying to remember whether your mother in law is the one who is almost fetishistic about almonds or the one who is so severely allergic to nuts that she can't even sniff a Snickers bar without being confined to bed, and worry about whether the Frankie Boyle DVD was the best present for that rather prissy family down the road, and why the cat is being so quiet in the kitchen - just remember to relax, enjoy yourself, and, if all else fails, drink an entire bottle of Baileys and join the dog behind the sofa.

And if you need additional things to take your mind off Christmas, then go over and read the Choc Lit Blog where, from 19th December, you will be able to find out about Choc Lit authors Christmasses.  Although I don't think any of them mention the Bacon of Disguise.  But I bet they all know what it is...

Covering the work of a very diligent cat.  Come on, you've all done it...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Vampires. Yes, honestly, vampires. And news about my next book. And liver flukes, but you can avert your eyes for that bit.

Now, those of you of a sensitive disposition (and there must be one of you, at least, you can't all be snorty killers and laughers at Bambi) may wish to look away now, for I want to talk to you about a subject currently close to my heart.


Yep, I've been very busy on the vampire front lately - and no, being busy on the vampire front does not mean licking the chest of the bloke that played that twinkly thing in those films about an oppressed schoolgirl and her really really old boyfriend. Sadly.  No.  My busyness had been all part of my new novel (due out this Summer, vampire fans!) which is....(drum roll.  No, that wasn't a drum roll, that was my stomach rumbling, here it comes....brrrrrrdddrrrrrrr)... about vampires!

But vampires as you've probably never considered them before.  Unless you have.  My vampires are humans which have been infected with a demon, in a kind of parasitic way.  Yes, like liver fluke.  Or fleas.  Only bigger.  Unless it is a really BIG liver fluke.
Like this.

Which means that my vampires can go out in the daylight and all the things that a person can do, because just being infected doesn't stop all the normal human processes.  Even sheep with liver flukes can still see themselves in mirrors, you know.  They might not know what they were looking at, but they could still do it.  If they wanted to. 

But, like most parasites, the demons confer some advantages on to their hosts.  So my vampires live a long time, are strong and fast and very well dressed.  So, in that respect, not much like liver flukes, because being infected with liver fluke rarely causes sheep (for example) to wish to dash into Prada and buy an impeccable suit.
This is as close as they get.  Sheep have no innate style, you see.  Although, to be fair, this sheep probably doesn't have a liver fluke and therefore believes itself to be well dressed. 

So.  My vampires are stylish, good looking, strong, fast and only a little bit given to posing.  And my hero is a vampire.  My heroine isn't. And, because neither is she an oppressed schoolgirl given to lusting after sparkly lunatics who are going to outlive her by a factor of ten, she regards vampires with deep suspicion and rather a large helping of sneer at their desire to wear designer suits all the time.  Unlike Buffy, she doesn't necessarily want to kill them, but she is prepared to punch them quite hard if they come over all fangy in her presence.

So, now I've whet your appetites, I have to go off and lick another ches...I mean, get busy on the vampire front again.

Remember.  A vampire is for several lifetimes, not just for Christmas.

So are liver flukes, incidentally.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Mice. What EXACTLY are they up to?

You know that saying, the one about the best laid plans of mice and men?  Oh good, you do.  Only that bothers me.  Why on earth do mice need to plan?  What are they planning?

I've always suspected cats of having an agenda, I mean, those whiskery faces are just designed for putting together a good plot, cover story and eventual disassociation with all those caught.  But what on earth can mice have to plan?  I know cheese doesn't steal itself but it's hardly a lifetime's work.

A natural-born plotter and conspiracy-theorist.  Born to 'mwhahahahahhaha!'
 Barely even knows own name or whereabouts of cheeseboard.

So why did Robbie Burns write about the plans of mice?  What did he know? And now he's dead.  Well not now, obviously, I mean it happened a long time ago, but isn't that just a way of deflecting suspicion?  How, exactly, did he die and did anyone see the body?

 Did the mice have a hand in his death?  Did he have to die in order that their plans went undiscovered? And, given that he's been dead some two hundred and fifteen years give or take a shilling, and that is about ninety thousand mouse-generations, does no-one think that it might be about now that their plans are coming to fruition? 

  Yeah, you think it looks cute now, you wait until it's coming at you with an Uzi and four tonnes of plastic explosive, demanding that you open the safe.  They're financing the operation somehow...

And, now you come to mention it, I've never trusted rabbits either.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Fairy Lights - just say 'No'....

In front of me is a big black box.  Well, it's not really that big, it's about...ooohh....this big.  See?  Not that big at all.  But the contents.... I shiver and my skin grows cold.  The sun fades from the sky and crows line up on my windowledge cawing and mouthing 'Nevermore'... the moon rises like a badly-baked bun over the horizon... for the contents of the box are enough to strike terror into the hearts of anyone who comes into close contact.

For the box contains...

Dah dah duuuuuummmmmm.....

Christmas Tree Lights....

