Friday 24th November 2006
The WebSphinx and I have now been working on this website for over a year - amazing! To celebrate this and her recent (see 'What the Hell...?') revelations of just how she put this site's overall look together, we're proud to announce the opening of our gorgeous, gooey, gobsmacking NO MONSTERS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS WEBSITE CHALLENGE. Recite the incantation in the heading above while drinking milk (extra emphasis on the "moTWUCK!" please). Then follow the link on Fun Stuff for more details.
Tuesday 21st November 2006
I've felt a bit low and shaky over the last couple of days - this has been quite a long year for me in a lot of ways! But I figure Maggie (see below) would've preferred me to keep working as much as possible. So, this afternoon I left my cousins hard at work on the continuing building shenanigans going on in my flat (don't get me started!) and took myself off to Elizabeth Garret Anderson Girls School to do my Black Tat stuff there. My thanks to Lesley Cheetham for the photos!
I have to say, this was a brilliant session. Right now I'm used to talking about Black Tat from scratch, introducing it (as you'd expect) to people who've never heard of it before. But to my enormous glee and delight one or two members of the audience had read the book already, and many more were in the course of reading it with EGA's Bookaholics reading group. Now: that's the first time to my knowledge that a reading group has started going through Black Tat together on a week-by-week basis, and that's HUGELY exciting to me - READING GROUPS YAY! It also made for some really enjoyably complex and detailed questions, about Hell and about the characters' various relationships especially. In fact the whole audience was wonderfully attentive and sparky, and the hour-and-a-half session just flashed past: I kept thinking there'd be time to get a third reading in before the end, but the questions were so good I lost track completely and eventually had to be stopped! Lots of EGA students stayed behind afterwards for a chat and to get something signed, even though (very flattering!) it was the end of the school day. And I have to say, the special Black Tat TRANSFER TATTOOS that the RHCB(UK) team have just produced proved particularly popular.
Thanks again to Lesley and the students at EGA for a delightful visit. And to anyone else: yes, you read that right - Black Tat TRANSFER TATTOOS. They look especially sinister if you put them on your knuckles, I can tell you. More anon!
Saturday 18th November 2006
Bad news today. My agent Maggie Noach has died, very suddenly and unexpectedly. Maggie didn't seem ill, and she was by no means an old lady. This was just one of those horrible out-of-the-blue things that happen sometimes, and her death has come as an enormous shock to everyone who knew her.
For myself, Maggie hadn't been my agent all that long I guess - about two years all told. But, as I mention at the end of Black Tat, Maggie was the one who 'waved her magic wand and changed my life.' Maggie, perhaps more than anyone else, gave me this start as an author of books for young people. And now she's gone.
To give you a flavour of what she was like, I'd like to tell you about how Maggie and I met. Before I approached her I'd done some research, and found out a couple of things. One was that she'd once co-authored a Dictionary of Disgusting Facts: I thought that was very promising. Another was that she'd once said in an interview that she "employs a dog to sniff out literary talent." When she first telephoned me after reading Black Tat's opening chapters (an agent! ringing me! exciting!) I asked her what she'd meant.
'I have a dog called Sam,' Maggie said. 'If he doesn't like a manuscript...' (She paused. I waited.) 'He pees on it.'
The following days, as you can imagine, passed with me hoping fervently that the other Sam wouldn't - ahem! - "express his disapproval." But Sam the dog didn't pee on Black Tat. Maggie signed me up. And within two weeks - after ten years of chasing the dream - I had my first book deal.
Maggie was a fine agent: I always felt safe knowing she was watching my back, and that's important if you're a newbie like me. Maggie was also a lovely lady, with a keenly wicked sense of humour and a caring heart. I was looking forward to a long working relationship over which to get to know her better. Now I am very sad.
Tuesday 14th November 2006
See that shadowy bespectacled figure looming above, preparing to follow in King Kong's paw-prints up the outside of the Empire State Building(or something)? Yep: that's me in New York. Physically - if not quite mentally, as yet! - I have now returned from my first attempt to conquer America.
