Tuesday, 1 October 2013


This is it. This is the day. Today I am a published author in America anyway.

Do you live in America? Or like to shop on American websites just for the hell of it? Not pre-ordered your copy of Skulk yet? As of today you can go to any one of these places and get your own absolutely real not even kidding copy!


And if you live in the UK or really like paying for things in pounds, as of Thursday you can go here:


So that's cool.

It's funny, it's a little bit like Christmas except that the rest of the world doesn't realise it's happening, and I got my big box of twenty identical presents last week. And it's also just like a normal Tuesday except that yesterday I was not a published author, and today I am!

I'm off to do some work, then make a start on the epic flat tidy of epic epicness, and then maybe buy a cake or something!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Things and Stuff #13

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: BOOKS, partay, wedding, blogs, witch.

Thing 1: my copies of Skulk arrived!
In fact, they failed to arrive so I had to go to the depot to pick them up and get mildly lost in Acton and wear a high-vis jacket and walk down a special customers-only path and search through a big pile of boxes looking for the right one but then I found it and it had Grantham Book Service on the side and I got it home and opened it up and omg.

It's a real book with real pages and my real name on the really shiny cover and a really minor typo that J found almost instantly and I'M REALLY HAPPY ABOUT IT (C) me

Thing 2: be there or be somewhere else
The Skulk Launch Party is officially on for October the 12th at 5pm in the Big Green Bookshop. Facebook event with RSVP function here: https://www.facebook.com/events/552926601463023/?notif_t=plan_user_joined

Thing 3: wedding!
Last weekend I went to Edinburgh for a really fabulous wedding. Geeks I love and don't see enough of were everywhere, the registrar said she'd never seen anyone impersonate a zombie during a reading before, I cried all the way through the ceremony, there was a very adorable baby at our table, a tiny Indian woman in a brightly-coloured sari danced a ceilidh with an incredibly tall Scottish man in a kilt and stompy boots, Jessie literally danced all the way through her tights, and two of the best people ever joined together in legal matrimony. It was fantastic.

Thing 4: the blog story so far
I've worried about making London seem too touristy, listed awesome fictional foxes and gone off on a tiny tangent about Nazis, revealed Meg's favourite music video and comfort movie, linked to a video of me singing on the day I got the Skulk offer, revealed my own comfort movie and admitted to a weird impulse related to romance novels, come out as a terrible procrastinator, waffled about identity and diversity and code switching, referenced Neverwhere for like the eighth time and Hellblazer for the first time, and admitted that getting spiders to emote is really tricky.

Thing 5: this picture of Meryl Streep in a tree

I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right. (C) Sondheim/Lapine/Entertainment Weekly

I've been all excited about the Sondheim musical Into the Woods getting made into a movie, especially when the director is the Rob Marshall who made Chicago. I've devoted a fairly goodish amount of time recently to daydreaming about just how they're going to manage the massive tone shifts and the big group numbers where everyone's in different places and the big meta twists and the fact that it's just so stagey... and yet for some reason I hadn't checked its IMDB page until today. Simon Russell Beale! Frances de la Tour! James Corden! The kid who was Gavroche in Les Mis! Christine Baranski! I'm a little worried that there's no narrator listed because the narrator is one of the best things about the show, but then, but then, thanks to The Mary Sue I just found these - unofficial set pics of a bunch of the cast in costume!

I mean really. L-R: Prince Charming, Baker's Wife, Baker. (C) Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, James Corden, plus Disney and Rob Marshall and the heroic observer who took this photo


how. perfect. is. this. (C) as above plus Anna Kendrick and Anna Kendrick's 'oh god what did I just marry' face

Yep. Officially excited again.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Things and Stuff #12

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that have been on my mind this week. In this edition: tour, ill, reviews, cake, delivery.

Thing 1: blog tour is well and truly underway.
Check out the blog tour page for info, links and some blather about transport! I'm actually really enjoying myself so far.

Thing 2: Ill
I lost my voice at the weekend. It was horrible. It's back now.

Thing 3: some reviews
There are a whole bunch of reviews of Skulk up on the blogosphere now - too many to link, but they come up when you Google. (Which I have not been doing... very much.) And there are even more at Goodreads.

This is weird. As I think Sara G pointed out to me a few months ago, it's a very strange feeling when you realise people who you don't know are reading the book. It's even stranger when they have opinions about it and put them on the internet. Strange, but lovely. Some of them are hugely flattering and amazing and gosh, and one or two of them couldn't get behind the book at all for reasons that I entirely respect (and in at least one case, kinda agree with). I feel like I'm currently dealing with this pretty well, although I've yet to see a 0-star or 1-star review so maybe I have those depths still to come...

Thing 4: Mel/Sue/baked goods OT3
(Sue Perkins' perfect face (C) Perkins, twee set decoration (C) BBC, gifs by http://rosalindlutece.co.vu/ as far as I can make out)

Thing 5: we got a you-weren't-in card through the door the other day and I rearranged the delivery to my work address, and they said it would come today and it hasn't turned up and I'm annoyed about it. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Things and Stuff #11

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: blog bus, Thrones music, raven noises, NetGalley, baby Superman

Thing 1: Starting up the blog tour bus
Emails are going out in a steady trickle. They're actually coming back, too. I'm going on a blog tour! It'll take place throughout September and October. I'll do a whole big schedule post... when there's a schedule.

