Sunny sneak peek…

Less than a month now until Edge-Lit, the sci-fi, fantasy and horror fiction convention held annually in Derby (conveniently, about ten miles from my house). I’ve bought my ticket, I’ll be there – partly to see/hear loads of excellent speakers and to stock up on books (obv),  but mainly because Sunny with a Chance of Zombies (published by Knightwatch Press, including my story Run, Rabbit)  is being launched there. Yay!

To whet your appetite (and because I found it online today), here’s a sneak peek of the cover art, by Stephen Cooney:


The book features stories by some fabulous authors – and me, who somehow snuck in there. If comedy zombies are your thing (and let’s face it, what’s not to like?), get in touch with the editor Dion Winton-Polak to preorder your copy. If you do it before Edge-Lit, the attending authors will even sign it for you. (Well, I will, anyway. Possibly whether anyone asks me to or not.)


Sunny with a Chance of Zombies

For the last week I’ve been hopping about with excitement, desperate to celebrate and start shouting about something, but not quite sure whether it was allowed. I hung on, biting my lip, hugging myself with glee and squeaking quietly every so often, waiting for permission – until now, when, with great joy and a nod from the editor, I can announce that I’ve had a short story accepted into an anthology! Sunny With a Chance of Zombies, published by Knightwatch and edited by my online chum Dion Winton-Polak, comes out in July (announced here), and my story Run, Rabbit made it into the final choice of twelve.

Utterly delighted by this – Dion and I have known each other for a while (he used to run the Scrolls podcast at the awesome Geek Syndicate, and I contributed from time to time), and I’m so chuffed to be a part of his latest literary venture, I can’t even tell you. Run, Rabbit is the first properly creative thing I’ve written for ages, and I very nearly didn’t send it off – but so glad I did.

And the best thing of all is that the antho is being launched on 11th July at Edge-Lit 4, Derby’s annual sci-fi, fantasy and horror literature event – which is taking place at Derby Quad, a whole 25 minutes away from my house! I’ve been invited, and I’ll be there with knobs on and a massive stupid grin on my face. In fact, the massive stupid grin is already in place, and will probably stay until July.

I’m a bestseller! (In one shop, in one city…)

My little Norfolk Dialect book came out a few weeks ago – I somehow failed to announce it here, being mired in a Sargasso Sea of work, family stuff and … well, mainly work. I’ve been subcontracting for Routledge, working for agencies in Europe and keeping up with academic and private clients – well, let’s just say I haven’t always achieved my requisite seven hours of sleep a night. I’ve really enjoyed having all the work, of course, and I’m not moaning about it, but it’s in the nature of freelancing that there will always be fat times and lean times. I’ve just come through a fat time.

And in the middle of all that, Norfolk snuck out. I did mark it with friends and family (I said “yay” a few times and sent copies to my folks), but didn’t really have the energy to do more than that. While I wasn’t looking, though, the book has started to make its own quiet way; it was spotted front and centre in a bookshop in central Norwich (with thanks to @longjohnhill for the heads up), and then I received this image from my Dad this morning:


And there I am, on (almost) the same bestseller list as such luminaries as F Scott Fitzgerald, John le Carre, Hilary Mantel and Dan Brown. (Mainly the first three, to be honest.) The image shows a cutting from the Eastern Daily Press weekend edition from a couple of weeks ago, and Jarrold is a local printer/publisher/bookseller. Local number one bestseller? I thank you.

In my career as an author, I think it can pretty much only go downhill from here, to be honest…

Writing and other animals

So my own purposely played-down resolution doesn’t look so clever now, does it? I shall write, I resolved, way back at the beginning of January. Be a writer, live the writing dream, write more, write better. And this is my first post here since that time. To be frank, it doesn’t look good.

In my defence (and how did you know that was coming?), I have been writing, just not here. On Saturday night I sent off the final manuscript of the Norfolk Dialect book, 12000 words which I have researched, written, edited and rewritten since Christmas, and which will be published somewhere around April by Bradwell (who also published the Sussex Dialect book I wrote last year).

This is massive for me – although 12k is not a long manuscript, I’m still enough of a novice at this writing/publishing lark that I agonise over most every word, beat myself up over small sections of text, and have little confidence in my own craft. I do realise that this is probably true of most writers, except the most egocentric and self-confident, but it doesn’t make for fast or easy manuscript production.

