Saturday, 22 December 2007


Yes, this year I am holding Christmas in a gay roller disco.

Note the unpleasant minty-green wall which is standing in for 'tree under which to put this sort of thing'. Note also the complete absence of labels indicating which present is which. Have I cleverly colour-coded the sparkly ribbon so I can tell who gets what? Have I bollards. This could get...interesting.

Off to battle my way onto a train. May your turkeys all be golden, and my apologies if you are one of the long list of people whose Christmas cards are sitting on top of the fridge. I do love you, just apparently not enough to have ever worked out where you live.

Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller, which is reminding me it's been a while since I've read anything genuinely 'literary'. You are the reader, reading Italo Calvino's book, which turns out to be the opening chapters of someone else's book, misprinted, which you then seek to read more of, only to discover that it too has been misrepresented, in the course of which you read another misidentified opening chapter of yet another novel, and so on, all while you slowly find yourself becoming not reader but character, narrative, plot. Extraordinarily clever, although I'm wondering if it can sustain itself for another 150 pages. That's the trouble with post-modernism: sometimes the idea is more fun than the execution.

Signatures on contracts and resignation letters. (They say you shouldn't give up your day job just because you have a book deal. 'They' don't also work nights. :P) And notes, notes, notes.

Feeling poorly because now I am on holiday and that's just bloody inevitable; ripping bits of Supernatural onto ye iPod for travel distraction purposes (tiny Dean!); wishing the Spice Girls would stop trying to act and/or sell me things; watching The Children of Green Knowe and feeling impossibly nostalgic.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

lipstick cherry all over the lens

Author Photo day, hurrah! Lovely Sadie: Make Up Lady transformed my pallid old fizzog (apart from the cold-induced red nose - so festive) into something resembling a human being. Dominic the photographer skipped about with a big flappy foil kite to make natural light suffuse me with glowiness, while shouting 'Say A Sentence!' at me at intervals. (This is to keep your face muscles relaxed between glamorous-yet-intellectual authorial smiles. Either that or he was a bit bored.) And I was fed cups of tea.

Very emphatically best of all, though: on the way out I passed the next author in the photo queue, an affable-looking chap who was introduced to me as 'Philip' and kindly asked about my book. 'And what do you write?' I asked. He looked slightly crestfallen, and mumbled something about having written quite a few books, actually, at which point I thought 'Oh arse, he's someone terribly famous, have made utter fool of self and offended him, gaaaah', until his mumbling included the words 'Mortal Engines' and OH BLIMEY IT WAS ONLY PHILIP REEVE! I adore Philip Reeve (despite evidently not knowing what he looks like). I covered my huge error by flailing at him like a lunatic and telling him he's completely brilliant, and would've gone on for about half an hour if he hadn't had to go and Say Sentences at Dominic, which on reflection was probably fortunate. He seemed to find it all quite entertaining, anyway: apparently it makes a change from people thinking he's Philip Pullman. Oh, and he was wearing a brown moleskin three-piece suit, which makes me love him all the more.

After that there were dull things like being trapped on Oxford Street for an hour and a half (they closed the tubes due to overcrowding: strangely this did not improve the bus/traffic interface), but pfft. Philip Reeve!

Jenny Valentine's Finding Violet Park, which won the Guardian Children's First Book Prize this year. Only halfway through but it's a thoroughly deserving winner already: real laugh-out-loud-with-a-lump-in-your-throat stuff. Hearing good things about the follow-up (Broken Soup, out in January) already too.

Must come up with a neat little summary for Biscuits & Lies. People keep asking me what it's about, and 'um...biscuits?' is not the answer they're hoping for if facial expressions are to be believed.

Failing at Christmas shopping decisions (even choosing wrapping paper, for pity's sake), lusting after Lyra Belacqua's Northern wardrobe (please someone tell me where I can get a hat that looks like it has a sort of woollen plate attached to the back of it?), eating fudge immediately before bed (clearly unwise).

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Reality check

I'm giving up on fiction. Reality's getting too peculiar for me to attempt to compete.

First up, we have Canoe Man, who in the space of two days has gone from a tragic amnesiac who resurfaced after being presumed dead for 5 years in true Cast Away fashion, to a fraudulent git who let his sons think he was dead so his wife could buy a house in Panama.

Then there's Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian woman who was kidnapped and spent 8 years living in a cupboard, who is taking the oh-so-predictable career move to become...a chatshow host. For those suspecting the ordeal might have left her adversely affected in the marbles department, her press release contains possibly the most chilling sentence ever constructed: “For a while now I have been considering the idea of coming out of the role of a passive media object and becoming proactive in creating media content.” With repartee like that, no wonder Parky's retired.