(The blog tour bus is a refitted W7. It's had a wash and a fresh coat of paint, but it still smells faintly of old chips.)

All aboard for excitement and adventure and really wild things! And Muswell Hill. (C) Wikipedia

Thing 2: this here youtube link
Now, it's possible that this may not be strictly what you would call 100% legal. But it is awesome and I'm really glad it exists. Perfect writing music, too.

Thing 3: quoth the raven: wakkawakkawakka

This raven is actually producing these sounds. This is a true thing that ravens can really do. This particular video is really funny. Now imagine one rocking up to your bedroom window in the middle of the night and squawking out your name...

Thing 4: NetGalley
Not only has Skulk gone live on NetGalley this week, but it's also featured in their UK Top Ten Must Reads for October! Also, they called Meg 'superb'! Eeeeeeeeeeee!

Measured, appropriate response (C) Tina Fey

Thing 5: JL8
Another webcomic recommendation. This week, an alternate universe in which Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Martian Manhunter, Flash and Green Lantern are all in primary school together and it's adorable.

SO ADORABLE (C) Yale Stewart

Friday, 9 August 2013

Things and Stuff #10

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: theatre, drinking, ARCs, home and Night Vale.

Thing 1: The Drowned Man

Jessie and I went to see Punchdrunk Theatre's new London production The Drowned Man. It was several weeks ago, and I'm still processing the experience. It was like being in a dream, more literally than I can really express. We were surrounded by mysteries. We walked through strange places and found ourselves in even stranger places. We saw things, and we missed other things, and we were moved and incredibly creeped out and got seperated and found each other again. We imagined that things would happen that didn't happen, and had several what the hell just happened moments. We were told that there was a bar, where we could take our masks off and sit for a moment... and we never actually found it. 

One of the things we did see, (C) Punchdrunk Theatre

I would love to literally walk you through everything that happened and everything we saw and felt and thought. But I won't do that, because some of you might want to go, and for the rest of you it'll be like someone telling you in detail about this weird dream they had last night... 

Thing 2: alcohol
I also saw The World's End last week. I have to admit, I don't think I loved it the same way I adore Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I really did enjoy it, but what with the Gary King character and the way the whole thing is based on nostalgia and wasted lives and the concept of a good life not necessarily being what you think it is, and death and friendship and, y'know, some really self-destructive alcoholism... it was a lot of fun in places and soared past the six laughs rule, probably on the music choices alone, but at the same time it was really, really melancholy. Much more so than either Shaun or Fuzz. I think that fight in the final pub is going to stick with me for quite a long time. 

Also, today I am rather hungover as last night we said our WP goodbyes to Karen Ball, Commissioning Editor extraordinaire who is tragically leaving us to become Publisher at Little, Brown and Atom books. I think we all needed to drown our sorrows a little, because we don't know what on earth we're going to do without her... 

Thing 3: ARCs
The advance reader copies of Skulk have gone out! And when I say they've gone out, I mean apparently there were enough requests that every single copy is accounted for. I'm officially on the edge of my seat, hoping that anyone who reads it and likes it will say so loudly and often and those who hate it will never tell me... 

Thing 4: maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
Some unexpected househunting developments this last week have left me thinking about London and whether I'll even know who I am any more if I move away. 

I was actually born in Holland, though my parents are both English, but I've been a Londoner for at least twenty one years. Whether it's North, South or East (West London is the only compass point I've not lived in), London is London. Whatever you want, whatever kind of entertainment or culture or food or shopping or anything, it's about an hour away on the Tube. I've spent probably more hours of my life on the Tube than doing almost any other thing. There are places in London I've never seen and other places that feel like coming home every single time I go there. 

I just don't quite know how people live outside London, and not in an obnoxious 'oh how can you bear it' way - more in a 'I don't know how busses work or what it's like to live more than seven minutes walk from a supermarket' kind of way. It's silly, really, but being a Londoner is a big part of my identity. I don't think I'll ever stop being a Londoner, even when I don't live here any more. 

Thing 5: Carlos' perfect hair
Welcome to Night Vale is a very strange, very wonderful podcast about a sleepy desert town and its everyday problems, such as strange pyramids appearing out of nowhere, PTA meetings being interrupted by an invasion of pterodactyls, all wheat and wheat by-products turning into snakes, and Desert Bluffs' underhanded attempts to win at football. Also, the weather segment is unexpectedly brilliant. Here is some beautiful fan art: 

As made by the rather absurdly talented alackoforder on Tumblr
You can download the episodes on iTunes or from Commonplace Books' website.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


Here it comes.

Skulking out of the shadows of the Strange Chemistry design department.

Are you ready for this?

Are you sure?

Drumroll please...


Isn't it gorgeous?

Coming to a bookshop near you on the 1st (US) and 3rd (UK) of October, available for pre-order now from all good book peddlers including this one.

A million thanks to Strange Chemistry, and ARGH! Oxford/Stephen Meyer Rassow.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Things and Stuff #9

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: Final Fantasy, a blog tease, first draft potential, Elle Me Dit, and weather.