"Conquer America" - yeah, right: that's a good one! I'll level with you: most of this trip I felt less like an invading army and more like some kind of tiny microbe, breathed in - and then out - by a sleeping giant. I'd been to the States once before long ago, but going there with something to sell was quite different. All the while, from first stumbling out of NYC's Penn station (big city yikes!) until the moment my plane left the ground for the return journey, I kept veering wildly between being hugely excited ('I'm in America! YAY!') and the next second squelchingly intimidated ('Now: what do I actually think I'm doing here?!')
HOWEVER! I met loads of lovely and fascinating people; I now know all the best bookshops in New York; I ate the most enormous amount of splendid food(yay!); a lot more people know about me and Black Tat now than might have otherwise if I hadn't gone - and I had a lot of fun! Here's a short summary to give you and idea of what I've been up to.
My lovely girlfriend Laura found us both an apartment to stay in in NYC, and for the first five days of this trip - in between all sorts of meetings with publishers, agents, reps and buyers - we set out to visit every bookshop we could find so I could sign as many Black Tats as we could lay our hands on. We went to about forty bookstores in the end (Laura is amazing!!) And you know what? This actually turned out to be a pretty good way to see the city. We got the hang of the subway very quickly, checked out all sorts of neighbourhoods that we might otherwise have missed - and we got the chance to chat with lots of lovely booksellers. Bank Street Books, on Broadway and 112th, was a particular highlight: every inch of the place was crammed with wonderful things, and the staff were very friendly and welcoming.
The children's booksellers at a couple of the Barnes and Noble branches were a delight to talk to, too: in one, in Greenwich Village, they had Black Tat in the window, as part of a Halloween display. I got so excited about that (my book! in the window! in New York!) that I'm afraid I had to jump up and down like a gibbon a bit, right there on the sidewalk outside. A couple of passing New Yorkers asked me if I had a problem(!) but when I told them why I was so excited they shook my hand [Awwww!] Most of the big in-store displays that were up for Black Tat's launch have come down now, but as you can see from this pic they were very impressive...
...and I think you can tell from my expression a little of how I felt to see my book - the one I wrote! - actually on sale in shops in America: Amazing! Hee hee hee! Laura and I then said goodbye for the time being, and while she set off back for London I headed on to my first proper event of this trip, namely a chance to do my stuff for the Teen Advisory Group at the Donnell Library Center.
What a terrific group! They were a joy to talk to, full of energy and passionate about books: no matter how far the conversation ranged (and it went all over the place - got some excellent anime recommendations!!) we always returned to the subject in hand eventually. Thanks to Jess at Razorbill for taking pics: thanks to all at Donnell and the TAG for a fine evening - and thank you GABRIELLA for your kind words in the Guestbook!
After the event I went out for a couple of crafty beers with Ben, my editor, to discuss the next stages of our sinister masterplan to conquer the universe (HEE HEE HEE!) Then I took myself off into the night, through the surreally-costumed NYC Halloween crowds, to the airport, so I'd be ready to catch an early flight the following morning out to the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas!
Actually, the convention turned out to be a bit of a surprise. I'd been expecting something enormous and frantic, along the lines (I hear) of WorldCon and ComiCon, with zillions of people and loads of events going on at once. This wasn't like that at all. There were around 1200 people attending, a large number for a British fantasy convention, but quite low-key and intimate for an American one. Of those people there, the overwhelming majority were professionals from the book industry: artists, editors, journalists, authors, book dealers - and people aspiring to become those things! Actual fans, surprisingly, were quite thin on the ground (and no costumes, much to my disappointment!) Instead, this convention was a place to make contacts and touch base. In fact I ended up having a lovely time, and I think my being there will definitely help me and my stories in the long term, but I had to adjust my expectations and my approach a little bit! ;)
I was booked for a half-hour reading slot on the first day, Thursday. Actually, it was the second such slot of the entire convention - 2pm in the afternoon. Added to the obvious fact that I'm a newbie, most of the Con's attendees didn't actually arrive until the afternoon of the following day, so the reading wasn't exactly packed. It was also, incidentally, my first ever event in front of an exclusively grown-up audience, which was a little weird! But those dozen who were there seemed to enjoy the kung fu and monsters just fine, and I was asked some good questions. I also met and got talking to Shaun Farrell, a really splendid bloke who later kindly asked to interview me for a podcast on his blog. If you'd like to hear how that turned out, go to www.adventuresinscifipublishing.blogspot.com [you may need to scroll down to the right episode] and click 'Listen'. Warning: by the sounds of it, Shaun ended up using pretty much everything we talked about, so it's quite long!!
