Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The End of the World is Nigh...

Clearly everyone will be asking Did the earth move for you so? I thought I'd avoid any reference to such a predicatble quip.

I woke to rattling. Pipes under the I was fully awake and terrified in seconds. The wardrobe doors juddered and the pictures wobbled. Not knowing when it was going to stop, or if it was going to stop, was the worst. Youngest She-Devil screamed out. Who's moving the house? She slept with us the rest of the night and I lay awake, waiting for it to happen again, waiting for the end of the world; watching through the window as mixed-up birds flapped through the night, twittering, thinking it was some kind of odd dawn. My first short story ever to be read out at school was about something similar - post-earthquake...empty dustbins rolling about deserted sky during the day.

It was the sort of night when you felt like getting to know the neighbours, asking them in for a cup of tea at one in the morning. The sort of night when you consider - amongst all the mess that is our lives in 2008 - just how powerful nature really is. How temporary and fragile we are. How silly everything is.

Going through editorial notes on a five hundred page manuscript whilst propping open the eyelids is a challenge. Oh no, not because my latest novel isn't fantastically riveting - of course it is :-) Rather, I only dropped off to sleep again at four o'clock this morning and I'm rather buggered. Still, even through tired eyes, I can see that I'm so lucky to have the best editor in the entire world.

Right, back to it.
Sam xx

Friday, 22 February 2008

Life in the Medium Fast Lane

I've started swimming again. Before we moved house, I'd got into the habit of taking an hour each day to carve the chlorine. It helped me to think and it also prevented me becoming a blimp because, let's face it, a writer's life isn't exactly an active one. Those chocolate biscuits shout real loud from the kitchen below.

Anyway, I joined a nice pool/gym within walking distance from home (haha to the gym bit) and off I went. When poolside, I was faced with a choice I hadn't anticipated. Three lanes. Three speeds. Three standards of swimming: hopeless, a bit less hopeless, and serious Speedos. In a flash, I studied the swimmers. I was looking for the Duncan Goodhews. I wanted to keep well out of their way. Then the lifeguard asked if I was okay (we're not talking Baywatch here) and suggested I try the medium lane. Medium? Grudgingly, I slithered in and joined the procession of swimmers. Actually, there were only two in the Lane of Mediocrity. One was an old bald chap (Duncan Goodhew?) and the other swimmer was what I can only describe as a skeleton with skin. And if she's reading (which is unlikely as I imagine she's recovering), then lady, you are amazing. She looked about ninety years old. I thought I might have to use my long-ago-learnt life-saving skills but she swam like a mermaid. Clearly, she should have snapped on her lycra Speedo suit and jumped in with the broad-shouldered boys in the fast lane.

Anyway, having sussed out the competition - because being lapped time and time again by people twice my age isn't funny - and sort of settled into the medium fast lane, I set about thinking. And after about ten lengths, I got into the groove. It's about then that I get drunk on chlorine. Eyes tight shut, ideas for Next Novel began to flow. It felt good. And I actually caught up with Granny a few times. So I stepped out of the pool forty-five minutes later (yes, I swam non-stop) heavy-legged and breathless, drowning in inspiration. In the changing room (it's all kind of open-plan and embarrassing) , I stopped and stared at the pegs draped in abandoned clothing. For a moment, I tried to match the garments to the women I'd spotted swimming. It was hard. But I knew for sure that the bright pink yellow polka-dotted shirt belonged to Granny.

In slightly more writerly news, I'll be speaking at the Essex Book Festival next month. I'll probably be saying quite a lot about this over the coming weeks. Like COME!! Like reminding everyone that it's March 18th at 3pm at Hullbridge Road, Ferry Road, Hullbridge and you can get tickets from the box office on 01206 573948. Take a look at the festival's website. There are some huge names attending. Minette Walters, Louis de Bernieres and even Suzi Quatro will be there. (Suzi Quatro!) So I'm in amazing company. Of course, they won't exactly be with me. They'll fill their own huge auditorium with thousands of fans. Anwyay, I'm going to be reading from BLOOD TIES as well as talking about the themes in the novel, chatting about the writing process, how I came to be a writer (how long have I got?) and taking lots of questions from the audience. It will be fun. Please come.

Finally, I wanted to mention a writer who is doing great things at the moment. Caroline Smailes, although I've never met her, seems to be a thoroughly decent sort. I read her blog. She is published by The Friday Project and her first novel IN SEARCH OF ADAM has received some amazing reviews. Caroline has now written an e-book DISRAELI AVENUE, which is totally free to download. All she asks is that you make a donation to One in Four, a charity set up to support those affected by sexual abuse and sexual violence. One in four children will experience sexual abuse before they reach eighteen. That's twenty five percent. That's nearly eight kids out of a class of thirty. That means it's likely that we all know someone who's suffered. It's easy to donate via Just Giving and Caroline has raised £1162 already. Not only do you get to help by donating, you get a stonking good read from Caroline. It's a subject close to my heart. BLOOD TIES covers such issues.