Thing 1: Final Fantasy 7
I first played Final Fantasy 7 when I was about fourteen, on the Playstation 1, and it blew my mind a little bit. Nerds everywhere will understand how exciting it was when I discovered I could get it to download to my laptop for a fiver. In the last couple of weeks, I've played through enough of it that I've reached the point where I normally stop, and now I actually don't know exactly what's about to happen any more. 

Except that I will always feel strangely drawn to this collection of 90s polygons forming an evil, long-haired, apparently fire-proof shirt-avoider inexplicably armed with a katana the size of Wales. Be still my shameless fangirl heart (C) Square Enix
This tends to happen to me, with games of all sorts. I play through once and attempt to finish it (often don't, though I did complete FF7 and get the Knights of the Round materia and damn right I felt smug about it), and then go right back to the beginning and play it again until it gets hard, or I get bored, or the disc breaks. And then go back and start again. And again. I've played the beginning of Final Fantasy 7 so many times... and then suddenly, something happened in the plot that I didn't expect, and I realised I don't remember where this is going. I remember the big plot points: amnesia, cloning, major character death, meteors, a big fight in a cave, and something about spending 120 hours catching and breeding giant chickens. 


I thought that meant I remembered the plot, but it doesn't, not really. It's making the game almost like new, and while there's no regaining the sense of shock from your first experience of that major character death, I'm really happy that fifteen years on there are still parts of this game that made me sit back and say WAIT, WHAT?

Thing 2: that blog about Beren and Luthien
This Tuesday! I promise! As a teaser, here is an illustration from The Silmarillion that accurately depicts part of the romantic tale of the great love between Luthien the elf-maiden and Beren the mortal man.

Yes, really (C) Ted Nasmith

Thing 3: a partial first draft with some potential
I decided, on a whim, to reread the book I started to write for Nanowrimo last year. It needs a lot of work. The romance is a bit forced, the historical setting is there but not coming across like I want it to, the action is patchy. But there are things that made me gleefully happy in there too, and things that made me cackle evilly, which is a very good sign. I think there's actually a slightly brilliant book out there in the ether, waiting patiently for me to be able to do the hard work it's going to need. 

Thing 4: this song

It's only a silly pop song. It's not new. It's not hugely inventive. It's not even in English. I actually didn't know what the words meant until I looked it up just now to make sure it wasn't horribly offensive or anything. (Here are the lyrics for the curious. I like them! Which is nice. But it could've been about anything...But it is totally infectious. I think part of it might be because it is in French and it sounds awesome? But honestly, I don't know what it is about this song. All I know is that I cannot stop playing it. 

Thing 5: it's too hot
It is. It's too hot. I'm too hot. Oh god, can you imagine playing tennis - let alone important, life-changing, £1.6 million pound winning tennis - in this weather? I'm off to stick my head in the freezer. 

Friday, 28 June 2013

Things and Stuff #8

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: no editing, much ado, fancy cannibals, incredible penthouses, and Skulk artwork

Wow, has it really only been four days since Monday? It feels like a lifetime. I suppose that would explain why my house isn't magically spotlessly clean yet. 

Thing 2: Much Ado About Joss Whedon's Amazing Garden
I went to see Much Ado About Nothing yesterday - it was really good, and I'm very jealous of his garden (for those not up on their Joss Facts, he directed the whole thing in his own house in twelve days). The acting was particularly wonderful - Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker are completely brilliant and it was fabulous to see Sean Maher as Don John - just dripping with malice. 

Also, Nathan Fillion is a much much better Dogberry than Michael Keaton (C) Joss Whedon

There was some inevitable strain from the modern day setting. It raised questions about what the Prince and Benedick and co had been doing before they arrived back from 'the action' that the play couldn't answer (it was obviously not any kind of actual warfare). And no matter how much you try to show that Claudio is concerned that Hero's cheating on him, and not just that she's not a virgin... all the text is still virginity-focused. Claudio was definitely a bit wet, but then Claudio is a Great Big Wet Weed in the play and there's not much any actor can do about it. The whole wedding meltdown scene is frustrating at the best of times because Claudio lets it go on so damn long before he actually comes out with the point, and Hero herself has so few lines while she's being accused. 

Still: it's a great play and a great film adaptation. Alexis Denisof's sponteneous push-ups are basically worth the admission by themselves. It's not on in very many cinemas so you should catch it quickly if you're going to!

Thing 3: The Adventures of Empath and Fancy Cannibal
Also known as the NBC series Hannibal, based on the Hannibal Lecter books/movies. I haven't been watching the show, but I've been reading Cleolinda Jones' detailed recaps of the episodes. They are, just like Movies in Fifteen Minutes and most of the other things Cleolinda does, absolutely brilliant. It's not at all suitable for children or anyone with a particularly weak stomach - obviously, on account of the series is full of cannibalism and other horrible things. But they are also really funny and clever and full of general awesomeness. It's not easy to capture the appeal, but I highly highly recommend you give the recap of Episode One a go if you're up for Wendigo metaphors, puppies, mental breakdowns and murder wizardry.

Thing 4: these two incredible New York penthouses 
I needed to get a hang on the floorplans of fancy penthouses, for Skulk Reasons, and I came across these two. Yep, I'll take both. Just charge the rent to Working Partners and Strange Chemistry, if we share it between them I'm sure they won't mind...