The convention really kicked off properly on the Friday. I met up with John Jude Palencar and he was absolutely brilliant, a real gentleman (except when he kept making dirty jokes - which was most of the time!). Here's a pic of him, a kind of 'Portrait of the Artist as a Carnivore', taken at an all-you-can-eat barbecue!
Mr Palencar was 'Artist Guest of Honor' at the convention: that wonderful painting he did for Black Tat's cover was the main reason I was there, really! But even though I was hanging on his shirt-tails a bit, he graciously introduced me to absolutely everyone he could. Of those I met, some had heard about me and Black Tat already, thanks to the spectacular full page ad placed in the convention programme - full marks to the Razorbill team for that! - and the fact that a number of Black Tat galleys were given away in the goodie bags that all the convention attendees got when they arrived. That was definitely a shrewd move, by the way.
As word spread that John and I were there at the Con, more and more people came up asking for signatures, not just at the Friday night autograph session (which was a great success!) but throughout the weekend. The convention's organizers, also, were particularly kind to me: a HUGE thank you to the charming Renee, Kim, Sarah, Shai, Rebecca, Fred and everybody for taking me under their collective wing like you did [your book recommendations - and beer recommendations - were especially appreciated!] In fact, everyone at the Con was wonderfully friendly and approachable, I had some fine conversations over the course of the weekend - and some of the panels and readings, of course, were excellent. Special highlights included hearing fellow Razorbill author Sarah Beth Durst read from her forthcoming debut Into the Wild, Lisa Tuttle reading out a savage and elegant twist-in-the-tale that literally left the audience gasping - and a spectacularly hilarious and gory story from Joe R Lansdale that felt like it lasted about ten minutes but actually over-ran by more than thirty
The climactic grand banquet on Saturday night was enormous fun, and things quietened down very quickly on Sunday as people packed up and prepared themselves for the trip back to wherever they'd come from. The hotel was terrific - you can see some pics here but it was quite far away from Austin proper. In fact I hadn't even really had the chance to get out of the place by Monday (five nights into my stay!) so you can imagine, it was a great treat when Jill - Razorbill's sales rep for the area - picked me up for a stock signing at Book People, a fine-looking Austin bookstore. After the signing Jill kindly showed me around town a bit and took me out for a Mexican lunch (I certainly can't claim that I starved in Texas - I ate extremely well all the time I was there!) before dropping me back at the hotel. John and I met up again in the afternoon, and a lovely lady called Kristen then whisked us off to my last event of this visit to America, a reading and Q&A session at an Austin branch of Borders.
This, as I expected, was a pretty quiet affair (Monday night is American Football night on tv nowadays!!) Most of the audience were acquaintances from the convention who had kindly turned out to support the cause. Still: as anyone who's met me will know, I'm absolutely delighted to burble excitedly about Black Tat to groups of any size whatsoever (hee hee hee!) and I spoke for about an hour. I think it must have gone okay, because four people bought the hardcover right there and then (despite having free galley copies from the Con! I think the poster was irresistible for them!) I then signed all the stock in the shop - around twenty copies.
The following morning I set off from the hotel at 10.30am Texas time, and eighteen hours (but no sleep) later I was back in London - just in time for the morning rush hour (ho, hum!) So there you go. I knew I wasn't going to conquer America on my first try - or not completely anyway! - but to me the trip was a great success, and I look forward to invading the US again in the future. Yes: even if the jet-lag does seem to turn my brain to cheese! Hee hee hee!