Amazingly, however, I managed to turn Norfolk out a couple of weeks early, spurred on by the idea of a work-free week on holiday with my extended family (ironically, in a cottage in rural Norfolk). The last few weeks have been tough, trying to finish the dialect manuscript and also working on editing a long academic manuscript for publication by Routledge and fitting in other shorter edits for other clients, as well as wading to and from school though snow and supporting children through exams and illnesses.

So that’s why I haven’t been writing here. Not an excuse but an explanation, and a small amount of self-justification because I knew I shouldn’t have made that wretched resolution.

Sigh. I never learn.

2012 in review

So here we are at the tail end of the year. For me and my family, 2012 has been a year of spectacular highs and one or two crushing lows – a weird year in some ways, but it’s been creative and funny and scary and challenging and all of that stuff. In summary:

January was the month of snow, walking to work across drift-covered fields and nervy preparation for our first ever skiing trip in February, which was terrifying and exhilarating and expensive and fabulous and a thing to be repeated when we have saved up again. Real life, school and editing seemed terribly dull on our return.

March disappeared in a blur of school and work stuff (seriously, I’ve been back over my diary, and nothing happened. NOTHING), so we’ll move swiftly on to April, which was Book Club month, the inaugural meeting of a small group of friends from work. We have kept meeting, and during the year we have read a variety of books – not always ones I would have chosen, but isn’t that the point of Book Club? We’ve also had some truly memorable conversations, and not always about the books. Reading ladies of AHS, I salute you and look forward to more in 2013.

April was also the month when I was, rather astonishingly and out of the blue,  commissioned to write a book of my own. Therefore, writing and research in May, burying myself in the ancient and splendid Sussex dialect and peppering my conversation with words like sureleye and pathery. Turns out writing a book is actually quite hard work. Who knew.

June was more writing and great joy when I turned in the manuscript on time, but also sunshine, our brief warm summer, spent at school and guiding Molly through the first real round of her GCSE exams. Not that she needed much guidance; if ever a girl deserved to do well by dint of organisation, application and sheer gutsy hard work it would be my Molly. So proud.

In July I concentrated on getting to the end of the school term without collapsing or killing anyone (dropping my hours to four days a week certainly helped with this), and had a week at home on my own when Tom took the children to the coast (they had already broken up, I was still at school – happens every year). This was at the same time dark, empty and dreadful, and blissful, liberating and QUIET. Then, of course, came the Olympics – a fortnight of marvelling and weeping and laughing and marvelling all over again.

August was Big Theatre month, when we sang and danced and played and acted until we (literally) dropped, and between us produced The Blue Dress, the best show we have ever pulled off. So proud of all the Big Theatre babes, but (naturally) of my own children most of all. We also camped in Yorkshire, spending five wet and windy nights under canvas wondering where the tent was going to spring a leak next (once – memorably – under my bed).

Back to school in September, but as always the bitter pill was sweetened considerably by my birthday on the 11th. Also, I took part in a community performance of Carmina Burana, accompanying an 80-strong choir as part of a semi-pro orchestra brought together for the day. I’ve never been prouder to call myself a violinist.

October was theatre again, recalling the Big Theatre cast and reprising The Blue Dress from the summer for a triumphant three-night run over half term. I also worked through the final edits for the Sussex book, involving lots of to-and-fro between me, the commissioning editor and the designer before we finally arrived at the print draft.

Eventually in November  Sussex Dialect was published, amid a great deal of pink-cheeked grinning on my part. Pity my poor friends and family, who have been forced to read the wretched thing over and over again and answer questions about it. (They haven’t really.) I also took part in my first podcast recording, having a total ball with Dion, Barry and Clo from the Scrolls book group at Geek Syndicate. I definitely want to do more of this.

December, as always, was a frenzy of concerts, school performances and preparations for Christmas, but also, out of nowhere, Wandering Weeds was published, containing a short story of mine which I had more or less given up for lost. Unbelievably happy about this, especially since fantasy fiction is what I really want to be writing. In the absence of any further ideas, though, I also signed a contract to write a Norfolk dialect book. Something of a pattern here.

Through this all I have edited, and written, and knitted, and edited more, and edited a LOT more, and generally wondered where all the work is coming from. If my freelance work continues to gather momentum in 2013 I’ll have to take serious stock of whether my current school commitments are sustainable, but that’s for the future. For now, I’m looking forward to going back to school and getting my teeth into writing Norfolk and editing a couple of novels which are lined up for the early part of 2013. Also, the last two months of 2012 showed an impressive average of a book published a month; I know I can’t sustain this over the next few weeks, but if 2013 can match 2012’s total in terms of publications with my name on (or in) them, I’ll be delighted.