15 Central Park West (C) the architects, presumably, from ny.curbed.com
The first floor of the City Spire Penthouse (C) ditto - click through for pictures of the inside, they are amazing.

Thing 5: I've seen some Skulk artwork
I KNOW! How dare I bury the lede down here at the end of a Things and Stuff? Well, because I can't show it to you yet. But you can take my word for it, it's 100% awesome and cool and gorgeous and so exciting and I'm so excited about it and I can't wait to share it. Watch this space...

Friday, 21 June 2013

Things and Stuff #7

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition I am too busy to blog, so instead: foxes, butterflies, ravens, rats, spiders. 

Warning for arachnophobics: Thing 5 is a close-up photo of a spider. I've picked the spider image that gave me the least creeping horrors, but your tastes may vary. 

Thing 1: a Skulk

Gorgeous (C) unfortunately I can't find the photo source for this one, please let me know if this is your photo, it is beautiful.

Thing 2: a Rabble

Also known as a flutter or a swarm, but rabble is so much cooler (C) National Geographic

Thing 3: a Conspiracy

Oh yeah, this is definitely a conspiracy (C) Wikipedia
Thing 4: a Horde

The cutest, laziest horde (C) photo source also unknown
Thing 5: a Cluster

This is not a Cluster, because it's only one spider, but it was hard to find a photo of several spiders that did not give me the creeping horrors, so I went with the one that made me smile (C) Uda Dennie

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Things and Stuff #6

I'm late! I totally forgot to do my Friday post this week. 

In any case, Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: exposition, Once, ghosts, eyeballs and editing

Thing 1: Exposition
How much is too much? Too little? How long can someone realistically talk without being interrupted?

I've been editing like a demon this week. My brain has turned to mush. Here is a picture of a bunny.
Yep. (C) www.acuteaday.com

Thing 2: Once
I went to see Once on Wednesday, and it was really awesome. The sheer musical skills on stage were enough to keep me hypnotically glued to the stage - add to that some really lovely emotional moments and a couple of great laughs, and you have a very good night out.

The play itself didn't entirely live up to the flawless performances - I didn't care quite as much about the central relationship as I wanted to, and the girl definitely starts out as a straight down the line manic pixie dream girl and arguably stays that way even though very much does have her own stuff going on. But in the context of something that was otherwise so, so lovely, those are actually quite small problems.

Gold (C) the Broadway cast at the Tony Awards

Thing 3: Ghost stories
Two nights in a row this week I've dreamed complete ghost stories, with endings, and both made total sense at the time. I need to try to write them down. One was a slow burn creepy thing that started out normal and ended up with a mother and baby ghost and bugs everywhere, and the other was a huge haunted castle story with a group of tourists from the 30s, a million doors that looked exactly the same and a brilliant twist ending... that I just can't put my finger on in the light of day. There was some good stuff in there, though.  

Thing 4: Giant gelatin eyeballs
I helped make two of these this week. It was supposed to be a prop for Odyssey, but it didn't turn out quite as well as we'd hoped - the first one I threw away prematurely, and the second one worked better, but then I forgot to put it in the bag that J was taking onto the field. So now I have a slightly broken giant gelatin eyeball in my fridge.

Thing 5: I haven't got time to do a thing 5, I have to get back to editing. Here is a really nice picture of a fox having some thoughts.

Lovely (C) Philpen

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

7 Very Good Reasons You Should Pre-Order Skulk

I know, I said I was going to do a blog about obscure Tolkien characters next. But Luthien's going to have to wait, because on Friday I found out that SKULK IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER.

Every positive step along the publication trail feels like, to paraphrase Martin Lawrence, stuff just got real. When an agent asks to read the book, when you sign up with them, when a publisher makes happy noises to your agent about your story, when they take it to acquisitions, when they make an offer, when you sign a contract, when you get your edits...

But the biggest stuff just got really real jolt so far has definitely been discovering that right now this minute you can go along to your preferred seller of books and give them money in exchange for your very own actual copy of Skulk.

Why should you pre-order it, though? I mean, it'll still be there when October rolls around. Well, here are some very good reasons:

1: Pre-orders help me sell more books
When bookshops and libraries and internet book stockists see that people are pre-ordering a book, especially a debut, it makes them look at that book and that writer differently. It makes them think, 'hmm, I see people actually want to read this book. Is this the next Hunger Games? We'd better make sure we've got a couple of copies in stock.' That means more copies in shops, which means more people find out about it. I have no pretensions that Skulk is the next Hunger Games, but they don't have to know that. The more people who pre-order Skulk, or go into bookshops and ask where they can get a copy, the more we can trick bookshops into thinking maybe this is a book that could make us all rich.

2: Going into a bookshop to pre-order helps them sell other books too
Because let's be frank, you're not going to go in there and pre-order a book without looking around and maybe buying a little something for your summer holiday, are you? And even if you do somehow manage that, you'll be giving a bookshop money which makes them more successful which lets them buy more books which makes the whole industry better. Pre-order Skulk, become a benefactor for all literature forever.

3: Pre-orders help spread word of mouth which is basically the driving force of publishing nowadays and all that stands between Skulk and the NYT bestseller list
Especially if you take a second to tell someone else that you've ordered it! Perhaps on the internet...