Friday 10th November 2006
Imagine my glee and delight on my return from the States when I discovered that the WebSphinx has struck again! The sharper-brained among you may already have noticed the pithy little question that now appears in the bottom right-hand corner of every page of this site. Click on it, and all my tiresome textural drivelling melts away, exposing (in moments) the WebSphinx's indescribably awesome monster-texture backgrounds in all their grisly glory! Better yet, if you then click on the button top-right as instructed, you can find out how she made them. [BTW: Isn't the WebSphinx a genius? Who'd've guessed that 'gelatin, meringue pieces and dirt' (for example) could be made to look so alluringly colourful and yet so downright disgusting at the same time, eh?]
Well: now that the WebSphinx has let you into a few of her secrets, I have a question for anyone reading this. Do you think you could do better? Well do you? Hmmmmmm? If you think the answer's yes, then... well: COOL! Start thinking about how you might be able to create monster-textures of your own, and watch this space: in a little while, it'll be time for our exclusive No Actual Monsters Were Harmed In The Making Of This Website competition. When we give the word [but not before! we (er...!) need a chance to make a new page and give you specifications and an address to send them to!] start creating your own repulsive jpgs and send 'em in. The best ones will get used on the site - fully credited of course - and will win their creators SPECIAL BLACK TAT SHINY THINGS. Stand by for further instructions!
Wednesday 25th October 2006
I've answered another question (Hey - and thank you! - Danny from New Jersey!) over at the Q&A page. I've stuck a bunch more fine books up over at LibraryThing. The WebSphinx, as ever, is hard at work on our sinister masterplan (HEE HEE HEE!) But I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a break from further News for a while, as I'm off attempting to conquer America.
I'm going to New York to do my best to spread the Black Tat word there (there's an event at the Donnell Library Center that I'm particularly looking forward to!) After that, much to my own amazement and delight, I'm going to Austin, Texas for the World Fantasy Convention 2006. I've wanted to visit Austin for ages, but this Boing Boing article about a recent protest march there for ZOMBIE RIGHTS frankly just confirmed the issue. I'll be back soon to tell you all about the trip. Mean time, all together now: 'What do we want?' 'BRAAAAINS!' 'When do we want them?' 'BRAAAAAAAAAINS!'
Tuesday 24th October 2006
A little early for Halloween I know, but if you like to plan ahead you might be interested in this. Scroll down a bit to recommend Black Tat (or one of the other excellent books mentioned on that page!) to a mate, and chuckle at the wonderfully cheesy sound effects. BWAH-HA! BWAH-HA-HA-HA! -er, 'scuse me.
Saturday 21st October 2006
Today I did my first event at a public library, setting off to do my Black Tat thing for the charming and effervescent Chatterbooks reading group at Hornsey Library, in Crouch End (north London). The session was quite small and low-key - just six young readers were there - but this meant we could talk about things in a much more in-depth way than would have been possible with a bigger group. I think my favourite bit was when we were discussing the various famous London landmarks that are going to get vigorously and gleefully trashed in the course of my NEXT BOOK. 'What you should do,' said a certain person who was there, 'is destroy half of Buckingham Palace. The Queen could be cleaning her teeth at the time: she'll have to jump out of the window, her skirt will parachute upwards, and everyone will see her knickers.' 'That's good,' someone else replied after due consideration, 'except you should destroy all of Buckingham Palace.' -An enormous thank you to senior librarian Sean Edwards for inviting me along; my thanks to the group for a really cracking session - and thank you especially Jasper and Josie, for writing such kind things in the Guestbook. ["Nice handwriting"?? Jasper, are you serious?? ;) ]
QUESTION: (for anyone else reading this!) Are you involved in - or running! - a reading group at a library near you, in the London area? Would you be interested in my coming along to read from Black Tat and answer questions? As I'm a debut author, I'll currently do visits to public libraries for FREE. Check out the Visits page of this website for details about how to get in touch.
