Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Things that were good in 2010

Oh come on, everyone else is doing one of these! Lists for this and that and everything inbetween. Right, this is mine. I make no apologies and if I forgot someone, sorry!

1. Madmen. OMG. Where to begin on it's sheer awesomeness. Slow burn storytelling, mysteries abound, Roger Sterling's wit and Joan's, well, Joan-iness. The most rediculously good-lookin' cast of human beings imaginable and it made me go out at buy my first suit (I work in my pajamas, why oh why do I need a suit?). It made smoking cool again. (BTW kids, smoking is BAD). I've ploughed through series 1-3 and just waiting for that series 4. I love the way all the characters intertwine and the layers of story seems ocean deep. Now that's writing. Impeccable settings, story and characters and the Carousel speech is arguably TV's 'To be or not to be,' a piece of dialogue that all others will be measured against. Pure brilliance.
2. The Chainsaw Gang. I'm rather proud of this one. It started with a vague conversation about getting a bunch of authors together and since Sept we've had five events already. There's more lined up in the New Year and hopefully we'll be setting up a website soon-ish. Considering we're basically a bunch of strangers sitting in the lifeboat in the sea of books, it's great to have some company!
3. Orlando trip. I can't thank Hyperion enough for giving me the chance to come over and meet the movers and shakers of the US YA world. Made a lot of great new friends and the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' blog series is the result of this. Plus it's always nice to stay in a safari park.
4. Movies. In no particular order: Inception, Scott Pilgrim v. the World, The Other Guys, Solomon Kane, Kick Ass.
5. Books. Blood Meridian, Shiver (I know, paranorm romance, who would have believed it?), The Doubled-Edged Sword, The Forest of Hands and Teeth.
6. Family. 'Nuff said. Now more than ever.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Kiss Me, Kill Me Blog Tour

It wasn't that long ago when I sat up and a meeting and suddenly realised "OMG, I'm in the paranormal (non) romance genre!"
There's a feeling at times I'm here all by myself but as my dear old mum said to me as she pushed me through the school gates on that first day "Go and make friends and don't bite anyone!" before she hurried off across the road to the hairdressers.
The best thing about the conference last month was the mixing and mingling with the lights of the YA world. You could not hope to meet a smarter, better-dressed and well-mannered bunch. There were moments (quite a few, actually) when I really did wonder if they'd got me mixed up with someone else and any second now security would grapple me to the ground, get excessive with the pepper spray and shove me on the next flight outtta DisneyTown.
Look, there's Darren Shan! Holly Black! Melissa de la Cruz! Ally Carter! Maggie Steifvater! Carrie Ryan! OMG, what is she doing? Is that legal here? Well I suppose it's possible with medical training, but seriously, using just a spoon? It doen't look hygienic...
Hold on, there was a point to this blog. Ah yes. Making friends and influencing people. So, after hanging out with said superstars and basking in their light I was pushed onto a plane to leave the cloudless skies of Orlando far, far behind (hey, did I tell you I got upgraded when I gave a flight attendant a copy of my books? True!). But, I have taken a little fistful of ideas with me, back to the snow-bound wastes of South London.
I'd like to announce the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' blog tour!
Cool title, don't you think? Well, I like it so that's what we're going to call it. Sigh. Some people.
Starting in Jan and running for as long as I can manage, I'll be inviting the great and the good and glamorous and gruesome of the YA paranormal world here, to review and interview them about what shakes their tree and gets their cold, vampiric blood flowing.
With a title like 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' I'll be starting with the female of the species. Quite the most deadly collection of authors, I think you'll agree. I've got Maggie Stievater, Cindy Pon, Rachel Hawkins and Carrie Ryan and that's just to start with. There will be vampires, zombies and werewolves, Oh My!
So, have a merry old Christmas, don't worry about the snow and I'll catch you later.
Kiss Me, Kill Me. Well I think it's a cool title.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ode to the Chainsaw

It's a statement weapon. It says 'Hey, I'm loud, noisy,brutal and when this is over, there'll be blood on the carpet and dismembered limbs in the kitchen'.
It reminds us that quantity has a quality of its own.
Suitable for most social ocassions. Be it zombies or lost teens, the chainsaw is the answer.
It's not subtle, true, but it announces itself. You know when somebody starts up a chainsaw.
We're half-way through the Chainsaw Gang's 12 Deaths of Christmas and while I'm disappointed we're not heading for that Xmas No.1 slot in the charts, in all other aspects the tour has been a success!
Thank you for joining it, one and all.
Below is the full list of the bloggers who've been involved. Each has posed us a curious question (who would you be in yoru favourite horror movie? What's the spookiest place you've ever visited? Books for Xmas and so on) and we've all given them our answers, which range widly! Plus there has been singing.
Thurs 9th Wondrous Reads
Fri 10th BookZone
Sat 11th and Sun 12th Book Gazing
Mon 13th BookZone
Tues 14th Wondrous Reads
Thurs 16th Enchanted Books
Remember, each comment entered gets a chance to win the Chainsaw Library, a signed copy from each member of the Chainsaw Gang. That would be your 2011 reading list sorted in one go, wouldn't it? Alas, only UK residents, this time.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

My Vampire Romance

Been there, done that. Now even the most casual reader of my blog will know my apprehension over vampires. They may even think I have some garlic-like aversion to the bloodsuckers.
That couldn't be further from the truth!
"No, Sarwat! Tell me it's not true! You've not gone all Team Edward on us! Is that a poster of RPatz up beside the bed? Oh woe is us! Who will deliver the throat-ripping, blood drenched fiends we crave now Sarwat's started drawing little hearts in his elegant note book and calling himself 'Sarwat, the lost Cullen'.
Fear not, my companions of slaughter, I have not fallen to the dark side.
Well, not yet though there are those moments when Jacob takes of his teeshirt (like every five minutes but frankly with abs like those, who wouldn't want to expose them to the world constantly although you've have to hack through a thick forest of chest hair to see anything like that on me not that I have had abs like those since, well ever, though there was a period in my late teens when I was doing karate a lot, before I had my teeth knocked out but that's another story where was I? Oh yes, anyway there was that time when I did have the vaguest outline of a six-pack but all too briefly. Sigh.)
Which brings me somewhat shambolically to Anne Rice, the godmother of vampires. Oh, gosh, where to begin? We had the gloriously ammoral Lestat, melancholic Louis, the petite but lethal Claudia and then we had Akasha, Queen of the Damned.
Oh, yes, now that's what I call a vampire.
Interview with a Vampire. The Vampire Lestat and the Queen of the Damned were the first three and the best vampire books I've ever read. After those, all others are, well, anaemic. It started a love affair with the blood-sucking fiends that, truth be told, has never ended. It amazes me how it's gone on and on, we never tire of them, we love them in all their angsty palid beauty (and none were as angst-ridden as Louis, I tell you).
Gloriously violent, devestatingly glamorous and painfully beautiful, the vampires of Anne Rice novels were the very pinnacle of the genre. If you're looking for the 'real thing', dash over to Amazon and order them now.
BTW, am I the only one that enjoyed the movies? I thought Queen ofthe Damned was great, I even bought the soundtrack. Check out the music videos on the dvd special features. Lestat is a vampire's vampire.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

So Darren, why don't your vampires sparkle?

