Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

This week, it’s all been about covers and copy edits, which have both been exciting, if in different ways. They mark a real staging point on the publication journey: it’s not about a pile of manuscript pages any more. Before long, now, I’ll have a proper book… Talking about the edits led to one of my favourite threads ever on Facebook, with writer friends sharing the overused words they’d had to cut out pre-publication. We all had our own: my characters are always ‘looking’, and spend a lot of time pushing themselves up on to their elbows. (nb. see how I now know that it’s ‘on to’ and not ‘onto’…). Everyone’s pet words were different: some that came up were ‘only’ and...

When We Were Sisters by Beth Miller

When We Were Sisters by Beth Miller

My friend Kate comes round Wednesdays and, on the first one back after Christmas, she spotted When We Were Sisters on my reading pile. For the rest of the day, whenever I turned my back, she had it open. Wednesdays are a busy day.We go to yoga, the girls do drama, the boys have Scouts. Kate had only made it through a couple of chapters by the time she had to leave. I am a Kind Friend. I don’t like to interrupt the enjoyment of a good book. But I wanted to read it as well… My better feelings won out, but it wasn’t much of a sacrifice in the end. Kate stayed up to two in the morning to finish it, and I had it back by Thursday evening. I’d polished it off by teatime Friday. Didn’t get much else done. It’s that good.   Laura...

Summertime, by Vanessa Lafaye

Summertime, by Vanessa Lafaye

Summertime. The year is 1935. In the small community of Heron Key, preparations are underway for the annual Fourth of July celebrations: a barbecue on the beach, followed by a firework display. It’s an event for everyone because, even though the coloureds must stay on their own side of the beach, ‘no one could partition the sky when those fireworks went up.’ Missy, a young coloured woman who works for a white family, is looking forward to the evening. As she bathes the baby in her care, and sits out the heat and oppression of the humid Florida afternoon, Missy thinks about her neighbours and her employers, and dreams of feeling cool again. But when she leaves the baby for a moment to run inside and swipe a piece of ice from the refrigerator,...

Listening to War and Peace on New Year’s Day

I woke up this New Year’s Day morning and didn’t really feel like getting up. The night before had been a late one, natch, and the outside world was both cold and wet. My phone was out of power, so Facebook and Twitter were out. I had a book handy, but that was too much effort. So I put on the radio and reached for the headphones. I didn’t want to disturb the sleeping dogs on the bed, after all. Or the sleeping Graeme, come to that. But the radio was strange. None of the normal programmes were on. The radio world had become War and Peace. Funny how these things work out. A bare three weeks ago, I read War and Peace for the first time since I was a teenager. (*Disclaimer: I didn’t actually read all of it in the run up to Christmas. I caught...

Curious Tales and Poor Souls’ Light

  And so, as promised, here is a sneaky preview into the new Curious Tales anthology. Last year it was The Longest Night, a collection looking back to the stories of MR James. This year we have Poor Souls’ Light, which takes as its starting point the unsettlingly Gothic tales of Robert Aickman. For those of you who have not previously enjoyed their walks on the darker side of Christmas, Curious Tales is a publishing collective founded by Jenn Ashworth and Richard Hirst and including writers Emma Jane Unsworth, Alison Moore and Tom Fletcher, and the artist Beth Ward. Joined this year by guest writers M John Harrison and Johnny Mains, they tap into the Victorian tradition of telling ghostly stories around the fire as the year approaches its shortest day....

The Art of Kozu by James Edgecombe

I’m really pleased this week to be reviewing The Art of Kozu, which won the MMU Novella Award earlier this year. And, after that has whetted your appetite,  there’s also an interview with the author, Jamie Edgecombe. Author interviews are always good to read, but this especially makes a great companion piece to the review, and gave me so many insights into the narrative. A novella may be a short book when compared to the novel but, certainly in this case, it also provides more to think about, digest and unravel than any of your doorstops. Even whilst I was putting this up on the blog, I kept thinking of more questions I wanted to ask, more details I wished I’d squeezed into the review. Seriously, read the review, read the interview and then GO...

Finding Bridie

Being a girl from Swindon means that going to London is a big deal. I mean, you never know when you’ll make it back there. Even now, with Manchester on my doorstep and semi-regular London flits becoming part and parcel of having a book deal, I still feel the need to justify my presence with meaningful activity. This time, though, it wasn’t museums or exhibitions or galleries I was after. This time, I was going to find my grandmother. Not literally, because she died in the mid-nineties. Part of her story, though, was played out in Kensington. My plan was to walk across Hyde Park and find where it had happened. It was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. As a teenager, my social life was completely bound up in the Swindon Young Musicians, where I played...