Yes, those agents of peril whose very proximity can reduce an entire household to swearing Neanderthals, who trailing wires have been the downfall of many an unwarily carried pudding; whose bulb-failures cause the emptying of complete cupboards, whose random power-fluctuations can blow so many fuses that the resultant Christmas Dinner has to be cooked the following day and, in some extreme cases, next door.

Those Christmas Tree Lights.

They want you to believe that this is the effect you will achieve. That your Christmas tree will illuminate hearts and minds alike and cause a sympathetic glow on the faces of all who come into contact with it.

What you, in fact, get, is this:

With the possible addition of a few smouldering jumpers, their knitted Santa motifs gently blazing, and the cat strolling through the wreckage picking off the remaining pigs-in-blankets.

I know you want the best tree imaginable.  I know you have the image of the perfect Christmas in your head and that it features a beautiful fir tree, branches inexplicably dusted with frost despite the near-Hadean temperatures reached by your central heating, sweetly twinkling lights causing murmers of delight among the children who kneel amid the parcels at its base.

Do us all a favour - just say 'no'.  Hang the branches with light-catching decorations made of tinfoil (which will terrify the cat and ensure it sits on the outside of the windowledge making resentful faces at you until at least the beginning of January).  Scatter the branches with glitter, generously decorate them with glass baubles that gleam in the firelight.  But, if you love your family and don't want the police and Jeremy Kyle to be your close attendants in the New Year, for the love of God don't get fairy lights.

Signed:  One Who Knows...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

My letter to Santa. PS, not even with fur edging...

Dear Santa

Sorry to be so formal about this, I know our communication over the years has been generally less convention-bound, (let us never, ever, mention that kiss under the mistletoe incident again), but I feel that now is the time for us to have a good heart-to-heart, get-it-all-out-in-the-open chat.

1.  No more household implements.  I know that sometimes I'm pressed for a wooden spoon, or dusting cloth, but - really?  Not even in my stocking.  Honestly. Even really quite expensive items.  Truly, no woman wants to wake up to a Johnny Depp-shaped article at the foot of her bed covered in holly-sprinkled paper only to tear off the wrappings to realise that a Dyson 390 Anti-Allergy Twin Cyclone Hoover has been humorously formed into a man-shaped parcel.
 Just, no.

2.  No presents that you secretly want.  I thought you might have got the message when last year's 'How to Handle Your Reindeer' book and 'Saucy Elves' pin-up calendar got shoved to the back of the understairs cupboard within seconds of opening.
Not even if it's top-to-floor Laura Ashley covered.  I shall still know...

3.  No clothing that makes me look like your mother.  I know that Mrs Claus is a fashion-conscious lady of impeccable taste and good looks, but that doesn't change the fact that she is four hundred and three.  Please, also, do not ask her for recommendations, you already know my views on slippers and cardigans.
Really, no.

4.  No clothes that you think I ought to wear.  Honestly, if it mentions 'peephole', 'split crotch,' 'easy access' or 'PVC', you can almost guarantee that I don't want it.  'Saucy' is open to debate, and 'tassels' we can talk about, but if it's anything that you think the girls at Peppermint Hippo might wear, then it's not for me.  Also, no underwear that makes it feel as though I am being slowly sawn in half by a piece of damp string.
 Possibly acceptable.

You are getting the point here, aren't you?

I shall await Christmas morning with interest. 

Yours expectantly,

PS I know where you live....

Monday, 14 November 2011

I went to the Fortean Times UnConvention and all I got was a cursed head...

Ah, there you are.  You might have been wondering where I was, of course,since I was absent without leave yesterday, well, I shall tell you.

I was in London.  Actually, I was in a large hall in Camden.  This time I wasn't taking all my clothes off to a dubious cover version of Kylie Minogue... oh.  You didn't know about that?  Well, I think it's a story for another time, actually, although I have to say that I am still finding sequins, and I can't look a tangerine in the face without coming over all peculiar.  No.  I was at Uncon, which is the Convention for those of us fortunate enough to read the Fortean Times.
It looked like this.  Only less green, and there definitely wasn't a vampire behind me on the Tube.  Anyway.  Whilst at UnCon, I listened to a talk about a supposedly cursed head.  It turned out not to be mine!  I've always put my hair down to a particularly virulent curse applied liberally by some Spellmaster of the first order, but the cursed head of the talk didn't even have any hair.  It was carved of stone and had the somewhat bemused but benevolent expression of a headmaster who has taken early retirement and suddenly finds himself in Sainsbury's with no idea what a flagolet bean is.

Reader, I patted him.  I tried to find a picture to show you, but this is the best I could locate.
It's near enough, although looks to me to be more baffled than bemused.  Like he's just sat down and then realised that there's no toilet paper.  Anyway.  I patted the cursed head.  Will report on results, although I have to say that I have no need to buy flagolet beans.  But if I find myself in Sainsbury's wondering what I came in for, I will attribute it to the curse, although my nearest Sainsbury's is 20 miles away, which is a long way to go and not remember why, so there may be no noteworthy results for some time.

