Monday, 26 July 2010

Last night I spent a large chunk of the evening with a bunch of books from my shelves, all with alternative covers wrapped around them.

Blimey! What a responsibility! It's like trying to name a baby.

I won't tell you which one I prefer, not yet (although you may be able to work it out from stuff elsewhere on the net).

Interestingly other people don't seem to be swaying me at this point. I took the covers into my partner's workplace this morning and listened to many different opinions, all different, but none of them changed what I'd already decided.

Actually they're all brilliant, which means it doesn't matter so much. All the same I have picked one, and I love it. Now I am faffing about with all the other MILLIONS of jobs that need doing. It feels like it will never end, but it is all most satisfying.

Gathering Apace

[Warning: If you are one of my reviewers, this post contains short quotes from others, so if you haven't done yours yet and you don't want to be affected by others' thoughts, look away now.]

And then, in the midst of funeral arrangements and saying goodbye... there is this new thing. Which seems to occupy some schizophrenically-divided chamber in my head, so do forgive me if I now switch from sadness to excitement, because... Ooh ooh ooh, it's all getting very exciting - and scary - now!

I am such a maddo, fancy thinking I could publish a book in such a short space of time... BUT it seems I am somehow going to manage this. The publicity will consist entirely of Stuff Posted On The Internet, I am not even going to attempt to get it in bookshops or enter it into competitions or get the attention of broadsheets or any of that malarkey, but the cover will be a thing of UTTER GORGEOUSNESS (watch this space for very-soon developments) (fingers crossed) and I am so touched at how many people are helping me to do this.

On which note... my reviewers/quoters have already started sending stuff in and it is all brilliantly wonderful (scroll down for brief highlights).

I haven't a clue how many books I'll sell. People don't spend money lightly, especially in these budget-conscious times. But I'm pretty confident (eek, please let that not be misplaced) that I'll manage the 100 copies I need to go ahead with a print run, and I might even get the 172 sales I'd need to break even. How lovely would that be? Very lovely indeed.

The website launch date is next Thursday, the 5th August, so I have less than a fortnight now to pull everything together. It's pretty daunting, but I'll get there. I'll be sending a mass email out today or tomorrow to let everyone know what's happening and hopefully start building a buzz.


The boring (but exciting!) details: Next Thurs, 5th August, I will be launching my new website, and start taking orders for the book. If everything goes according to plan, the first batch of books will be despatched 2-3 weeks after that. Ways you can help:
- Publicise it to anyone you can
- Host a stop on a virtual book tour (details to follow)
- Buy a copy!

Here are some brief tasters from the reviews / quotes I've had so far:

“A book full of surprises — of titillation, of twists and turns, of fun, revelations and dreams.” - Sue Guiney

“This book is magic. Fresh and entertaining, with genuinely compelling characters and sparkling dialogue.” - Debi Alper

“Original, funny and wonderfully odd.” - Sarah Salway

“An energetic riot of a book, packed with mind-bending mentalism, New Age nonsense and cross-gender bed-hopping. ... Witty, with snappy dialogue and some beautifully-crafted lines.” - Kat Arney

“Turing shows the painful practical limitations of a world of joy. It’s funny, bitter-sweet and disturbing in equal parts. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a novel that’s both entertaining and a feast for the mind.” - Brian Clegg

“If you like an intelligent read that is both thoughtful and entertaining; if you like a book that is well written; if you like something a little out of the ordinary; then I suggest you buy this book.” - Graeme K Talboys

"A fascinating concept, eloquently explored” - Emily Dubberley

“It looks really good. Interesting. Fun.” - Karl Webster, aka Bete de Jour


Sunday, 25 July 2010

A Great Man

In the midst of Book Mania, life goes on. Although in some cases, it doesn't.

My grandfather died just over a week ago. He was 95 years old. He was amazing.

He was a pioneer in many ways. He was a staunch cradle catholic, but a radical one. He was a member of a group of radical Catholics who made a point of discussing and questioning their beliefs, and not always toeing the papal line. He had six children, and was always a hands-on dad. He shared housework and childcare equally with my grandmother, and never even considered there was another way of living life. His mother was a formidable woman, immensely intelligent and a feminist before her time. My favourite story about my father's childhood was always the one about how Grandad would line all six of them up on the kitchen table and clean hands, faces and knees in a production-line row.

He had various jobs, but eventually he trained as a teacher. He worked in the primary school at which Queenie's grandfather was the headmaster. Queenie and I discovered this by accident, when her father spotted my (surprisingly unusual) surname on the spine of my first novel, which she was proudly showing him ("my friend wrote this!"). Queenie's father, when he heard the news, described my grandfather thus: "A super good top bloke, albeit a bit eccentric ... he improved lots of children's lives." Grandad broke new ground by being the first teacher in a special unit designed to cater for children whose behavioural difficulties meant they couldn't survive in mainstream schooling. At the time this was a very new concept. But he never rated himself as a teacher and was always modest.

My grandmother - his wife - died when she was 80, 17 years ago. Towards the end of her life she became increasingly infirm, but Grandad did everything he could to keep her at home, and despite several stays in hospital she died at home. He looked after her like he had always looked after people. He was devoted to her. Grandma really was a little eccentric, and could be occasionally awkward, but I never saw him be anything other than patient and affectionate with her.

It was hard to believe he had been alive so long - he always seemed so young. I have video footage of him running around and chasing after my eldest son when he was a toddler, about six years ago. And I remember another day, a year or so after that, when he spontaneously started kicking a ball around a field with my son.

Towards the end he developed Alzheimers, but it wasn't obvious. He still had a lot to say about things that interested him, and he always played with children that crossed his path.

