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Sunday, 30 November 2014

An 'interview' with my hero, Coming Soon stuff, and ...look the book is out tomorrow, I'm distracted. Just know, be gentle with me.

The next couple of weeks are going to be a little bit different around here...

No, no, I'm not going to suddenly start talking sense or stop posting pictures of my kittens or anything, that would be mad.  But firstly, I've been tagged or 'dropped in it' as we technical people say by two of my Choc Lit mates to do a character post about my hero and, since the book comes out as an e-book TOMORROW, PEOPLE, SERIOUSLY!!!, I thought this would be a good idea.  And next week, as a little treat for you, I'm interviewing the totally fabulous Liam Livings about his new release (if you want to read up about it first, go here, and there will be pictures and a proper interviewy type thing and everything and you'll get to hear about someone who isn't me, which I am sure will come as a great relief to you all.  Plus Liam is lovely, so, you know. Not me.

Now.  In honour of the release of 'How I Wonder What You Are' (click to purchase and everything...) I am following the unutterably gorgeous Chris Stovell (click all you want, you can't buy her, but you can see her books and her blog) who writes books so atmospheric you can smell the sea as you are reading, and  Angela Britnell, whose latest book Celtic Love Knot is set in Cornwall, where I used to live, and I know is also full of the smell of the sea but in a good way, not like seaweed and old mackerel or anything.

These are they.  I don't know how to make them go side by side or I would.

Now I'm supposed to tell you things about my hero from 'How I Wonder What You Are', if 'hero' is the right word for a slightly neurotic, phobic astrophysicist with control issues and more brain than he can safely be left in charge of.

1.  What is the name of your character?

Phinneas Baxter.  Doctor Phinneas Baxter, PhD, thank you very much.  He worked hard for that doctorate and he's bloody well going to use the title now he's got it.  He's more usually known as Phinn, although his friend Link calls him Bax.  Or 'dickhead' for short. 

2.  Is he fictional or an historic person?

Oh I sincerely hope he's fictional, because someone this accident-prone running through history is going to cause an awful lot of wars.  And explosions. Although he's absolutely fine with everything that's more than a million miles away, he's a bit...well...klutzy with anything that he's in actual physical contact with.

3.  When and where is the story set?

It's very much in the here and now, and set in a fictional village called Riverdale, up on the heights of the North York Moors.  Steep hills, brooding moors, lots of bracken and heather, with a river running through it, crossed by a medieval pack horse bridge.  It's like Wuthering Heights without the consumptive coughing.

4. What should we know about Phinn?

His parents are two of the cleverest scientists on the planet. He was conceived as a thought-experiment, brought up travelling the lecture circuit and then dropped in a slightly-less-than-top-range pre-prep school aged four, where he met Link, and the two of them have been practically inseparable ever since.  He's good looking, in an academic sort of way, funny, sensitive, and, since his wife died in tragic circumstances, a widower.  All in all he sounds like quite a catch, doesn't he?  But Phinn is afraid of so many things....

5.  What is the main conflict?  What messes up his life?

Phinn is his own conflict, and he messes up his own life.  He, and our heroine Molly, have a lot of personal issues to sort out, both alone and together, before they can ever contemplate any kind of relationship.  He's so clever it hurts.  But that's not always enough, when it comes to liking someone.

6.  What is the personal goal of the character?

Like most of us, Phinn is just trying to get by.  He's come to Riverdale to hide, to escape, to lick his wounds and possibly to write a book.  But squatting in a house with no electricity, no running water and only a dubious septic tank between him and typhoid is probably not the best thing he ever did with his life, particularly when the Universe seems to think that he and Molly should get together.

There.  I hope this whets your, not inconsiderable, appetites for the book.  As I said, it's out tomorrow as an e-book and, hopefully, in early May as a paperback.  Now, as I am The Place Where Memes Go To Die, I don't have anyone to tag to follow me, but I would like to draw your attention to all of my fellow Choc Lit writers anyway.  Go over there and check them out, we've got fantasy, paranormal, historicals, time-slips, contemporaries - if you can't find a shed load of books that you love, then I'll...well, I'll.... I'll be very surprised.  And I shall probably come round and shout through your letterbox.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

No man is an island. Except, I suppose, the Isle of Man. Why writers need friends...

Now, it's a matter of record that I spend most of my waking hours being curmudgeonly but, at the same time, very enthusiastic and outgoing.  It's probably best if you think of me as a sort of Golden Retriever with a thorn in its paw. 
My approximate face
Also, I spend an enormous amount of time on my own, talking to people who don't exist and yet have very firm and definite views on things and who, in some extreme cases, talk back.