4: You'll be the first to get a copy
And that's just awesome. If you love it, you can buy copies for everyone you know, and if you hate it you can start collecting dry wood for the bonfire. (Better buy up all the copies, that way you can make sure nobody ever reads it, and we want that fire to get nice and toasty).

5: If you order it in the next week, you'll be able to say you bought a copy of the book before it was finished
This freaks me out a little bit, but it's true. I'm writing this post as procrastination from editing the book! So really what you're buying if you order Skulk this week is a world of infinite possibility. By the time it gets to you it could be anything! (It's not going to be anything, it's going to be Skulk - but right now it could be anything. Oooooooooh.)

6: You'll probably forget
That is, if you're anything like me. You'll forget that you put 'totally go and buy a copy of Skulk when it comes out' on your mental to do list. If you pre-order it now, you'll get a handy reminder when it comes out in October, in the form of a copy of the book, which is the best kind of reminder.

7: You'll probably forget
The awesome flipside to forgetfulness? Surprise book! At the beginning of October you'll hear a thud on your doormat/open the door for the postie/get a 'you weren't here' slip through your letter box, and you'll think 'what's this? It's from my favourite book-selling operation. But I didn't order anything in the last 5-7 working days...' And then you'll open it and discover it's Skulk and hopefully not be too disappointed. It's like you're buying your future self a surprise present.

So go, go to Amazon or Foyles or Blackwells or Waterstones or your local indie bookshop or library and tell them you'd like a copy of Skulk.


Friday, 7 June 2013

Things and Stuff #5

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: Malorie, Thrones, Glorious, blogging, Ninjago

Thing 1 : Malorie Blackman is the new Children's Laureate!
She is such a brilliant writer and this is such a brilliant choice - if you don't know much about her (I suspect everyone who is reading this will know more about her than I do, but still) and you're wondering why it's brilliant, you should read this Guardian interview.

(It was a huge huge honour to have her as the writers' honorary chair for Undiscovered Voices 2012, sh'e's a wonderful person and the very idea that she's actually read the first chapter of Skulk is sort of mind-blowing.)

Thing 2: This week's episode of Game of Thrones
I'm not going to go into it in any great detail. But I was expecting something pretty amazing, and my reaction still went a little something like this:

Peterson isn't, is he? (C) the BBC

Thing 3: Glorious!
The concert on Tuesday night was really, really awesome. I'm still buzzing a little bit. 290 singers make an incredible noise and as usual David brought out the best in all of us. And it's going to be on the radio on Monday!

Thing 4: I didn't get a sensible blog up this Tuesday
I was due to, because it's been a whole two weeks. To be fair, I had work followed by lunch followed by work followed by a concert. But all that really means is I should've thought about that in advance and written one on Monday.

Sorry about that. I've got one I like for this Tuesday! Maybe don't get your hopes up for any kind of measurable insightfulness or relevance to anything, though: it's about obscure characters from The Lord of the Rings. Sorry.

Thing 5: toy-based children's television
Did you know, Lego: Ninjago is actually really entertaining? Incredibly strange - it's set in ancient China but the bad guys in episode one are a skeleton motorbike gang, which is something I'm not convinced we could get away with in any WP book series. But Ninjago is also actually pretty funny, inventive and exciting. I have to admit to also having a major fondness for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and laughing out loud at episodes of Bob the Builder more than once.

I've watched all of these shows on Youtube, of course. What is a te-le-vi-sion? (C) Keith Chapman

It's slightly hard to accept that these stories that are explicitly created to sell toys (so much so that Lego Ninjago isn't actually shown on any UK channels because of laws about advertising to children) does not have to be creatively bankrupt. There's something definitely a bit icky about the concept of the ever-expanding merchandising opportunities that go with these shows. Did you know each Ninjago character has three different costumes? And weapons? And a dragon each? And lots of different vehicles and locations and bits and pieces?

I don't think you could argue that that aspect doesn't matter when you're looking at the TV shows that children watch (and they do watch Ninjago, apparently - they just watch it on youtube). But I am actually really comforted to know that as well as some genius business brains wringing every last penny out of pestered parents... there's actually someone behind the scenes writing engaging plots and funny jokes as well. If they're going to be hooked on advertising dressed up as drama, and let's face it, they are... it might as well be good.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Things and Stuff #4

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: bestsellers, concert, varnish, Gunnerkrigg, eagles

Thing 1: These two really interesting posts about what makes a book a bestseller
First, John Green posted about the factors that he thinks came together to make The Fault In Our Stars the phenomenon that it is. He talks about his editor, his publicist, his publishing house, the book itself, and the evangelical readers. He also explains why he doesn't think that his massive online presence or his gender have very much to do with it. Critics loved the book, but who made sure the critics read it? Why could bookshops easily display his previous books as a set?

Like this (C) Karen Kavett, who designed the lovely box art
Secondly, Jennifer Barnes takes this idea and expands upon it. She talks about publishing success as a flow-chart with lots of feedback loops, where every aspect of the book and the author continually feed into the book's chances of success. She argues (and in my opinion she's spot on) that elements like the author's gender can't be dismissed as part of the equation but it's not helpful to imagine they exist in a vacuum. If you're interested in publishing and books and bookselling, read this post! It's a bit long but it explains all this far better than I could.