I also heard about talking dogs, mummies (the shuffling, bandaged kind, not the procreative female kind, although both descriptions fit my own mother fairly well.  She has a great range of curses as well, you should hear her if she runs out of flagolet beans...), mongooses on the Isle of Man, Sasquatches... and I met a great hero of mine, Jon Downes, who signed a book for me and made my weekend complete.

Right, I'd better go - I've been seized with the urge to go to Sainsbury's, for some reason....

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Why Bruce Forsyth = bonfires and Orlando Bloom is like a toffee apple.

Bonfires are like television.  No, not that they all seem to have Bruce Forsyth on them all the time, or that they are, basically, rubbish, but in the way that people have to watch them.  Last night I saw an enormous crowd of people (OK, probably not that enormous, a few hundred or something, but you have to remember that I don't get out much, and any collection of people that isn't my immediate family looks enormous to me) all staring at a bonfire.  Well, their faces were all pointing in that direction, I have to take it on trust that they were all actually staring at it and not standing with their eyes closed because that would just be a terrible waste.

Which is like television.  When did you last walk into a room where a television was on and not immediately stop to see what it was that was on the screen?  (I'll give you a clue, it had Bruce Forsyth in it). 

Somewhere, Bruce is smouldering...

And I got to wondering... which was nice because basically my brain has been an operational black hole for quite a while, so a bit of wondering was good, I'm really hoping to move up to actual thinking by next week, but not to be too ambitious about it... after all, you can't be too careful with brains, at least you can't with mine, so I'm going to take it slowly.  Anyway.  There I am, wondering... no, not there, you can't see me in the picture.  It's all to do with my natural radiance, which would eclipse the bonfire and prevent the camera from focussing properly.  At least, that's what I was told.... Now I come to think of it, it sounds a bit suspicious, doesn't it?  Hmmm....

So.  Why is it that humans feel the need to stare at fire (and Bruce Forsyth)?  Do we have this primitive urge to watch things burn?  Is it the miracle of primitive power (no, not in Brucie's case...) that makes us cluster around huge piles of flaming objects? 

In my case it's just that I feel the cold really easily.  And there's quite often toffee apples.  These are the Orlando Bloom in the Bruce Forsyth experience, the little piles of yummyness amid the inexplicably eye-catching.

We are not playing the comparison game.  We are NOT.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Hosting a small, intimate party for immediate friends. Bring your own bucket.

I'm sure that was a knock at the door.... ah, hello, there you are.  As the nights darken and the winter edges ever closer (making a weird 'meep meep' noise, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason), I have invited you in to glance over my holiday snaps, drink my home-brewed rhubarb-and-stoat ale and generally rummage through my smalls drawer, making rude remarks about my collection of obsolete pants, carefully embroidered with 'Road Signs through the Ages' by my dear widowed mother.

Come in, come in, close the door behind you otherwise the badgers get in.  Now, who's for a rhubarb-and-stoat?  You at the back?  Ice and a slice?  Fine, I'll pour, you put the protective gloves on.  And, if you'd all like to prop your eyelids open and pretend to be interested, I'll give you a glimpse at my snaps.

No, not like that.  You can get up off the floor.  And you, you can stop rolling around and pretending to be in pain.  Look.

Here I am, pointing at a waterfall.  I don't know why, I think I was giving it guidance or something.  All I know was that my trousers got wet and I had to pass the remainder of the day with a damp buttock, thereby leaving oddly moist semi-imprints in every chair I sat in.

This is an island.  It attempted to follow us home and had to be shooed away in no uncertain manner.  Our own fault for feeding it, I suppose.

Someone pass around the snacks, would you?  I find keeping the blood circulating at times like these is invaluable.  Be careful with those cheesy fingers, they're the cat's favourite and he doesn't like ....oh.  You seem to have found out for yourself.  Never mind, the bleeding will stop eventually.  Have another ale, it numbs the pain.  Actually it numbs all essential functions and I usually find it's best to drink it whilst sitting on a bucket, but help yourself.  Now, where was I?  Ah yes, some of you still seem to be awake...

Here's a picture of me, grinning at a river.  I think I was grinning, anyway.  Maybe I just wanted the toilet really, really badly, after all, that water was rushing really fast, whoooshh whoooooshhhh....oh, excuse me a moment.....

Where did they all go?  Someone even seems to have climbed out of the window, look, they even left their half-finished pint of ale... oh well, seems a shame to waste it.  So then, now it's just you and me, another twenty seven pints of rhubarb-and-stoat and a hundred and fifty seven pictures still to get through...

Oh, really?  Must you go?  No, of course I understand, armpits can be such tricky things, can't they?  Ah well, I shall just have to save the rest of the pictures for next time I invite you round.

I can wait.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

What's in a name? Apart from a lot of letters.... (plus a picture of Jared Leto...)

I've been doing it again.  No, shut up, not that, anyway the restraining order is still in place, so I can't, not until September 2014 anyway.  No, what I have been doing is pondering.  Which explains why I'm covered in ducks.  I have also been thinking about names.