And let's not get into Beargate.

William Goldman, writer of The Princess Bride (both novel and film, each equally wondrous), points out that life's 'movie moments' are infuriating: his example in Adventures in the Screen Trade is Michael Fagan breaking into the Queen's bedroom, while the guards happened to be walking the corgis, and the lady's maids happened to be cleaning another bit of the castle (bless him: I'm fairly certain this isn't what 'lady's maids' do - but hey, he wrote 'My Name Is Inigo Montoya': he can think whatever the hell he likes), and the people monitoring her security buzzer happened to assume it was faulty. All true(ish): none of it any use to a writer, because it's so hopelessly improbable. As Goldman puts it: 'Truth is terrific, reality is even better, but believability is best of all.'

It all comes down to genre. Genre gives us parameters and security, as writers, readers, consumers in general: no axe-murderers for the under-5s, no portals at the back of the wardrobe in chicklit. Real life is just another genre: no random drunk blokes in the Queen's bedroom, and no dead dads coming back to life in a way that doesn't lead to a party. There are rules to our mundanity, and we quite like them. No wonder celebrities go bonkers, stuck in a universe so off-kilter it wouldn't even pass muster as sci-fi-fantasy. 'Sorry, Ms Lohan/Winehouse/Spears, but your reality is too cliched for us to apprehend it as reality. Move along now?'

Finally reading Louise Rennisons's 'Georgia Nicolson' series, starting with Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. (Dying to know what the original title was, because I'd put money on it not being that.) I've been putting it off for fear of cross-contamination: when you're reading a really good writer you pick up on their style, and I didn't want to be channelling a snarky teenage diarist while writing...another one of those. Ahem. She's brilliant, though. I was all set to be 'read it for research, can tick that off' about it, and instead appear to be more on the lines of 'am hopelessly addicted now, please give me book fix soon?' 'I was all enigmatic, which is not easy in a beret.' Hee. Thank heaven there are about 8 more of them, or I would be grumpy.

I am definitely having my photograph taken next week. Cue much wardrobe anxiety (along with hoping my cold goes away, because the red nose will look a lot less festive come April).

Buying fairy lights and thus declaring it Christmas, failing to go to a Philip Pullman book-signing, watching Graham Norton interviewing Marilyn Manson and Nigella Lawson at the same time and throwing all that 'real life is a genre' crap out of the window.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

All I Want for Christmas Is...

One of these!

I have my own wrapping paper. Nothing is more exciting than that. This is the UK booksellers' pack, complete with text sampler and shiny mousemat. But frankly the wrapping paper is the best bit. (Don't tell anyone I said that.)

Finished Douglas Coupland's Microserfs: brilliant. Odd to read something net-based written in 95, so it's a mix of the out-dated and the strangely prescient. (Also, in 95 I was checking my non-existent email on one of those screens that only showed orange text: I suspect if I'd read it then I would've been a bit baffled. These days I speak fluent C++, of course.) Above all, it's bloody hilarious: At the Bellevue Starbucks, Karla and I discussed the unprecedented success of Campbell's Cream of Broccoli Soup. On a napkin we listed ideas for new Campbell's soup flavours: Creamy Dolphin, Lagoon, Beak, Pond, Crack. Highly recommended if you are even vaguely of the nerd persuasion.

Still at the note-writing stage of Biscuits & Lies: have assembled lots of pieces, now need to rearrange them into some kind of convincing jigsaw-type-thing. Or just start writing in the hope that they'll all leap to life and dance into place, Disney-like, as I type. *shrugs* You never know. I might be going to have my 'I Am An Author' photo taken next week, too. What does when wear when one is An Author?

Sneezing my way up the banks of the Seine in the rain (the Notre Dame gargoyles really do look like they're throwing up all over your head when they're funnelling the rain: tres amusant), failing at domestic goddesshood (I forgot to put the butter in my gingerbread dough: epic duh), getting excited about the Heroes finale tonight even though 've already seen it. Ooh, and watching the new trailer for Prince Caspian. I always loved the bit in the ruins, waiting for them figure out what had happened...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Points mean Prizes

Magnificent news: fellow scribbler and dear old mate Sarah Mussi has won the Glen Dimplex New Writers' Award 2007 for her children's book, The Door of No Return. I couldn't be more thrilled, not only because she's a friend, but because Door really is something special: a book aimed squarely at teens with powerful and sensitive issues at its core (financial reparations for slavery), coupled with a cracking thriller that tears you through the pages so breathlessly that you barely notice you're being educated. It's as far from an 'issues' book as you can imagine (it's hilarious, for one thing: hero Zac is a corking example of an 'unreliable' narrator) yet doesn't flinch from telling uncomfortable truths. Stuck for a Christmas present for a teenage boy, anyone?