One of the GREAT things about the writing business is hanging out with your heroes. I'd like to take a small step back in time. Mind the kerb.
You know when you decide to do something new and there's the old saying If you want to build a better mouse trap, see how the original one works'. Or something. The point is there's no point in reinventing the wheel.
Jeez, that was a crap sentence, but you know what I mean?
So, I want to be a writer. How best to go about it?
I'm not talking just about writing words and sentences (like, duh) but making it into a career.
Here are the vague steps I followed:
1. Decide I want a career, not a hobby that pays. That means acting like you want to (say) retrain as a teacher, or accountant, or astronaut. That means study, putting in the hours and using your time efficiently (especially as writing is probably the most inefficient job possible. I don't know anything that generates so much discarded effort, except perhaps being president). Way, way too many people want their books on shelves,and frankly there's not enough room as it is. Not only are you competing against everyone writing now, but pretty much everyone who's written ever. That's over 2,000 years worth of writing from the best in history. Imagine wanting to be an interior decorator but having Michealangelo to compete with. Somehow your neat, pastel-coloured ceiling doesn't look quite so amazing, does it? That's what writing can feel like. Actually, I always feel a bit depressed when I think about it like that. Moving swiftly on...
2. Whose career do you want? Now it's nice to think "J.K Rowling's", and okay, yes, we all think that briefly, but in my choice I prefered those that have had a few more ups and downs, and still made it. It's character building and will offer greater inspiration in the long run. I picked Clive Cussler, Bernard Cornwell and Darren Shan. Cool heroes with historical mysteries, action and horror. These are the three aspects that appealed to me and helped me to decide the route to follow.
3. Why Darren? Firstly, his success is down to HARD WORK. Yes, he's amazingly talented but we can't all have that level of talent. But we can reproduce his effort. The guy churns out great books like some book-churning-out machine. He does tours, school visits, blogs in great depth and clearly has a mad passion for his job. I saw him do a presentation to a couple of hundred kids and decided that was how I was going to do it. Get them involved. Acting out scenes. Whip up a frenzy. His fans are mental for his stuff. Now that's the sort of enthusiasm you want for your writing, isn't it?
He doesn't sit on his butt when counting the money and tapping away. He gets out and about even now when, surely, his success would mean he doesn't need to do it anymore.
So it was a rare honour to finally meet him at Orlando. We had a bit of a chat and talked about my favourite book of his (The Thin Executioner) and how he was in Oman during the Gulf War when he was researching it. That Middle-Eastern atmosphere is the best thing about it and shows you how much stories are improved by real experience.
So, yes, if you are planning to crack the author mystery, you could do a lot worse than check out Darren.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas singalong

Obviously I've way too much time on my hands but I've decided to branch out into music-writing. I'm not talking about a nine-hour opera or even a West-End type musical with dancing and cabaret (though that would be fun, wouldn't it?) but something Christmasy. If it's good enough for Cliff Richard* then it's good enough for me.
It's something I've been working on with my fellow Chainsaw Gangsters and some of the wise and beautiful of the blogging world. I'd like to present:
The 12 Deaths of Christmas Blog Tour and Sing-a-long!
Starting on Monday, and over the next 12 days, we'll be releasing a verse a day, which a major brainstorming of the members of the Chainsaw Gang. The idea is that each blogger asked whatever they wanted, and we gave them the answers as best we could.
It'll be a chance to delve into the twisted minds of Alex Bell, Alex Gordon Smith, David Gatward, Sam Enthoven, Me (obviously), Steve Feasey, Jon Mayhew, Stephen Deas and Sarah Silverwood. The questions range widely from writing techniques to personal hygiene habits!
It kicks off tomorrow at My Favourite Books and will then be infesting the blogsphere like the bubonic plague!
Tues is at the talented Mr Ripley.
Wedsneday will be Narratively Speaking.
Friday at BookZone.
Saturday is BookGazing.
Then I'll update you with the others as we get closer.
Need I mention there will be prizes? Well, there will be!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Me and my library

This is buzzing around the blogosphere and there are far wiser and more erudite writers explaining why the closure of 250 libraries in the UK is a BAD IDEA. All I can do is give my perspective on this and leave the politicians the opportunity to do the right thing. For once!
As you know, I'm into my history. While most of it does involve swordfighting and gladiators, sometimes it does stray into the big ideas of civilization.
You know what? Libraries define civilization. Not reality tv, not banks, not the bread and circuses.
The great library of Alexandria. It pushed Eygpt to the centre of the world and it's loss is still being felt today, 2000 years later. There were scientists and thinkers operating out of its walls who invented the steam engine. Imagine where we'd be now if the industrial revolution had happened in the first century AD rather than the 18th? That's were science, philosophy and cultures met, learnt from one another and made the world a wiser, more tolerant place. You get rid of libraries, you get rid of wisdom, you might as well just chuck thsoe books on a bon-fire. Like they did in Germany in the 1930s. And we know that turned out well.
"Oh yes, Sarwat, but it's all electronic now. Paper is passe. Wouldn't it be so much easier if people could download it. Problem solved."
Sorry, but that's the arguement of someone who's never been in a library in like the last ten years. Last time I looked our library had classes for pensioners (like teaching them how to use the computer and surf), story-telling groups for toddlers, language classes, author meetings, writing classes, book groups and the opportunity to do something else than spend the day inside your house ALONE. It's a chance for people to get out, meet, exchange ideas, learn something from others. Someone mentioned wanting to create the 'Big Society'. Oh yes, it was the Prime Minister. Well, the first brick in building that society is the library.
I didn't have a lot of books in the house. Not everyone can afford it because books are a luxury item and if you're not so well off you want food on the table first. The library was where I learnt about the world. I read about Ceasar crossing the Rubicon, the battle of Hattin, the witchtrials. I learnt that Afghanistan has been more trouble than it's worth for over two millenia. Even Alexander the Great thought it best just to get on the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Frankly, if one or two politicans had visited their own libraries before commiting to war, a lot of lives would have been saved. It opened the world to me and made me realise how marvellous it all is. We are retreating into parochial mindsets already, shutting down libraries will only speed that process up and all our news and knowledge will become the unfiltered rants of the loud and empty voices.
The library has been the mark of a civilization. Always has, always will be. Those that tear them down will be judged badly by history.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Lessons in writing, Internal Conflict

This has come up on several of my talks so I'll pick it up here. It's all part of characte creation. So are you sitting comfortably? Good, I won't be long.
Okay, we all know drama is CONFLICT, right? Simply put all stories are about opposing forces trying to get or do something. You want a good guy, you want a bad guy.
Or do you?
You've two types of conflcit, Internal and External. External is when the hero is out fighting some villain. He doesn't worry about the righteousness of his cause, he knows he's the good guy and it's as simple as that. Most war films and most Bond movies are all about external conflict. See the guy in the Nazi uniform? BAD GUY. You can bomb him, shoot him, do all sorts of violent and socially unacceptable things to him and no-one will mind. Seriously. Ditto anyone with a kaftan, turban and AK-47, KKK hood, Soviet uniform (for those of us who grew up watching 1980's action movies) or gang colours and generally people with a poor grasp of English or (ironically) a very good grasp of English (why are the bad guys always from English public schools*?). These are all codes for 'we're not engaging in any moral conflict issues here, so move along'.
Try and avoid these sort of stories. They are exciting, sure, but simple storytelling. They suit the visual medium better than the literary one, mainly because explosions don't work so well on paper, or Kindle for that matter.
Internal Conflict. That should be your mantra. The ONE THING books do better than any other medium is explore the inner mind of the characters. So give them something worth exploring. Doubts, self-criticism, confusion and moral dilemmas. After all, the entire canon of Russian literarture and most of YA romance is built on this! It works because it's what the medium does best.
There endeth the lesson.
(*Oh, for the Americans reading this, first, let me say 'Hi!' then explain what we in England call public schools you would call VERY EXPENSIVE private schools where the child needs to be entered more or less the moment they're concieved for any chance of getting in, unless they happen to own a country or small European principality, which sort of trumps everything).