My heroes tend towards single syllable names, but this is not through any Male Conventional Naming System (Trademark) it is simply that these are easier on the fingers.  I mean, yes, Amadeus is a very nice name (so long as you happen to be an eighteenth century German, and I'm  not saying that you aren't, I'm just passing comment here), but typing it out on average, say, three hundred times over the length of a manuscript - well, your A key is going to take a fair bit of wear, isn't it?  And it's not a name that easily shortens - by the time the heroine has gasped his name during a passionate encounter...well, just picture it... "Am....Am....Am..." she's just going to sound like a woman with some kind of dissociative disorder.  And then there's Alistair. No, over there, look.  A name which I particularly like, but persist in shortening to Alice...

Because certain names just sound more...well, sexy.  I am currently working on a Phinn, a Kai and a Zan.  And,. I have to say, I am exhausted... but that is by the by.  Others heroes I have used until their bones creaked, have been called Cal, Ben and, in Star Struck (published by Choc Lit, available at all good bookshops), the hero's name is Jack.  I could never, of course, use the names Tom or Will (because those are my sons' names and it would just be nasty), Bill is a grandfather and Zack is too manly.  Any male names ending in the 'ee' sound are a little bit too far on the girly side (Mr Depp, I am making an absolutely enormous exception on your part here) and if I ever use Butch or Randy you have my permission to shoot me.

His real name is Amelia, you know....

Now, I know the theories, that names ending in 'hard' sounds are intrinsically 'male' and soft sounds are 'female' and you never call a hero 'Izziwizzimuss' unless you are writing a story about cats or are deranged, and that the best way to make sure your hero's name is age-appropriate is to check out the Top Ten list of names for the year he was born, but why is it that some names are just more... appealing? 

Oh, and Zan's a vampire.  So, you know, different rules...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

At a titular disadvantage - and no, a new bra won't help...

Why is naming something so hard?

 Well, apart from the obvious point, that my brain is, in fact, made of liquid cheese, and remembering what something is called is a matter of genuflecting in its direction whilst making grunting 'effort' noises...  I can generally, eventually, remember what the name is of the thing I am looking for by doing a generalised mime of the object in question although I do remember on one occasion where my wandering around doing 'scissors' mime was interpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated shadow puppet of Acherontisuchus.  And when I'm looking for...errr...that thing you use, you know, for cooking...full of holes... that thing, it's like a round of Give Us a Clue in my house.  And no, it's not a film.  Or a book.

It's a TV programme actually. Wallander, or something...

And anyway, not that sort of naming.  No, it is of book titles I wish to virtually talk to you. You see, my works in progress (or WIPs as they tend to be known in the trade - stick with me, kid, you'll soon be talking the lingo like a native..) get labelled as I work, rather like Friends episodes.  There's 'The one with that man, you know, the one with the bloke whose wife leaves him who goes to work on a trawler but discovers that he's allergic to seagulls and has to take a job squeezing teabags in a cafe' or 'The one where the cat nearly dies, and they think the cat has died but then it turns out that it was only asleep in the wardrobe and then the, not that daughter, the other one, the one with the hair, she runs away from home and it's all something to do with an anonymous letter'.  But these lack a certain something as actual book titles.  Besides which, there wouldn't be room on the cover and the title would have to be continued on the inside pages, which rather defeats the object.

So, I must choose concise, gripping titles, which encapsulate the spirit and mood of the book whilst taking into account my own, slightly peculiar, style of writing.  And, as any of you lovely people who believe that you truly know me will testify, concise is not really me.  Oh, I can grip, certainly, I can grip like a manical woman who has recently purchased the last Whippy ice-cream in the van only to be faced with a frenzied Whippy ice-cream thief, oh yes.  I can grip like nobody's business.  But concisity is just not in my nature.  Why use one word when there are thousands of unemployed syllables just floating around doing nothing and causing trouble on the streets, waving their suffixes and generally being underused?  No, I believe in getting language off benefits and into the workplace.

This is the sort of thing words get up to when not fully employed, you know.  They go all primary coloured and start getting together and whispering.  Yes, about you...

And so I am faced with a problem.  Well, several problems actually, but only one that need concern you.  The thing with the duck will resolve itself in time and I am sure that the police will understand about the whole 'underpants on the head' thing if I go and explain in person instead of waiting for the court date to come up... anyway.  My problem.  I need titles.  Only problem is, being of a suspicious nature I can't tell you what the books are actually about in case you rush out and steal my ideas and I'm left having to rewrite the one about the man, the trawler and the teabags over and over again.  So, if, without actually having anything to go on, like plot or character or anything, you can come up with some titles for my forthcoming novels, I shall be forever grateful. 

Also slightly impressed.  And probably suspicious.

And before you suggest this, obvious, title, it's been done - look.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday. Now brought to you by Rowntrees and known as Fruit Gum Day.

All rightie, people, listen up!  Except for you at the back, you just keep on listening sideways, I know you can't help it.

