Friday, 27 February 2009
Well some of you.
Go see Stu at Tonto, he's giving away free copies of Tonto books. So it could be 9987. Or it could be Make It Back. Or Everything You Ever Wanted. Or Being Normal. Or any, really, it's up to you.
Simply email Stu telling him which you book you want and why. The only proviso is that you have to agree to review it on Amazon afterwards.
How nice is he?
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
I'm not expecting any sympathy here. I know full well how lucky I am getting holidays to write/read/drink/stroke my Disco Kettle (and no, that's not a euphemism). But even so. Mondays are Mondays and the first Monday in a while is a shock to the system.
This Monday is still going on, a full 24 hours after it started.
Increasingly my Mondays last for days.
Increasingly my Mondays are tougher to get through.
Increasingly my Mondays are creeping into my weekends now. A long, slow recovery from the previous week. A sinking, heavy feeling in my chest at the prospect of the week to come.
I am dropping monkeys.
Monkey blood on the walls. No ice-cream in sight...
For example. A meeting on Monday. At 8:30. In the morning. A Breakfast meeting. No bacon provided. No toast. No cereals or pastries. No coffee.
At least not for me.
Boss: You haven't yet passed on your detailed, lesson by lesson, homework by homework, plan of action for the whole of the year.
Me: I know.
Boss: (not smiling, silent, tapping pen against her clipboard. Yes. Clipboard.)
Me: I have a vague overview you can have, and I have a list of assessments with deadlines. How's that?
Boss: Not detailed enough. Why isn't it done?
Me: Because I've been teaching it.
Me: And marking (lies lies lies).
Me: And then planning on how best to build on what we've done, or how to approach tricky bits in new ways.
Boss: Well I think your priorities need thinking about.
Me: So not the teaching bit?
Boss: No. I want your paperwork done.
Monkey bleeds on floral carpet.
So there you go. Teaching: It's all about the paperwork.
And after I'd done so well smuggling my piles of paperwork out to the recycling bins undercover of darkness. Buggah.
Ah well. At least I'm making good use of my time now eh? As we speak I'm training up my Marking Year 7 Student (now year 8, and progressing well into planning and form filling out) to write schemes of work.
It's longer, I admit, in the short term. The training and support needed to train a 12 year old to write complex and detailed schemes of work, but hey. That's what I do. I teach. Besides, it'll be worth it in the long run.
Right. So. Almost lesson 4. Where's me Monkeys gone?
Friday, 20 February 2009
Monday, 9 February 2009
They’re a bit odd aren’t they?
You see them on tele, all fancy like, long queues, tired signing arm, disappointed crowd when they announce it’s time to pack up and go away.
Proper mint, like.
And mine were almost exactly like that.
Except, of course, for the long queues. And for anyone caring that I was packing up and going home. I did have a tired signing arm, but that was largely through lifting grande coffees.
And I spent far more in store than I made. Let’s see…. At fifty pence (each) a book I made… hmmm £12.50. And spent…. Hmmm… Around £30. So, through the genius and magic of maths that gives me… - £17.50.
Ah well, one day it’ll all be worth it. If nothing else it’s got me in the three for section for a bit – and that’s where all the cool kids hang out, how.
Anyways – it was good fun. First one was good, a bit lonely (my Kick Ass Cool PR Guru wasn’t feeling too well, it seemed cruel to then insist she stand with me for four hours… I’m just not that mean. Honest.) but since she had provided me with Postcards it worked well. A scattering of them in the crime section at Borders, on the tills and on the little tables they leave out for you to sit around… It worked well.
But, the second one… Well… It really was an example of my genius.
The postcards stay in my satchel (Manly bag of Masculinity and Buffness). My satchel (Manly bag of Masculinity and Buffness) stays in the car or on my shoulder.
So I arrive. Without my satchel. Cos, like a fool, I’d brought it in into the house the night before to extract some books and stuff from it. And not returned it to the car.
And had forgotten my phone.
So no reinforcements.
Except no, wait, the most cool as Vix is here with me, and she has her ph – oh, no, she’s left it in her other trousers.
So – no postcards. How disastrous will this be, how?
I mean, I’m an unknown author – no one will make the trip especially to see me will they, especially not if they know me. And, really, I know full well I would never, ever approach a table with someone sat at and browse through their book.