Monday 16th October 2006
A box arrived from New York this morning. I ripped it open with great glee and delight to find... YES! the just-released unabridged audio version of Black Tat, as read by John Lee. I'd been intensely curious to hear what this sounds like as you can probably imagine: it's quite a strange sensation to listen to my words as interpreted by someone else - but I'm absolutely delighted! Mr Lee clearly threw his heart into the reading, and the characterizations are superb. At nearly fourteen hours long (eleven cd's!) I've only had time to skim though it so far, but his voices for the Dragon, for instance - and the Chinj! - are just wonderful. Before long the WebSphinx and I are hoping to be able to post an audio sample somewhere up on the site, so you can hear just how good it is. But mean time, here we are: another superb Black Tat item! HUGE thanks to Mr Lee and the production team, and congratulations on a really terrific job. Hurrah!
Saturday 14th October 2006
Here's a new feature for the site that I hope you'll like. If you look in What is The Black Tattoo? you'll see that the WebSphinx has now created a page to display a pair of photos that my brother and I took, one rainy night, of a couple of the real-life locations in London's West End where the action of Black Tat takes place. For those who don't know these places, which I imagine is probably most people reading this, there's a pic of Centre Point Tower, and one of the Palace Theatre: you can see the actual round window that's supposed to have the butterfly room behind it! ;)
While we're on the subject of recent additions to the site, have you worked out how to get into the LOCKED section yet? When the dialogue box comes up put 'user' into the username field, then it's time to bring out that secret password I hid in the US and UK editions of Black Tat to open up a selection of dvd-style extra scenes from the book. There's a fight scene, a demon cocktail party and another couple of fun things there, together with commentary from me about why they didn't make the final version (and of course, some more of the WebSphinx's gob-smacking monster-texture backgrounds). Take a look!
Thursday 12th October 2006
An absolutely fantastic all-day school visit today, to Alcester Grammar School, near Stratford-upon-Avon. Four hour-long sessions - plus some signing at lunch-time! - made for a fairly knackered Sam by the time I got back to London, but it was a lot of fun. Here are some pics from the day to give you a flavour.
Alcester seems to be filled with enthusiastic readers - as you'll see, from the fine comments some of them left in the Guestbook. A big thank you to Mrs Doubleday for organizing the visit; thanks to Ruth, Doug and Antonia for kindly having me to stay over - and, if you were there, a big thank you to you, too. Although being asked what my favourite pizza topping is twice (on separate occasions!) was just a little bizarre, you were a pleasure to talk to. HEE HEE HEE!
Tuesday 10th October 2006
My favourite part of being a bookseller was recommending books to people - and of course, having books recommended to me in turn. Thanks to the wondrous LibraryThing I'm finding I can still do that even now I've left the bookshop!
My flat is pretty small: I simply don't have space here for stuff I don't like, so in fact I'd recommend absolutely any of the 370 books from my shelves that I've listed on LibraryThing so far. But I've posted a few short pointers to some I've particularly enjoyed here.
As you'll see, the way LibraryThing works means that you'll find more reviews up there by other users, too. If you're already looking for something else to get your teeth into after Black Tat there's a world full of books out there, waiting to tickle your fancy.
Sunday 7th October 2006
I'm very happy to relay the news that a fifth Komodo dragon egg has now hatched at London Zoo (I've mentioned the London Zoo dragons before on this blog back in August, so I thought you might be interested!) As an article in Lifewatch, the magazine for members of The Zoological Society of London says, the usual methods of discovering whether this egg was going to hatch or not had all suggested that its inhabitant might be dead. However: a new technique employing an infra-red beam detected a heartbeat, and in due course this fifth dragon made its appearance. I unfortunately can't get an image up here right now, but the young dragon has a wonderful expression on its face in the photo. Normally I think ascribing human feelings to animals is a bit naff really, but in this pic the hatchling has just bust out far enough to look at the world and then stopped, still curled up in its egg, its eyes clearly saying 'Don't hassle me. I'll come out when I'm damn well ready.' What can I say? Komodo dragons are awesome. It's coming up to Christmas, so if you're looking for interesting gift ideas, how about sponsoring an animal for somebody? Check out the ZSL website for details.