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The themes in Dark Goddess, love's legacy

As those of you who read Devil's Kiss will know, Billi suffered the loss of a loved one. I wanted to make sure such an event had deep resonance within Dark Goddess and looked at how Billi would cope.
It made me think hope any of us will cope. Sooner or later, we all suffer the loss of someone we loved. There are no easy answers to why they went, whether it was fair or all part of some divine plan. We try and make sense of their lives and how they touched and made us who we are today. What legacy does the loved one leave behind?
Is it in our nature to take love for granted? That we expect it from those around us who we share our lives?Only to realise what it meant when it's gone?
Billi has a poor role-model in Arthur. A man who could not cope with the loss of his wife so retreated from the world, built tall walls to keep the pain outside, but alas, left his daughter outside those walls too.
Billi has the legacy from him and the one she loved. I think I've made it clear who I believe is the greater hero. Arthur is strong, fierce and undefeatable. But the other was in touch with the world around him, more than he wanted perhaps, but was the greater hero because of it. What's been the best aspect of Dark Goddess is seeing how these two legacies play out in Billi's soul.
Such legacies are subtle at times. We do things unconciously, act on ideas and attitudes absorbed into our hearts from those hearts that once envolved and embraced us. Love wounds us most terribly, but they are the only wounds worth having.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

My Inspirations, Part 2

Wow. I'm sitting here in my hotel in Disneyworld, suitcase packed and passport at the ready. It's been an amazing five days and it'll take me a looong time before I process even half of it. The NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference has exposed me to another side of publishing that is vast and more than inspiring, it's the reason behind what we do.
I've met so many teachers, great librarians and enthusiastic readers from all over and what's clear from each and everyone is the passion they have for writing, for stories and the way they expose the reader to brand new worlds and people. It's all about stepping into another's skin and seeing the world through new eyes. That's pretty damn amazing. Pure magic, actually. There have been so many I'd like to thank for reminding me about all this, but I'd like to mention Margaret, Becky and Claire especially.
I'd like to thank the other authors I've met. Mellisa, Ally, Brent, Cindy, Carrie, Cinda, Holly, Darren, Joy and many more (I'll go into more detail regarding some of the discussions I've had soon). What's great is even the big names 'Oh, I've been No.1 on the NYT and have Hollywood banging at my door' have a huge amount of patience for us novices. There just wasn't enough time to talk to any of them. Ah well.
Lastly, the Disney-Hyperion crew. They've been beyond fantastic and gone well beyond the call of duty on all fronts. Dina, Nellie, LaToya, Molly, Kristian, and most of all, Catherine, my new and extraordinary editor. They are the most wonderful company anyone could hope to have.
Thank you all!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

My Inspirations, Part One

Dark Goddess was, strangely, the first story about Billi SanGreal, though I didn't know it at the time. The first version of Dark Goddess was written around 1993-4. I'd read about the Russian witch, Baba Yaga, and wanted to use her. Back then she was ancient, she was wicked, but also wise and honest.
After that I started looking out for her. But it was 'Women Who Runs with Wolves' by Clarissa Pinkola Smith that gave me the Baba Yaga I'd been looking for.
Chapter 3 is Vasilisa the Wise. Smith reckons the story is about 3,000 years old (but probably much much older), pre-dating Classical Greek culture and descends from a time before gods. When there was only the goddess and one of her names was Baba Yaga.
Vasilisa goes into the forest and meets Baba Yaga. She serves her and in exchange is given fire, a light radiating from a skull, that she uses to go back home and destroy her step-mother and sisters. It's a classic fairy tale and it's about growing up.
Baba Yaga is the anti-fairy godmother. Vasilisa is the anti-Cinderella. She's not waiting for the prince to save her and Baba Yaga isn't here to sew her ballgowns.
Smith's book delves deep into a handful of fairy tales, exposing the female mythology that underpins many of these 'children's stories'.
I think I've learnt more about story telling from that book than any of the others. Myths are hugely important. Always have been, always will be. The story of Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the wise have survived longer than most because they are so important.
It's about journeying into the dark forest and learning from the frightening things that dwell within, hidden from all but the bravest. It's not about being fashionable, about being pretty. It's certainly not about being 'nice'. It's about doing what must be done, rather than what should be done.
Smith explains it best.
"The Wild Woman is the one who dares, who creates and destroys ... Following her footsteps, we endevour to learn to let be born what must be born, whether all the right people are there or not. Nature does not ask permission."

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Passport. Itinerary. Laptop. Transformer (which weighs more that the bloody laptop!). Mobile. Toiletries (shaving foam, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss. Real men don't wear perfume. Unless it's Lancome). Camera. Batteries. Sharpies (2No.). Teeshirts (one black, one white). White shirt. Blue shirt. Blue tie. One suit (One and only. Blue and shiny with wear). Trousers (not blue). Jacket (blue). Shoes. Boots. Trainers. Jeans (yep, blue). Underwear (a variety of colours, some blue). Socks. Swimming trunks (blue). Two belts (black and brown. Make sure your shoes are the same colour as you shoes. It's the only fashion tip I know. If it's good enough for Don Draper it's good enough for me). Jumper. Anorak (blue). Another shirt. Another shirt (short sleeves. It is Florida after all). Books to read (Bluebloods, Blood Meridian and Wolf Hall, which, sadly, has no wolves in it at all).
I tell you this, my backpacking days are way, way behind me when I used to travel with half a towel, a toothbrush with the end cut off, a Swiss Army Knife and a packet of anti-malaria pills.
If you're at the NCTE gig this week and rolling into the next, I'll be at the following places:
Friday 19th Autographing Session (with one of my two Sharpies): 1.00-1.30pm, Booth #920.
Saturday 20th: The Middle Mosaic:Writers and Readers together from 4.30pm to 5.30pm. Coronado Springs.
Monday 22nd: ALAN Workshop from 3.45pm till 4.15pm. Coronado Ballroom.
Just look for the guy in blue.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

What's next?

So kind of you to ask. Well, a trip to Disneyworld. There's a huge NCTE librarian conference there next week and I'll be there with my autograph book, pretending to be a highly respectable author-type.
Dark Goddess is due out in the US in January and the wonderful people in Disney-Hyperion have many treats instore!
Firstly, a multitude of short stories by my own fair hand. They'll be popping up, day by day, on the Hyperion Facebook page, starting on November 15th. Some you might have found on this blog earlier, but one or two are brand new, including one where Billi goes on a date (cleverly titled 'Billi's Date', I am a marketting whizz, aren't I?) and you just know it's not going to go well.
There will be hob-nobbing. I'll be sticking my head into publicity shots like an X-Factor wannabee. Ally Carter, Mellisa de la Cruz and Cinda Williams Chima will be there too, so I'll have a field day stealing, er, borrowing, ideas from them all.
But it's not all fun and games and cocktail parties and afternoons at the bar with the publisher, oh no. There'll be a research trip to Harry Potter World too. Yes, I said research and stop that sniggering at the back. Photos of me being sick on the rollercoasters will follow shorty.
But the writing, Sarwat, what about the writing? Are you not meant to be an author?
Ah, yes, the old word-count per day.
Apparently Darren Shan does like 5,000 words per day. Well, I've done that exactly twice in my career and both times my agent sent them all back asking me to spell them correctly first. Then make them into a story that WORKS. Darren's at the conference too, I think, I'll ask him about that too.
I have written something. I hope to tell you about it soon. Now I intend to write something else.
Supernatural? Historical? Science Fiction? I have no idea! Maybe that teen romance that has been bubbling away for years or that 1st person, told in flash-back literary masterpiece about the Mongolian yak herder doing the 1950's and his struggle against the state monopoly on fermented yak milk?
Oh, I have written a song. No, seriously! There's still a chance to get that UK Christmas No.1 and sod it, I'm going to go for it. Now, I'll freely admit I have no musical talent WHATSOEVER, but did that stop JedWard? I think not. I have borrowed my sister's guitar but I think there's a string missing.
Because the mind-blowing awesomeness of this ditty, I dare not release all the lyrics in one go. Frankly I fear the entire world may come to a standstill.
More on that soon.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Writing Workshops by the Chainsaw Gang