I think you will agree that neither of these states is ideal and that, left to myself, I would wear my pants on my head even more than I do.  I would like the pencils up the nose and the hopping to be taken into consideration in this.  So, you may ask, but probably from a safe distance, what keeps me hanging on to the tiny little bit of sanity that is left to me, by my fingernails and a short, but snappy, amount of knicker-elastic?

Friends, basically.  Work friends, writing friends, old friends that I have known for more years than any of us like to count, but we remember the days before photocopiers, when school handed out Roneo'd sheets that were purple and smelled of alcohol.  RNA friends. New friends.  People whose names I am not certain of, (actually, given my tendency to forget almost anything that isn't written down on the back of my hand, these also occur in the aforementioned groups too...) but whose dogs I know.  People who see me in the street and ask after my writing, or the most recent book and whose faces I vaguely recognise, but cannot remember whether they are friends of friends who I might have met at a party, or someone who serves me in the Post Office.
These are some of my children.  I include this picture to remind myself what they look like in case one of them asks after my writing.  One of them is also a writer.  See if you can guess which one...
Writers need friends.  We need people who will sit and listen while we recount our latest plot ideas in great...great detail, and will occasionally ask pertinent questions.  People who will smile gently at us when we are wandering around talking to ourselves, and wave (again, usually from a distance, it's safer).  We need people we can e-mail, phone or text when life deals us  a hand so disgusting that you wouldn't want to shake it with thick gloves on, people who will give quiet sympathy and not mention that it's two thirty in the morning and they have to be up for work in three hours.  We need people who will discuss man-titty cover designs over wine, people who will sympathise with our general impecuniosity and give us biscuits.

I know I am lucky, because I have all these things.  Friends, I mean, not the biscuits and disgusting hands.  And being friends with a writer is not an easy task (see above, re curmudgeonly, pants on head, talking to self, etc), so if you find yourself inadvertently being friends with a writer, just remember the following points:

Speak slowly (and sometimes fairly loudly)

Make no sudden movements

Carry chocolate at all times

Be prepared to listen to long, long....long and sometimes rambling discourses about the behaviour of people you have never met and may not exist.

If you ask how the writing is going, be prepared to run very fast.  Chocolate is a handy distraction here, a writer cannot pursue you whilst stopping to pick up a large bar of Dairy Milk

Never ask why they haven't given up the day job yet.

And to my friends, thank you.  You know who you are.  Even if I don't.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Kittens. No, really, a whole post about kittens. With PICTURES! Also, how I accidentally came to have five cats.

I am neither a cat person, nor a dog person.  I've done all those on-line tests that pretend to tell you which side you come down on, and they've had to invent a whole new category for me, I think it was called 'Curmudgeonly Bugger', now I come to think of it. 
A Dog, picture courtesy of DD1 Vienna.  He's actually very intelligent, not that you'd know from this.
Despite this, I am the loving owner of two dogs, three hens and, accidentally, five cats.  We never meant to have five cats, five is a number dangerously close to 'insanity' when it comes to cats.  One cat is a cute lap-ornament.  Two cats are company for one another even if they spend all their down-time either glowering or fighting.  Three cats and your neighbours start looking at you in a funny way and any more than that and you spend all your time trying to keep them out of the butter dish and you can never put your laptop down without coming back to find all your documents deleted and 'fahtwohjdnjadsngio#' typed across your screen.

We had three cats, you see.  Well, we did have four, but we lost our little black and white Maggie-cat two years ago, of old age.  Now we were left with three boys, big, burly things, two of them that look like fists wrapped in fur and one huge, orange cat who's afraid of the other two and who eats broccoli and cucumbers if they are left unattended.  My daughter wanted a kitten.  Something cute and loveable and cuddly.

So we went to a farm and brought home this little bundle.

Who instantly hid behind a cupboard, coming out only to cry piteously between the hours of 7pm and 4 am.  My daughter, after experimenting with names that would fit and disregarding my suggestions of 'Invisible Entity' and 'Untouchable Noise Machine', called him Corvo.  Honestly, it was like having a teenager in the house; we never saw him. he emerged only to eat enormous quantities of food and he made an indescribable amount of noise during the hours of darkness.

So, what did we do?  Yes, people, we got another kitten.  Ostensibly to keep Corvo company.  In reality, so that we actually knew we had a kitten on the premises and weren't just being haunted by something that filled the litter tray.  So now we also have

cat number five.  Also known as Zac.  And, despite being a litter-mate of the unseeable Corvo, he is the complete opposite.  Zac, you see, is a People Cat.  He is also a Dog Cat, a Cat Cat and will, once he is allowed outside, no doubt prove to be a Chicken Cat.
I am sure you can see the drawbacks here. 

