Sunday, 6 April 2008

So long, and thanks for all the fish

I hate you all and I'm leaving the internet FOREVER!!!1!

(Memo to Self: work on my convincingness.)

I am leaving this particular spot, alas, but you can now find me Reading, Writing and Rocrastinating at my shiny new gaff, (Took me hours to come up with that catchy name, honestly.) No RSS/direct email yet (bear with me), and there's still a thing or two that needs a spit and polish, but I'm quite fond of it already.

The latest blog is here. (Warning: contains dalek.) You do need to fill in a name and email to comment, but I promise not to sell them on for magic beans.

Oh, and my book's out. It's called Big Woo. In case I didn't mention that. If you felt like buying it, I wouldn't dream of stopping you. If you felt like reading it after buying it, I would suggest that you were only doing what came naturally. And if you wanted to write a review of it on the internet telling everyone it's really quite good, then it would certainly be nothing at all to do with me, nor the biscuit/pony/hard cash I might offer in return. :)


Monday, 24 March 2008

Sighted: the Lesser Spotted Bigwoo

Despite not being officially released into the wild until April 7th, eagle-eyed genius MG has spotted this rare bird in Oxford Waterstone's. Quick, someone call Bill Oddie!

The Lesser Spotted Bigwoo is by nature quite timid, but its magnificently shiny plumage should make it easy to locate. If in doubt, apparently look for it amidst books about cake. And geese. (Yep, I'm in the Cake & Geese section. Who knew?) And do please report any further early sightings of this fine fowl: it's quite exciting seeing it on a shelf like that...

Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris (adult, contemporary). Office workers at a failing ad agency trundle through their mundane lives, which are shared through a collective voice. I haven't come to the end yet, however, so I'm not in any position to pass judgement: so far file under 'interesting conceit, but actually quite uninvolving'.

Musicals! Everyone loves musicals, right? Right? *looks hopeful*

Finally getting round to watching Die Hard 4 (liked the way they didn't bother pretending it was in any way related to the other films: didn't like the startling chunk of misogyny and racism that was applied to one character); eating very fine tortilla (and salmon, and risotto, and cheese, and actually I'm quite full just thinking about it); wondering why The Great Escape isn't on.

Sunday, 16 March 2008


(For those living under a rock/on the wrong continent, that's Ryan Jones, Captain of the Welsh rugby team, celebrating our glorious grand slam in the Six Nations. He looks quite happy, y?)

Sport is mostly a dull thing to me. I was your typical specs 'n' textbook brainiac in school, and PE lessons rolled around on the timetable like a twice-weekly Room 101, performed in bri-nylon hotpants. The only time I ever threw a javelin, it went backwards. Hurdles, being at the approximate height of my armpits, were a bit of a challenge. I did make the school hockey team, but as goalie, a position where the only skill involved is intimidating the opposition by wearing really enormous clown shoes. Watching sport therefore tends to reduce me to a pimply-legged shivering 14-year-old, attempting to do cross-country half-naked through the streets of my home town to the sonorous hooting of passing cars.

But not rugby. It's not a sport in Wales, not really: it's a fandom. You buy the shirt; you argue about the team selection, favourites, past glories; you bellow like a loon at the telly, as if volume alone can spur your heroes on to glory, and then dissect and revisit and delight. It's like Doctor Who, only with really muscular thighs.

For me, too, there's a whopping chunk of nostalgia: going into Cardiff on match days to mooch round the shops and soak up the atmosphere, then home to line up on the sofa and holler (with a half-time cake to soothe nerves). The real joy is that I grew up watching the 80s, when we were mostly crap. And now? Well, look at Ryan's face. :D

I keep failing to babble properly about Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr Y - partly because I'm not sure I can describe it. It's a university novel: Ariel, impoverished student, is writing a PhD on 'thought experiments' in philosophy and literature while conducting an inappropriate affair and trying not to starve to death. It's a book within a book: The End of Mr Y is a deeply obscure Victorian novel, said to curse anyone who reads it. It's a sci-fi fantasy with bonus time-travel: the cursed novel isn't fiction, but a key to a parallel world. It's a thriller with evil agents and death threats, a romance, a genuinely complex and thought-provoking reflection on relationships, on time, on selfhood. It's twelve books at once, and yet it never for a moment feels muddled or overstretched. Fascinating, intelligent, witty, brain-breaking - all the good things. I loved it. (I'm told by several that her PopCo is equally good: one for the Big List Of Things To Get Round To Reading.)