Starting this Sat and running over the next two weekends the Chainsaw Gang will be running a variety of workshops at the Richmond Literary Festival.
In fact, the Chainsaw will be totally OWNING the kids' events!
It'll be the three Alexs (Milway, Bell and Gordon Smith) and myself and we'll be delving DEEP, WAY WAY DEEP, into the art of writing and drawing. We're at the Orleans House Gallery on Sat 6th, Sun 7th, Sat 13th and Sun 14th.
So we'll be discussing plotting, character creation and story arcs, making sure your stories kick butt very hard and talking about those little secret skills you might need to break into publishing. Alex Milway will be giving all you artists out there the chance to create your perfect monster.
My Gosh, if I'd known then what I know now I could have saved myself years of faffing about and trawling through the Artist's and Writer's Yearbook (useful as it is, it is not everything).
I'll be specifically looking at classical story structure, characterization and how to build character arcs in three easy steps. Plus there'll be my usual Templar roleplay extravaganza! The sessions are about 2 hours long so there'll be plenty of time to discuss a range of writing topics. Likewise if you've got any burning questions on the day, I'll do my very best to answer them. The events are ticketed, so do go over to the website and book your place now. I'm on the Sunday gig at 11.30am (right after church!)
So, as of next Sat 6th, the Chansaw will be cutting up Richmond something quite wicked.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

What is bad is good

As you know (or should know) I am not a fan of paranormal romance so, hey what's with a picture with a dreamy blonde girl with angel wings?
Have I fallen to the dark side?
What next, posters of a shirtless Taylor Lautner in the study? Modelling my few hairs into a RPatz quiff?
Ah, that'll be a no.
Firstly, it would take the genius of Vidal Sassoon to do anything with my few follicles beyond the No.1 cut.
Plus there's no room on my wall for semi-naked shots of Taylor. They're covered with semi-naked posters of Christain Bale (yes, despite his many moments of madness I stay true. I'm here, Christian! I'll never desert you!).
Ehem. Sorry, needed to get that fanboy rant off my chest.
Gosh, where was I? Ah, Angel by L.A Weatherly. But I'll call her Lee, because that's her name.
Anyway, Lee's a big hero of mine.
Lee teaches writing and she taught me. Now that may or may not be a good thing, depending on which side of the 'Sarwat should go back to engineering and give up this writing lark' fence you may be resting your tush on, but that's a debate for another day.
I'm only half-way through Angel and my romance nerves a holding firm, so far we've had a few sidelong glances and a few references to the gorgeous cheekbones of Alex and the petite perfection of Willow BUT we've also had CIA conspiracies, assassinations, brain-washing and religious cults.
Hell, yes!
These are the things that make children's literature so great, don't you agree?
But the theme of Angel is the bliss of the bad. Lee's angels are parasites that feed off human auras, but appear as glowing, beautiful beings and leave the victim in a state of euphoria, convinced that the angel has done them good. Instead they are drained, weakened, tainted by the attack. Over time the victim will grow sick and die, never realising it was the angel that started it all. That moment of bliss was the beginning of the end.
Because Lee's a proper writer, what appeals to me far more than Willow's blonde locks and Alex's cheekbones is her theme; how we are addicted to things that do us harm. Government warning signs, medical research, our basic instinct, even a glance in the mirror (where did that gut come from? Well, it was a steady diet of burgers and chips all washed down with jumbo Cokes that did it for me) but we do not stop. We embrace the things that destroy us.
Wow, it makes you wonder how we've made it as a species, doesn't it?
It can't be advertising, half the cigarrette packets are covered with SMOKING KILLS, really, it couldn't be clearer, could it?
Mind you, one look at Don Draper with a fag and I want to like up.
Lee will be at the Foyles Demons v Angels event on Sunday, I'm going to ask her what it's all about (and see if I can blag an advanced copy of Book 2)
Check out her book. Then wonder, what's the angel in your life?

Friday, 22 October 2010

Halloween Week

It all kicks off tomorrow. A week of werewolves, ghouls, witches, zombies, creepy-crawlies and all those things that go bump in the night.
Tomorrow is the Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival and I'll be at the library from 2.15pm till 4pm with half the Chainsaw Gang for what will be our FIRST EVER event. If you're in the neighbourhood, it would be great to see you.
Monday 25th is Chester for their GobbledeeBook festival. Th
ere'll be a few silly props so you can act out your Templar dreams as well as discussions about all the fun things we writers do. Which is sit in a cold, dark, damp room and write, day in, day out. Actually, it doesn't sound so much fun after all. Maybe I'll talk about something else instead.
Friday 29th is up to Norwich Forum for another round of arguing, I mean intelligent discussion, with Will Hussey, Sam Enthoven and Alex G Smith and my sweet self. More demons that you could shake a crucifix at.
Sunday 31st, Halloween itself, we'll be at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, for their Demons vs. Angels event. There will be spooky treats for all. Me, Will Hussey, Sam Enthoven, Cliff McNish and L.A Weatherly will be debating who's the ultimate, hard-core bagger and tagger in the supernatural world.
Angels. Demons.
None of that 'I'm just a bit misunderstood' vampire or 'having a bad day on those full moon nights' werewolf issues but the real wrath of God and Revelations hell-fire stuff. In the end, they will be the last word.
It's all on my website.
So, if you're around any of these places, stick your head in and say hello!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Chester next Monday 25th October

Next Monday the Dark Goddess will be at Chester's Children's Book Festival, cleverly titled GobbledeBook!
The events run all week long from 23rd to the 31st October but I'll be there on Monday 25th, so do come along for a chat and two hours of entertainment and wisdom. Well, at least entertainment.
I'm at the St. Mary's Centre from 2.30pm and 4.30pm.
There'll be readings, hints on how to get into publishing, a few pointers on what to watch out for if you're planning to write your own epic and a chance to get intouch with your own inner Knight Templar with a big roleplay session, so bring your sword and shield! If you don't, worry not. I have a few to spare.
There'll be a bundle of books for sale and a signing at the end of it.
What more could you possibly want?
Now, because this is your chance to ask away anything you want, do drop in a comment here and now. This is as much about what you want as it's about me, just chatting.
This is our festival, yours and mine.
What do you want out of it?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Meet the Chainsaw Gang, Sarah Silverwood