This is the first time I've really known someone else's book from 'I've got this idea' to it being an actual object with pages and a cover and an ISBN. It's quite terrifying to imagine that every single novel you see on a bookshop shelf has gone through all those sticky moments in between: the second-guessing of the plot, the second-guessing of the very premise, all those rewrites, then the merry dance of finding agents and/or publishers, more rewrites, then the whirligig of promotion and whether you're in a 3-for-2, all observed by friends and family and enthusiastic writing groups, by which time you're on to the next one anyway because it's taken 2-3 years to get to this point (assuming if you write quite quickly)... I know all these things already, but for some reason it feels more real when it's happening to someone else. Watching the unfolding narrative of my own book-gets-published saga is participatory: I'm too much of a character, too closely involved. With someone else's I get to sit back like Hercules Poirot, observing the scene, my little grey cells all a-fizz with glee as it unfolds exactly as I would have hoped. Cheers to you, Sarah: first of many well-deserved accolades, I don't doubt.

Aaand the internet crazy just keeps on coming. Old story, newly in the mainstream media, of a 13-year-old girl who committed suicide: Making Light has an excellent round-up of the sequence of events, plus the obvious-yet-apparently-not statement of the week: What happens online is real.

Copyedits a-go-go. Sometimes WTF should be wtf. No, I don't always know why. Also: Dear Copyeditor, I'm very sorry for writing the prizewinner of Least Possible To CopyEdit 2007.

Trying that thing where you stir-fry sprouts with bacon instead of just boiling them (not half bad); being on trains and buses and feet; locking myself out of my flat bumbumbum; wondering when lazy-bastard Lovefilm are going to send me the next bit of Prison Break; almost being in Paris. This last makes me happy. When I was little I had some knickers with 'A Weekend In Paris' written on them. Clearly they were formative. :)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Brand Names: 50% More Amusing!

I'm going through the US copyedit of serafina67 (as she'll be known over there), and giggling. Spending one's day AmericaniZing Noel Edmonds is a corking way to earn a living. (Still stumped on that one. The kicker is finding a US-translatable personality that a UK-based person might feasibly reference - which is the problem throughout: yeah, I know what a parking lot is, but that doesn't mean I'm ever going to use the phrase. See also: ass, fries, butt. I'm so highbrow.)

In the process I have discovered a universal comic truth: specific is funny. Tesco > Supermarket. Lemsip > Decongestant. Vicars > Priests. (Priests doesn't rhyme with Knickers, for one thing. Fortunately we have Nuns as a stand-in. Not much is funnier than Nuns.) Sadly, incomprehensible references aren't funny at all, which is why Mr Tesco has to take a hike. Though god bless my poor dear copy-editor for translating 'I have icing on my top' as 'dandruff'.

My American cousins, some assistance please? What are the inevitable set texts you have to study during your teens? I'm trying to translate Siegfried Sassoon (WW1 poet, force-fed to all): are Salinger and Steinbeck a bit old hat these days?

This genius example of how endlessly scary Internetland is. Every time I find one of these, it is odder than the last. *takes notes*

Get your butt under that comforter, smartass!

Fangirling vampires and teaboys, making spicy parsnip soup (twice because it was REALLY nice), plotting going to Canada and pretending that the words 'Benton' and 'Fraser' have nothing to do with the appeal of this concept.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Dedicated to the one(s) I love

Can you do us a little biography to go in the book? And did you want a dedication?

So says the email. The biography is no bother: I will take the usual bee-keeping-and-yoga-thrice-weekly route beloved of the committed CV-writer (ie resort to fiction). The dedication involves a fraction more angst. Tim Dowling was memorable enough on the point back in June for me to go hunting for his article (worth reading in full, for the copy ed’s rather sweet accidental rendering): A dedication remains…the first thing the reader sees after the title. As an author, one wants it to be reflective of the contents, or at least reassuring and inviting. The perfect dedication would also be immediately moving, or funny, or both; timely but also timeless. No pressure, then.

