Thursday, 30 September 2010

Paul the Octopus and a Japanese Baby

Have you entered my exciting competition to win a signed paperback copy of one of my books, or a special edition signed ebook? No, of course you haven't. The reason I know this is that I have only had two entrants so far, (with a total of three entries between them) and you're not one of them.

The first competition I ever had on this blog, I had 133 entries - and when I posted a giveaway on Goodreads I had 2229 entries, and 726 on LibraryThing - so please don't feel sorry for me. I don't feel unpopular.

With this current competition, you have to provide a link to a public review you written. It's a way of thanking people who have already bought my books, without asking for a copy of bank statements or anything scammy like that.

I had said that winners would be drawn at random and that people posting 5* reviews would have no advantage over those posting 3* reviews (or 1* or 2*). Nevertheless, I felt sightly conflicted about it. Would it seem, if people started posting glowing 5* reviews and linking to them on here, that I had coerced them into writing much more kindly about my books than they otherwise might have done, just for the chance to win a signed copy? Would my integrity be besmirched? Would theirs? Would yours?

Fortunately, public indifference to this competition has ensured that we can all come out of this with our heads held high. We are all, to some extent, winners.

Still, I have a Japanese baby on her way to the house even as I type this, to make the draw. Though her identity must, of course, remain a secret, I can confirm that she lives on an island a long way away from here. She is travelling by ferry - her first trip across the water since she was born - and then by car to reach me. Her little hands will be instrumental in choosing a winner some time over the weekend.

I had hoped to have six entries, so that I could get her to roll a dice. As it currently stands, I think I will ask her to choose one of three brightly coloured objects - possibly some Nespresso capsules. Does anyone know whether babies are attracted to the colour red? Apparently that's the logic behind the choices Paul the Octopus makes when picking winners. The more red in the flag, the more attractive it is to the poor creature.

If any of that thrills you; if you have read one of my books and written a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads or LibraryThing or the Book Depository or WH Smith or anywhere like that - or if you are intending to - don't forget that you have until tomorrow to enter the competition. All you have to do is leave a link to your review in the comments section of this post. Full details here.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Lovely Literary Events in London

Tonight I'm going to Damian Barr's Literary Salon at Shoreditch House, which this month features Molly Parkin, Immodesty Blaize and Rupert Thomson. RT's first book, Dreams of Leaving, which I read many years ago when it was first published, is on my list of 'books I love'.

The Book Club Boutique, run by Salena Godden and Rachel Rayner, has been touring the various festivals this summer and returns to its winter home at The House of St Barnabus on Friday 8th October. Book Club Boutique is a monthly event featuring readings, poetry and music. It starts at 7pm and it's £7 on the door or £5 to BCB members. The line-up has yet to be announced but it's always good fun and I'm looking forward to it.

The Liars' League will be celebrating their 40th event in the cellar of the Phoenix pub with a special 'Dark and Stormy night' on Tuesday 12th October, which promises five spooky stories read by professional actors, a literary quiz, a mini-Bulwer-Lytton contest for the worst opening line of a story, Happy Hour prices on wine all night, and the chance to win all six books on the Man Booker shortlist on the night the results are announced. It's £5 on the door and starts at 7.30 pm. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it! See you there

More Books I Love

I was inspired by a post on Nik Perring's blog to start recommending some of the books I have read and enjoyed over the years.

I realise you might not like the books I like. That's OK. (You might not even like the books I write. That's OK, too. Though I wouldn't mention it here, if I were you.)

The Liars Club by Mary Karr - a brilliant, beautifully-written account of the author's childhood and how the various elements of tragedy, comedy, hardship and occasional farce - as well as her mother's love of reading and her father's love of story-telling - combined to make the author such a wonderful story-teller. One of my favourite books.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs - a very funny autobiographical account of the author's unorthodox upbringing in the house of his mother's psychiatrist.


The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard - a first-hand account of Scott's disastrous expedition to the Antarctic in 1910, which the author joined when he was only 24. It is beautifully-written, historically interesting and very moving.

