Tuesday 25 November 2008

Signing Frenzy

It was signing day! Waking up in the morning, I was very anxious as we loaded the car with publicity cards and a lovely bowl of sweets (Lips and teeth as we were giving away Killing Kisses). Although this was not my first signing it was my first signing at a major store ... and not just any store, but Waterstones in The Trafford Centre, the largest shopping centre in Europe. I was later told that the bookshop alone gets around 30,000 visitors per week at this time of year.

As I was straightening my hair and fighting with my daughter over who needed to use the mirror most to apply make-up, my partner discovered that we had a flat tyre. Great! I was in a major panic, because this could mean that we wouldn’t make it on time; I hate being late for anything and I was nervous enough as it was!
Fortunately it wasn't a flat, just some mysterious leak had flattened it but it pumped up fine at the local garage and has stayed inflated since.

We set off for the Trafford Centre and the going seemed good until we hit the notorious M60. Here the cars were queueing back off the exit to the Trafford Centre onto the motorway, just an indication of how busy it gets there before Christmas.
We parked up easily enough and the three of us traipsed from the car with our goodies and into The Orient – the food halls at the entrance to the mall. The smell of the various food outlets assailed our senses as we walked through, but I was too tense and excited to even think of eating anything.

Within minutes we arrived at the Waterstones store. I was so buzzed to find a table there, all laid out and displaying copies of my book and with huge Waterstones banners cornering off the area. We were immediately joined by the store’s event organiser and the store manager who made us really welcome.

The shop had only just opened and it was already filled with people: there was a real buzz. Christmas was in the air and there were a few friends already there waiting to see me, which was very much appreciated as I needed to see some friendly faces.

I was so pleased and surprised to see some folks there who'd bought the original version of the book. Special hugs to Elizabeth, an ex-pupil of mine. She said she'd found out about the event because she reads my blog! And also to Gemma, who brought along the original edition for me to sign, but who also bought the new version - thanks Gem!

We were giving out 'Killing Kisses' to passersby as well as the promotional cards for the signing and I smiled nicely, hoping to attract some incidental sales.
We quickly sold a few books and during this time, Terry, my publisher texted to say he’d had a flat tyre on the way to bring a promotional banner! It was too spooky for words!

A few more Killing Kiss sweeties and cards later we sold more books, and Terry finally arrived – he’d been on the road for 6 hours toiling through snow and rain as well!! What a star!

We finally packed up at 4pm, happy that there had been a lot of interest in the book and that everyone we met seemed very pleased to see us. The shop seemed happy as well and asked me to sign all the remaining books for them ... so if you want a signed copy for Christmas and are near the Trafford Centre ... you know where to go.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Book 2 - Futile Flame & Signing Waterstones

An update for those of you who have been asking when Book 2 of The Vampire Gene will be available.

It's finished.

At least in first draft form. Currently I'm editing it through, and this is the hardest and, I find, the most fun time in the process of bringing a book to fruition. Now I get to analyse the effectiveness of the plot structure, plant seeds where necessary to accomodate any new twists and turns, and to correct any silly punctuation and spelling errors I might have made during the process of writing - when sometimes words spill onto the page in such a hurry to capture mood and pace and excitement that the normal rules of typing don't apply and the most important thing is to preserve the essence of the moment.

It's possible that I may even decide I don't like aspects of it after all and scrap several chapters, rewrite or add characters along the way ... hopefully that's not an issue this time though and the book will remain broadly as drafted.

The plot has changed dramatically from the ideas I originally had in mind several months ago, and as any writer knows, sometimes it becomes impossible to stick to a rigorous plan. Sometimes a book wants to be written in a certain way, and who am I to argue?


I'm at Waterstones, Trafford Centre, Manchester this Sunday from 12 noon.

Killing Kiss will be on sale and I'll be there to sign it for you also.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Greedy Magpies

The industry mourns the loss of another publishing house this week.

Well I hope the big boys are happy. The greedy magpies - large chain book stores, online book sellers and giant supermarket chains - are killing the small press with their greed.

Another excellent small press publishing house - coincidentally run by friends of mine - Humdrumming has been unable to continue and has closed up shop this week.

It's a terrible shame when you see the quality of books produced by the small presses these days. It seems to me that far more love and devotion goes into the production of quality material in both fiction and non-fiction. One only has to look at the stunning publications from my own publishers, The House of Murky Depths, or from Elastic Press, Pendragon, Telos Publishing, NewCon Press, PS Publishing to name but a few.

It's been my observation that the small press produces books with greater accuracy than the large publishing houses; they are often too big and too busy to actually be able to devote enough time to each individual title to make sure they are as perfect as they can be, despite the money the companies have to ensure that a new writer succeeds.

If you spend any time in bookstores looking at book covers, and we're all guilty of buying something because we like the cover, then it's interesting to note that sometimes the covers on the small press books don't 'look' like small press. By which I mean that often, an independently published book just looks like it's independently published. There is a feel to the way the imagery works and the fonts chosen for the lettering and so on. But the UK presses, and in particular the ones I mentioned above, seem to be transcending this and producing fare with ever increasingly commercial cover imagery. I recently examined the cover of a book from a very large publishing house - the first title from a new writer. The cover reminded me of a tv show I watch and to my eye it looked more like an unofficial guide rather than an original work of fiction. (The blurb on the back was no better. It made it sound like every other book I've seen in that genre.) As a discerning reader there's no way I'd pick up a book that seems to be merely a rechurn of something I have seen many times before. Not unless there was something there, some spark in the look of the book, in the description or whatever, to make me look twice.