Today I kick off the Chainsaw Gang Blog Tour. Over the next two weeks you'll meet each and every member of the gang, get a flavour of their books and understand why their part of the Chainsaw.
First, meet Sarah Silverwood. I know you've been waiting.
Parallel worlds. Mysterious orders of knights. Black rain. Mirror prisons and SWORDFIGHTS!
Oh yes, Sarah needed to be in the Chainsaw.
The Double Edged Sword is Book 1 of the Nowhere Chronicles and it ROCKS.
If you're a fan of Gaiman, Mieville's Un LunDun and Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights (especially The Subtle Knife) then DES is for you.
Sixteen years ago Finmere Tingewick Smith was abandoned on the steps of the Old Bailey as a baby, in nothing more than a blanket.
Now, his mysterious past is revealed...
It turns out that our, his, London is just one of many, and the Knights of Nowhere are the travllers between the two: The Somewhere and the Nowhere. There are hints of more worlds, but Book 1 deals with just these two.
Sarah's crafted a deviously entertaining world. The Prince Regent and his family's curse, the mysterious banished Magi and the Storyholder. Fin's our hero but his companions, Christopher, Joe and Mona, all have their parts to play. The villain of the piece is the current commander of the Knights, and his obsession with a prophecy. It's all early days but Sarah's laid the groundwork of a highly exciting new series. What's even better is Book 1 does wrap up the adventure, but with very clear signs that's there's more to come. I cannot wait.
Now you know a bit about her book, what about the woman herself? So, I asked her a few critical questions:
1. Favourite book? The Stand by Stephen King.
2. Favourite monster? Vampire. But the old school ones. The ones that want to kill you not kiss you.
3. Favourite bad-ass monster-slayer? St George. He's the granddaddy of all slayers.
4. If you could make a pact with the Devil, what would you want in exchange for your immortal soul? I already made a pact with the devil and I'm not allowed to divulge the details. It's in the contract. I had to sign it in blood. My own. That stung, I can tell you.
5. The Chainsaw Gang are all trapped on a desert island with no food. Who would you eat first and why? I would have to say Bill Hussey. Me and Bill know each other from our previous incarnations as adult horror novelists and we have the same agent. I'd have to eat him first because I know him best. It would probably be rude to eat a stranger. Plus, he's not skinny. he'd sizzle nicely on a BBQ.
Now we don't want this to be hard work. We'll be recommending a lot of books to you, and we know there's a recession on. Hence COMPETITION TIME!
We're offering the Chainsaw Library, a signed book from each of us. But how to win this literary bonanza? Easy.
The more you're involved, the more chances to win. Spread the word! What you need is votes.
Each vote goes into a vast hat at the end of the competition and one name will come out. They will receive signed copies off each member of the Chainsaw Gang. The great thing is you can enter per blog, so that’s nine chances to win! So make sure you visit each and every blog. It’ll be entertaining AND educational.
+1 if you follow this blog
+1 if you link the blog/website to yours
+2 if you stick our Chainsaw banner up somewhere
+1 if you’re a Facebook fan/friend
+1 if you comment on the blog and tell me about your own favourite monster.
+1 if you reTweet this competition.
+1 if you follow me on Twitter
The closing date of the competition is Friday 5th November and the competition is open to UK residents only (really sorry about that!).
Now you've met Sarah, you'll be keen to meet the next member of the Chainsaw. For that you'll need to go to Alexander Gordon Smith's blog tomorrow. I'll see you there.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Sinister Masterplan

There comes a time in every young man's life when he's perhaps at some cross-roads in his life, emotionally, careerally, financially, and his thoughts turn towards WORLD DOMINATION.
Have you had those moments, sitting in your black armchair, stroking your white cat with machine-gun-armed minions at your beck and call, reading the Times and wondered, "Well, I could do a better job running the world than these clowns' and decide that maybe living in a volcano would be more environmentally sound (all that free heating from the lava)?
You have? I thought as much.
But before the volcano, before the piranha-filled pond, comes the PLAN.
Start small, that's the key. Gather like-minded individuals, another important step. Establish a clear mission statement before you overthrow the government. It's the difference between a mere gangster and criminal GENIUS.
So, over the next couple of weeks, I will be putting my plan into action. You have been warned. In fact, I'm expecting delivery of my white long-haired persian cat from Amazon any minute now.
Starting Monday the Chainsaw Gang will introduce themselves. For those of you keen to join in the new world order it would be wise to travel across the blog-sphere to visit each and every Chainsaw and acquaint yourselves with your new masters, I mean authors. There'll be prizes galore (hey, it's not all jumping through flame throwers, we evil geniuses want to party just like everyone else) a long list of events where you can meeet us (I see it as a sort of recruitment drive) and who knows, maybe we'll introduce you to your new favourite book. But only if your favourite book has horror, monsters and bloodshed. We have our standards.
Fear. Terror. Tales of torment, of ghouls and evil and of ever-encroaching darkness. These are some of our favourite things.
Starting Monday.
Now, where did I put that gigantic lazer beam device?

Monday, 4 October 2010

How much do you earn?

This is something that I think confuses everyone, are writers rich or not? Is it a career worth pursuing or should you stick with being a window-cleaner, like your mother wanted?
So, I've managed to nick the TOP SECRET publishing document used by agents and publishers to work out how much they should offer you as an advance on your next book. It's only a rough version (all I was able to photocopy from the office before the security guards chased me out) but should give you a ball-park figure of what you can expect to earn.
1. Does your book involve vampires? Lose $10,000.
2. Does your book involve zombies? Add $10,000.
3. What about angels (but you'll have to be quick as their value is dropping daily)? Add $12,000 this week, losing $1,000 per week hereafter.
4. Knights Templar? Lose $50,000 and put that pen down before you destroy the publishing industry!
5. Have you or any of your characters ever been naked on telly? Add $100,000.
6. Does your book contain a character who's first name is Harry? Add £500,000.
7. Is his surname Potter? Add another $5,000,000.
8. Is YOUR surname Meyer? Add $1,000,000.
9. Have you ever been arrested or shot at? Add $20,000 (a certain notoriety goes a long way but PLEASE OH PLEASE don't now head over to Afghanistan/Iraq/South Central based on this document!).
10. Finally, have you had any personal experience with space aliens (aliens are HOT HOT HOT!)? Add $100,000.
So, based on the above table, the best thing to write is a blockbusting paranormal sci-fi adventure featuring a space alien called Harry Potter, fighting a world of zombies with an angel girlfriend which you'll write while in prison after having be arrested for running naked through Prime Minister's question time.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Weathering or when the going gets tough

If I've learnt anything in the last two years (hell, in my entire life) it's that as snow follows summer, the bad times follow the good. There is no escape from this fact.
Life cannot be a series of highs. But as hard as it is to manage the up's it's harder still to manage the downs.
I've spoken to a few other authors about this, rejections generally and some were rejected 100+ times before they got published.
Well done them for having the guts to stick at it.
I'm not sure I would have had such determination. A hundred rejections? How many would it take to make me, you, anyone, give up? How much is self-belief (I know I'm good at this and will keep going) and how much is self-delusion (I wouldn't admit that I'm rubbish and find a better way to spend my time).
I've picked this point up before but my agent takes about 1% of submissions on as clients (it may have been 0.1% actually, but let's be positive). Still, pretty crappy odds. Then I hear the average wage of an author is £7,000/year (about $10,500) which is probably what you'd earn stacking shelves at your local supermarket.
Why bother?
You want to be the next JK Rowlings, rich and famous beyond your wildest imaginings? Nope. Sorry but that wouldn't happen. Better just carry on buying those lottery tickets.
Your name up on the shelves? You'll be surprised how quickly your books come right off those shelves if they don't sell.
The parties? Nice, but not frequent enough and you spend them hanging onto your editor because you know no-one.
No. None of these things can be the reason. There is only one motivating force behind hopeless endeavours and that is LOVE. Hour after hour after hour. During the day, the night, the holidays. You will annoy all and everyone around you as you sneak off to type (like I'm doing now, on Sunday when I PROMISED I wouldn't), sit daydreaming at the dinner table, and feeling quite sick at times as the words just crash over the pages (or worse, the plot crashes) and it's just a mess. But you cannot stop (and there comes a point, quicker than you'd believe, when it's too late to stop).
Bizzarely, the writing is both source of the anxiety and its salvation. It's pure magic-time as you weave worlds out of nothing and bring to life heroes out of dream-smoke. Mere vague ideas become solid, iron-cast realities.
Don't worry, in the end, if it's any good or not. You love it and you wouldn't swap it for anything else in the world.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Writing tips or DON'T PANIC