I have Pieces of News for you.  Firstly.  Or thirdly, if you're listening sideways.  Next week is Chocolate Week.  No, I'm not sure what it involves either, I am presuming that it doesn't mean that Tuesday is brought to us courtesy of Cadburys, although I think it would be a great idea to have days of the week sponsored by major manufacturers.  I am going to apply now to Slumberland to have them sponsor Fridays.  Imagine no longer having to ring in to work *sick* on Fridays, but to be able to legitimately be taking a 'Sponsored by Slumberland' day...  Ahem.  Where was I?  Oh yes, next week, chocolate...

Anyway.  Because of said Chocolate Week, my delightful and only occasionally baffled and confused publishers Choc Lit are hosting a short story competition - which may be accessed directly by pressing the little purple button that links to the site from here (where it says Choc Lit, in case yours doesn't look purple.  Mine does, but it's all right, I've got an ointment...) and they are also, in honour of the chocolate, reducing one e-title from each of us to the measly price of under £1!  Yes!  For less than the price of a bar of Fruit and Nut, you could be the proud owner of a copy of Please Don't Stop the Music (other titles are available).  This is presupposing that you are not already the bustingly proud owner of a copy - and if not, why not?  HOW long have I been drumming it in to you that you are supposed to rush to the bookshop and buy copies of my latest releases even before they are released? Hmmm?  But if you aren't, you can now remedy the situation for small change.  But bear in mind that I don't want to see you here again until you have, all right?


... and this.  How much better can life be?

Well, yes, it could also have Tony in it.  Good point.

And also in other news.  Those of you who have hankered for a sighting of me in real life (and there are those of you, come on, don't be coy, I've seen the e-mails...) may have their chance.  If you are quick, have really good eyesight and an empty stomach, then I may be seen at Malton Literary Festival on 23rd of this very month!  I shall be performing there - not certain as to the nature of this performance yet, I've taken delivery of  a set of multi-coloured juggling balls, a fire-eating set and some stilts, to the bemusement of my postman, but suspect that I shall probably be doing something along the lines of reading from my latest novel, Star Struck, and maybe giving a teensy little inside peek into my newest, yet-to-be-released (hell, it's yet to be titled) novel from Choc Lit.  Which doesn't have Tony in it.

Right.  Off now to perfect my stilt-walking, juggling, fire-eating act, just in case.  If you see a really tall, slightly singed woman with RSI in both wrists, you'll know it's me.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Wot aye dyd ohn mi hollidaes

At the risk of boring you (oh, must you go so soon?  But I'd only just got started!) I'm going to tell you about my recent weekend.

I spent it stalking Hadrian's Wall.  I had a quick squint at Hadrian's Ceiling and a bit of a quick tour of Hadrian's Shed, but it is with his Wall that I am chiefly concerned here.  Now, I am sure that most of you have had experience of trying to find walls and realise that you must move quickly and quietly in order to see these elusive creatures which can, in extreme cases either a) follow you around an entire county, or b) shuffle away from the places you expect to find them and relocate to entirely different places.

Here, in fact is a stretch of said wall.  Looking utterly immobile, all innocent and standing around, la la la, been here for centuries, not going anywhere, dah de dah.  It even hums to itself, it's that good at seeming to be a permanent fixture.  Note the grass growing on the top and its apparent firm location in the landscape.  This is a part of the wall which has been brought into domestication and may even be described as 'tame'.

Wild walls are harder to find.  I was accompanied on my trip by an experienced wall-locator, someone with a past history of being able to find rocks piled up one on top of another and also well-versed in the identification of said edifices.  "That's a wall," he can say, without fear of contradiction.  We donned the appropriate wall-stalking gear (pictures of me dressed as a breeze-block are currently unavailable) and crept through the landscape, making occasional wall-luring sounds (chisel on rock, the sound of mortar being thickly applied and, unaccountably, in my case a sad sort of 'honking' sound).  But the wall was too clever for us.

We were told there had been a wall here only the day before.  Now there was nothing but rock-droppings.  Some of them dropped quite a long way...

Eventually we started to hallucinate walls.  At one point I went completely mad and jumped up onto a pile of bricks declaring that I had found it, and that Hadrian should have used better glue.  Sad, I know.  But, at last we got word of a sighting, whispered between those who know their walls and we rushed to the aforementioned location (which I dare not divulge here, because now is the wall breeding season and to disturb a rutting wall is to invite death).

Here, eventually, we found one, and it had young with it!  How lucky is that!  Of course, having seen it and photographed it, we left quietly so as not to disturb it.  But don't bother going here to look, it will be miles away by now.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Blog Special - Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens, now with added Pinnock!

I promised you a special little something today, didn't I?  Yes.  Well, it wasn't that, so you can take that look off your face.

For today I wish to draw your attention to a book.  Yes, yes, I know, nothing new there, I'm so perpetually drawing your attention to my books that you buy them merely as a form of self defence - but today I'm beckoning you hither in my comely fashion in order to appreciate another book.

Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens.  Yes, this one. You can buy it here.
It's a sequel to Pride and Prejudice.  With tentacles.  And it is most amusing (particularly liked the Lieutenant Pigeon gag), filled with puns, gags, plays on words, jokes, humorous interplays and general waggishness of all kinds, plus what is actually rather a good story.  The Darcys are married (albeit as yet without an heir, the getting of which is becoming a sore, not like that...), family members are a cause for concern, and there are lights in the sky over Rosings.  I can say no more without revealing that mpmmpph mpmmmphhh mmmphhh.... oh, thank you Mr Pinnock for your timely intervention of a hand over my mouth.  You can let go now.

Thank you.

And, in honour of this publication, I have been allowed to ask the fragrant Jonathan Pinnock a few searching questions.  Here are the results...

If you were a cheese, what kind would you be?

       Pont l'Eveque. Bit alien, crustier than Camembert and more than a little smelly.

What is your favourite T shirt slogan?

       "I am a bomb disposal technician. If you see me running, try to keep up." Although the effect is usually ruined by having this printed on the front rather than the back.

Dalek or Cyberman, and why?

       Dalek every time. The Cybermen always remind me of Wallace in the Wrong Trousers.

What would Mrs Darcy put in a time capsule to be discovered in a hundred years?

       Funnily enough, she did precisely this and I've found it. But I've been sworn to secrecy. All I can say is that when it is finally revealed, it will change everything. Forget faster than light travel. This is the real deal.

Mr Darcy versus Wickham – who would win in a fist fight?

       I ... hold on, I thought you said something else there. Phew. So, Darcy vs Wickham? Don't know really but it would be worth staging, if only to hear Lizzy crying out "Leave 'im, Fitzy, 'e's not worth it!"

If you could abolish one piece of beaurocracy, what would it be?

       I think it might be fun to abolish the law of gravity. We once had to write about life without gravity at school and one of my mates said that everyone would have to wear heavy boots to weigh them down. He's a top banker now. True story.

And if you want to chat about anything else...inflatable Daleks, top five Carry On film moments... anything...(only not the one where Barbara Windsor's top flies off. Everyone says that.)

       Actually I have a question about inflatable daleks. The plunger arm thing on ours is always a bit limp, however often we blow it up. Does anyone out there have any cures for plunger dysfunction?

So now you know a little more about the insurpassably lovely Mr Pinnock, perhaps you'd like to take a little potter on over to his blog at and see what he has to say about me?

You can go armed, if you must...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Psyche-curtain critique and why monks don't know a Jag from a Merc

This weekend I paid a visit to Mount Grace Priory.  Oh, it's all right, it's open to the public - I'm not about to take holy orders or anything, for one thing I don't think they'd have me, and another...well, I can't do the costumes.  My legs are too short, I look like a Dalek in a whimple. Anyway.  I went. Look.
This is it.  But you can't see me...

And so.  I asked lots of what I considered pertinent and well-thought-out questions about the monks who used to live there - Jaguar versus Mercedes -their preferred manufacturer, what they considered to be good mileage to the gallon, whether performance should triumph over appearance.  Turns out they were Carthusians.  Not Car Enthusiasts.  I probably can't go back.

And in other news.  Don't forget - in fact, pencil it into your diaries RIGHT NOW - next weekend I shall be giving you the one-time-only (injunction pending) opportunity to read all about Mr Jonathan Pinnock, author of the wonderful 'Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens' novel (out now, all good bookshops, reasonable price etc).  I have exerted influence, threatened blackmail and taken posession of the negatives in order to bring you this exclusive(ish) insight into the world of a self-confessed Inflatable Dalek owner and writer.  I've even asked him some questions which may or may not allow you a peek into his psyche!  All right, so the question I asked was 'please may I have the key to your psyche, so I can show some people round?', and he has promised that we might be able to have a poke around, as long as we don't criticise the curtains.
It looks like this.  The book, obviously, not his psyche.  Although that might be an assumption...

And finally.  Or finially, if you are of a staircase turn of mind.  You may have noted that I revealed that I have signed a contract with those patient people at Choc Lit for my latest novel, entitled 'Vampire State of Mind'.  It's about vampires.  And, tangentially, minds. You are going to hear a lot more about this book...  In fact, in preparation for it, I went into a branch of Waterstones at the weekend (not at Mount Grace Priory, they aren't that enlightened, it was in Northallerton, actually) and perused the shelves.  I know, I know, I should never peruse in public after that last time, what with all the fuss and the straitjacket and that nasty court case, but the place wasn't busy and I think I got away with it.

And what should my perusal reveal?  Well, I'll tell you.  Every single vampire book on the shelf was American. Yes!  Set in America, with American people (and, presumably, vampires)!  This may not come as a shock, indeed, may seem perfectly just and proper if you are one of my American friends, but to me it was appalling!  Britain has vampires too, you know!  Well-dressed and well-mannered (unless they go off the rails), a liking for technology and filing and an almost insurmountable obsession with really fast cars. Well, mine do, anyway.

And with that appetite-whetting teaser I shall take my leave.  Don't forget next week is Jonathan Pinnock week - play nicely and, whatever you do, don't criticise the curtains...

 Although, you know, if they're like this I think we might have to.  It's for his own good, after all.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A moving story. With an inflatable giraffe, and promises of duffel coats.