The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton - a clever, inventive, puzzling book that was written by EC when she was only 22. It deals with artifice and artificiality and there are some deliberately arch passages in it, as well as some provocatively showy similes, which she gets away with.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Caroline O'Connor - The Showgirl Within

Last night I went to see Caroline O'Connor's The Showgirl Within at The Garrick Theatre - two hours of show tunes, including an interval. She was on stage with four dancers and a really fantastic band - the short piano solo by MD Daniel Edmonds was a highlight in itself.

She does a very good Piaf, Judy Garland and Ethel Merman, but mostly this is a romp through the leading roles she has taken on stage in Australia, the West End and on Broadway, with her interpretation of her favourite show tunes and an account of her love affair with the stage. The journey begins when she leaves Australia to audition for her first stage roles in London at the age of twenty-two.

Caroline O'Connor is charming and likeable and has some very funny, self-deprecating quips to link the songs - and though she's clearly a talented actress as well as a singer, she seemed genuinely choked by the rapturous reception from the audience at the end of the night.

Reviews from Mark Shenton in The Stage here and the West End Whingers here. It's on until 3rd October.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Books I Love

Since I started this blog three and a half years ago, there have been some recurring themes/posts: Signs of Ageing, Adventures in Publishing, Things I Have Seen at the Theatre That I Only Mention in the Hope of Appearing Cultured and Intelligent (there isn't a tag for that one), Dogshit, Haiku... lots and lots of fascinating subjects, in fact. But I never mention (other people's) books, except in my annual List of Lovely Things, a terse mnemonic that doesn't explain why I enjoyed the books I read that year.

Nik Perring, author of Not So Perfect, recently challenged anyone reading his blog to recommend some books. I started compiling a list - not a show-off list, just a list of books that I had enjoyed - and it became so unwieldy that I decided to break it up a bit and sprinkle suggestions at random through this blog in the coming months.

Reading is such a personal, private experience that it really doesn't matter to me if someone else likes or doesn't like a book. I only care if I like it. However, the way I find them in the first place is via recommendations - from the review pages in newspapers, from blogs and from friends. I also use the Granta anthologies as a way of finding new writers. I always think I'm being really cunning when I do that, but of course that's the whole point of them.

If you don't like the sound of any of these books - or you have already read them and you hated them - don't feel awkward about it. I won't like you any less. I can't imagine disliking anyone because of the books they read, though I also can't imagine being friends with anyone who doesn't read at all. I have slept with men who don't read books - but that's different. Though intelligence is a factor when falling in love, I have never lusted after a man because of the size of his library.

In fact, the only disastrous relationship I have ever had was with a man who used to quote poetry to me in bed. When he texted me one night to say, 'the world is changed because you are made of ivory and gold,' I thought, if you have made that up I'm going to marry you. But it turned out it's a line from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Books I Love
These are books I have read recently:

Me Cheeta by James Lever - it purports to be the autobiography of the chimp who starred in the Tarzan films. Outrageous, clever, filthy and funny. I have given copies of this book to several friends and family members as presents, and recommended it all over the place in the Amazon forums. I can't imagine anyone not liking it.

My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen - a book about time travel. Clever and witty. It's the first of her books that I have ever read. I liked it so much I felt as if it could have been written especially for me. I read it a few weeks ago and I'm going to go through and read everything else she has ever written.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid - an exquisitely written, involving fable with elements of a thriller and plenty of dry humour in it. I hated the title as it put me off the reading the book, thinking it would be worthy and dull. But even that turns out to be a witty pun. After I read this, I went straight out and bought his first book, Moth Smoke.

The City & The City by China Mieville - a gripping sci-fi murder mystery with lots of clever similes in it. What I liked most about it was the construction of the world; the way the inhabitants of his story live is an analogy for the way the citizens of big cities live, selectively filtering out things or people they don't wish to see, or have been trained not to see. But I was pretty impressed by the similes, too. I have picked up The Scar to read next.

---
There. That's the first lot. I read Me Cheeta about a year ago. The others I have read over the last few weeks. I am quite old now and I have read lots and lots of beautiful, brilliant books, both obscure and well-known. I look forward to sharing some of them with you.

Drowsy Chaperone and Clybourne Park

Yesterday I saw The Drowsy Chaperone Upstairs at The Gatehouse. It's a pastiche of American Jazz Age musicals which has been written to appeal to modern audience by using the device of an on-stage current-day narrator to skip us through 'the boring bits'. It has some lovely tunes, knockabout comedy, a beautiful star, tap dancing - even knife throwing. The cast and musicians are excellent and there's a very inventive use of the set. I loved it. If any of it sounds as though it might appeal to you, I'm pretty sure you'll love it too. It's on until 31st October. Tickets are £12 - £16.

