Friday, 28 March 2008

Writing a book together - the saga continues

I have just sent Aliya my edit, sans hyphens, of the third draft of the book. This is the point when I feel like the end is near, where I'm close to ordering the champagne and vol-au-vonts for the wrap party and shouting 'We did it! The book is finished. Publishers lock-up your daughters!'

This feeling lasts for as long as it takes Aliya to respond with something like: 'You know I said the hyphens were a problem? That was just to give you a chance at a warm-up. The real problem is this, and this, and that...'

Fingers and toes crossed everyone. She's firm but fair.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Competition update: books still free

Okay, so maybe I'm a bit of a demanding task-master. Guess that's what comes from writing a book with Aliya. She's a tough mistress. (Note the continued use of hyphenation regardless.)

Anywway, if you want to enter the competition but find the entry requirements a little over-zealous, you can still do so by completing the following sentence:

Although I'd love a copy of Gratia Placenti or Apex Digest #7, I can't be bothered writing a duelling viewpoint with the story Neil has on Ian Hocking's Fiction Flash because I have better things to do with my time, such as...

Monday, 24 March 2008

Competition: win FREE signed books

I've a copy of Gratia Placenti, the second anthology from Apex Digest, which features my story The Listening (most of the book is US horror, my story is a kind of slipstream pseudo-crime thing), with two copies of Apex Digest #7 for runners-up. (This one contains my story Kissing Cousins, a near-future speculative fiction foray, sitting amongst a host of space-horror.)

Just riddle-me-this, veggiebox fans:

The new Fiction Flash on Ian Hocking's blog is a podcast of my very short story Before Midnight? To be in with a chance of winning, you need to write the same events from the point of view of the narrator's partner. The ones I judge best will get the goods.

Leave your attempt as a comment on this post.

Alas this competition is only open to entrants with postal addresses in the UK. Not including Aliya.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

At the risk of repeating myself

I haven’t mentioned Sierra Leone PEN for a while, so thought I’d better rectify that.

At the tail end of the civil war in Sierra Leone journalist Mike Butscher had the rather odd idea of setting up a PEN office in Freetown. (International PEN is the NGO for ‘poets, essayists and novelists’, founded in London in the early twentieth century by, amongst others, HG Wells. It’s kind of like a writers’ version of Amnesty International.) Needless to say, whilst the civil war continued to rage, Mike was swimming upstream against a tide of hungry sharks. But, as well as providing valuable journalism about the situation in the country, he persisted with the centre. And since the war ended, the centre has gone from strength to strength, with Mike acting as Executive Secretary and building strong ties around the world, particularly with other African nations and also in Europe.

Mike has now gone on to work for Right to Play, a sport-promoting NGO in Liberia, but the PEN centre continues to flourish It has been working with schools in and around Freetown to improve child literacy rates, whilst also providing a valuable resource to local writers and students.

Although things have improved in Sierra Leone since the war, it’s still far from a barrel of laughs. Poverty is rife and the things we take for granted as writers, like pens, paper and stable access to electricity (let alone computers), publishers, bookshops and even libraries are scarce.

The PEN centre is always exceedingly grateful for any donations, particularly to build up the stock of its own library, and don’t feel you’re being vain if the one book you can spare is your own: you will easily benefit from at least a dozen voracious readers—future poets, essayists and novelists all, if you’re able to ship just one copy.

If you would like to contact Sierra Leone PEN/send contributions, opinions, queries and general comments to sierraleonepen(at) or write or send books/equipment in the more traditional manner to:


The postal service is reliable.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sam Hayes

I just wanted to mention that, fulfilling her promise to get back to blogging, Sam Hayes has done so

Sam was extremely successful last year, selling squillions of books and even getting a commercial made for her book in German. Her first major novel, Blood Ties, is published by Headline. You can see Sam talking about the book at Meet the Author. She must have practiced for weeks to get that presentation right, or else borrowed an auto-cue from someone.

Her new novel, Unspoken, will be out in hardback in July. I fully expect to see a TV adaptation of both of them in the near future too.

I also hear she's pretty big in Australia. To top all that off, she can fly planes.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

The one benefit of Crufts

I wonder if encouraging dog shows* filters a good portion of folk with fascist tendencies away from politics.

* I'm referring to breed shows here. I have no problems with agility, flyball, obedience, working trials, sled rallies, etc.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

As a last risotto

I'm afraid there's not a terribly large amount of food in my fridge. Tonight I will be making risotto. Red onion, garlic, organic Ecuadorian king prawn tails, red pepper and other Mediterranean vegetables, stock, etc. And some parmesan on top. Yes, I know Italians say not to mix fish and cheese, but I'm not Italian and king prawns aren't strictly fish.

Monday, 3 March 2008


Aliya isn’t the only one finally receiving some much deserved mainstream press attention. My very good friend Richard Watson recently recorded a track using musical instruments made with parts of two Ford Focuses. On Rich’s track, Six O’clock in the Morning, Mike Rutherford (Genesis and Mike and the Mechanics) plays a guitar made from a clutch plate and Kenney Jones (The Small Faces, The Faces and Keith Moon’s replacement in The Who, who coincidentally lived down the road from my Dad as a boy and is one of Stepney’s few notable exports, along with Doctor Barnardo’s Children’s Homes, Jack the Ripper and, er, the Krays) plays drums made from car wheels.

Other parts of the Fords are played by members of the National Symphony Orchestra and the Institute of Contemporary Musicians. The track, penned by Rich himself and recorded at Rutherford’s studios in Surrey, can be heard for free at the Times Online. There’s also a making of video.

All proceeds from downloads of the track go to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Anyone looking for further Light Reading launch juice, Roger Morris, Ian Hocking and Matt Curran all have reports on the evening on their blogs. Ian’s is pretty accurate, apart from stating I was at the launch with my girlfriend. Okay, she was a girl and a friend, but I doubt my very pregnant wife supports the combination of those two separate words when applied to women in my company.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Ladies who launch

I’m sure a pleasant evening was had by all at Goldsboro Books, for the launch party of Ms Whiteley’s new book that if you haven’t bought and read already, what are you doing reading this? Go to Amazon now and buy it.

I was impressed by the Macmillan New Writing turnout. It’s surely rare that a book imprint has such a community built up around it. Flying the MNW flag along with the editor and PR department were LC Tyler, Matt Curran, a lady with pink hair whose name someone please fill me in on, and I think the tall fellow in the corner I didn’t get a chance to meet was Tim Stretton. Hello, Tim. There was representation from Aliya’s agency too.

I would have liked to have said more than a brief passing hello to Ian Hocking, who was also there, along with his better half. I did have a bit of a chat to the very nice Alice Tait, who illustrated the cover and was in attendance with her fiancé, and the two phantom book-counting, tomato-loving veggiebox aficionados, one of whom was responsible for the spooky trailer for Light Reading, who both travelled down to London with Aliya and her parental entourage.

There were also several—count them: several—readers. I think this is the first time I have seen them in public in relation to mine or Aliya’s work. It was an eerie moment watching her sign a book for a—in case you missed it last time—reader. Their attendance was in some ways probably more appreciated than anyone else, if slightly intimidating. The whole experience has interfered slightly with my ambitions to get a proper book published.

All in all I’m sure she’s very pleased with how it all went, if a little weirded out that her book was everywhere and there was a billboard-sized picture of her face in the display window.

And no, I didn't take any pictures either.