My first book was dedicated to my nephews and nieces (all doted upon to an embarrassing degree, given that they are now aged from 19 to 13 and, really, doting bookish auntienerds are not the ultimate teenage accessory). Since then, I’ve acquired a new niece. Clearly she deserves a dedication so she can catch up (and because she is AWESOME) – but, then, is it unfair to give her a whole book all to herself, when the others had to share? What about my sisters, who have nurtured this book along far more than the last? And my parents, who have throughout, and with extraordinary restraint, refrained from gently suggesting I should get a proper job? Then there are the friends, the editors, the virtual folks who’ve contributed just by being online. I am Halle Berry, and I would like to thank my lawyers.

I think I’ve decided what I would like to do. (Probably.) And I wrote the book, so it’s sort of up to me. But, you know, actually it's dedicated to YOU, yes YOU, no, really, YOU THAT’S READING THIS RIGHT NOW, YOU SPECIAL LITTLE PUPPY. And that bloke next to you. Him too. And his nan. So if you should feel a mite neglected by the dedication, you are a silly, because PUPPY YOU is totally included within it really.

Too many emails. Nice emails about festive shopping and unicorns, as well as the tedious work ones, but still: lots.

See above. Plus I'm playing Name That Character! which is always a bit of a laugh. (I called someone Tallulah once because it took a while to type, and thus gave me time to think what came next. Expect Biscuits & Lies' cast list to contain Geldof-esque levels of absurdity.)

Pretending that Monday and Tuesday are still the weekend, faffing in London, watching old Wire in the Blood, eating crumpets.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

I am Loaf Man, observe my sandwiches

I've realised the most annoying thing about Facebook isn't being told that someone I dimly recall from college has a cold, twice, because the first time they spelt it wrong. It's not the hours I've wasted on Scrabble, either, because that was educational and I keep winning. It's the trundling mundanity of it all, in the face of the day-glo potential daftitude of a social-networking platform.

As this wonderfully earnest to-do list amply demonstrates, half the charm of being online is coming up with a pseudonym: your alter ego, your avatar, the other, more interesting you. A name, like that of a first pet, which will echo through time to ennoble or humiliate you in later years.* Futuristic space children wearing x-ray specs will perch on your knee and ask 'What did you call yourself during Web 2.0, Grandma?': imagine how disappointing it will be to answer 'I was Wendy JonesformerlyBooth', when the likes of malevolent_crumpet were available to you.

Except that's supposedly Facebook's USP, where one may not 'impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself'. Yawn, boo, etc. (And aren't all those people who keep ninja-ing me misrepresenting themselves, or do I just not know my friends very well?)

Obsessing over screennames is something I got quite familiar with over the summer, when Beloved British Ed, myself, and everyone who dared to come near me had to try to rustle up an alternative one for Big Woo's central character.That's me, evidently paperless, tattooed with (mostly awful and hopefully illegible) suggestions. After weeks of pondering why she wasn't a julie_madly_deeply or a cinnamongirl, we gave up and went back to what we started with. In the process I discovered that virtually every ridiculous thing I came up with already existed on MySpace. Alas, young to-do lister, there are probably multiple SonOfBitches out there already. I bet he ended up deciding Loaf Man wasn't so silly after all...

* Starsky remains a perfectly sensible name for a goldfish. And I still applaud whoever it was who named their cat Graham 'because it was grey'.

Good to see AA Gill saying what surely everyone must think about Poliakoff. Tragically rich people, family secrets, a big posh house: time to delve back into the Big Box of Ideas, maybe?

It was a butterfly. :D Started Book Two last night. So far, it appears to be almost entirely about biscuits. And lies. I shall call it Biscuits & Lies, for I am the Mike Leigh of YA fiction.

Flailing at West Wing season 7, nearly making gingerbread men, realising that the only thing in my kitchen which would allow me to do so is a gingerbread man-shaped cutter, eating jelly babies instead. I really need to stop having such exciting weekends.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Brown Bess, Terror of the Seas!

Dear retailers of the ever-popular knee-high boot,

Why have you made all your boots look like wellies this year? I wish to look stylish/piratical/possessed of actual ankles, yet you are determined to make me resemble a ruddy-cheeked farm wench on the way to the cowshed. Sort it aaaht, yeah?

Yours embarassed-by-the-hole-in-the-toe-of-my-old-boots-ly,

I cracked and bought some anyway. They're brown, though. I'm not sure you can be piratical in brown. I doubt anyone would have been afraid of Beigebeard.