Last week I saw Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park at The Royal Court. Although it deals with the subject of racism, it's essentially a comedy of manners and very funny. I always feel that I can confidently skip any theatre experience that asks me to hand over £25 so I can sit in the dark for two hours on an uncomfortable seat while a bunch of very worthy people tries to convey the message that racism is wrong. I know! I know, I know, I know.

Fortunately the seats at The Royal Court downstairs are very comfortable and the message that Bruce Norris, Dominic Cooke and the cast has to convey is sophisticated and subtle. I went to see the play with a small party of friends, some white, one black, some English, one not - and afterwards we talked about racism. Well, we got drunk and talked about racism. That's not something any of us would ever normally do. If the aim of the play was to provoke discussion as well as to entertain - as I'm sure it must have been - then Bruce Norris certainly achieved his aim. But I would never have wanted to talk about what I had seen if it hadn't been clever, entertaining and funny.

Bruce Norris is/was an actor and is affiliated with the Steppenwolf theatre - and you can see all that in the quality of the dialogue; the economy and timing of the lines (with excellent direction from Dominic Cooke). The cast was brilliant. I really liked Robert Innes Hopkins's set, especially the front porch which was lit so that the ivy (I think) that was growing on it, and the brickwork, looked realistic even though I was sitting in the front row.

Unfortunately Clybourne Park is sold out but you should still be able to get returns and day seats. Call the box office for details. It's on until 2nd October.

Thanks to the West End Whingers for enthusing so much about The Drowsy Chaperone when it was on in the West End that I decided to catch it this time round Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and for insisting that Clybourne Park is one of this year's unmissable shows. (The other was London Assurance, apparently. But I did miss that.)

Edit: Review from the West End Whingers for The Drowsy Chaperone Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Glamtastic

On Friday I went to Cardiff for the Glamtastic fundraising lunch in aid of Amser Justin Time, a charity set up in memory of Justin Smith by his wife Shân Cothi after Justin died of pancreatic cancer three years ago. Justin was a TV producer and director but was well-known in Cardiff for his previous incarnation as Pepsi Tate, bassist and lyricist with Welsh glam rock group TigerTailz.

The lunch was hosted by Damon Rochefort, my daughter's father and Justin's best friend - they had known each other since they were two - and featured performances from Shân, Sharon D. Clarke, Rhydian, Serendipity, members of Only Men Aloud and TigerTailz. Damon writes for Coronation Street and members of the cast had travelled down to lend their support. Rachel Leskovac, Tupele Dorgu and Steve Bell helped out by drawing the raffle and offering auction prizes. Ex-boxer Steve (a former captain of the England boxing team at the Commonwealth Games) offered the chance to spar with him and meet professional boxers at the gym where he trains. Other prizes included a tour of the Coronation Street set, a private lunch cooked by a celebrity chef, tickets for every Wales international rugby game at the Millennium Stadium, as well as signed sporting memorabilia and a day learning dance moves with Serendipity's choreographer.

Justine Pickering organised the lunch, which raised £40,000 - to be shared between Amser Justin Time and Velindre Cancer Centre's Leading Lights appeal, to help fund specialist nursing care for pancreatic cancer patients in Wales.

The photos in the feature in WalesOnline came out better than mine, though I have had more practice at spelling Rochefort.

Here's Shan singing I believe with TigerTailz and Bryn Terfel in a fundraising single that was put together after Justin died. You can even catch a glimpse of Lauren's Grandad in it. If you download it from iTunes, the money goes to Amser Justin Time.

After that, there's a video of Justin - one of three that was put together by his friend Tony Mabey for the funeral in 2007.



Ten Lovely Blogs

Lisa at herbookself recently gave me a 'One Lovely Blog' award. Thanks, Lisa!

The award is a way of encouraging readers of a particular blog to discover other interesting sites. One of the conditions of displaying the award is that I am supposed to pass it on to other blogs that deserve it.