Right. I'm off to find my goggles.

Sam xx
PS: Two posts in a week??

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The blog is back...

I've recovered my password, blown the dust off my blogger account and... hey, I'm going to try very hard to make regular(ish) posts about my life as a writer - and anything else that I feel the need to make public. I think that's my problem with blogging - it's just so public. As a kid, I wrote a diary. It had a lock. I hid it under my bed. Oh, the shame if my brother found it and read it. I'm naturally a private person and also not silly enough to believe that anybody actually wants to know what I had for breakfast or what colour I'm painting my hallway. Or maybe I'm just not trendy enough to keep up with such erm... trends.

Big breath and here goes... (hell, I have since last July's post to catch up with news)

I moved house just before Christmas. Very stupid thing to do with hindsight. Not moving house - that wasn't stupid at all. We love living in the 'city' and have great plans for our beautiful Edwardian townhouse. And we have shops and cafes and restaurants and a market nearby. Even leaving behind our old farmhouse in the country wasn't as hard as I'd expected. I miss it but the time was right to move. No, the stupid thing was moving exactly seven days before Christmas and not having done a single scrap of festive shopping. I have three kids, including two excitable girls (She-Devils) who had been excited since September about presents. But pulling together with military precision and dividing the war zone that was the shops soon netted a fine haul. We even bagged a Wii. Result. We ate Christmas lunch among the forest of boxes. We drank champagne from mugs. Friends and family picked their way through piles of furniture to visit us. We knew it was home.

January saw the delivery of my next novel. UNSPOKEN is out in hardback and trade paperback this July with the paperback a few months after that. I received the cover flats this week and even though I'd seen the artwork before, holding the finished article was very exciting. It is a truly stunning and beautiful cover. I love it to bits and will be very proud to see it sitting on the shelves. As soon as I'm allowed, I'll put it on my website.

BLOOD TIES did me proud and flew off the shelves after its September release last year. I can honestly say I was stunned by the sales figures. It's an unusual and somewhat humbling thought to know that so many pairs of eyes are reading words that I wrote! But my book really struck a chord with readers and I get very nice emails from all over the world to prove it. Apparently there are a few of the huge posters still up at various stations. The London Underground was thick with the BLOOD TIES campaign and my publicist, Becky, took me on a very energetic and hot tour last year to get photos. (See myspace for the evidence.)

BLUTSKINDER is the German title for BLOOD TIES. Blood children, I guess. The cover is entirely different to the UK look - black and creepy, almost a horror cover - but I like it very much. It obviously suits the market out there and sits nicely under 'krimis und thriller'. And I even had a TV advert for the launch of the German edition. Vox channel picked BLUTSKINDER as their 'Krimmi Tipp' (crime pick, I think) and ran a load of ads for a week or so during CSI, Criminal Intent and various other evening shows. If I was really clever, I'd somehow embed the commercial here to show it off. But seeing as I'm not really clever, you'll have to imagine the German chap's deep, gravelly voice saying something sinister about my book. The only bit I could understand was when he said my name. I played it over and over, as you can imagine.

A week or two ago I attended a Writing Industries Conference at Loughborough University, hosted by the East Midlands Literature Network. It was a busy successful day with a huge turnout of both industry professionals and writers dedicated to learning the craft and the business. The speakers were inspiring and the attendees were clearly keen to take advantage of all the knowledge on tap. Much thought had gone into providing a broad spectrum of expertise - as well as ordering beautiful sunshine for the day for outside coffee breaks. As expected, I bumped into lots of people I know - and for me, that's the attraction of writing conventions. It gets me out of my attic (yes, I have another attic study) and out there, with real people, other writers, talking about writing. Talking about stuff. Making me realise how time passes. Making me glad that it has. But still, making me think; making me smile. I should do it more often.

So now I'm turning my thoughts to a new book. I'm spending many hours researching, making notes, allowing characters to develop, mulling things over, and all the while, I'm desperate to write. But not yet. The pot needs to simmer a little more. Thing is, I hate not writing. A writer once said to me - many years ago now - that he felt 'odd, weird' if he wasn't working. That was in response to my unpublished-days-as-a-writer statement that writing actually made me odd, weird. But that has changed now. Switched completely. True, I once found it an immense drain and emotional strain to put words down. I'd do anything to prevent my fanciful and over-ambitious ideas being written - even though I was desperate to see my work in print. But slowly I developed, slowly I honed those 'writing muscles' (which are a fact!) and slowly, gradually I reliased that not writing, not having a project, a book on the go, made me feel odd and weird. And I don't like it. Not one bit.

So perhaps I'll just tinker with some opening lines. Play with some thoughts. See if they turn into a chapter.

Sam xx