Finished Walk Two Moons while at work, which was unwise as it made me cry. Lots. It's a deceptively simple tale of a 13-year-old girl telling her grandparents of her friend's discovery of a family secret, while on a road trip to face up to her own: beautifully paced, genuinely memorable. Now reading Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study, which is reminding me just how long it is since I read pure fantasy that wasn't for kids. Am reserving judgement, and dusting off my willingness to read books with maps in the front that are played completely straight.

Agent phoned to check I was happy to sign a contract agreeing to deliver Book Two by the end of July. Pointed out that I've already signed another one agreeing to deliver Book Two in June. This would be more amusing if I knew what Book Two was going to be about, obviously. That idea's still fluttering about, though...

I have no time to rocrastinate, for I am filled with glee! The Champions is to be remade as a film by Guillermo del Toro. Two very wonderful things combining to make the rest of the world go 'unh?', and to make me pathetically happy. Woo!

Monday, 5 November 2007

I tend to view this nation Through the condensation

on a dirty glass...

I have conjunctivitis, and thus am bespectacled, instead of being becontact-lensed. Grr, I say. I've had contacts for decades now, after suffering through many youthful years of Jarvis Cockeresque NHS frames. (Due to not being a Sheffield-based indie-electro nerd-poet, but a stumpy Welsh schoolgirl, the potentially chic qualities in these babies - girlish pink version, natch - were somewhat lost.) The frames may have improved over the years, but I see they still haven't invented ones that don't mist up when you open the oven to see how burnt your dinner is. :(

Finished Good Omens, which is an odd mix: half-brilliance (Crowley and Aziraphale), half what-why-what-who-are-these-boring-people? (the Them), and a pay-off that just about rescues the wobbliest non-structure imaginable. Given that it was written by two people, it's tempting to wonder if the good bits are attributable to one and the, er, other bits to the other. Very funny, though. Now on Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, which came up in conversation with Beloved British Editor. I read Love That Dog a while back and liked it a lot, although it owes a lot to the likes of Beverley Cleary: this is more along the lines of 'proper novel', and although it's heading for a reveal you can see a mile off, it knows it, and is just holding your hand, touchingly tightly, along the way.

UK press samplers arrived today, so I now have a glimpse of the cover for Big Woo (minus shiny/glossy effects): very fetch. US version is in the post, but Beloved US Editor warns that the 'shocking' pink has turned out not so much Punk as Pepto-Bismol. Apparently the real thing will be less likely to invoke thoughts of indigestion. Like Jacqueline Wilson's recent overseas editions, there'll be a glossary in the back of the US one to explain what the likes of fish and chips are, which is...bonkers. No clarification for 'WTF', but 'biscuit' needs a paragraph or two? Better that than I am forcibly required to send all my characters to the Dairy Queen of an evening, though. (That's where y'all hang out, yo?) I foresee some transatlantic cackling, anyway: apparently the handful of US-based characters I've included are all a bit too 'I say, Father, might one invite Perkins for tiffin after cricket prac on Sunday?' for comfort. Got to love an editor who can mock you and make you grin in the same sentence.

Utterly failing to make progress on Book 2, but there's the ghost of an idea flying around my head. Am now waiting to swat it, and see if it's a butterfly or a gnat. Quite fun, while the deadlines are still mistily distant. (Possibly that's just my glasses. Bugger.)

Watching Stardust (oh, clingworthy film of loveliness, truly you do deserve the crown of 'A Bit Like The Princess Bride'), watching Davison-era Doctor Who (Time-Flight: just watch it with the commentary where they take the piss, or it's unendurable), watching Steven Poliakoff's Joe's Palace ( was ok? But could he possibly write something that isn't set in an outrageously posh person's house where an outsider comes in and reveals the hollow heart of it all?)

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Things that go awww in the night

I was going to have a big mumbly grumble about how Hallowe'en is rubbish these days. When I was a kid you attempted to carve scary faces into a swede,* aka the hardest vegetable known to humankind, and hoped no one would throw eggs at you if you dared to venture out, wearing your big sister's tights and something gothic made of binbags. Now it's just a perturbing combo of parentally-sanctioned begging and dressing up like a whore. (This wasn't just me being an old fart: a 12-year-old kid in costume came marching around the tables of a cafe I was in yesterday, sticking a bucket under people's noses - which he presumably expected to be filled with cash, since most coffee drinkers don't bring a handful of sweeties to Nero's with them on October 30th - and swearing loudly at us when we refused. Niiiiice.)

But then tonight I walked past the house of the crazy-brilliant children's authors who live up the road, which is decked out with fake cobwebs and pumpkin lanterns and cheerful people, and possesses exactly the kind of homemade awesome that made me think very fondly of the aroma of warm, slightly rotting swede. Hurrah for fake witch warts made from Rice Krispies! Your time is not over after all.