Today we drove to Sheffield to drop off a daughter.  Oh, it's all right, it was one of my daughters, I didn't just fancy a long drive in order to lose someone else's daughter - it's much too far to go to miscellaneously dispose of any girl children that happen to be lounging about on the sofa.  Anyway.  Off we set in the big car, which is  large enough to contain (variously), two teddy bears, an inflatable giraffe, a hot water bottle, two life-sized bags of dried pasta and a knife-fork-and-spoon set.  Without which, apparently, life at University wouldn't be worth living.  So, it appears that said daughter is expecting a flood, from which she will be saved by inflating the giraffe, float to safety whilst surviving on pasta and teddy-bear stuffing, protected from the chill only by her fleecy-covered hot water bottle.
Quite how this fits in with Accountancy I have yet to have revealed to me.  Perhaps all accountants are secretly sitting on cushions like this whilst auditing your accounts.  The thought makes me smile, anyway.

So.  At the crack of lunch-time we set out for Sheffield, which on paper is only...ooooh...about....this far away.  However, given the general lack of roads around here it took three ice ages before we arrived, and almost an entire packet of chocolate eclairs (not me, not me, the driver ate them...) even whilst travelling at speeds approaching warp (at one point I think light actually bent around the car, and I swear I am now three years younger than I was when we left).  But we got there.  And then the doors wouldn't open, even when we waved the Magic Key of Doom at the transmitter and uttered Harry-Potteresque sayings at it ('Openupimus' and similar).

The knob turned the other way, apparently.  Who knew?

And then, to add insult to an already quite injurious day, she insisted on coming back home with us!  More stuff to transport later, apparently!  So it's not even as though I can sit down with a nice hot cup of tea and the knowledge of a job well done - no, I can perch on the edge of a sofa on which said daughter is now sprawled (tired out after all that door-opening, you know), and look forward to doing the whole thing again! 

Well, after all, we haven't moved the stuffed sloth, the fourteen odd socks, three hundredweight of coal and the thirty-year-old duffel coat yet.

Try to imagine my joy at being able to get rid of this.  Wouldn't be so bad, but it's ninety feet long...

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Some duck tape and the promise of future inflatable Daleks. And Cyber-Stomp Boots. And Jonathan Pinnock gets a mention...

Okay, there was a little bit of duck tape.  An an inflatable Dalek, but I'm not responsible for that.  Also lots of chocolate, some swearing, biscuits (but not HobNobs)... and I think I may have mentioned cheese.  Probably.

Yes, the blog tour is over.

If you missed it...well, you missed it, but I'm sure we'll all be very understanding and only make in-jokes when we think you're not listening.  But it does mean that Starstruck has been launched upon you all like a missile.  A soft one.  Full of words.  So, rather like a book being thrown at you.  Sorry, but I'm going to have to do this...

Yep, that one.  Out now, as if you didn't know...

And, if you find yourself at a loose end and you happen to be in the vicinity of Kirkbymoorside (hey, it happens, all right, people find themselves all over the place at times... and it's really not inconceivable that you might just be wandering around and be passing Kirkbymoorside, should you happen to know where that is and if you don't...well, just follow the trail of biscuit crumbs.  I'll be at the end) on Wednesday... all right, it's a run-on sentence, but I adjudge you to be more than capable of following a sentence that has more than five words in it, so look on this whole thing as a form of flattery...  What?  Where was I?  Oh, yes, if you happen to be in the environs of Kirkbmoorside around 6pm on Wednesday the 7th of September, I shall be in Summit Bookshop doing a kind of launchie thing.  Sort of.  Although the only way I can think of to properly launch a book is to hold it in my hand, wind my arm back and lob it skywards... So you might want to wear some form of protective clothing too.  And a hat.  A hard one.

I'm thinking this sort of thing.  Although my colour scheme is probably going to be maroon and ochre, so you may stand out a bit...

So.  Yes.  In the bookshop, in protective clothing, armed with biscuits in order to distract me from my lobular activities for long enough to enable you to gain a glass of wine and possibly a chocolate truffle or two without being in danger of losing any of your extremities to a well-aimed copy of Starstruck.  Be there.

It's a sort of threat, you see.  Never been terribly good at them.

And now, in further news...

On 24th of September of this very year...I shall be posting a rather different sort of thing.  You see...oh, it's a long story and possibly rather boring to anyone who doesn't possess an inflatable Dalek and the potential of Cyber-Stomp boots, but anyway...I shall be talking about (and possibly to, but he might be shy and hiding inside the aforementioned Dalek), the very lovely and fragrant...all right, he's only fairly lovely and fragrant but I'm using artistic licence here...Mr Jonathan Pinnock!  Yes, you heard right, Jonathan Pinnock - author of the slightly less lovely and possibly not at all fragrant 'Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens'.  I have a copy right here, in fact.  No, not there, slightly higher and to the left...yes.  Just there.

 That's the one.

So consider yourselves forwarned, dear reader.  For Forwarned is Forearmed, apparently, although why you'd want four arms I cannot imagine, possibly to ward off those frantically slung copies of Starstruck.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Starstruck is released - rush out and buy it - now with added Dalek!

