Monday, 28 November 2011

Guilty Consciences

The arrival of my author copy a few days ago reminded me that I ought to post on the subject of my latest publication - a short story entitled “Conned” in the new Crime Writers’ Association anthology “Guilty Consciences”.

The CWA anthologies have been an annual event for a few years now and this one, like the last, is edited by Martin Edwards, who writes two excellent crime series, one set in Liverpool and one in the Lake District. This year’s stories include (other than mine) contributions by Robert Barnard, Ann Cleeves, HRF Keating, Peter James, Jane Finnis and by Martin himself.

Martin very generously described me in the introduction as being amongst “the most gifted members of the new generation of crime writers”. It is of course always an honour to be invited to contribute to the anthology and to join the very distinguished list of those who have had stories included in the past.

The cover has the names of the contributors in the shape of a dagger. I, it transpires, am the sharp bit at the end, which I also rather like.

The anthology is available at bookshops and on Amazon

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Macmillan New Writers Book optioned for a film

We are lucky to have Ann Weisgarber - double Orange nominee among our ranks. In case you hadn't noticed, she's on a blog tour at the moment with "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree". It has just been optioned for film by Viola Davis, star of The Help. What great news, hope it gets made, it would be a great film.

About the Book:
Winner of the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction and the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction
Longlisted for the Orange Prize (alongside books by Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson), and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.

Her new novel "Galveston" is in the pipeline too, so I'm looking forward to another great read.

Ann Weisgarber’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, November 1st: nomadreader

Wednesday, November 2nd: Peeking Between the Pages

Thursday, November 3rd: Linus’s Blanket - author Q&A

Monday, November 7th: A Bookish Libraria

Tuesday, November 8th: Man of La Book

Thursday, November 10th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, November 14th: Book Dilettante

Tuesday, November 15th: Book Chatter

Wednesday, November 16th: She is Too Fond of Books- Spotlight on Bookstores guest post

Thursday, November 17th: Book Club Classics

Friday, November 18th: Historical Tapestry - guest post

Monday, November 21st: Raging Bibliomania

Tuesday, November 22nd: The Brain Lair

Wednesday, November 23rd: Broken Teepee

Friday, November 25th: Historical Tapestry

Monday, November 28th: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, November 29th: My Bookshelf

Wednesday, November 30th: Elle Lit.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Seven Ways in Which Writing is Like Yoghurt-Making

- There are many different ways to make yoghurt. People argue about the best way to make yoghurt, but really, there is no best way. There's just your own way. You can make yoghurt in the sunshine, or standing in the kitchen. You can use machines to help you make yoghurt, or you can do it the old-fashioned way, with your two hands. (And a bowl and a spoon, but that part of the analogy obviously doesn't fit so well, so we'll gloss over that.) Another person's way of making yoghurt will never work as well for you. You have to perfect your own yoghurt-making.

- Yoghurt can be all things to all people. Sometimes people want exciting, adventurous yoghurt. Sometimes people want soothing, soft yoghurt. Sometimes people even want Greek Yoghurt, which explains why Captain Corelli's Mandolin was such a success.

- Commercial yoghurt is looked down upon by yoghurt purists. Yoghurt with chunkier fruit pieces is usually considered to be harder to get through, but more rewarding when you reach the end of the pot.

- Celebrities should be stopped from making yoghurt. They foist their horrible yoghurt upon the rest of us. That, or they lie, and get a professional yoghurt maker to secretly make their yoghurt for them. This is despicable. Everyone please stop buying these celebrity yoghurts before all the old-school yoghurt-makers go out of business.

- In modern times, yoghurts come with accoutrements, such as little corner helpings of crunchy flakes. Or yoghurt comes in over-processed tubes, to be sucked down and instantly discarded. We are dressing up our yoghurts, but surely traditional yoghurt is the best? However, it is good to be open to changes in the yoghurt industry. Eventually yoghurt-makers will no longer need packaging and will simply squirt their yoghurts directly into the consumers' mouths. This is to be desired. Apron sales will also go up.