Because it’s that very English thing – this politeness malarkey – so you flick through it, you talk to the author, you try to sound interested. At this point it’s impossible to put the book down isn’t it? You can’t just drop it can you?
So you take it away, possibly signed, and dump it somewhere else in the shop.
I try attacking people – it’s the Crime section afterall, people should be expecting it, and sometimes it works. My Kick Ass Cool PR Guru wanders about placing my book in prominent places.
I steal “Borders Recommends” slips and fill them in – PR Guru sly places them on the Favourites shelf…
And we wait.
And, actually, we do ok.
14 sold, 15 signed. (Oh yes, that’s right! One person actually brought their own copy for me to sign, it was like being a real author. Was cool as, like)
So – next time I need to get better organised.
Next time I might bring DK – get some dancing in the aisles (not with hot beverages though kids – don’t try it at home).
Which reminds me – it’s half term for me next week and so, between looking at piles of marking (then hiding them) and writing (aiming for 500 words a day) I will, I promise, get DK’s Disco Come Back up on YouTube… Somehow…
Oh! And before I forget, go here and vote for me!! Cos, you know, I’m proper mint, how…
Thursday, 5 February 2009
H'ok. So, for the "official" bit...
"Julie Myerson meets Ian McEwan in this gripping novel of family breakdown. Ana Lewis is trapped by her own expectations. Her intense relationship with fellow student Alex begins to crack beyond repair when she falls pregnant, and his subsequent withdrawal, emotionally and sexually are hard for Ana to bear. Eventually, following the birth of Pip and then Davie, Alex leaves Ana to a life of question and blame.
Locked in her room for much of the time she woefully neglects her children, preferring instead to replay scenes from her life over and over, fighting the urge to blink for fear it should dissipate the memories. Told within the context of two black boxes, one Ana's and one Pip's, the story reveals the key factors that have contributed to this catastrophic breakdown of life.
In Black Box 01 we meet Ana as she begins to deconstruct her life. She rails against Alex and his inability to love her, or to put her ahead of his domineering mother.
Black Box 02 is Pip's diary which details in a schoolgirl terms the neglect that both Pip and Davie have suffered. Pip talks of her mother's deterioration, lack of cleanliness and of her mother's obsessions.Pip and Davie communicate through finger sign language, as their mother demands silence. Davie retreats into his own world, permanently soiled and communicating only by sign, while Pip, fat and desperate, sneaks out of the house at night to have sex with a boy who hates her.
Pip and Davie exist in parallel, with only Ana's bedroom door separating her from them. She does not want to see them. They are the present and Ana chooses to live in a past, continually raking over the ashes of a relationship that was never really hers. Accomplished and affecting, Caroline Smailes weaves together a catastrophic tale of mismatched lives"
This, as you can probably imagine, is a real book. This is a work about real issues.
This, as you can surely imagine, is a hard hitting story.
It’s a hard hitting story written with innovation, with imagination, with a delicate and shattering simplicity.
And no, I’m not just sucking up.
See the thing I love about Caroline’s writing is that she’s not scared to try something a bit different, she not scared to make full use of the page. She’s quite happy using every available technique to tell the story, to create the atmosphere. To make the reader pay attention.
Black Boxes has an… unusual… style, certainly not one I’ve really encountered before. It’s written in three ways. Oh yes, three completely different ‘methods’.
We follow Ana through a transcript, a Black Box recording of her final descent.
We meet Pip and live through her diary.
We understand Davie through sections told in sign language.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking – s’a bit gimmicky isn’t it?
I mean, look at your Modernist writers, your stream of consciousness stuff – this’ll be post modernism for the sake of it, won’t it?
I know that’s what some of you will be thinking.
But others will have already spotted the elegant simplicity behind it all which makes the book so.. thrilling, so poignant, so…. Real, I suppose.
The Black Boxes. The last words. The last hours.
See, me, I love this. It’s all about memory, it’s all about perception, is all about clinging desperately to truths – even when those truths seem to be unravelling.
This is why the transcript works so well.
The Black Box. Indestructible. Inarguable evidence of the final events. Proof, above anything, of the facts.
But Ana is not indestructible. She is falling. Ana is not inarguable evidence. She is desperate, she is memory. Ana is not proof, is not fact: she is lonely, she is angry. She doesn’t trust herself anymore.
We ‘hear’ Ana’s last hours. We sift through wreckage, we slowly begin to piece together the disaster.
This is not always an easy book to read. There are some desperately sad moments, and some particularly uncomfortable ones.