So, after much careful thought, I'd like to bestow this award on ten blogs which have featured my books over the last few months. Some of them are serious review sites and won't want to display the award or pass on what is effectively an internet meme. That's fine. They are still lovely blogs and I want to take the opportunity to thank the authors and mention them here. Other recipients may wish to display the award and share the love by naming other sites they recommend to their readers.

The One Lovely Blog Award goes to the following:

Sizzling Hot Romance Kristie Leigh Maguire is an award-winning romance author and the host of the Spinning Wheel thread over at Amazon.com where I did my first virtual reading for my book, The Miracle Inspector. Kristie reviews romance books and talks about her work on her blog.

Lit and Laundry Book reviews and news about recent craft projects from Sarah: teacher, mother, reader and talented quilter.

Stimulated Outlet Author Alice Yeh reviews books and interviews authors on this interesting new blog.

Cajun Book Lady Reviews and giveaways from prolific reader Kris, who also finds the time to bring up her children, rescue kittens and run three blogs.

Interview Me Cambridge Read the manifesto for this fascinating interview blog. After you have read that, make sure you read the blog.

Red Adept Reviews Popular reviewer Red Adept's blog is available on the kindle. She reviews books and also runs regular features inviting authors to contribute answers about the process of writing: 'character or plot', 'settings', and so on.

Breakout Books Author Dawn Judd runs the Breakout Books Club on Facebook and writes reviews and interviews on her blog, where she also holds contests and giveaways. The blog features guest interviews by author Imogen Rose.

Kindle Author Novelist, playwright and screenwriter David Wise has an interesting background himself as a writer. His popular new interview blog is ranked in the top ten book blogs by technorati and is available for the kindle.

The Indie Spotlight, Authors Gregory Banks and Edward Patterson run this well-established site which features reviews, articles and interviews about the craft of writing as well as information for independent authors about how to publish and promote their books. The Indie Spotlight is available on the kindle.

Two Ends of the Pen Author Debra L Martin co-writes fantasy and science fiction with David W Small. Debra features interviews and reviews on her blog, as well as news about her books.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Virtual Reading over at Amazon's US Kindle Forum

I'm doing a 'virtual reading' in a thread over at Amazon's US Kindle Forum today, 23rd September. This will involve posting excerpts from my new book, The Miracle Inspector, and answering questions about it.

I'll be popping in and out of the thread all day. Please join me. Anyone can read what has been written but you have to be an Amazon.com customer (i.e. to have bought something from the US store rather than the UK one) in order to comment.

You can get the general idea of my aptitude for talking seriously about my work by watching the video, below. Obviously I'm much more attractive in real life.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Two more interviews, an article in The Writer magazine and an award

I'm all over the internet this week! And also on quite a few doormats.

I was delighted to participate in a Q&A as part of the 'Meet the author' series over at the popular Lit and Laundry blog. Sarah and many of her readers are talented individuals who enjoy creative pursuits such as quilt-making and other crafts, and they talk about their interests and their home lives as well as talking about books. Hello to anyone visiting from there - thank you for joining me. I haven't started reading any of the Chekhov that I boasted about downloading for free from the kindle store. Just having his plays and short stories sitting in my 'kindle for pc' application makes me feel intelligent, so perhaps I will never need to open any of them and read them.

New York author Alice Yeh has just started a review site called Stimulated Outlet Book Reviews, and I took part in her first interview session. Hello to you if you're visiting from Alice's site.

I have also had an article entitled 'Why I love ebooks' published in the Writers Guild of Great Britain's magazine, The Writer. This has been sent out to members of the Guild in recent days, hence my claim to be on quite a few doormats. How many of those mats have a coin under them, I wonder? Mine has, and I have just had the most fantastic piece of writing-related good news this morning. I will share it when the contracts are signed.

Oh! And I was given an award by Lisa at herbookself. More on that later, as one of the conditions for displaying the award is that you must pass it on by naming other blogs that deserve it. I will think carefully and post something in the next few days. In the meantime, hello to you if you're visiting from Lisa's blog.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Perfect Autumn Day


The new issue of Granta and some windfall apples from my garden.

Granta is an anthology of new writing and usually includes photographs, so it's not available for ereaders although there is an app for the iPhone. Since the new American editor John Freeman took over, recent issues have been outstanding. Granta's a great way to discover new authors - or authors who are new to you.