Thing 2: The first thirty seconds of I Was Glad
I was on The One Show this week! Check out the Youtube clip of it here. My choir, Crouch End Festival Chorus, supplied a little group of singers to illustrate a conversation about the anniversary of the coronation, which is on Tuesday, June the 4th.

Not at all coincidentally, we're doing a concert on that evening in the Royal Festival Hall, including Walton's Coronation Te Deum, various coronation hymns and Belshazzar's Feast, which is one of my favourite pieces in the world. And we're being joined by our sort of sister-choir the Hertfordshire Chorus and the Dessoff Choir all the way from New York City. There will be 291 of us. It's going to be pretty amazing. If you're in London on the 4th, you should come!

Thing 3: this nailvarnish
The colour is called The Iron Price.
WE DO NOT SOW (C) me, varnish by Fanchromatic Nails
It's come out much redder in this picture - in person it's much more of a rusty red-brown colour with massive chunks of red and silver. Looks like an old boat's been torn apart in a horrific sea battle and the result is painted on my nails. I love it.

Thing 4: this page of Gunnerkrigg Court
Gunnerkrigg Court is a really, really cool webcomic about two friends who go to a very strange school. Annie's got a magic stone and a way of getting on with strange creatures, and Kat is a mechanical genius. There are ghosts, fairies, lots of robots, spider demons, a giant crab and the trickster god Coyote. There's a forest and an industrial complex, divided by a huge chasm. People can teleport and go on field trips into space. And the evolution of the art style is also amazing to watch, if you're into that sort of thing. It's awesome, and well worth the time to read from the beginning if you never have.

Also there's a fox-creature in it which I love (C) Tom Siddell, available at Topatoco
There have been a few hints of romance - there are some older student characters who are boyfriend and girlfriend, and a very sad storyline about a boy who was also a bird. And there's also a relationship between a robot and a shadow which is just beautiful. But the comic has also been dropping hints for a while that Kat isn't straight, and I think it'd be hard to read it without feeling at some point as if Kat and Annie could be an item at some point in the future. But the problem with those feelings is that in general, they don't come to anything. I have a whole post on subtext and gay characters and fanfiction planned for some other time, but I'm used to recognising subtext but not holding my breath that it would ever become text.

Am I supposed to resist including two pieces of art from GC here? Well, tough. It's gorgeous. (C) Tom Siddell, also available as a print from Topatoco
This week, finally, a girl asked Kat out and she said yes.

I am so, so pleased about this. Not just because I want there to be gay characters in everything, though let's be honest, I sort of do. But because there's really not enough of the sweet, age-appropriate romance for tweens with gay characters. I think it's probably getting better, but there still aren't enough stories about gay tweens at all, let alone ones that aren't preachy and awkward. Kat's sexuality is a naturally-building, slow-burn storyline and I love it because it's what real life ought to be like: not substantially different than if one of the girls had been a boy.

Thing 5: Crystal Palace 1 - 0 Watford
YAAAAAAY EAGLES! We're going into the Premier League! We're going to be the worst team in the best league!

Some football players I feel vaguely guilty that I can't name, (C) Crystal Palace FC
I'm not the biggest Palace supporter in the world - I almost never actually watch football and I've only been to one game (it was a play-off, and we lost), but I still have a very soft spot for them in my heart. They are perpetual underdogs somehow, despite actually being quite good. And now they're Premier League underdogs! GET IN.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Things and Stuff #3

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: LARP, Karen, edits, belt, Trenzalore

Thing 1: Empire
Not the magazine, this time - the roleplaying game. Jessie is, right now, in a field pretending to be a lizard-person and I hope having a marvellous time. It's been on my mind this week because I've been making some props for her, part of which I wrote about on Tuesday.

My favourite one - also the most complicated one and the last one, which meant I finished it around 2am on Wednesday. I still feel sleep deprived. But kind of proud. (C) me

I love making props for LARP, and I enjoy talking about LARP and hearing other people talk about it and watching Jessie write plots for Odyssey. It all seems really fun. But when I actually think about carrying heavy rucksacks out into a muddy field, to put on complicated costumes that I then have to store somewhere in my house when it's already full of Jessie's kit, and then sleeping in a tent for the weekend in between attempting to stay in character and remembering the rules and actually talking to people... I feel a bit like this:

Neil Gaiman being truthy as usual, (C) Craig Ferguson and the internet
Thing 2: Karen from WP has her own Guardian fashion blog!
Karen's run an amazing sewing blog, Did You Make That, for ages, and now she's going to be giving out awesome stitching wisdom on the Guardian site as well. Hooray Karen!

Thing 3: Edits.
The edits are here. I am equal parts excited and scared out of my wits. As with most actual writing work there's not a lot else I can say about it right now but I'll keep you posted.

Me (C) the internet

Thing 4: my new white belt, although I mostly ended up talking about being fat - if you don't want to read about that, you can skip to thing 5, it's got a brilliant Doctor Who joke in it
As someone who's been fat for the majority of my life I am distinctly leery of ever talking about food or anything I may do with my body, up to and including things like going for a walk or buying clothes, because people feel entitled to judge people like me, no matter what we're doing. Eating a burger? Fatso. Eating a salad? Thank god she's on a diet, she's such a fatso. Lying on the sofa? You will die alone and have to be winched out of your house. Doing some exercise? Haha look at that delusional sweaty face, she thinks she's Jessica Ennis or something.