Today I have to focus.  I've twiddled the special little knob at the back of my head which enables me to bring everything into sharp relief and...ooh, did I tell you about my walk along the beach at Bamburgh?  Oh.  I did.  Right.  Even that bit about the...oh.  That too, eh?  Okay.  Right.  In that case there's nothing else for it.
I am going to have to talk about my book.

 Yep, this one.

On Thursday this week, being the first of the month and the month of its being, Starstruck is released upon the public like a big shiny thing being launched.  No, not the Titanic, you at the back.  It is, even now, poised upon the slipway, straining at the taut ropes with an expression of eager arousal...hang on, is this still the book?  Oh, it is.  All right then.  Some very kind people have already read it and they appear to like it quite a lot, using such words as 'pink', 'Nevada', 'laughed', and 'effulgent'.  All right, I made that last one up, no-one said it was effulgent, although it might well be, who am I to comment?

Are you sure I told you about the beach at Bamburgh?  Oh.

It looks like this.  The beach at Bamburgh, not the book. 

So. In honour of its being allowed out into the public domain with its big-boy pants on, I want you all (yes, even you at the back who made the 'Titanic' remark) to rush out and buy it.  It is an excellent read, with only one Dalek in - and that's inflatable - which will make you both laugh and hurry to the biscuit tin.  That's the book, not the Dalek.  I don't think Daleks have ever made anyone hurry to the biscuit tin, if you don't count that bit with the Jammy Dodger.  Daleks have no HobNob appreciation skills, and for that reason alone they should be wiped from the Universe.

 I bet they pick out all the chocolate ones.  You can tell from their faces that's the sort of thing they'd do.

  Anyway.  You will like it, I promise.  Or your money back.  Oh, no, hang on a minute, I've just got the electricity bill so I need the money, so you can't have it back, but if you don't like it I will...ummm... be quite sorry.  I might even do 'sad face'.  And you don't want that on your conscience, do you, and anyway I am quite convinced that you will like the book, which has some very funny bits in.  So buy it.

Are you absolutely positive that I didn't tell you about the beach at Bamburgh?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

If they let me sing, you might have to bring your tomatoes indoors.

This week, purely in the interests of research you understand, I had a bit of an outbreak of castles - everywhere I went, there they were, looming on the horizon in much the same way as a sore throat looms when you have a singing engagement.  Not that I ever do, of course, on account of singing like the sound of a nail file being slowly drawn over the edge of a piece of paper, but you know what I mean.  This is not to say that I don't sing, I sing a lot.  All the time.  But only under very strictly controlled conditions, ie, soundproof ones.  My rendition of 'Sugar, We're Going Down' can bring tears to the eyes of a budgie and can cause unrestrained vomiting in the susceptible, so I tend not to do it when there are humans (or budgies) present.  Which is causing me a small problem because, for my interview on Radio York tomorrow (2pm Russell Walker's show, just thought you might like to know...) I had to choose two pieces of music to go along with the interview and I've chosen two that I can't help but sing along to.  They might have to pull the plug.  Or adopt some kind of 'scorched earth' policy, sowing the ground with salt when I've left, burning anything I've touched, spraying the city with hydrochloric acid, that sort of thing.  If you live in York and your tomatoes are outside, I'd bring them in around lunchtime on Monday, just in case.  Oh, and cover the budgie, it's for the best.

And this is only one chorus in.  Imagine if they'd let me get to the end of the song!  The horror!

Hang on.  Where was I?  Oh, castles, yes.  Well, what can I tell you about castles that you don't already know?  They're big, built of stone, full of ornamentation,  are absolute buggers to dust (oh.  That applies to all  mantelpieces as well), have staircases full of Americans (probably not original features, but you can never be sure with castles) and are designed with maximum loomage in mind.

There is a castle here.  It's creeping off the side of the picture to hide.  They do that, castles.  Hide and then creep around behind you just when you least expect it, wait until you're watching TV, innocently drinking a cup of tea and then WHAM!  Out they leap and run over your foot and all you can do is jump into the air spilling your tea and hope that it gets eaten by the cat.

 Or that might be spiders.  I forget.

Anyway.  That one is Bamburgh, on the Northumberland coast.  The beach is also lovely, as am I.

 Alnwick, caught in the act of creeping closer, every time I turned around, it was a little bit bigger.  Like Grandmother's Footsteps only with crenellations.

Also, in a moment of total surrealism, I found myself tiptoeing around the moat of Warkworth castle in the dark and a small rainstorm. It's probably best if we keep that between ourselves though, since I'm not convinced I should have been there and besides, I have no idea how to pronounce it.  Is it 'Waaaark worth' like the sound of a duck being trodden on?  Or 'Walk worth' like the sound of a duck with a speech impediment being trodden on?  It could be important if I have to make a statement to the police.

Right.  I'm off now to brush up my scales, polish my fur and try to make myself presentable for my radio appearance, since I know you'll all be peering at me through the little grill effort at the front.