Yes, I am writing, kind of you to ask. How's it going? Almost done, but, boy, did it take so much longer than I expected. Why? Here's why.
1. LOADS of amateur mistakes, mostly to do with showing off. There's a strange dynamic with being a writer. First, is ego. Afterall, you must have ego in abundance to think 'hey, read my thoughts, they're important'. You are expecting people to put aside all other activities to spend their passing hours, days, months even, dwelling on what you have to say. You may not have anything worthwhile to say, but at least, you think you do. Ego. It is important.
2. Invisibility. The writer should not be seen in the story. The complete opposite of ego. The story is paramount, this is not an excuse for you to vent your fustrations at the world. This is usually spotted at submissions stage, so if you want to write a story about, I don't know, someone a lot like you who does a job a lot like yours (never appreciated enough, of course) and wakes up one morning in their messy bedroom and decides to CHANGE THEIR LIVES, then stop right now. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't take aspects of your life (in fact, it's crucial that you should) but give it that glamour, illusionary twist. Twilight is a perfect example. Bella is the wish fufillment fantasy of Stephenie Meyer, and that is why she's been so successful, but her honesty she's tapped the wish-fulfillmet fantasys of millions. She's not updated Romeo and Juliet, she's updated Cinderella. But with glamourous vampires, centuries old wars, werewolves and sacrifice.
Do not underestimate this. Whatever else is said of Meyer, she writes honestly. In writing there's no higher ambition. Lies are for advertising. Be honest. Be invisible.
Where was I?
3. Research. Oh Lord, this is a nightmare. You really can overdo it. I think it's my biggest fault. I've spent years researching my latest project (1995 I think was when the idea first came to me) and the problem is I feel the need to put everything down into the manuscript. Mistake. Instead of making it clearer, you only make it more confusing, plus, you're showing off how clever you are (another big fault of mine, it's common amongst eldest children). But thankfully that's what agents are for. To tell you to CLARIFY/SIMPLIFY/CLARIFY/SIMPLIFY and repeat until finished.
4. And procrastination. Instead of writing I'm busy on things like Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Death defying ACTS!

On Saturday 23rd October we'll be celebrating the SECOND Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival and it'll have a strong Halloween slant.
The Chainsaw Gang will be there in our hordes, that's to say there'll be seven of us (rather magnificent, don't you think?) so you'll have Alex Milway, Alex Bell, Alexander Gordon Smith, Sam Enthoven, Jon Mayhew, Steve Feasey and myself. So if you're interested in anything from yetis to werewolves, from demonic prisons to er, more werewolves, then Crystal Palace is the place to be!
Those outside of London, fret not!
The Chainsaw will be in sunny Norwich and even more sunny Richmond soon enough!
In the next couple of weeks there'll be a lot of activity and a BIG competition being run across the members of the gang. We'll be discussing the market value of souls during a recession, how best to cook fellow authors and the baddest of the bad.
But it all kicks off at Crystal Palace. Check out the website and do make sure you book your (free) ticket to the Chainsaw Chit-Chat at the library in the afternoon. And make doubly sure you visit Bookseller Crow, the ultra-cool and moody bookshop that's the heart of the day's events. Tell Jonathan I sent you.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

I am a Geek, hear me SQUEAK!

Oh you mock, but we rule the world now.
Well, just look at what's on at the movies. Scott Pilgrim v. the World (geek defeats Superman AND Captain America!), Kick Ass (geek gets to, er, KICK ASS and gets the high-school hottie while everyone thinks he's gay, double result, even TRIPLE!!!), then we've got the new movie about Facebook and a whole, whole load of superhero movies which are written, produced and directed by geeks. And absolutely RULING the box-office.
This is a geek world. You just live in it.
Alas, geekness wasn't such a valuable and subversively cool commodity when I was at my most geek, or geek-peak as I like to call it. I collected comics. I stayed indoors playing Dungeons and Dragons when the cool kids were behind the bike-sheds doing whatever happened behind the bike sheds. Fixing bikes, maybe, I don't know. My first girlfriend was an uber-geek (she got a first at Imperial in Mechanical Engineering, there is nothing more geek) and frankly, we were so geek that we just hung out at the library and did, like, tutorials (until she dumped me for dragging her grades down). I did that clumsy side-ways two-set dance of the truly uncoordinated. You know the one, sort of head-banging while stepping to the left then back to the right, arms ridgedly stuck to my sides.
So, I would like to take this moment to celebrate the geeks of the world.
1. Clark Kent. Yes, geek wish-fufillment at its purest.
2. Billi Gates. Is a geek. Rules the world. Nuff said.
3. Scott Pilgrim. I loved this film so much I got a guitar. Oh how I wish I was that scrawny now!
4. Sherlock Holmes (obviously not the Robert Downey Junior version, who is very un-geek to his core).He prefers doing cross-words to getting the girl. That's geek.
5. Gary Gygax. The inventor of the Dungeons and Dragons game and the roleplaying industry in general. He has inspired the entire generation of writers of fantasy, YA lit, the whole she-bang. His influence cannot be measured. We'd still be living in huts probably, if it wasn't for him.

Monday, 20 September 2010

The greatest children's book EVAH!!

Yes, the Hobbit. I cannot emphasise it's awesomeness enough. One measure of a great book is how many times you've re-read it. The Hobbit has been a major influence in my life and, I suspect, is the reason I write fantasy.
It was read to me at primary school and at first I thought it was really REAL, and if I crept quietly and kept careful watch, I might find or see a hobbit, since the entire book has that depth, ranging from Bilbo's family history and the detailed geography (which goes well and beyond the call of duty and makes me marvel how deep Tolkien's imagination was, to build a world where every river was mapped and every part of the terrain planned. What did he see through his mind's eye? Wow.)
I can remember the teacher reading that opening chapter and we're talking about 35 years ago, give or take.
I don't know how many times I've read it since. I read it to my wife during those mid-night and before dawn feeds of our first baby and now, that baby is a nine year old girl and there's nothing I look forward to more than reading her a chapter a night and seeing her eyes become light and distant as she walks the road to the Lonely Mountain with Bilbo and the dwarves.
The book has impact, I can see it. There's few things I remember from 35 years ago with such profound clarity. No tune. No telly programme or picture. Just a book about a hobbit.
I wonder about the hobbit in all of us. I strongly believe that's why we love it so much. We're not the Gandalfs and Aragons or Legolas's of our tales (much as we'd like to be Legolas, elves are just plain cool). We know we're the heroes of our own tales but we're heroes reluctantly. Our heroism is of small scale. Deep down we know we're not going to change the world. Look at those real life 'heroes' who do set out to change the world.
For the better? Be happy you don't make it worse.
We're Bilbo, dreaming of a warm breakfast in our comfortable hobbit-hole (Oh God, how much I want to live in a hobbit hole just like Bilbo's!) while we deal with fear, uncertainty and a vast, unknown future. This is what we are as children and what we are as adults(even more so, as we no longer have Gandalf to guide us). En-route to our Lonely Mountain.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Farewell, sweet Lindsey!

Here's the second editor in my career to bail out on me in as many weeks.
Is there something I should know?
So, Lindsey is the scholarly guru at Puffin who guided Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess through the quagmire of rewrites with her fellow editor in arms, Ari (who you read about last week, right?).
Lins was one of the judges of the 2008 SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition and basically liked the early draft of Devil's Kiss (then called God's Killer and involving a big werewolf fight that didn't survive DK but sort of moved into DG, at least the joke about 'chasing cats' did anyway where was I?). Basically it was Lins who first 'found' me.
So, Lins is about to go on maternity leave with her first baby. Like is that reason enough to leave ME? All alone, editorless, wandering the self-help shelves and grammar sections of my local Waterstones, forelorn and lonely? Some people. Anyway, if I haven't said it already, congrats to Lins and Sam! A very handsome couple even if I say so and certainly prime movers around the dancefloor if their performance at the reception is anything to go by.
Gosh, my grammar. I still have nightmares working out why it's not witches's (the possesive noun of many witches). You have Charles's, don't you?
Lins, what will I do without you?
Just back from a big meeting with the Crystal Palace posse to discuss how to make this year's festival even more tremendous that last year's. And tremendous it will be!
Follow this link to entertainments galore. I'm in the workshop section with the rest of the Chainsaw Gang (more about that very soon! New posters! New members with added DRAGONS!).