Nobody actually says those things to me - except me, all the time, every day forever. But nobody has to say them for me to want to minimise people's opportunity to think them. The culture I live in reinforces these things, and even if it didn't I learned it at school and it's stuck with me just like quadratic equations haven't. I wish I could say that in the decade since leaving school nobody has said mean things to me at all, but unfortunately that's not true - I still get mocked in the street, not regularly, but not never. And let's not forget this is the internet: for every body positive blog there are fifty Youtube comments and a hundred adverts for 'simple tricks' to turn your disgusting flabby body into something more socially acceptable.

I swear, if I could reach through the screen and punch the person who invented those adverts in the mouth, I absolutely would.

And I'd try to keep my wrist straight, push from my back foot so the power comes from my torso, and keep my elbow up. Because I've joined a local martial arts school. Because... I thought I would. They had to specially order me a uniform big enough, but I've got a belt. It's white. I love it. I've been to two classes and I really enjoyed them, so there.

Thing 5: We've gone to Trenzalore by mistake!
Perfect observation is perfect (C) ThetaSigma8
The Doctor Who finale was brilliant. I was so relieved.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

My Creative Process

This weekend I learned that my creative process goes through a couple of identifiable stages, no matter what it is I'm creating.

For the first time in ages I sat down to do some drawings for other people to actually see. I've been making an in-character reference book for Jessie to take LARPing (live action roleplaying). And I decided - for some reason I'm still not 100% clear on - that it would be a good idea to fill it with illustrations, like a set of Tarot cards.

Symbolism! (C) The Rider Tarot

So, I'd decided to create something and had come up with a concept that was probably beyond my actual abilities. I was excited about it, but it was a bit of a leap of faith.

I am definitely not the worst artist who has ever lived. I'm definitely a better artist than I was when I was four, or ten, or fourteen. I think I've done something I can be proud of... but I'm also nervous about showing off and making a big noise about it, because I'm not exactly Rembrandt or Charles Vess or Julie Dillon or anything. I don't want anyone to think that I think that they're actually good. They're just... pleasantly OK! As an amateur, I'm proud of their not-terribleness!

This all sounds very familiar.

Oh my god, a person drew this. We are all not worthy to look upon the glory (C) Julie Dillon

I'd managed to do all but seven of the drawings in time for the first event at Easter. I'd done my level best, but only been able to submit the first two thirds on time. Unlike missing a publishing deadline, nobody was particularly annoyed about this apart from me. But like missing a publishing deadline, the world did not actually end. An unfinished product went out onto the field, and I felt simultaneously proud and worried people would judge it badly because I hadn't got it all done.

I got a new deadline: finish the last seven pictures in time to add them in before the next event. That was great. I'd done the first 19 in less time than that. I had loads and loads of time.

And then I procrastinated. In my spare time I watched three series of 30 Rock, cross-stitched Game of Thrones bookmarks, played Plants vs Zombies, stared out of the window, and even did a little bit of writing. Every so often Jessie would remind me that I needed to do it, and I'd feel ashamed for not doing it, and then I'd get resentful, and that would make me not want to work on it.

It was around this point that I realised I was not drawing in the exact same way as I don't write.

Eventually, enough time passed that I started to wonder if I even could do it any more. What if I'd only been able to draw as well as I had last time because I spent ages working up to it? What if I now had a week to do seven pictures - still plenty of time - but I'd completely lost the ability?

Finally, this weekend rolled round and I couldn't put it off any more. I had to put pencil to paper. I discovered I'd left myself seven of the hardest pictures to get right. I had a mini crisis over what clothes do and how to hands, but eventually it all came down to doing it: nothing was going to solve my problems until I actually put something down on paper.

And here's one of the results. See? I told you they were pleasantly, almost aggressively OK. (C) me

It's really interesting, identifying your own creative process - with all its hang-ups and flaws and staring out the window - through the medium of a different medium.

In order for there to be a drawing, I had to draw it. And that's the same advice writers have been giving each other since the dawn of time: if you want there to be writing, you have to do writing. Everything else comes later.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Things and Stuff #2

Things and Stuff is a grab-bag of things that've been on my mind this week. In this edition: Cornetto, Lemon, moving, Clara, Videblogisodes

On my mind this week: almost all nerd stuff. This is a thing you should probably get used to.

Thing 1: This trailer
OMGYES (C) Pegg/Wright and Universal

It looks like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead had a baby and raised it in the Village of the Damned and Mark Heap is in it and I can't wait.

Thing 2: Liz Lemon
Our Lady of Having It All (C) heymonster

I've been watching a lot of 30 Rock and Liz Lemon is basically my hero. She is funny and nerdy and fairly competent and I love her. I love her food obsession, and her amazing relationship with Jack, and the way she handles Jenna and Tracy, and her Princess Leia outfit, and her boyfriends, and her attitude to sex, and the way she manages to make the phrase 'I want to go to there' genuinely hilarious.