*Pumpkins were not to be found in Wales in the 1980s, alas.

This interview with Rob Newman, former member of The Mary Whitehouse Experience, turned slightly duff novelist and political activist. I was quite helplessly in love with him when I was about 16. The romance waned a tad when, post-gig, I queued up for an autograph and realised quite how dependent he was on enthusiastic hugs from teenage fans to soothe his fragile ego. Understandable (ish) given what he says in the interview about not really managing fame, but not what one demands from one's heroes. Sadly his new BBC4 show is, erm, awful. I reckon someone who professes not to own a telly has no business in writing for it: he's not persuaded me otherwise.

Busy busy busy. Have finished the Rewriteathon at last: it's off for line-edits etc now, so I've got a week or so's grace before I'm back to snipping and tweaking. Also wrote some extra blurb for a sampler which will be doing the rounds of booksellers soonish (this would usually be a bound proof, but there just hasn't been time to put one together), which says encouraging things about press coverage and giving people free mouse mats. (Do people still use mouse mats?) Apparently exciting things are happening with the US layout. We've got a new UK cover (black with shiny bits, ooh: I heart it very much). And it's now on Amazon UK, too (though the cover isn't yet, sorry). Blimey.

Fixing my wi-fi (sodding cheapo Curry's laptops, grr), West Wing season 7, eating lots of cream crackers. Though I also ate the world's juiciest pomegranate earlier, which has contrived to squirt all over my bedroom wall. I'm leaving it there as my sole contribution to the day's festivities (and hoping I remember to clean it up before anyone come round and assumes I've been decapitating people).

Monday, 22 October 2007

A Day in the Life

They say that a writer’s daily life is a rich creative seam, merely waiting for us to pluck the ‘story’ from within.

Assuming this is true, my next novel will include the heroine throwing away a tenner’s worth of food because some swine unplugged the freezer and she didn’t notice for three days. (Because of…amnesia! Yes! And the person who unplugged the freezer did it because they knew there was a severed limb inside, and they plan to blackmail the heroine, except the heroine has no idea whose severed limb it is. With hilarious consequences!)

This will be followed by eight chapters where the heroine does nothing but stand in a massive queue to buy some train tickets. (Because she is fleeing the blackmailer, you see? Except when she buys the ticket she opens her wallet and realises there’s a ‘left luggage’ ticket inside, and when she goes to redeem it, inside the locker is…a suitcase containing a million quid!) Then she goes to Sainsburys and stands in another massive queue (because obviously she’s being tailed by the blackmailer, and she wants to make out that she’s doing ordinary things, except she’s in the yoghurt aisle and she’s thinking ‘wtf? Do I even like yoghurt?’, and then when she pays with some of the cash from the suitcase, security guards leap in and arrest her for attempting to pass off counterfeit money). And then she goes home and watches the Sarah Jane Adventures. (Which will be watched from outside the heroine’s grim cell by the security guards – who are obviously fake and work for the Big Villain – because it’s very very good and even evil henchmen would be in thrall to it, and learn the error of their criminal ways purely via its gentle educational message.)

All of this will then build to a gripping peak involving doing laundry and boiling an egg. (Um…the heroine escapes and returns home to wash Eau de Sweaty Henchman off herself, and on raiding the airer has a Proust’s madeleine moment while clutching a pair of knickers, just in time for her to remember her secret ninja skills and give the Big Villain a good kicking, all within the time it takes to soft-boil to a firm yet dunkable yolk.)

Phew. No wonder I feel a bit tired.

This Observer interview with the Mighty Boosh. Noel is absurdly kidlike, Julian is surly and tired, both are very funny and the interviewer does a neat job in separating them to see what happens. Plus S3 is in a second-hand shop owned by Naboo. This cannot produce anything but greatness, truly.

I managed the glass of red wine but not the three pages. MUST REWRITE LAST THREE PAGES. Or I could delete them. No one would know. It could be enigmatic and surreal and people might debate my decision to end in the middle of a sentence for decades to come.

Random episodes of Farscape, cinnamon bagels, severed limb disposal.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Big Gay Dumbledore

So JKR has outed Albus Dumbledore, beloved Headmaster of Hogwarts. (Spoilers for Deathly Hallows below, by the way, for those behind on their reading.)