Biscuits & Lies progresses in lurches rather than leaps and bounds, but progress is progress. I'm still having fun with it, anyway (it's reached the 'Susie makes herself get some work done by coming up with stupid jokes' stage, which is quite fundamental to my working routine). Publication of Big Woo (April 7th! That's actually quite soon!) continues to impend. I'm still working on The Website, but all will be unveiled once there's some 'all' to unveil. In the meantime, the US bound proof (a pre-publication version they send out to drum up interest) has already got a few bloggers Stateside talking, and in glowing terms too. Woo!

Suspecting my house is trying to kill me (ceilings falling down, microwaves on fire: Coming Soon: LOCUSTS!); watching Sunshine (an interesting take on the 'people trapped inside a spaceship' genre - but what the hell is the glittery gold spacesuit all about? Did no one tell the costume guys that the official colours of space travel are white and silver?); painting my fingernails Incredible Hulk green.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Adventures in CSS

Not as much fun as adventures with CSS, I'd reckon.

Or indeed the Go! Team, who I saw this week and are still so. much. fun live. It's like being in an unusually kawaii school assembly run by Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem: all splitting the crowd down the middle for a singalong and prescribing the appropriate timing of one's pogo. Gig was much enhanced by the doorman asking me for ID (and being hilariously floored when I told him my age), a bloke on the way out telling me I had 'the best hair I've seen in ages. Well, six months', and a random after-gig club with a playlist from Grandmaster Flash to the theme from Neighbours. Anyway, here's Ladyflash for the uninitiated.

An interesting piece in the Times about how internet nerds are all girls these days, except in the world of programming. I'm depressed by the 12-year-old who thinks that girls only like the communicative fun bits and should leave the techie business to the boys (especially the day after International Women's Day): maybe our schools need to be wallpapered again with the IT equivalent of those cheerfully grimy girls in boiler suits waving spanners to encourage us to become mechanics. (And let's ignore the fact that I've been living up to my gender stereotype all weekend, harassing Wordpress templates into minimal degrees of submission and wishing it was all laid out a bit more visually.) Then again, is content really a lesser species than code? Web 2.0 isn't just about the back end being Open Source so we can fiddle with it: it's about simple elegant interfaces which let you get on with writing. Bet that 12-year-old grows up to be a journalist...

Not a lot of B&L writing due to the aforementioned Wordpress harassment (more on that soon, once there's anything worth looking at), and scribbling some Big Woo promotional material. Imminent publication: it's like having a proper job or something.

Watching Wales v Ireland and actually getting a bit teary (I am so proud of the boys, bless them, and now I've heard about the gouging I feel less cross about us earning 2 sin bins); finding out that someone very lovely is getting married, hurrah; eating pearl barley; moaning about Ashes to Ashes Alex Drake's bra strap.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Do Not Adjust Your Set

Thank heaven the writers' strike is over. Listed as in 'active development' by Production Weekly:

Producer: Tyra Banks. After being electrocuted to death on the runway, a leggy model finds she can't enter Heaven without first returning to Earth and doing good deeds to earn her way in.

Is it wrong that I really, really want to see that? (Also: I should pitch 'Zinnia Zmith: Googlenurse' to the CW. They are on the special medication.)

Paul Cornell (he of 'writing some Doctor Who I adore and some I despise' fame - not that that singles him out particularly) says British telly needs the US system of writers' rooms. I suspect he's right - nicking the 'showrunner' concept without the 'other people, also possessing good ideas' to go with it is like recruiting Hannibal without the A-Team, and your plan's never going to come together when there's no one to fly the helicopter/be a manwhore/pity any fools in the vicinity - but it's still a concept that breaks my brain. I talk all the time while I'm writing: bits of dialogue, bits of backstory, bits of me shouting 'shut up and type you arsewit', the works. But that's the sort of conversation probably best had with oneself, no? Or is a writers' room full of people doing that all at once, in a super-efficient time-saving fashion, with free biscuits? That, I could learn to love.

The End of Mr Y, Scarlett Thomas: will babble properly when I've finished, but basically it's your average Coraline meets Heidegger via Samuel Butler and a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Brilliance.

Frankly pathetic progress on B&L. But I've been having some pleasingly daft thoughts about Big Woo-related shenanigans and shiny author websites...

Compulsive Prison Breakery (T, it seems ungrateful, but I feel I must share this with you); smirking at the zen calm of Garfield Minus Garfield; discovering the sprouting lentil; wondering if Ewan McGregor can possibly have needed the money quite this much.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

I went to London and all I got was...

...champagne and lovely lunch and boooooooooooooooooks! Oh, glee. It's not in the shops till April, so until then you'll just have to make do with a rubbish cameraphone picture which in no way conveys the sheer SHININESS of the beautiful wee thing. And the inside looks even more pretty. I love it to bits, I do.