But there is a flaw in the perfection that is Lemon: she's TV Ugly. In reality, Tina Fey is gorgeous, but people in the show act as if she's ordinary-looking. Lemon wears completely normal clothes and people comment on them as if she's wearing a paper bag. Lemon eats lots of junk food in a comedic fashion and people make jokes about her health and eating habits that wouldn't be funny at all if there were any outward sign that the junk food was actually damaging her health.

I think the reason the show completely gets away with it is because it knows she's TV Ugly. There are enough jokes about unrealistic expectations and women's bodies that the show can wink to the women in the audience: it's all right, we know that by real life standards this woman is very attractive and wearing perfectly good clothes - it's the people making the jokes about her who are all screwed up.

Thing 3: my attempts to move house
It would be way too much information (and very boring!) to go into this in any detail. I am attempting to move house, it is on my mind a lot. I've started to find it hard to watch nonsense property programmes on Channel Four.

Thing 4: This Mary Sue recap of last week's Doctor Who (spoilers for Nightmare in Silver, obviously) and the insights in the blog and the comments about Clara's role and presentation in the series.
I think it sums up all of the issues way better than I can here - I made a couple of comments that I pretty much stand by, if you're interested in my take.

I want to care, I really really do (C) The BBC
Basically: I think this series of Doctor Who needs a better script editor, but in lieu of someone with actual experience, can I just do it? I'll just borrow the TARDIS and go back a year and fix it so it's all a lot more coherent and so that they bring Governess Clara on the TARDIS like they were planning to do, and then I won't be worried that the final episode might be completely nonsensical. That's OK if I do that, right Steven? You'll get all the credit. Call me.

Thing 5: The Empire Magazine Cannes Videblogisodes are back!
I love Empire, I love their podcast, and I love this silly little video.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Things and Stuff #1

Helloooooooo interwebs.

Well. This is certainly a blog.

I have to admit to a little bit of stage fright about actually writing more honest-to-god blog posts. But there's very little point in having a blog if I don't put things on it, and I do love lists! So every Friday I'm going to do a little post about the things and stuff that have been on my mind this week.

Sometimes it'll be writing, editing or publishing based. Sometimes it'll be about music, or nerd stuff. Sometimes I might have a really boring week and just list fruits or something. More often it'll be a mixture of all of the above.

For instance...

Thing 1: A painless edit is the greatest thing ever
This week I handed in ('handed in' sounds a bit primary school, doesn't it? Let's go with) delivered the second draft of a book I'm freelance ghosting for Working Partners.

Not what a WP edit looks like, but funny (C) Eve Corbel
Sometimes, even with the detailed and specific edits you get on a WP project, editing can be a pain, in terms of time and in terms of emotional input. I have found that I need to do one sweep of the comments all the way through and just allow my ego to go wild. 'Nope', I say, sometimes out loud. 'No', 'not doing that', 'yes well if you'd read it properly you'd know what I meant'. You have to get those out of your system, because I've very rarely met an edit that wasn't bang on 100% correct once I'd done the 'nope' pass and moved on to the 'how do I fix it?' pass.

On this one, the 'nope' pass was more of a 'yep' pass, and it was so wonderful. 'Yep', 'I see what I did wrong there', 'ooh that's a great idea', 'yes we can cut that', and also - because WP editors are the best - a bit of 'aww, thank you!'. I love it when an edit comes together, and I loved doing my editing this week.

Thing 2: Iron Man 3

I have to say I was slightly dreading this film because I loved Iron Man very much and found Iron Man 2 to be fluffily entertaining, but... 'The Mandarin', seriously? Of all Iron Man and Marvel villains you could've picked, you decided that The Mandarin was the one you wanted to give screen time to? And he's being played by Ben Kingsley of all people? I was braced for so much horrible Hollywood racism.

But something amazing happened. The racism did not appear! The film turned around and lampshaded and contextualised the racism and it was the best day ever. After that, it was basically all fun and games and snappy dialogue and explosions and Rhodey and Pepper and passing the Bechdel Test (barely, but brilliantly) and really well depicted anxiety attacks and the dodgy disability stuff is in some ways not as dodgy as it could be. And if you saw Avengers, stay for the post-credits sequence. I made this face:

Seriously, it was this exact face (C)  Disney/The Internet
Also there is a joke about Croydon, which got the biggest laugh of the entire film.

Thing 3: This blog
I started a blog. It was sort of an accident. So that has been on my mind somewhat this week.

Thing 4: Ally Pally's lottery money
Incredibly exciting, but possibly irrelevant to people who've never lived in North London: Alexandra Palace has been promised £16m from the National Lottery! This is huge. I grew up just around the corner from Ally Pally and it's incredibly important. It's a beautiful building, it's historically and culturally significant, it's the original home of the BBC, it has several massive halls and a lovely park with views across all of London and a theatre and an ice rink, and the Doctor climbed it in order to use the BBC to save Muswell Hill from Maureen Lipman which may be the most North London sentence ever written.

The BBC, (C) The BBC
Unfortunately, it's also been destroyed by fire, not once but twice, so it's this huge building with huge potential that's been sitting half-empty for thirty years. The idea that it might finally get the funding it needs to be properly regenerated makes me very, very happy.

Thing 5: Blogger's post-editor spellcheck does not recognise the following words - 

The State of the Rosie

What am I writing? Still working away on the gay Victorian gothic YA. This month, I have mainly been making things painfully awkward for my...