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Bad Boys of Children's Literature

Yesterday was Roald Dahl Day. It marks what would have been the old boy's 90th birthday. There have been blogs and celebrations aplenty regarding the World's No.1 Storyteller.
Apparently Dahl was, not to put too fine a point on it, a fairly unpleaseant b**tard in real life. A new book by Donald Sturrock recounts a life of more than mischief making, bullying, philandering and monumental egotism.
For Heaven's sake, look at the photo! I'd be scared.
Have you read the Fantastic Mr.Fox? I listened to it, narrated by Dahl himself, over the holidays. I've never suffered an anxiety attack before but that probably was the closest. I was more disturbed by that than when I read 'Silence of the Lambs.' Mutilations, brutality and in one scene, Mr. Fox's children fear they will have dogs set on them.
What modern author could get away with that? What modern author would even think of it?
Maybe he was a bad boy, so what? Maybe that's what made his stories malicious, despairing and cruel. And brilliant. If there was any quote that first intrigued me with Harry Potter it was a very early one which compared Philisopher's Stone to Dahl. I agree, Rowlings' first few Potters were my favourites and do have a strong Dahlesque flavour. The later books got too caught up in the setting than the plot, IMHO, but to be compared to Dahl is a great compliment indeed. Perhaps the greatest.
Next up is Phillip Pullman. Now if you're a regular reader you know I love his Northern Lights trilogy. Those books CHANGED MY LIFE. I would not be a children's writer if it hadn't been for Pullman's work, his is a major inspiration. DEVIL'S KISS would not exist if not for him. And boy, do I agree with him on things like age banding, that shambles last year about security checks for authors visiting schools and the dogma that dominates religion.
He's become a bit of a grumpy old man, hasn't he? Sort of 'rent-a-rant' author. I don't mind him venting but where are the books? I haven't read his Jesus one (lack of armoured bears put me off) but it's a bit disappointing when he says he doesn't write fantasy, even though he's written the best fantasy trilogy since Tolkien and seems to be distancing himself from what he did best, write children's stories.
Still, his immortality is assured. He, like Dahl, has written tales that look at the dark heart of children's tales and do so without sentiment and with honesty. For that I can only admire them as two of the greatest children's writers ever.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Sometimes, an axe just isn't enough...

Vegan vampires. Cute'n cuddly werewolves. Romantic zombies.
Romantic zombies?!?
As far as I'm concerened the only good zombie is the one eating the living brain out of someone's skull.
Since when did all our favourite monsters go so 'PG rated'?
I say, ENOUGH!
You say, "Sarwat, get to the point, already!"
So I shall.
A group of writers have decided that it's time that monsters got back to doing what they do best, being MONSTROUS. And heroes got back to bagging and tagging them in the most bloody and violent way possible.
Hence the Chainsaw Gang.
We've decided to spread the word that in amongst the shelves of angsty, pale and love-lorn undead and eco-friendly lycanthropes there is blood, there is dread, there is fear.
The new wave of writers delivering old school horror.
But who are these mysterious masters of the macabre? (See? That's me being all writerly and stuff). And not only who, but where can you find them?
Let's start with Alex Bell. Now when the Chainsaw Gang was first mooted, it was clear that it was going to be 'BOYS ONLY'. We didn't think girls would cut the grade. You know, they'd get all sqeamish and cringy and write tons and tons of soppy scenes set in meadows and what not and basically be all 'girly'. Then Alex came on the scene.
Boy, were we wrong about the girl thing.
Author of The Ninth Circle and Jasmyn she delivers real, blood-chilling grown up horror. You'll be begging for your mummy.
Sam Enthoven. He ticks all the neccessary boxes, the '3 D's' I call it. Demons, death and destruction. Actually he ticks four, with dinosaurs. If you think school trips are dreary, try his latest book, Crawlers. Innocent people turned into mind-controlled psycho-killers, like the good Lord intended.
Steve Feasey. You can never, ever, ever, have enough werewolves. Throw in djinns, vampires and sorcerors and frankly I'm amazed you're not reading his Changeling series right now. In fact, what are you doing on this blog? A love of werewolves is a pre-requisite!
William Hussey. Young, Talented. An exceptional ball-room dancer too. Way, way too keen on the old Hammer House of Horror to be healthy, but good mental health is not required in the Chainsaw Gang. Infact, it's the last thing we want from our members. He's just written the stupendous Witchfinder: Rise of the Demontide. Check it out. Modern science mixed up with the most ancient of horrors. You'll never want to visit the sea-side ever again.
Jon Mayhew. Half-man half-whippet. They said he was a legend, but we sadly now know the truth. He lives and walks among us! Irritatingly talented he's written the completely awesome Mortlock. Spooks. Demons. Knive-throwing heroines (we really like those, more please). Enter dark, fog-bound Victorian London and the scariest circus since Cirque du Freak.
Alex Milway. You don't have to be called Alex to be part of the Chainsaw, but it helps. Alex is a writer, and illustrator, designer (the logo up top is his idea) and all round decent human being. I don't know why he wants to hang out with us but he writes about yetis and that's good enough for me.
Alexander Gordon Smith. No half as scary as he looks in his author photo. He's written the Furnace series which is about a prison built miles underground and run by demons. I really, really wish I'd thought of it first. Nail-biting tension from the first page and cliff-hangers to die for, and many do. A master of the 3 D's.
Now you know us, time to meet us.
The Chainsaw Gang will be blitzing the UK over the Halloween period. This is our 'beta-testing' phase, so we're going to go nice and easy on you. We'll crack it up later. The website will be up later this month and there'll be additional stuff galore, but I wanted to give you a heads up NOW, so you can get your diaries out and mark these dates in RED.

Alex Gordon Smith is a busy boy (he lives in Norwich so needs to get out and about as much as possible).
13th October, 4.00, Thornton Heath Library, Croydon
14th October, 4.00, Coulsdon Library, Croydon
19th November, 4.00, Worksop Library

Jon Mayhew will be ruling the north.
21st Oct: Crosby Civic Hall: Scarefest
26th: GobbledeBook Festival Chester: Teen Panel AM, Full Event PM
27th: Newport Big Read, Riverfront Theatre Newport
29th: Booka Bookshop Oswestry: A Hallowe'en Party
30th: Lancaster Castle

Steve Feasey will be at the Cheltenham Festival on Oct 10th.

I'll be at GobbledeBook Festival, Chester on Monday 25th, 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

Then, there are the BIG THREE events. True and pure Chainsaw.

Crystal Palace Children's Book Festival on Sat 23rd October with Jon Mayhew, Alex Bell, Alex Gordon Smith, Sam Enthoven, Steve Feasey and Alex Milway and me. Honestly, be there or be forever disappointed that you weren't at THE author gathering of the week, so far! This event is ticketed (tickets are free) so BOOK NOW!

Norwich Millenium Library on Friday 29th October, 2.30pm with Alexander Gordon Smith, William Hussey, Sam Enthoven and me.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road. Their big Halloween Angels and Demons extravaganza running Saturday and Sunday, 30-31st October. Guess which side we're representing on Saturday? It'll be the experts in all things demonic: William Hussey, Sam Enthoven and myself. There will be others, prepare to be surprised! Contact the store and book your place now.