Hmm. Online reaction has been mixed (‘empowerment hurrah!’ versus ‘but you didn’t mention it in the books and also he’s dead and closeted and hang on, that’s not actually empowering at all’), and I feel similarly divided. Yes, it’s pleasing that it’s not only house elves who get a wave of the tolerance wand. Yes, it’s utterly marvellous that the audience of kids at New York’s Carnegie Hall responded to the news with delighted applause. And I do think, given that the final book turns on how little we know (and how little Harry ever bothered to find out, the div) about Dumbledore’s personal life, it’s in keeping that this too should be inexplicit.

But we're still left with the clanging missed opportunity of Remus Lupin, whose secret existence as a werewolf seemed to have been expressly constructed as an elegant allegory for homosexuality – right up until he got married. Possibly JKR wanted to duck any suggestion that ‘the gay’ is something one catches, something grim to be concealed: when one’s work is as closely scrutinised as hers by readers and far-right nutters alike, I can see the logic behind that hesitation. But why, then, did all the teenage fumblings and smirky innuendoes of the later books need to be so emphatically straight? It's unreasonable to ask a single series of books, no matter how far-reaching their influence, to broach every potential 'issue' in kidlit while also ducking accusations of tokenism. But now she's raised it herself, it feels more like a conscious omission than before - especially in the presence of an online fandom which has embraced every possible pairing imaginable, especially the 'slashy'. In the absence of even a glimpse of Justin Finch-Fletchley furtively eyeing up George Weasley, we’re left with a resoundingly heterosexual Hogwarts, complete with an epilogue that suggests that neat and tidy wives and kiddies are what constitutes a happy ending. Isn't standing up after the fact and promising she didn't mean it to look that way only a step or two from ' but lots of my friends are gay...'?

The part that really makes my head spin, however, is Dumbly’s ex. I found the inclusion of Grindelwald as a ‘proper’ character in Book 7 quite startling, since all we’d known from previous books was that he was a Dark Wizard defeated by Dumbledore in 1945. I know I’m not the only reader to interpret that as a casual (if slightly tasteless) hint at how our ‘real’ Muggle history is littered with unseen wizard intervention. But does that mean ‘Hitler was Dumbledore’s boyfriend’ is now author-sanctioned Potter canon?

Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The very wonderful gag about tapes left in the passenger footwell of a car (after two weeks they automatically transform into Queen's Greatest Hits) is evidence of how late I am to this particular party: people have been telling me I'd like Pratchett forever, and Gaiman's Coraline is categorically the most terrifying kids' book I've ever read (and brilliant with it). I should listen to people's advice more often: tis indeed a riot.

Nothing at all. Felt like a well-wrung dishcloth after last week's editing, so I gave the creative brain the week off. This evening shall be spent with a glass of red wine and those last three pages, though.

Time-travel. That is, last night I went to the indie disco wearing some DMs, danced to Rage Against The Machine, and mocked the little indie boys who have still not registered that optimisitically dancing at someone is an ineffectual way of getting a snog. Most odd to wake up and realise that it's not 1993 after all.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Adventures in Freecycling

Alas, poor Freecycle. No one wants my broken telly, but they aren't too shy to ask for a non-broken one.

The Freecycle Yahoo group works on a charmingly simple principle: Person A has some crap they will have to put in a skip; Person B would clamber into the skip if they knew where it was because that crap is exactly what they need; Magical Internet C circumvents both skip and clambering, and the crap of the world is recycled. Hurrah!

That's how it used to work, anyway. There are still noble souls providing everything from the prosaic bookshelves, bedheads and baby clothes to '12 slim maternity pads from Mothercare (unused)'. There's even a nice-sounding lady terribly keen not to let a 'half-used can of squirty cream' go to waste. (There's a subtext in there somewhere.) But one couple just moving into their new home have requested '*Dining table & chairs (4-6 pref)*Toaster*Kettle*Coffee table*Microwave*Wardrobe (pref flatpacked due to narrow stairs!!)*Small under-counter freezer*Most kitchen stuff minus pots & pans*Curtains*Lamps.' Apparently I was mistaken about that principle: actually it's 'Please deliver your skip of crap to my house, and come to think of it I'd rather nothing in it was crap, and you can make me a cup of tea while you're at it, two sugars, where's my biscuit?' Except without the 'Please'.