The last issue (the best I have read) had contributions from Elizabeth McCracken, Seamus Heaney and Richard Russo, and an excerpt from Mark Twain's forthcoming autobiography. Contributors to the previous couple of issues included Jeanette Winterston, Derek Walcott, Salman Rushdie and Daniel Alarcon (you can read Life Among the Pirates here).

The list price is £12.99 but you never have to pay full price - they always have deals if you subscribe. The current deal is £22.50 for four issues and a moleskine notebook. Subscribers also get free access to the online archives.

There are various launch events in the UK and the US in coming weeks.

AND DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE COMPETITION TO WIN SIGNED COPIES OF MY BOOKS. PLEASE SEE THIS POST FOR DETAILS.

Cyber Pennies, Bono, Jessie and Me

Have you noticed the adverts on the site? I know! It's ever so modern, isn't it? Just like reading the Guardian.

Do you feel cheap, looking at them? Well don't, because I don't get any money if you just look; you have to click on the Google ads for me to earn pennies, and you have to actually buy something from Amazon for me to get a cut.

Aw, c'mon. Even Bono advertises for Louis Vuitton. Don't feel sullied. Don't feel cheap. Just click on the Google ads every so often as you pass by; once a month maybe, or twice a year if that feels too arduous. For me, it'll be the cyber equivalent of seeing a penny in the street and picking it up - every time you click, I'll feel lucky and loved.

And if I save it all up, at the end of the year I should have enough to buy half a dozen tins of dog food for Jessie. If everyone who reads this buys a Kindle, I should have enough money to send her to 'live with a nice family on a farm' when the time comes.

AND DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE COMPETITION TO WIN SIGNED COPIES OF MY BOOKS. PLEASE CHECK OUT THIS POST FOR DETAILS.

When someone says "I love you" aren't you supposed to say it back?

I have got lots of lovely new followers for this blog. Hello to everyone who is 'following publicly' as well as those who subscribe via email or read the posts in an ereader.

I had been trying to look at the profiles of new followers as they show up in the little box on the right hand side of the page so I can read and follow your blog if you have one. But with the drive to recruit new followers in recent days, I have got a little behind. I know, I know. I'm sorry.

If you're following this blog and you have a blog and I'm not following you back, please leave your blog address in the comments section below, to prompt me to find you. Hopefully other readers of this blog will come and visit you, too.

AND DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE COMPETITION TO WIN SIGNED COPIES OF MY BOOKS. PLEASE CHECK OUT THE POST BENEATH THIS ONE FOR DETAILS.

So far I have only had one entrant but I am planning to use a Japanese baby to select the winners at random, so it's vitally important that more people enter so that I can film the whole thing and put it on YouTube.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Alison Wonderland & Being Light - new competition

Following requests from readers who will be joining me for the 'virtual reading' over on the Amazon kindle forums on 23rd September, the price of Alison Wonderland and Being Light has now been discounted to $2.99 in the US Kindle store and £1.99 in the UK Kindle store until 30th September. I know! Crazy...

If you have already bought and read the books for $4.99, you may feel sorry that you didn't wait for the price drop. By way of compensation, I have decided to run a competition for signed copies of my books.

If you have read one of my books and reviewed it publicly somewhere (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, Waterstones, WH Smiths, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari, your blog, etc. etc.), then please leave your name and a link to the review in the comments section here. Names will be selected at random some time after midnight on 30th September and the winner(s) will receive a signed paperback copy of one of my books - or a copy of an ebook in any format you choose: mobi (for the Kindle), epub, prc, etc.

Winners will be selected as follows:
Up to 20 entrants: 1 winner gets one signed copy of the book of their choice
Up to 40 entrants: 2 winners get one signed copy of the book of their choice
Up to 60 entrants: 3 winners get one signed copy of the book of their choice


Questions:
I have read your book but I haven't reviewed it anywhere yet. If I leave a review now, is that OK? Yes. You have until midnight on 30th September to take part.

I have read your book but I left a 1* review for it on Amazon because I didn't like it much. Can I still take part? Yes.

Will I stand a better chance of winning if I leave/have left a 5* review? No. Though favourable reviews are much appreciated, winners of this competition will be selected at random from the names & links in the comments section below.