Thursday 4rd October 2006
Yep, today is Black Tat's official American launch date. How completely mad to think that my book - the one I spent all those evenings and weekends thinking about at the till at the bookshop here in London (when I was supposed to be working!) - is now going to be sold in shops all across the U.S. of A. I'd never have imagined it. Amazing!
Well: to any American readers looking at this, NOW IT'S YOUR TURN! Get down your local bookshop as soon as you can and take a look at The Black Tattoo. If things like swordfights, monsters, flying kung fu, demonic possession, vomiting bats and the end of the universe are your bag, I reckon you just might like it! And do come back and tell me what you think in the Guestbook.
In fact, speaking of the Guestbook, if you look in the Q&A section, down at the bottom, you'll see that now - at last, in two cases (sorry, Lauren from London and Ashley from Swansea!) - I've answered the questions that have come up so far. Anyone else got any more queries for me? Ask away! And an ENORMOUS THANK YOU to every who has kindly written in already.
Saturday 30th September 2006
This week (September 23rd to 30th) was the 25th annual Banned Books Week, a truly outstanding initiative run by the American Library Association to help protect and promote the freedom of everyone in the USA to read whatever they want. Why am I writing about it here? Because most of the books that are challenged - the books that cause librarians or schools to receive letters of complaint from those who want them banned or taken off shelves - are books written for young people. The list of most complained-about titles includes such noted shockers as Harry Potter and [gasp!] Captain Underpants, to name just two. Check out the Banned Books Week page on the ALA website. It's fascinating stuff
Thursday 28th September 2006
Exposed! My secret is out! Thanks to my mate Rich (one of the singers), SOUR MASH DADDY AND HIS SIXTY WIVES - the band I play in in one of my 'other lives' - now has a spot on MySpace. Unless you want to subject your ears to the full horror of my guitar-strangling, then at all costs don't click on this link - especially not 'Hard to Handle' ;) However, the other guys are terrific!
Wednesday 27th September 2006
Here's something fun and intriguing that I got involved in a few months back. It's a project to create a film entirely written, funded and ultimately distributed via the internet. It's going to be an SF/thriller type of story(YAY!) You can contribute by signing up and sending them some money to go towards this endeavour, or (once you're a member) you can jump right in on their discussion forums and help out directly with your advice, opinions, or expertise. It's an ambitious project, but it's all about mustering the talents of an international community of interested parties in the hope of creating something new and ground-breaking - and what's not to like about that? I've really only just been a lurking spectator so far, but this week they had a major members' poll so people could vote on various issues, so I thought I'd mention it to you. Here's a link to the Swarm of Angels homepage, and here's a link to a photo of their rather spiffy poster.
Sunday 24th September 2006
Have just returned from my first ever convention, namely FantasyCon 2006 which was held in Nottingham. I was a bit nervous when I arrived since (apart from my girlfriend!) I didn't really know anyone there, but everyone was wonderfully friendly and approachable: in fact there was a lovely atmosphere of enthusiasm that pervaded the whole weekend. There were some fascinating panel discussions, and I met all sorts of interesting people: booksellers, librarians, reviewers, readers and of course authors, including the delightful Juliet E. McKenna who was a Guest of Honour at the convention. After the banquet that closed the weekend's proceedings, Clive Barker, another Guest of Honour, made a superb speech about how fantastical writing isn't actually a 'genre' at all. What critics call 'naturalistic', 'realist' or 'real-life' writing (he pointed out) has actually only been around for the last four hundred years or so - hardly any time at all in historical terms. But for the human race, storytelling began with the fantastical - stories of gods and goddesses, heroism and magic were the first to be created, all those thousands upon thousands of years ago. Humanity's first narrative impulse was towards fantasy: fantasy was the first means we chose to understand and reflect the world through stories, not this business of focussing on the details of everyday life. So, recently-developed 'realism' is the specialist area of storytelling, not fantasy: it's 'realism' that should be considered a 'genre', not the fantastical. I thought that was a wonderful idea. Hee hee hee!