It's so sad to see Humdrumming go under as they were producing some incredible titles. Likewise, Telos Publishing released some amazing horror fiction, but even they were forced to give up publishing in this line, because they couldn't compete with the money that the big publishing houses pour into promoting their books, and as a result sales were less than needed to keep the books viable. I've touched on this before. The top spot can be bought, it sometimes isn't earned. And that is a real frustration. If you have money to throw behind a book and an author - it's a guaranteed success. Buy the bestseller slot in every big book store - and it will be sold. Success, or the appearance of it, breeds success.

Of course part of the problem is that the political world sold publishers down the river some years ago when they scrapped the Net Book Agreement. The Agreement basically said that the publisher set the rrp for the book, and that was what the bookshops had to sell it for. Scrapping it meant that online retailers, chains and supermarkets could put their own price on the book and sell it at a vast discount - sometimes even less than the amount they themselves paid for it (termed a 'loss leader' in the industry - remember the furore over the Harry Potter books a couple of years back when a small bookstore could buy copies cheaper from Tescos than they could get them from the publisher, Bloomsbury!). In some ways opening the pricing up to competition was a good thing, but it meant, as always, that the author lost out on royalties, and the small press are simply unable to compete as they can't afford to offer the same discount levels as the big boys.

Friday 7 November 2008

SIGNING - Killing Kiss

I received a rather nice phone call today from my editor Terry Martin at Murky Depths asking if I would be available on Sunday 23rd November 2008. When I asked why, he told me to get my sexy ass over to Waterstones, Trafford Centre, Manchester and not to ask blonde questions in future!

The cheek of editors today!!

Anyway, YOU get your sexy or otherwise ass over there too, and come and talk to me! The event starts at 12pm. (I'll expect you there on time!)

Killing Kiss will be on sale and I'll be happy to sign it for you.

Now, what should I wear ...?

Thursday 6 November 2008


Why is it we think about the most stupid and unsolvable problems in the middle of the night?

I'm not sure whether I'm on a different time zone - I can't really blame jet lag though ... I haven't been to another country for several months - but sometimes it feels like I'm awake at the wrong time. Do any of you feel that way? It's a strange sensation being wide awake in the middle of the night, knowing you have to get some sleep or you won't be fit for work the next day.

Me, Solvar, Adele at Chicago Airport, the last time I went abroadThere's another thing too ... I shouldn't have read to the end of Del Stone Jr's rather good novella Black Tide before bed. After all, who wants to turn the lights off when you've just been reading about a particularly scary and malevolent world full of zombies who can only come out in the dark? It's a great book, but reading it just before lights-out? I'm not doing that again!

Sometimes I'm just a big girl. Okay, I admit it. And Zombies are about the only subject matter that really scares me. (Well that and the famed House of Horrors at Universal Studios in LA - but that's another tale yet to be told ...)

But now I look across at my bedside clock and see it click to 4.13 am. I really must try again to sleep. I have to be up and at 'em in 2 hours!

Wish me sweet dreams ... and I hope you sleep well also, and can ignore all the things that go bump in the night ... Zombies or not!

Saturday 1 November 2008

London Transport & Londoners

I've just returned from a week long visit to South West London and I feel I have to say a few words on the transport system there and Londoners in general.

A lot of negative things are said about the big city, most of it I've yet to experience. Whenever I've spent time in London I've always found it to be pleasant and the people very nice.

This week I felt like I learnt more about surburban London. I stayed on the outskirts and because I was staying so long I had to abandon my lazy ways and use the public transport. As a general rule I use taxis a lot. This is partly because the underground is somewhat scary to people who aren't used to it (like me) and it can be very confusing which line goes where and what branch and direction to take. But not this time.

Arriving on Saturday, I needed to get a tube to Waterloo but found that the service was down. Doing my usual scaredy cat routine, I didn't let the information lady tell me the alternative route but rushed off for a taxi. Easy enough then, I arrived at Waterloo and found that trains to my destination run very regularly and within minutes I was on a train heading the right way. (So, so easy.)

Because I was staying a week, taxis really weren't an option and so the friend I was staying with introduced me to the bus service. (Fortunately he'd already told me to get an oyster card, so bus travel was as easy as touching a card to a sensor.) On Monday, all alone and feeling brave, I jumped buses, found places and really started to enjoy the freedom of public transport. I've driven since I was 23 and I don't think I've actually been on a bus since then. But I can so see the appeal of the system down south. Why bother taking your car - it might be hard to park - when getting the bus is so simple, takes you directly where you want to go and is cheap? The bus service was also profilic and regular with buses arriving every few minutes, and the train service was likewise very frequent.

On Tuesday I went to meet my friend Alison for lunch at Waterloo and we hit the Jubilee line to Canary Wharf - yep I saw the dome - and the train service is again so frequent and so easy, that basically when you step off one train, the next one you want always seems to be there and ready to go.

And as far as Londoners are concerned ... I have never been smiled at so much in my life! On the said trains and buses, in the streets, the people are really lovely and friendly (even the cats seem friendlier) - so what's this rubbish about everyone being too rushed and too busy to smile and be nice? It is definitely not so! In fact, as a Mancunian girl, I'd say the big city has the edge on smiles.

On Thursday I had to find my way to Victoria Station for a meeting nearby. Once again, transport was very easy and I didn't feel intimidated at all to be out there on my own. In fact the return train was heading to Brighton, as well as my stop and the thought of seeing the sea was very tempting (maybe next time). And people always seem to want to chat to you on the train too!

If you've had the opposite experience I'd love to know, but remember this, try smiling and maybe you'll be greeted nicely. And maybe you'll be making a visitor to your own city/town/village feel that little bit more welcome.