I have reviewed all your books, can I only enter once? No - each review in each location gives you one chance to enter, so you can enter multiple times. Just leave your name and a link here.

I read the paperback years ago and I don't feel cheated by this temporary ebook price drop. Can I still enter? Yes. Just leave a link to your review.

I don't live in England. Does it matter? No. I can send the books abroad.

I have an ereader and I'd really like a signed copy of an ebook if I win. Can you do that? Yes. You'll get a special edition ebook inscribed to you if you win.

London Screenwriters Festival - discount and competition to win tickets

Members of the Writers Guild can get a £75 discount on tickets for the London Screenwriters' Festival which is taking place 29-31 October at Regent's College in Regents Park.

There are various workshops and seminars at the festival, which has a blog here, a Facebook page here and is on Twitter here. Tickets normally cost £299 for the three days.

To book tickets at the reduced rate, Writers Guild members should go to the Festival site and enter the discount code 'Writersguild'. The ticket price will automatically reduce and your membership status will then be verified by the Writers' Guild. If you're not a member of the guild, you can still get (smaller) discounts using codes from Lucy Vee at Write Here, Write Now or Danny Stack at Scriptwriting in the UK.

If you'd like to go to the festival but you don't have the money for a ticket then Hannah at Circalit may have a solution for you. She has been in touch about a competition Circalit is running in partnership wtih the London Screenwriters' Festival. The winner will get £100 cash prize, a meeting with a top literary agent and a free ticket to the festival. The competition is free to enter and the deadline is 15th October.

The Miracle Inspector - ebook special offer

The Miracle Inspector is available as an ebook at Amazon and it's on special offer at $2.99 in the US Kindle store and £1.99 in the UK Kindle store from today until the end of September because I'm doing a 'reading' - i.e. posting excerpts and answering questions about it - in one of the threads over at Amazon's kindle forum in the US on 23rd September.

I'll post the link to the thread on 23rd September if you're interested in following the virtual reading. But for now, if you want to grab a copy at the reduced price before the reading, here's your chance.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The best book in the world

Sometimes friends and acquaintances will ask me about my books. I'll blush and say, 'They're pretty good. They're not the best books in the world but I'm proud of them.' This peculiar marketing technique may help to explain why so few of my friends and acquaintances have actually read any of my books. Fortunately you are intelligent and perceptive enough to see past my self-deprecation. If you haven't yet read one of my books, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before you go out and buy yourself a copy. Thank you for that.

I'm writing one at the moment, it's about a woman and an angel who go on a road trip after the angel saves her from suicide. I think it will be good (I hope so, anyway). I don't think it will be the best book in the world.

What would be the best book in the world?
Maybe I should try to write it.

What elements would a book have to contain, in order to be the best book in the world? I think it would have to be exciting and sad, with lots of funny lines in it. It wouldn't have rape, torture, child abuse or brand names in it. It would be a short book. There would be a moment of terrible realisation for the main character, and as it was uncovered in the story, it would nearly break the reader's heart - because it would somehow reveal some great truth about life. The reader would think, this book could have been written for me.

It must be possible, therefore, to assemble such a book by putting together all the right ingredients in the right order: sad bit, funny bit, terrible realisation, excitement, excitement, funny bit, sad bit, the end.

Regular readers will know that I'm reverse-engineering my masterpiece for the theatre, Smith's Bleakly, from the kind of reviews I would like to get. My novel - the one I will be writing after the one I'm writing now - will be tackled more conventionally and robustly. I will drive into it headfirst as if I have just seen the last parking space in Asda's carpark at Christmastime. I will assemble it as efficiently as if I were making a cheese cake with my nephews; all the ingredients crunched, whipped, measured, sifted, separated and then folded in together and baked.

It may not actually be the best book in the world but it will be wonderful. I just need a title.

Enough about me. What about you? How are you?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Blogfest Winners

Thank you to everyone who visited this blog as part of BlogFest 2010 and signed up to win signed copies of my books, Alison Wonderland and Being Light.

Welcome to all the new readers - it's lovely to have you here. Thank you to everyone who followed this blog over the weekend - and to those who have been following since the beginning. I hope you'll stick with me.