Thursday 21st September 2006
Black Tat's American publication date is almost upon us, and today Penguin US launched a crafty podcast to drum up some advance publicity for the book. If you go to this address you'll be able to hear me doing a short intro and a reading, preceded by a conversation between authors Justine Larbalestier and the especially awesome Scott Westerfeld [Yeah, I'm a bit of a fan of his, actually!] YAY!
Tuesday 19th September 2006
Today be INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY! Shiver me timbers! Splice me main-brace! Mind me trousers! ARRR!
Sunday 17th September 2006
The tour, which finished on Friday, was hotly followed on Saturday by a gig I'd been booked to play at a wedding in my 'other life' as a guitarist with my band, SOUR MASH DADDY AND HIS SIXTY WIVES. The wedding was wonderful (HUGE CONGRATS, JEN AND JOHN!) but I don't mind admitting, I was a bit knackered today! ;)
What an incredible week, though. Hee hee hee! As I think I've mentioned before, I've always aspired to be the kind of writer who does loads of school and library visits, and so far that part of my job has turned out to be every bit as much fun as I'd hoped. Everyone I spoke to all through the week was unfailingly enthusiastic and kind and helpful and lovely. If I tell you everything that happened this page will take even longer to download than it does already, but here are some photos and gubbins to give you a general idea!
Day One was mostly about going round as many London shops as possible signing copies of Black Tat. Here's a pic of me doing my stuff at the world famous Harrods!
Ruth from RHCB was kindly looking after me throughout the day (thanks, Ruth!) One stop on our itinerary was the big branch of Borders in Oxford Street. When we arrived, they already had a signing going on: David Hasselhoff was there promoting his autobiography. There were so many people queuing to meet him that the poor booksellers had had to block off their whole top floor and were going quite bananas. Strangely, nobody from the queue seemed to get Mr Hasselhoff and I confused, or rush up to me asking for my autograph by mistake. This was a surprise to me, as I think that the resemblance is positively uncanny...!
Day Two: Here are a couple of pics from an event I did at Bristol Grammar School: these photos were taken by Graham Fellows - thank you, Graham!
I was a little nervous as this was the first event on the tour, but I needn't have worried: it seemed to go swimmingly. As a creative exercise, I persuaded everyone in the audience to write the opening paragraph of their own novel, and some of the ideas I heard were absolutely awesome: so much imagination in one room - thrilling! Afterwards, to my great glee and delight, we sold so many copies of Black Tat that someone had to rush out to the nearest bookshop and buy more. A huge thank you to the staff and pupils for a truly excellent event. By the way: here's another pic of me looking like I'm trying to take off. What can I say? I tend to wave my arms around a lot!
On Day Three I did three events at three different schools around Yeovil. The wonderful Stuart and Sian of Ottakar's in Yeovil drove Rachel from RHCB and I from school to school in their car. We had to go quite fast to get everywhere in time! I don't have any pics from that day (sorry!) but it was a lot of fun: to my surprise, God Himself showed up in one of the signing queues - or someone claiming to be him in the disguise of a young member of the audience, anyhow. Quite by chance (or divine intervention?) I ran into God and one of his mates again afterwards, when I went back to Ottakar's to pick up my luggage. God's friend was buying a copy of Black Tat for he and God to share [God clearly and quite rightly doesn't believe in carrying around a lot of cash] and I was more than happy to sign it for them. Thank you, gents!
On Day Four I did another three events, this time all in one place - Pilton Community College, near Barnstaple in Devon. It was another terrific day: everyone I met at Pilton was very kind and polite and enthusiastic. If you go to their website at this address you can see some more pics of me in action. I'm afraid I don't have the name of the gentleman who took them, but thank you - they're great! Here are two of my favourites: one, apparently, of me cruelly thumping an imaginary mole...