- Yoghurt buyers are very susceptible to yoghurt packaging. Women yoghurt buyers like pink pots. Men yoghurt buyers like manly pots in bigger sizes. It used to be true that nobody over the age of twelve wanted to be caught eating a child yoghurt in a ridiculous brightly-coloured little pot in public, but nowadays it's much more acceptable to say you like child yoghurt. Getting in touch with your inner toddler, or some such rubbish. Still, child yoghurts are lots of fun, aren't they? That Harry Potter yoghurt was excellent.

- But, however you take your yoghurt, it will always be a very cultured thing to do.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Three Authors You Meet in Heaven

All art is theft, right? I'm thinking it's better to steal off a dead person than a living one, although my moral compass isn't exactly clear about it.

Anyway, the other day on the blog I was musing about how the five people I'd meet in heaven would probably be the people I least wanted to see (forgive me for coming over all Sartre there). And that made me think - what if I could choose? On the basis of wanting to learn something about how they did what they did? So I could become a better writer? Although, obviously, I'd be dead myself at this point and probably not likely to pick up a pen again.

Hang on, that raises another question - would it be heaven if I couldn't write in it? Or would it be heaven if the desire to write was taken away? Blimey. Too many questions. So here's the game.

Name the three authors you'd like to meet in heaven. I'm going for three because I can't spend all day on this. I'm writing a new book, you know.

Rule out Shakespeare. Shakespeare meets you at the gate, okay? In writer heaven, he's Saint Peter. So can you name three dead writers that you think could teach you something about your craft? Who would they be? Here's mine:

1. George Eliot. Because although I'm writing surreal crazy stuff at the moment, and have written crime before, all I actually want to write someday is Middlemarch. How did she create that town, and sustain it, and make us care for every single person in it? I have trouble making the reader really care for one.

2. Dylan Thomas. Because he had the gift of putting music in his poetry. And because Under Milk Wood has the best opening monologue of any play, and I include Henry V in that assessment. How do you write something that makes the readers hold their breath?

3. Graham Greene. Because he made the moral processes of the mind so clear to his readers, when I just get tangled up in a sticky web of emotion when I attempt that. Writing a clear psychological intent through a character without making it obvious, and without deviation - that's real skill.

So there you have it. Who would you like to learn from? And would it be heaven for you with or without the desire and the equipment to write?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Writerly Lunch at Brown's

Six Macmillan New Writers met for lunch at Brown's in Covent Garden last week. It was lovely to see Frances, Tim, Alis, Aliya and Len. It strikes me that the expression "New" probably doesn't apply to us any more as all of us are entrenched in the writing life, and most of our books have been out for a while.

What was really nice, and proves beyond a doubt that we are all balanced people, was that the conversation was not all about writing. We also managed to cover the ins and outs of Downton Abbey, French condolence letters, and the trials of ageing dogs - all this in amongst ordering our bargain lunch, courtesy of vouchers from Eliza.

We had a great waiter who exemplified service with a smile, he would have fitted nicely into the kitchens of Downton Abbey and helped the miniscule staff of six to run that enormous stately pile.

Here's what I gleaned about fellow MNWer's. Out of the six of us, four of us are writing historicals - me, Len, Alis and Tim. Tim had even brought his research with him and seemed totally fired up with excitement. Len and I have been exploring the same ground, so it was interesting to hear that our visions of 17th century England mostly coincide. Alis is embracing historical crime in between her playwriting. Frances is writing a non-fiction and Aliya is writing speculative fiction/fantasy. I have avoided saying too much about these projects because I don't know how much of it they want made public!

Folks, if you're out there please add more in the comments to tell people what you are working on.

It was great to see everyone. I have tried to do the social network thing via facebook and twitter, and although this breeds contacts, it is definitely not the same as a proper social when you can actually pass someone their drink and see their body language as they talk. Brown's lunch was very good and it would be really nice to see more Macmillan New Writers next time we do this. Just to remind you, here are all our books, now available on Kindle and in print!