Since I now have more than 200 followers, I picked two Blogfest winners at random with the help of my dog, Jessie:

Kailia Sage
Shawnee

I have emailed the winners to let them know that they were successful. I'm sorry that not everyone could win but I hope that some of you won prizes at the other blogs taking part.

If you're interested in the selection process, please take a look at the video below. If you're wondering whether to commit 3.26 mins of your life to watching it, I'm happy to confirm that unless you're keen to watch a woman cutting up some pieces of paper and a dog eating a gravy bone, you can definitely skip it.



If you liked the video, there's plenty more of that sort of thing here.

Friday, 10 September 2010

BlogFest - Win Signed Copies of My Books

I'm participating in BlogFest 2010 which is a kind of treasure hunt for book lovers, encouraging readers to discover new book blogs and maybe even pick up some prizes along the way. I'm giving away signed copies of my books, Alison Wonderland and Being Light.

When Alison joins Mrs Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation as a private detective, her new job takes her on a series of loosely linked adventures involving an abandoned baby, a transgenic animal and secret tunnels under The Thames. She travels from London to the seaside town of Weymouth and back again with her new best friend Taron, a girl with a hundred candle smile. But someone is betraying her. Is it Taron? Is it Jeff, the sweet-natured inventor who writes her poetry? Or are there darker forces at play?

Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one. The Times
Made me sigh and throw it to the floor in a fit of envious pique. Julie Burchill, Guardian
A fantastical Thelma and Louise meets Agatha Christie adventure story. The dialogue is smart and the deadpan humour is perfectly judged. The List



Roy Travers is swept away by a freak gust of wind while trying to install a bouncy castle in Brockwell Park, south London. Sheila, his wife, can’t understand why he hasn’t found his way back home. She begins to suspect that Roy has been abducted by aliens and enlists the help of Mrs Fitzgerald’s Bureau of Investigation to find him. Sheila travels to Kent with Alison, a private detective. Together they build a missing persons advertisement out of pebbles on a beach, hoping it will be seen by the aliens who have taken Roy. But Roy was not taken by aliens. The truth is far stranger.

Smith has a keen eye for material details, but her prose is lucid and uncluttered by heavy description. Imagine a satire on Cool Britannia made by the Coen Brothers… very funny. Times Literary Supplement
This is a novel in which the ordinary and the unusual are constantly juxtaposed in various idiosyncratic characters… Its airy quirkiness is a delight. The Times

A screwball comedy that really works. The Independent
Smith’s world is as wacky as Nicola Barker’s, but much funnier, less disquieting. Perhaps the Evelyn Waugh of Decline and Fall comes closer… She is a great snapper-up of unconsidered trifles… Wicked! Time Out


If you'd like to win a signed copy of both books, please email me at blogfest@btinternet.com before midnight on Sunday 12th September. The winners will be picked at random from the people who email me.

The aim is to gain more readers for this blog and one way to check the success of this endeavour is to monitor the followers box on the right hand side of this page. Prizes will be allocated accordingly:

100+ followers = One lucky winner will get a signed copy of both books.
200+ followers = Two lucky winners will get a signed copy of both books.
300+ followers = Three lucky winners will get a signed copy of both books.
400+ followers = Four lucky winners will get a signed copy of both books.



Questions:
  • How do I follow this blog? Click the 'follow' button on the right hand side of this page.
  • Do I have to 'follow' the blog to be eligible for a prize? No. You can just send me an email.
  • Do I have to be a participant in the 'BlogFest', whatever that is? No. Just send me an email.
  • If I already follow the blog, do I have to send you an email? Yes, if you want the chance to win.
  • Do I have to send you my address? No, if you win I'll be in touch to ask for it.
  • I don't live in England. Does it matter? No, I can send the books abroad.
  • I have a Kindle/some other ereader. Can I get ebooks instead? Yes.
  • How do I win other prizes? Click this link and visit the blogs listed there.
Now please hop in to the next blog on the list: Smash Attack Reads

PhotobucketCheck in to Journey of Books for more blogs and more prizes.
There's a tracking site: log in to make sure you visit every blog - and you could be in with a chance of winning the 'Grand Giveaway'.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

30 Day Shred for Poetry, Plays, Novels

It's my birthday in November, a time when traditionally I hold a party at which I serve frozen vegetarian pizza from Lidl and cava from Sainsbury's, and wake with a crashing hangover to take stock of my life. Every September I'm filled with loving kindness for my future self, and I make plans to cram a year's worth of achievements into the following weeks so I can have a drink on my birthday without getting maudlin the next day.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions (too tacky!), though I do make promises to myself at the start of the year which I invariably fail to keep. A peek at the folders on my computer - as part of my September Stocktake - reveals one that's labelled Poems 2010. It's evidence of a long-forgotten 'write a poem a day' plan.