But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
And this is worth it.
Honest. It is, as I’m sure you’ve guess – proper mint, how.
And - in a seamless tie in - yesterday was it's Paperback publication day and the lovely Caroline is running a competition to win signed copies. It'll be well worth it, I guarantee it.
It is writing like Caroline's that make me excited about reading.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
A Retrospective On Launching, Signing, Interviewing, Photoshoots and Truly Kiss Ass Cool Merchandising (Regardless of the opinions of Certain People).
(dusts off hands).
(shrugs into lapels)
And, of course,
(flicks imaginary dust from "suit")
How mint was I?
Well... Not that mint, actually. In fact I was quite nearly crap. More.... hmm... Tictac than Trebor Extra Strong. I did, indeed, need a little lift.
Launch day launch day give me a pint or two,
I'm still shaking, and desperate to go to the loo...
I'm in the car park. A basement one of course, for added tension and drama. Dim, damp, one flickering overhead strip light buzzing furiously. The lovely Vix holding my hand. I am not coping. Most geet lushious V is talking me through it. She has her hand in my hair and slowly, slowly, I am relaxing.
So yeah, ok, I've already posted my lecturey thingy - that was 180 peoples and me dancing. I know. But, see, I wasn't expecting 180 people. I was expecting around 20. It was a shock and I just had to panic through it.
I am expecting a larger number tonight. I am hoping for a larger number tonight. I am simply terrified it'll all go wrong. All day friends and family text me to cancel. My dad can't make it. This makes it harder getting out of the car.
Once there, once with a pint in hand and stood next to a pile of my books, next to some "I *heart* Lesbian Nurses T-Shirts and mugs, next to V, I wasn't doing too badly. Even managed to meet and greet people. Things began to run smoother.
My Most Creative and Crafty PR Guru had come up with good plans: the coffee mugs (if you've read 9987 the coffee will make sense), the T-shirts (always fun, and thankyouthankyou V for being the Only Person Wearing One). The true brilliance however lay in the membership cards.
Raffle tickets are boring, you get it, lose, chuck it away.
But Membership Cards to Total Rental... These you might keep, these you may show people. These, I think, were genius. My PR Guru is Mint. How.
Anyway, Sarah Shaw said her bit, did her reading, vacated the stage. I finished my pint, balanced myself between piano, microphone and the edge of the stage.
Thing is, is the night before V had me standing in my living room praticing my speechy bit. And heckling me, in the nicest possible way. I was mumbling, gabbling, peppering my speech with bizarre inflections. V was shaking her head and explaining patiently why it sounded crap. She was right. So we practiced and practiced. And soon it sounded ok.
So when I stood up, ready to start talking, holding my speech in sweaty palms, I knew exactly what to do.
For about a second.
The speech didn't quite get read out. It went a bit sideways. I got out my general ideas, but not in any logical order. I did not dance.
Luckily I had hired the very talented Alex Kinsey (I hope that's spelt right Alex, sorry if not...) to do a reading for me. He had three sections to read across the course of my speech. This gave me time to regroup, to check the speech.
I stood nervously in a corner while Alex read my words to (mostly) rapt audience. I thought about running away. I got a text.
V was sat, on the floor in front of the stage, grinning at me. I grinned back. I finished my speech.
So it went well, I think. Certainly people seemed to enjoy it.
I am aware that some people frowned at my 'blatent advertising'. But I don't care. I love Tonto, I do, and they work hard for me - Stu and Paul have done geet loads. But they aren't Bloomsbury. They're not minted. They need my help to advertise the book. And, shameless it may be, but I'm very proud of my twisted little story, and I want it to do well. So All Praise My PR Guru, cos she be kick ass cool, like.
So then I did a signing. At a shop.
A big shop...
And, due largely to the influence of point sticks and pokings, I did ok.
I stalked people in the aisles.
I hassled people at the 3 for 2 tables (oh yes, 3 for 2. I have truely arrived!)
Things are going ok.
And amongst the thanks I want to give to Caroline for ... well, everything, and to Tonto for of course throwing the launch, arranging the signings and, you know, publishing me. I want to offer one more huge thanks.
To the lovely Vix: without you there is no way I'd have managed to stand up and actually talk to people. There is no way my launch would have been half as successful. There is no way I would manage to assault people in the aisles of bookshops. There is no way I would be enjopying myself as muchg as I am.