Corvo continues to be elusive, but has now emerged from the cupboard and is known, occasionally, to wind around my daughter's legs, purring.  He still won't come out of the room, but he and Zac are great friends and sleep together on the bed.  He must wonder where it is that Zac goes to when he leaves the room for long stretches of time, only to return smelling of cooked chicken and tuna and burping slightly, dragging a mouse on an elastic string, but he shows no sign of wanting to join these epic journeys.  So, I suppose you could say that we're less of a five cat household and more of a four and a half cat household.

Just never show us a Cats' Protection League leaflet. There's only so much the dogs can take...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

I discover that Peter Capaldi is thicker than he appeared before. I mean three-dimensionally thicker, not stupid. He's not stupid at all, I don't think.

I want to know if this is A Thing, right...

Yesterday morning, up I jolly well woke from a pleasant dream of one of my workmates burying bodies in my garden (and me saying 'you'll have to bury them deeper, I've got dogs, they dig', which was realistic if not very helpful.  I could have got a shovel and helped dig) to thoughts of furniture.

My living room and dining room are, let's face it and not beat around the bush, just one big space.  My house is, basically, a corridor.  It's virtually impossible to put furniture anywhere without it being in the way of the fireplace, a door, the dog, other furniture, etc.  So we've been living with two sofas facing one another and the TV on one wall, the fireplace opposite. Imagine, if you will, something like a doctor's waiting room, only with a proper TV and a fire that's sometimes lit.  Which has meant that only two people at any one time could actually watch the TV (those two at the furthest end of the sofas from the TV).  Anyone else was sitting sideways on and had to sort of watch over their shoulders.  Add the fact that there was nearly always a dog sitting on one or more sofa cushions, and you have a recipe for disaster, or, at the very least, sore necks.
This is more or less all you can see.
So yesterday we had a grand rearrangement.  Honestly, we moved everything, including the dogs.  In consequence, last night I could watch Doctor Who face-on (I always thought Peter Capaldi was very very thin, turns out it was the way the screen bent.  He's normal sized if you watch him from the front), with a satisfactory fire burning, also in front.  Dusting was also perpetrated but don't worry, this won't happen again, it was only because we had to move a cabinet full of DVDs, most of which we can't remember a) buying or b) ever watching.
Much better than the thin black line I'd been watching.

So, is it an age thing?  Rearranging the furniture?  Like when you're pregnant and start nesting?  Or was I just properly sick and tired of only seeing half of Peter Capaldi?  Anyway.  We now have one three seater sofa, one four seater and one two seater, all in the same room and, by some fluke, they are all green!

If anyone knows how I can stop the five cats we now possess from occupying every single cushion, I'd be grateful.  By the time the cats and dogs are all sitting down, there's only two seats left...

And I have to sit on the floor.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

A fabulous night at The Whitby Bookshop, where lack of planning means I am Recently Deceased, and a lovely picture of my melons.

Planning is not really my thing.  I mean, I'm lucky to get to work with my pants on, my trousers done up and not wearing my slippers, so anything more advanced than that is hard on me.  Which accounts for why Halloween arrived, the shops were all sold out of pumpkins, and I had two daughters desperate to do pumpkin lanterns.  Not that the daughters were part of the 'not planning' thing, they were born years ago, it's not like they just popped up or anything.  So, we did our best with a couple of melons and some scented candles - honestly, they made great lanterns and our neighbourhood smelled of Sandalwood for ages!

And then, last night, I was off with Kirsty Ferry, who's novel Some Veil Did Fall is just out and is set in Whitby, to do a little bookie-thing at the lovely Whitby Bookshop. It was Goth Weekend, so we were all set to dress up spectacularly but, owing to my aforementioned lack of planning ability, I found myself with full costume but a lack of make up which meant that, instead of the full Vamp Glamour I had intended, I was equipped only with one tube of foundation and a four pack of eye make up and had to go more for the Recently Deceased look.  Don't worry, you don't have to imagine it, there are pictures...
Yes, it's a corset.  Yes, I couldn't breathe properly, and, yes, I do look like someone stole my cab.  But there I am, with Falling Apart (not very aptly named on this night, since, with that corset on I could have been falling apart all over the place but everything was kept Most Firmly In Place).

Kirsty and I.  She looked all lovely and Gothic and everything, and had fabulous boots on, while I looked like a Victorian chimney sweep.
We were signing copies of our books and generally chatting to the passing populace, fuelled not inconsiderably by the wine and chocolate supplied by the bookshop.  That glass didn't empty itself, you know. Neither did the other one.  And you can see the whole 'Corset Effect' in action...
And now you can see the folly of trying to do something with one tube of foundation and a four pack of eyeshadow. No, not the curtains... those are real.  Oh dear...

Now, to cheer you up, here's a picture of my melons.