It started well enough: I wrote a poem entitled The Penitent on 2nd January 2010, which was about bending over the bath on New Year's Day to wash a lump of shit from where it had got stuck under the pad on my dog's right front paw, and how as I straightened up with my back aching, I felt like a member of a short-lived cult whose ridiculous rituals involved washing the feet of the undeserving, and how it wasn't a good start to the year. (Yes! How clever of you! It was based on real life.)

This was followed, on 3rd January, by a very jolly poem about courgettes. As I remember, the quality of the poetry wasn't important in the 'poem a day' plan. The aim was to write a poem a day no matter what. But after 3rd January, none followed. So I'm about 363 poems down, give or take.

And I always start the year intending to get a little sleeker so that I will look winsome in publicity photos and my books will fly off the shelves and my plays will get produced. Chuck Palaniuk's advice for writers is this: get your author photos taken when you're young and relatively attractive. It's brilliant advice. Take heed, young writers. The writing part of a writer's life is never so arduous as trying to look gorgeous.

Fortunately I have discovered a marvellous DVD called Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred, which was recommended to me on Twitter. Now, there's nothing that screams 'middle-aged woman' so much as doing an exercise DVD at home (except perhaps being overweight and drudgy-looking). However I really don't care because it turns out that by doing exactly what Jillian Michaels tells me to do for 20 minutes a day, every day for a month, I can drop a dress size. I started a few days ago and it really works. THIS is what I've been waiting for all my life, every time September comes around: a miraculous, fast-acting remedy for nine months of sloth.

Now all I need is a 30 Day Shred for my poetry, my play that I'm supposed to be writing, my novel that I'm supposed to be writing...

Jillian Michaels
I love your 30 Day Shred
Help me achieve more

There. That's a haiku. I'm not saying it's any good but I'm definitely counting it. 362 to go.

Blogfest 2010 Goes Live Tonight

Don't forget to check back this weekend for details of the prize I'll be giving away for Blogfest 2010, which is a kind of treasure hunt that has been put together by dozens of book bloggers who have hooked up so you can visit blogs you may never have visited before - and have the chance to win prizes along the way.

More details and the list of participating blogs here. Details of prizes will go live on each blog at midnight New York time on Thursday 9th, which is about 5.00 am on Friday 10th here.

There's a Blogfest tracking site you can log in to that helps you to keep tabs on which blogs you have visited - if you use the tracking site, you'll be in with a chance of winning a 'grand giveaway' prize.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

BlogFest 2010

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I will be taking part in BlogFest 2010 - lots of book bloggers are giving away prizes.

I'll be giving away signed copies of my books. Please check back over the weekend for details.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Dr Who ebooks - Free

The BBC has eight free classic Dr Who ebooks on its site, written by Paul Cornell, Mark Gatiss, Andy Lane, Lance Parkin, Marc Platt, Justin Richards, Gareth Roberts and Gary Russell.

All the books feature brand new artwork and extensive notes by the authors.

You can read them on your computer or download them to a handheld device.

In other exciting news, it has recently been announced that two friends of the blog, Jason Arnopp and William Gallagher, have written Dr Who stories that will be published later this year.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Frugal Kindle

I was delighted to see Alison Wonderland featured on the new Frugal Kindle blog this week.

The Frugal Kindle blog rather catchily features 'frugal finds under nine' - and you can search for kindle editions of books that are under $1, under $5 and under $9, as well as searching by genre. So far two of my favourite books have been mentioned on there: Never Let Me Go and Running with Scissors, as well as Alison Wonderland

Alison Wonderland is only $4.99 in the US store and £2.99 in the UK store. If you haven't got a kindle, you can read it on a kindle app on your pc, iPhone, iPad or Android. Or you can read it in paperback.