I might be convinced to part with one or two - mainly to stop me from spending the next six weeks in a giddy stupor, unable to stop just gazing lovingly at its shiny woo-some self. You'll have to be very persuasive, though. I am open to all forms of bribery involving either tea or cake. Let the bidding commence!

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine (YA 12+, contemporary fiction). I loved her debut last year, Finding Violet Park, and we're in similar territory here, with another teenage hero struggling with the responsibility of taking on an adult role within a family. FVP's Lucas was trying to become his missing father while searching for him: Broken Soup's Rowan has to play parent to both her little sister and her ailing Mum, in the absence of her dynamic big brother. There's romance too, and a puzzle to solve - but unlike her first book, precious few laughs. Yet however much I found myself missing Lucas's sly little asides, there's really no place for them in this heartbreaking story. Any reservations I had about the meandering plot and the slow place were crushed by the latter half of the novel, in which difficult subject matter and a slightly creaky plot twist are handled with such skill that there is not one false emotional note. Not fun, exactly, but absolutely worth the work. (Contrast Anne Kelley's The Bower Bird, winner of the 2007 Children's Costa and the last in my trio of 'books about kids at death's door', which I will be kind enough not to pass comment on. If you can't say anything nice...)

Writing? I have no time for writing! I am too busy meeting sales reps and being taken out for lunch by my editor!

Compulsively listening to the Moldy Peaches and Kimya Dawson (baa baa, yes, I know); being in Wales; ice-skating (which apparently is a Thing I Can Do now: how odd); becoming strangely obsessed with Masterchef (though if Emily doesn't win, this will lead to sulking).

Monday, 11 February 2008

Blue is the colour

Hurrah! According to the Grauniad, the blue Smartie is set to make a comeback. The blue smartie is undeniably king, just as the brown M&M is a shoddy waste of time. The blue smartie might be hiding unknown Wonkaesque strangenesses beneath its shiny suit. The brown M&M will never contain anything but chocolate.

Which reminds me: why oh why did they discontinue these? It's a surprise, and some chocolate, and a really pathetic model of a crocodile on a lilo. Oh, hang on, that was Kinder eggs. Same weird mixture of different types of chocolate, though. M&S have stopped doing their layered thing with dark, white and milk all at once, I see. Am I the only one that likes these things?

Finally finished The Joshua Files: Invisible City by MG Harris (10+, contemporary adventure): thank god I managed to have the last 100 pages to myself without distractions, as I would have throttled anyone who interrupted. I will admit here and now the author is a mate (you'll find a link to her blog over on the right), but sod bias: this truly is the real thing, a brilliant modern thriller-with-a-brain which starts strongly and then absolutely soars. Josh Garcia's life turns upside down when his archaeologist father mysteriously dies in Mexico, sending him in pursuit of the fabled Ix Codex, a mythical Mayan text which it is death to touch. All the classic ingredients are here: a coded letter, torn in half, containing a prophecy; a sinister organisation in pursuit; stakes that get raised from the mundane (proving his father wasn't unfaithful to his mum) to the epic (potentially saving the world). But alongside the Bondesque car chases and exotic locations, there's genuine heart. Josh is challenged not only by the usual gun-waving types but also by heartbreaking personal loss, and the sensitive way his emotional state is handled - without ever detracting from the pace - is what makes this such a memorable rollercoaster to ride.

It's the first in a series, and if it isn't hugely successful the world has gone quite, quite wonky: climb aboard now to reserve your smug expression for when it goes global. And if you can't remember the title when you're in the bookshop, it's that incredible neon orange glowing book you can see from 30 feet away...

Half high-speed sledging down a hill going 'wheee!', half sitting in an igloo all alone. Big Woo went to print on Friday (except that it didn't, but hopefully will today), there's a bound proof of the US edition on its way across the Atlantic, exciting things are popping up in the trade press: all quite skippiness-inducing, if distracting. But Biscuits & Lies is limping along (mostly notes and ideas and new bits of plot still, though there are actual whole paragraphs that might one day see print now). And my igloo has a kettle.

Cloverfield (brilliant, clever, go and see it), Juno (brillianter, cleverer, go and see it even quicker-er), epic curry (homemade pakoras, korma with real coconut, eleventy-vegetable balti: was more impressive before I fed it to someone allergic to anything spicy, oops), making a Mii for the Wii that looks like Justin Lee Collins, failing to not read ONTD, squeaking with delight at the rugby, going out for coffee a lot, writing this during official 'work' hours, thinking a bit too much about chocolate (see above).