Wednesday, 29 August 2012

My Big Day Out

I was invited down to London for two small events organised by Bounce. The first was an informal lunch with a few (very important) booksellers. The second was an event at Foyles, a fantastic book heaven on Charing Cross Road, where I met reviewers and key bloggers.

Me, holding an invisible balloon.
This was very relaxed and chatty, and I tried as well as I could not to go off on tangents - every now and again getting a subtle cough from Non, and then a clear, 'Colin! Tangent!' I managed to get back to Arabesque and answer a few questions.

The main ones were to do with strong language in teen fiction and the way I chose to end Arabesque. I'm not going to give any spoilers about that, but to give a taste of what I said at Foyles, the end is not meant to be a cliffhanger (I'm not planning a sequel, at least, not at the mo), but reflect the book's opening. However, I also felt it important to add that the YA books I enjoy the most don't tie up all of their loose threads. Life isn't like that, and as I like to write about teens being thrust into a cruel and violent adult world, it wouldn't be fair to have a lovely, happy ending where everything turns out just dandy. To illustrate this, I told a personal story of my uncle's tool shed, and what I found in his vice after he died.

Life can be shit, and death sucks too. I guess we're stuck with both.

Book Signing - this one was an
Arabesque poster for Sister Spooky
As for the strong language - I could blog all day about this, but I want to save as much as I can for Litpopia After Dark on the 16th. I'll post a link for anyone who misses that, and do a full blog on strong language shortly after.

At the end, I got a chance to ask questions of our bloggers, and how valued they feel - if they do at all. I hope they do, because usually, even when I find a book that I want to buy, I tend to hang fire and check reviews first, and I find myself going back to the same bloggers. So keep at it! Bloggers are mint!

Between the two events, I managed to do a quick run, around London, snapping as many photos as I could.

Meeting local celebs
At the Tate Modern
Cool phone box near Foyles
Chinatown at night

When we left Foyles, I went with Non, Matt and Caroline (two mega-librarians) for my first experience of a Japanese restaurant.

And this morning, on my way home, I used all of the photos I took to make a Powerpoint of my Big Day Out for my youngest. So much more fun that just telling him.

On the train, making my Powerpoint for Cameron

All in all - a mighty fine visit. Thanks to everyone involved in organising the day, and everyone who came along. It was a blast.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Event: Colin and Non at Foyles

Several events coming up. The first is Foyles in London. I'll be there with my editor, (and YA author too!!) Non Pratt, talking about YA authory stuff. - okay, that's not selling it very well...  (coughs) I'll be telling horrible stories, juggling knives and trying not to make the audience sick (like I did at Shiney Row library :o))

Click here for the FB page. 
ARABESQUE event at FOYLES

So er... come along. It'll be brilliant!!!

ADDED: Erm.. well I tried a quick juggling practice in the garden. Might not be the best idea.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Advance Copy Arrives

This probably seems a strange thing to do, but for anyone who dreams of being published, this is one of those key moments when the dream becomes a reality.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury died last week, on the 5th June, age 91. The news knocked me because Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books I've picked up so many times, meaning to buy, but has always remained on my "to read" pile. So the news caused me to get it and finally read it.

Fahrenheit 451 is the story of Guy Montag, a fireman. But in this world, a fireman's job is to locate and burn books, which usually means burning the entire house - even the owner.

The language is a bit of a hurdle. It is so colourful and loaded with metaphors that, at times, it strangles the story, and I had to struggle to get back on track. But I persevered and the story opened up. It's not the best novel I've ever read, but it certainly made me think, and that is the reason for this post.

More than anything, Bradbury's view of the future made me think about Facebook and Twitter and the way they can soak up huge amounts of time. In the story, books have been outlawed, but only because society has naturally moved away from them, wanting more immediate entertainment and boiled down versions of stories. Most people have huge, wall sized TVs, some have all four walls converted, but the only programmes are endless feeds of chatter of family and friends - and none of it having any real substance. The result is that they have no time for independent thought. They don't think; they don't question. All they care about is that they are entertained and kept happy. They have no idea they are being controlled, don't realise how doped up they are, don't even realised that other nations hate this future America and there is a war going on right above their own heads.