...and another, of me doing some signing.
A big thank you to Louise at Ottakar's Barnstaple for inviting me - I had a fantastic time. I particularly enjoyed staying at the awesome Broomhill Art Hotel which is entirely filled with all kinds of wonderful sculptures wherever you look, including (of all things) this incredible giant shoe.
Rachel, the publicist at RHCB who'd been so kindly looking after me for the past few days, then took me back home to London. We got back quite late and I fell into my bed with a resounding crash: I needed my sleep, because...
On Day Five I had the biggest single event of the tour, namely a mammoth reading/Q&A session in front of two hundred keen young readers at The Harrodian school, near Barnes. It was great! Here's a pic of me reading from the book...
...and here's another, of the audience's reaction. You can tell that I had their attention!
There were so many excellent questions at this event, that I only got through two of my readings. Outstanding!
So there you go! My first ever tour, and as far as I'm concerned it was a great success. A HUGE, HUGE thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. I hope all those who heard me got something out of it, as I know I did. In fact, I'm extremely keen to fix up as many more school, bookshop and library visits as I possibly can!
The WebSphinx is hard at work as ever: before much longer, we hope to have an address on the site where people who are interested in arranging for me to come and do my thing somewhere near them can contact me directly. In the mean time, if you'd like to enquire about possibilities in that direction, the best thing to do is to write to the publicity department of my publishers here in the UK: they are Random House Children's Books , and their address is 61-63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA. I should stress that (unless your expenses budget is extremely generous!) for the time being my visits can really take place in the UK only ! HOWEVER: I and the team at Razorbill ( Black Tat 's publishers in the States) are currently in the process of planning a brief US TOUR! I'm madly excited about that. More anon! ;)
Tuesday 5thSeptember 2006
Check out my (first ever!) TOUR SCHEDULE, to promote Black Tat here in the UK!
- London stock signing then travel to Bristol
Pm - Borders Managers Conference
Am - Event at Bristol Grammar School
Pm - Event at Clifton College
Travel to Yeovil by train
School event with Ottakars Yeovil
Travel to Barnstaple and stay overnight
School event with Ottakars Barnstaple
Travel back to London
Event at the Harrodian
The WebSphinx will still be working her special sorcery on the site - we have all sorts of grand plans for the future, so do keep checking in! - but I hope you'll understand if I don't update the NEWS section for a little while. I know this lot might not look that intimidating compared to other authors' tour programmes, but I'm still hoping after all of it I'm not so knackered I end up looking like THIS...
Yes, it's another work of beauty by my friend Elaine (she of the knitted Flying Spaghetti Monster - scroll down a bit to take a look!) - a hand-crafted vomiting bat of my very own! Check out those lovingly stitched pink chin-dribbles. What more can be said? Elaine is a genius, and knitting is COOL. Hee hee hee!
Only a couple of days until the official launch now. In fact, my shadowy network of sinister operatives (all right - my bookseller mates!) tell me that in many bookshops in the UK Black Tat is on shelves already. I'm very proud of this book - in fact right now I think I'm going to be proud of it for the rest of my life. But after working up to this moment for so long (over ten years, if you include all the stuff I wrote that didn't get a book deal!) I'll admit it, I am a little nervous!
If you're reading this in the UK and you haven't checked the book out yet, well, NOW'S THE TIME. The Black Tattoo is there in bookshops and libraries, waiting for you - or you can order it!
I hope you like it. Don't forget to come back and tell me what you think in the GuestBook. ;)
Friday 1stSeptember 2006
The official date for the UK launch of Black Tat isn't until Thursday 7th, but this was the date I set to invite my family and mates out to the pub for a party - and what a night it was! As you can see from this pic of me signing-
-the room was packed. Nearly seventy people kindly turned out to support the cause and wish me and Black Tat well. The noise they made when I got up to do a reading is something I don't think I'll forget as long as I live! A huge, huge thank you to everyone who came along to help me celebrate. HEE HEE HEE!