The 'we've just moved house' handwringing is the crucial change here, though. It's not enough these days to simply post a mild bit of begging: an X Factor-style 'I'm doing it for me dead mum, Sharon' is the only way to ensure only quality crap comes your way. That's how I know that C wants some size 10 clothes for her young daughter, whose weight problem is preventing her from buying childrenswear; that L's asking for a Christmas Tree outfit for an 8-month-old because her husband's in Iraq and she'd like to send him a photo; that ‘Wanted: To see my son’ is in fact a plea for a bicycle to help a newly-separated dad travel to see his toddler. TMI. It's like online dating, except the punters hope the fleeting attention of strangers will lead not to romance, but some shelves. I blame Facebook. Web 2.0 really has eaten that supposed British reticence, hasn't it?

(And if I sound unsympathetic, do bear in mind that a suitable bike, clothes and enough kitchenware to restock Ikea were 'offered' on the site during the week, if the 'wanted' crowd could have been arsed to look.)

Margery Allingham's Look to the Lady. 'My dear fellow,' said Mr Campion with affable idiocy, 'I have buttered my bun and now I must lie on it. And you, my beautiful, will stand meekly by.' Like a cup of tea and a hug, in paperback.

The Editathon is over! Apart from the last three pages. They aren't important, are they? I have (re)discovered that I like editing books the least of all the writerish things there are, which means I feel quite skippy and gleeful at the prospect of writing something fresh and new. Presumably this is how things are supposed to work.

Obsessively reading Freecycle pages (apparently), buying a new telly (delightedly), sleeping (fire-alarm-interruptedly).

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Down at the bottom of my garden...

Are fairies, obviously. They appear to have left these behind, though.

Squllions of them appeared this morning. Browsing suggests they may be Mycena, or Psathyrella, or possibly the Shaggy Ink Cap. (Actually, they're almost certainly not the Shaggy Ink Cap, but aren't you pleased to have learnt there is such a thing?) I do not plan to make quiche with them, however, mainly because I am crap at pastry.

Gave me an excuse to flee the desk and sniff some grass for a full five minutes, at least.

The baffling news that NBC plan to revive Knight Rider. Surely a talking car is a bit passe for Teh Kidz in these days of GPS? The Grauniad's Organ Grinder column is replete with equally daft suggestions for alternative telly revivals. Give it up, chaps: better CGI might make it possible for Manimal to turn into more than two different beasties, but just how much crime-fighting can you expect of a penguin, a hamster, a manatee? It'd be panthers and eagles all over again and you know it. But props to the person who wanted Triangle to return. Personally I'd plump for The Champions, but I'd want it to be set in the 1960s and still have Alexandra Bastedo in it...

The editing lumbers on, like a donkey through cement.

Downloading Radiohead's new album (hurrah, it's ace), wondering why no-one on freecycle wants my broken telly (they always want broken things on there normally, boo), watching the magnificent new trailer for The Golden Compass.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Greetings from Bizarro World

Dear Little Me,

You know all that time you don't spend imagining the rest of your life, because you fear it will turn out to be a bit pants and filled with gloomy window-shopping at other people's more interesting ones? Newsflash from the future:* don't worry so much, k? Because one day you will catch sight of a smiley lady wearing a lovely new green coat, skipping off a tube in London to meet her editor and talk bookishly like what writers do, and she is you.

Much love (and sympathetic looks at those awful specs you appear to be wearing),
Old Crumbly Me xx

The reality involves a handful more panic-infused deadlines and tax forms than the fantasy permits, but still: I do appear to be starring in the fake movie of my life where only nice things happen. I do hope the next scene involves me having a haircut. And that Angel isn't tied up in the basement having visions. (Not having a telly is not noticeably altering the way my brain works, nor the number of TV shows I'm watching. I really am living in The Future, whee! These bacofoil knickers do chafe, mind.)

* Where they all listen to Goldfrapp, if Heroes is to be believed (about which I would say more, except I am watching it in naughtyvision and must not spoilerise nice sisterly types).

This devastating Guardian article about the abortion laws in Nicaragua. Coupled with the latest from the US, maybe my generation has some bra-burning to do after all.

Fun With Editing. Also, Fun With Writers: my meeting managed to coincide with David Levithan, Very Important Scholastic, Inc blokey and deeply brilliant YA writer himself - if you haven't read Boy Meets Boy then you have something unique and spectacularly warm and witty to look forward to. Then I bumped into Jacqueline Wilson at Baker Street. (See? Bizarro World.) Having already fangirled one novelist that day, I didn't say 'hello, we met once about 6 years ago and I quite love you.' But I'm sure I conveyed it by my general demeanour. I bet people convey things to famous novelists through their general demeanour all the time, or they'd never have time to write.

Making pea, prawn and spinach balti, aka whatsinthefreezer?curry. Surprisingly edible.