But Montage begins to question. Montag wants to know why he has to burn books. He realises that there is something wrong about subduing an entire nation like this, turning everyone into mindless zombies.


But what are the Facebook and Twitter addicts? There are too many times I've got up on a morning to write, only to waste all of that time reading feeds of people I don't know talk about stuff I don't care about. I've even found myself responding, laughing and nodding when people post anti-Facebook/Twitter messages, or merging the names as a parody of what an utter waste of time it is... and yet the first thing I did this morning was check for notifications and any new posts.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Prometheus - short review, no spoilers

Back in 1979, Ridley Scott shocked the world with Alien, a film that burst science fiction out of its shell and splattered horror all over the sci-fi genre. The movie remains a classic, and although the sequels were box office successes, they never managed to capture the disturbing atmosphere of brooding horror that Ridley Scott gave us. And so, with Prometheus promising to be a prequel, and directed by Ridley Scott himself, it poses the question if he work the magic himself.

Short answer: yes he can.

I'm not going to give an outline of the story because I went into the cinema knowing this was a prequel to Alien and nothing more. It started slowly, with breathtaking scenery and shots that give a fantastic sense of scale. Unlike the splatterfest action sequels to Alien, Prometheus offers a gradual, cumulative and atmospheric horror on a sci-fi canvas. There are moments that are genuinely creepy and scary rather than holding out for shocks and jumps (although there are a couple of these, delivered very well).

The casting isn't fantastic, and I totally disagree with other reviewers who say that Michael Fassbenger, who plays an android, steals the show. I thought he was overly robotic - especially when you compare him to the creepier, much more lifelike android, Ash, played by Ian Holm in the original Alien. And while I understand that the point of Ash being humanlike was the shock revelation, Fassbenger was so OTT that he might as well have a flashing light, arms held out straight while he repeats, "I AM A RO-BOT"

Noomi Repace, however, plays a belter as Dr Elizabeth Shaw. I'm dying to give examples and talk about scenes but daren't. Just go see it. Wooden android aside, Prometheus was otherwise brilliant. A fantastic prelude, but it also stands on it's own merit as a damn fine sci-fi thriller.


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Walking with a Kindle

There's a big country park near me. My son was over there at the skate park and wanted to show me some new trick on his scooter - "dropping the extension," as he put it. So I had a walk over. Usually when I go for walks I take an MP3 player, which kind of ruins the tranquility of the moment. You can't really appreciate birdsong and the "baaas" of newborn lambs with Slayer blasting in your lugs.

So I left it behind. Instead, I picked up my Kindle. I don't even know why, because the idea of walking and reading seems stupid, not only for the opportunity of comedy accidents (walking into lampposts, falling down open manhole covers, etc) but it can't be exactly easy, can it?

Surprisingly, it was. Once I was over there, the obstacles and danger from the nearby road had gone, so I got through pages and pages as I made my way to the skate park, and more on the way back.

So after dinner I tried the same trick again. This time, my walk was to go up to Penshaw Monument the back way. There's an old country track up there, used by dog walkers and horse riders. (see below).This time, success was mixed. I didn't bump into trees or lampposts and I didn't fall down any open manhole covers...

but after a splodge through the biggest mound of horseshit, it's going to take a while to clean my trainers.

:o)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Penshaw Bowl

We have our own way of celebrating Easter up here. We all climb up Penshaw Hill and roll eggs down for the Penshaw Bowl competition. The event is run by Sun FM. They section off an area on the hill and get the kids to line up and roll their eggs in age groups. It used to take place at the top of the hill, but due to erosion, it's now about halway up. Still a climb though - especially if you're in a wheelchair.

We tried to push our Matthew up there two years back, but the hill was too steep, so he couldn't take part. This year I tried the back way, which is a slightly easier incline along a bumpy country trail. We got there, but then had to slide his wheelchair down a ridiculously steep slope to get to the Bowl area.

We made it! And once the younger ages had had their go, Matthew got his. His egg did really well. It just kept rolling and rolling. This is Matthew with his prize. And me, knackered!