Monday, 30 December 2013

Stephen King ruined my bathtime

Carrie - her bathtime clearly spoilt too.
I've just spent the last half hour in the bath with Stephen King. I don't mean I was in there reading his latest book - he was actually there in the bath with me! And it happens too many times to be just the wacky coincidence he claims.

Most people think Stephen King lives in Maine, USA. Wrong. He actually lives in a council house in Penshaw, just a few streets down from me. In most cases, that should be enough for us never to even see each other, but here he was, once again, trying to sound all casual as he smiled and said, 'I was just passing.' Then he sticks his head in through the door, sniffs and his eyes light up. 'Are you running a bath?' He holds up a loofah and a soap-on-a-rope and adds, 'Care to share?'

A voice in my head is crying out to tell him to get lost. He can't keep coming round here like this. But he's been my icon since I was a kid, so I sigh a reluctant, 'Come on in, Stephen.'

Let me make things nice and clear - bathtime with your hero is not the fantasy you might think. For a start, he's like six foot four or something, which doesn't leave a lot of room for me, but because he's so mega-famous he insists he gets the good end, which means I have to sit hunched up with the taps in my back.

This time, it was too much, so I told him straight. 'You know something, Steve-O?' (he hates it when you call him that). 'If I make it big in 2014, I'm going to build an extension, get a bath fitted and a totally separate combi-boiler, and charge you the cost of the bloody gas!'

He just sneered and said, 'Like that's gonna happen.'

And this is what gets me. The only reason he comes around here is because he thinks we've got something in common. 'Come on, Col. You're a writer, I'm a writer. Why run two baths?'  But as soon as he's all relaxed and happy he tries to belittle me. Every single time.

I'm going to start taking showers instead. 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Puppy Poppy Postpones Publishing

Well, how can you edit when you've got a 5 month pup on your keyboard demanding a walk?


Monday, 5 August 2013

HLTA Col

Came home from hols to find this.

I am now a black belt Teaching Assistant, capable of putting up bright displays in record time, straightening chairs to 1 tenth of a millimetre and sharpening pencils until they're really, really sharp.

On a more serious note, this marks a lot of hard work. Back in 2005, I was out of work. My son was in Year 1 at the local primary school and they needed parents to help out with a Walkwise Programme - helping children learn to cross the road. My wife suggested I go along, so I did and joined in for about 6 weeks. It was kind of fun, so I wrote up a CV and handed it in to the headteacher, telling her I'd like to do some voluntary work if she had any going. A few weeks later, I got a call asking me if I wanted to help out in Year 5. I can still remember the lesson - Miss Wardle teaching the cross pollination of flowers. I went back, two days a week for the next year. In the following year, I continued as a volunteer, but went to college too, to do a Teaching Assistant course. A year after that, I got a job. Over the past few years, I've done more and more teaching, so my head put me in for this HLTA thing. 
People complain that there aren't jobs out there. Well, maybe they're not falling off the trees, but if you look, and try, and actually knock on doors, you can find them. 

Same thing with writing. Put the work in, send it off, keep badgering those agents and editors and eventually, things start to happen.


Monday, 17 June 2013

Arabesque Shortlisted for Award

Arabesque has made the shortlist of the Stockport Schools Book Award in the KS4 section. It is up against Cracks by Caroline Green and Someone Else's Life by Katie Dale.

There is a Q&A interview page on the Stockport site. Click here to take a look.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Review: Brock, by Anthony McGowan

I love Barrington Stoke. I love the feel of the paper, the dyslexia-friendly yellow tint, the left justification, gaps between paragraphs... but best of all, I love that they give reluctant readers, or kids who have trouble reading, bloody good stories. Stories you can really get your teeth into. Stories that the author could so easily hold back, expand and release as a "proper" novel.

But sometimes a novella really packs a punch.  

Brock, by Anthony McGowan is like that. From the author of Henry Tumour and The Knife That Killed Me, Brock tells the story of Nicky, who has a tough enough life with a mother gone, a dad on bail and an older brother who has such special needs, he's little more than a child. Things take a turn when they are dragged along to witness the horrific, senseless killing of a wild animal. But when Nicky saves something from the destruction the other kids have caused, his and his brother's lives are changed forever.

Brock is about as lean as you can get, using simple, effective language to keep a great pace while maintaining atmosphere, tension, action, empathy... look, it's just brilliant, right. It's one of those books that might help kids who hate books, realise that some books are all right. And that's good enough for five stars from me.




Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A novel in 7 days?

Sounds impossible, right? Well, Dean Wesley Smith is planning to do just that next week.

Dean is a best selling author, has written over 100 novels and over 200 published short stories. He gets a lot of ghost-writing jobs because he can make such tight deadlines. Editors also turn to him when they have novels that the paid author failed to deliver on, and need it finishing quickly.

This time, he isn't writing to an editor's deadline, but his own, just to prove it's possible. The novel he's planning to write is a ghost writing project for a major name, destined to become a bestseller when it comes out, because as Dean says, "This author's books always are."

And just to add to his workload, he's going to be blogging about every step of the journey.

So, if you want a masterclass on how a novel can be written at high speed, or how an author can work to incredible deadlines under insane pressure, check it out.

deanwesleysmith.com

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Moon Bear: Review

A few weeks ago, I had never heard of moon bears, or bear farming. My first thoughts was, who would farm bears anyway? And why? The answer is utterly abhorrent, and is the base for this powerful, horrible, brilliant novel by Gill Lewis.

Moon Bear is the story of a Tam, a boy whose family is moved, without choice, from their mountain village so the area can be cleared of forest. They are given a new home, but after his father is blown to bits by a hidden landmine, Tam is given a job in the city in the hope of making money for his family.

Tam has never seen a bear farm, and he's shocked by the way the bears are kept, living their entire lives in cages so small they can barely turn around. The cages are up on legs so that waste and urine falls directly to the floor. Tam's job is to clean up beneath the cages, avoiding the swipes of any bears strong enough to attack. Moon bears are a large black bear with a moon-like crescent of white on their chest, hence the name.

A small bear farm, where the bears spend their entire lives.
The reason they are kept like this is Bear Bile. In many parts of Asia, bile from the gall bladder of a bear is considered a powerful medicine, believed to cure anything from a cold to cancer.

Tam witnesses the procedure of the bile being removed, and how the bears are sedated, but not so much that they can't feel the pain of a needle as The Doctor tries to locate the gall bladder and syphon off the bile.

Bear bile - believed to be the cure for... everything!
Things become much more difficult for Tam when a bear cub is delivered to the farm. Tam nurses the cub back to health, and promises, against the odds, that he will find a way to get free and return himself and the bear back to the mountains.

Moon Bear doesn't hold back, without being gratuitous. The language is simple, yet colourful - a deceptively lean style that pulls the reader along. More importantly, it doesn't play to the audience for sympathy, but earns the reader's emotions through honesty, cruelty and hope.

Highly recommended.