Announcement: Wandering Weeds

So here it is – my exciting announcement, which I’ve been gleefully hugging myself over for a week or so. I had almost given up hope for my little story which I submitted to the Wandering Weeds antho way back (especially since the prospective publisher’s website appears to have been taken down – picture my joy when I discovered that). So I was completely delighted to receive word from Jaleta Clegg and Frances Pauli that the book had snuck out, in print and Kindle, published through CreateSpace and managed independently by the editors.

weedsebookcoversmallI’m so chuffed by this, I can’t even tell you. Fantasy is one of my go-to genres for reading and writing both, and I’m so delighted to have made it into this antho alongside a such a talented bunch of writers. Also, I can’t thank Jaleta and Frances enough. They’ve kept this antho alive through all sorts of backstage stuff which I can only guess at – believe me, bolshy authors have been the least of their troubles – and at the end of the day we (the authors) have come out with a rather better deal than we signed up to in the first place. Way to go, ladies – you’ve done us proud.

The book is available through the usual retailers in both paper and Kindle versions (Amazon US – here and here; Amazon UK – here and here), as well as direct from CreateSpace here. To whip up your enthusiasm even further, this post is part of a bloghop event for the book – you’re already part of it, but do take some time to poke about on the websites of some of the other contributors. Here are the links:

Finally, by way of an advert for the book, here is a short excerpt from my story, Sleeping Beauty – a retelling of the old fairy story that doesn’t have quite the happy ending you might expect.

Part of the enchantment, as I’m sure you know, was the dense hedge of razor thorns that sprang up and enshrouded the palace, sealing the recumbent inhabitants inside and disbarring all from entry. The thorns were as long as your arm, vicious and ragged, saw blade teeth with scalpel edges. The leaves were thick and leathery, darker green than the deepest forest night, and the stems and branches resisted any attempt to hack a path through them, twisting and writhing to trap the unwary or the foolhardy in a verdant tomb.

Those who tried—and many did, my dear, in the early days when folk were still testing the terms of the enchantment—were all beaten back, slashed and twined and strangulated into slinking retreat. Some never got the chance to retreat at all, becoming mired in the twisting growth, impaling themselves on the thorns and bleeding their life out into the roots of the plants. Their shrivelled corpses, sucked dry and gradually turning to dust, hung from the spines that drained them, the tatters of their clothing flapping and whispering like macabre ribbons on a deadly wishing tree.

As the decades passed the number of visitors dwindled, until eventually years might go by with no attempts on the palace at all. Where once there had been the laughter of well-bred maidens, there were no sounds but birdsong, the soft chirr of the wind slicing itself apart on the thorns, and the occasional sigh from the princess and her attendants in their tormented sleep.

However, excitement grew as the centenary of the enchantment approached, and hopeful youths came from far and wide. The beauty of the princess was legendary, as was the wealth of her father, and every boy in every village had heard the tales of the slumbering princess who could only be won after a full hundred years by her true love battling through the thorns and placing a chaste kiss on her soft pink lips.

Millers’ sons came, and farmers’ boys, and blacksmiths’ apprentices, and yeomen’s lads, and noble-born youths, and even a couple of princes. Some were handsome, my dear, and some were rich, some were both and some were neither, but all believed that the thorns would not pierce their tender flesh—or, even if they did, how bad could it possibly be?

Sussex Dialect – it’s out there!

So long since the last time I posted here – I have been a bad blogger… In my defence I have been terrifically busy, and some weeks have struggled to fit sleeping and eating in, never mind blogging – but no other excuses shall be offered. I have catching up to do.

Lots has happened since I posted in September, which I’m planning to blog about in a series of posts over the next few days. The first and probably the biggest was the release of my book on Sussex Dialect, which I wrote in April/May. It came out in November, and is now available (I’m reliably informed) at outlets in the south of England, and here online (I think probably at other places too, although the distributers seem to be taking their time – if you come across it, do let me know).

I’m really chuffed with this little piece – I’d worked before with the commissioning editor who contracted me to write the book, but previously I’d edited and proofread for him, and he took a massive leap of faith in asking me to write. He seems to like what I did, though, because I’ve just signed the contract to write a Norfolk edition (due for release somewhere around April next year).

I’ve had great feedback from a few readers, but only one review so far – although that is a 5* at Waterstones. 🙂  Again, do let me know if you find any others. In the meantime, I’m pretty proud of my little book.

More posts later this week, I hope, with news of other stuff I’ve been up to, and then another EXCITING THING is happening on Monday next week. I’ll be shouting about it here and generally making noise in other places too. Until then!