When I was little, I remember how he had a repertoire of tricks and games designed to entertain children. He could make a funny noise by squeezing his hands together. He had some clever magic trick involving string. He could make it seem like his hands and knees were topologically impossible by crossing his hands back and forth across his knees (blimey, that's hard to describe. If you've seen it done, you'll know what I mean). And he used to recite a strange little rhyme while moving his finger around in a slow spiral which ended up with a tickle and a poke to the midriff. I never forgot the words, and I always loved it. I've written it down below, and it looks almost indecent written down. It really ought to have been scary, but it never was. It was just wonderfully weird. I think that must have been because Grandad could never have been scary.

Eerie, eyrie, iggery um
Filthsome foulthsome dicksome John
Squeemy squirmy squangulum man
Squingulum squangulum

He had a very distinctive voice. I can close my eyes and hear it now. The closest I can think of is Patrick Moore, although Grandad was never posh. His voice was warm, and twinkly, and hugsome. I might miss his voice more than anything.

I just spent a few days at my parents' house, and understandably they are in turmoil. But shining through despite everything. I was worried that me and my two sons might just create more work for them, particularly as my oldest was quite ill and my youngest is at an age (just turned two) when he doesn't know the meaning of the word "quiet" and demands high levels of attention at all times. But they both found comfort in the company of their grandsons. There's nothing quite like being commanded by a bossy toddler to squish into a small shed and stand on chairs whilst nursing a teddy that is apparently a baby... to take your mind off your woes.

My mother's father, my other grandfather, had his 100th birthday party a few months ago. He is currently very ill in hospital. But he is still very much himself and within a day had learnt all the nurses' names. I'm thinking of him. He too is amazing.

Grandad's funeral is this Wednesday. I haven't cried properly yet. Apparently the priest is famous for being welcoming to children, which is just as well: Grandad died with nine great grandchildren, four of whom were born this spring, so it's lovely that he held out this long. I envisage myself standing in floods of tears while my youngest runs riot at my feet. Which I think Grandad would thoroughly approve of.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

You Need Glasses

This one's great too.

And this one!

by Lucy Pepper.

Clever Peeps

I've just been watching videos made by that clever Lucy Pepper woman. This is my favourite:

But if you follow this link you'll find Dead Sad Song and Girl on a Train, which are also good.

She is also a whizz at book cover design. Just so's you know.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

You talking to me?

"Now then, I'll just empty that wet load of washing and carry it upstairs, then I can bring another dirty load down again."

"But I'll have to empty the wet stuff out before I can use the basket again."

"And I can't hang it up, because the drier is in Son Number Two's bedroom and he isn't asleep yet."

"How about I fetch the dirty stuff down first, empty it out, and then fill the basket with wet stuff?"

"Ooh, that's a good idea. Why didn't I think of that?"

"You did."

"Oh yeah."

Friday, 9 July 2010

Review Copy done!


I finished the edit. Not only that but my brilliant wonderful LOVELY designer, Lucy Pepper, has knocked up a quick cover for the review copies. Which actually means all those lucky reviewers will be getting something a lot smarter than was originally planned. It is all way too tedious and complicated to go into detail, but suffice to say what was going to be A4 comb-bound is now an actual Lulu paperback. Reviewers will receive them next week.

Above is just the cover of the review copies. The final thing is still being worked on. The (rather gorgeous) illustration was done by my old friend Francis Blake.


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Pretty Pretty!

Ooh, I have the actual watercolour-on-paper version of the cover illustration. I also have all the sketches and notes which led to the final thing. It's beeyootiful. I'm gonna hang it on my wall.

Oof. Only three hours sleep last night. Suspect same tonight. Up late editing. Youngest has been ill. And I suddenly realised today that it's all very well calculating the costs of binding the review copies, but I also need to print the damn things. Hmm, money versus time. Argh.

Sorry, I have nothing else to write about. All very dull. Must go drink coffee.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Forward Movement

OK, yeah, it was pretty predictable that I would fall behind schedule... but I am making progress. The edit will be finished SOON. Honest. Although it might be finished quicker if I didn't keep getting distracted by faffing about with cover designs.

This is ridiculous because I am NOT A DESIGNER and the only tools I have at my disposal are Microsoft Paint and, er, Microsoft Paint. But my excuse du jour today was that I will have finished review copies to print next week (as long as I stop faffing) and they will need a cover. And the finished design-done-by-an-actual-designer probably won't be ready by then.

So. Now I feel the need to share.


Edit: Sorry, but I realised it was utterly pointless of me to post it here like that. It was just me playing around with images, and was hopeless as an actual design for a book cover. I liked the way it looked, because I liked the colours and stuff, but it would never pass muster as a book cover so there was no way anyone could truly say "Wow, that's amazing" without having to lie through their teeth. So I've removed it. It was done by me, using Microsoft Paint, whereas the actual thing will be done by professional deigners using professional software, so will / should look completely different.

In other news, I am starting a New Job in my New Career soon, and had my first day there yesterday, and have spent all day today doing that cringey thing when you remember something you did or said and go "Ouch, no, I didn't really, did I?" followed by a wince and then fingers in the ears and shouting "Lalala, I'm not listening" to myself when I try and replay nasty memory recordings to myself. I'm looking forward to being an established member of staff and not having to the newbie-making-an-impression thing any more. Still, the good news is that I hunted the Big Boss down and made him sit down with me and negotiate a better starting salary, and he didn't throw me out on my ear. He did make me put it in writing though.

"Dear Big Boss,

I am ace. Obviously this means I need a shedload more money than those other sad plebs. Gimme gimme gimme.

Beleaguered Squirrel.

That should work, no?