Like I said, this is just the beginning...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

An ode to Editors

This is a photo of me with Ari Lewin, my editor from Disney-Hyperion, who, alas, is my editor no more!
I cannot emphasise enough how important she's been to me and take this opportunity to explain just what the best editors (like Ari), actually do.
Firstly, they spot the story amongst the pages and pages of aimless drivel we writers churn out. They see where the magic is amongst the malformed chapters, insane (and inane) plot devices, cliches and cardboard characters that inhabit first drafts (or in my case, all the way into drafts four and five). Plus they have the patience to read drafts four and five with a freshness I find amazing, especially when I can't bear to look at the manuscript myself by then.
In short, editors are the ones who transform a pile of pages with black ink on them into a real book, something with life, passion and heart.
But they are also tyrants.
Elegant turn of phrase you've spent hours tailoring? If it doesn't help the story, they'll slice it out.
Deadlines looming? Well they've spent all their weekends trying to fix your story so you'd better spend your nights doing the same.
Characters behaving out of character? Number One sin. They can spot a plot device from the other building. You will not get away with it. You can almost hear the whip cracking across the phone.
So, goodbye Ari and thank you for everything. It's no small truth that I owe my career to you.
Next week I'll blog about my other editor and career-saver, Lindsey at Puffin, who has also decided to leave after having edited Dark Goddess.
What?!? Both my editors quitting? Was it something I said?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Did you miss me terribly?

What do you mean you hadn't noticed?
I'm back from two weeks in sunny France and had the first break from writing in three or four years. Wow. Weird how addicted I've got to writing that I found the last two weeks so hard.
Well, I say hard but it's decidedly relative. Not hard as in "Oh, I'm on a six-month tour around Afghanistan and my combat outfit is flourescent pink with a great big target painted on the chest" more hard in being given the keys to the sweet shop and wondering which of the delights to scoff first then glutting yourself until you're sick.
You can have too much of a good thing (more on this at the end, it's really embarrassing).
So, here we are in the south of France, mountains, lonely mountains castles high up on the rocky outcrops, windy roads and more mountains and our little cottage is at the end of a windy, cliff-hunging windy road that's seriously not wide enough for two bikes to pass without risking one over the edge, let along drivers that have had a little too much of the vin rouge/blanc/rose and assume everyone else will get out of the way and we're a twenty km round trip to the nearest ANYTHING.
I don't do mountains. I feel dizzy wearing high heels (which is why I don't wear them anymore). This may have been a bit of a mistake. There's a reason they call the place inaccessible. I blame Kate Mosse. No, not the supermodel, that's Kate MOSS. We may blame supermodels for the rise in eating disorders and the general trend for poor body image perception amongst our young but we can't really blame them for the Albigensian Crusade.
In the end we didn't get to the main sights since it was hairy enough just getting out of the house but I had a lot of time to ponder things. Plots. History. Swimming pools. Barbeques.
Plans were discussed, formed and made. Plans within plans.
Now entering my third year as a full-time writer bloke I'm trying to be a bit more organised. Less flapping about and being more focused. Get things written and get out there a bit more.
There will be announcements on all this over the next few weeks.
What I can tell you is that there'll be a lot happening around Halloween. I'm up at the Chester festival, at the Crystal Palace book fest, Norwich and back at Foyles for their Angels and Demons extravaganza and what's more, I'll bring some friends along to. All of them, in fact.
Oh, yes, and John Mayhew.
And I'm in Florida in November for a conference at Disneyworld. RESULT! I haven't told my children as they won't quite understand why Daddy's going to Disneyworld for work and they can't come too. Apparently I count as TALENT so either I'll be able to jump the queues or they'll be dressing me up as Goofy and I've completely misunderstood the email.
Now you know why I don't miss my old job in engineering.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Reviews, interviews and internetty stuff

There's me, sort of toppish left, next to Sarah R B, hand on chin. See me? No, to the left!
It's been quite a mad few weeks but now everyone's on their holidays I'd like to recap a few things.
Firstly, huge thanks to all who got involved in the blog tour and who are still involved! I just went to Puffin HQ this week and met with Nat, one of the gang involved with Spinebreakers, a website about teen and YA literature RUN by teens, which is sort of how it should be, isn't it?
In case you missed it (how could you, I was, like EVERYWHERE!) I'm going a random summary of a few of the bloggers who took part in supporting me and Dark Goddess well above and beyond the call of duty. The Children's/YA business has a lot of very ethusiastic and dedicated fans, I'm pleased to be part of it. Children's lit, it so rocks. As they say back in the 'hood. So if you're looking to exercise your mouse finger, do browse through a few of these sites. No pressure but there will be a test later.
Spinebreakers, Book Gazing, Rhiana Reads, Book Zone, I Want to Read That, Fantastic Book Review, Readings of a Busy Mom, I was a Teen Book Geek, LoveReadingX.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Grand entrances

When creating a story, be it book, movie or comic, you want the principle character to make an impact and nothing matters more than when we first meet them. It sets the tone, the genre and well, you either win or lose your audience in an eyeblink.
We're talking costume (see left), attitude, the way they walk or just the way they arrive. Here's a few that made an impact on me.
1. Frankenfurter. "How do you do I see that you've met my faithful handyman. He's just a little bought down because when you knocked he thought you were the candy man." I'm watching this clip as I write and OMG, weren't the 1970's amazing?
2. James Bond in Dr. No. A Casino. Gorgeous babe in red. The languid way he lit the cigarrette and delivered the greatest introduction in film history. Dammit, the 1960's were pretty awesome too!
3. MacBeth. Ah, this is interesting because we've already met him before we've met him. The witches mention him in Scene 1 and King Duncan sings his praises in Scene 2., so by the time he does appear the anticipation has been built up around him already. This is a very handy technique, building the perception of the protagonist by the way other characters view him or her. It can also be used very easily to misdirect the reader in a big way, because they have a tendency to believe opinions are honestly expressed.
4. Yoda in Empire Strikes Back. Brilliant reversal by casting a muppet as a jedi master. I know it's hard to appreciate it now when he's an institution, but he defined the otherworldliness of the jedi order, and that the Force was much more than lightsabers. "Judge me by my size, do you?"
5. Eli, the girl vampire in Let the Right One In. Skinny, greasy black hair, gaunt and dressed in kneed leggings and a tatty sweater in the snow-covered playground. She looks so pathetic and tragic but the posture and stillness should tell you that something is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Right here, right now.

Scary, isn't it?
Well, this is what life as a writer has done for me. Older, greyer, balder and with a tendency to wear a lot of black. And this is how I am in public, you really don't want to see me during my 'downtime' which is all beard and slippers and shuffling around the street in my dressing gown because, hey, I don't dress for work anymore.
I have been a full time WRITER now for two years!
My, it's gone quickly. And what has it been like? What have I learnt? What would I do differently? So, off the top of my somewhat shiny head here's the list:
1. Worry less. Oh God, where to begin? Crying at my first presentation at Puffin HQ was not the greatest of starts. I can laugh about it now, sort of. Then there's Amazon rankings, lack of five star ratings and wondering why I'm not on 'The South Bank Show', or 'Desert Island Discs' or even 'Woman's Hour' (yes, I listen to a lot of Radio Four) when it seems like every other author and their granny is.
2. Don't read books with exploding planes on the front cover when flying to New York. In hindsight that seems pretty obvious.
3. Don't headbutt other authors at their book launch. It was only a light tap, I hasten to add.
4. Realise most people don't look like their author photos. There's a reason we write, in cold, small, lonely dark dens. We're not meant to out in public that much. It's safer for everyone. Then you go to some event and are introduced to someone and only when they've left does publicity tell you that you've spent the evening spitting canapes over Stephenie Meyer*/Roald Dhal**/Dan Brown***. I've realised that if someone doesn'thave a name tag that's because they're IMPORTANT. Does Obama wear a name tag? No. Point made.
5. The internet is the biggest source of procrastitation ever invented. Facebook does not count as research. But Spotify is GOOD.
6. Make 'tax-deductable' your mantra when on holiday.
7. Editors have lives too and are not sitting around staring out the window just waiting for your call, even though they should be. And let's be honest, when they send you a manuscript with over six hundred comments what they're really trying to tell you is REWRITE THE BLOODY BOOK.
8. Writers don't believe in Christmas or holidays in general. Or sleep.
9. A lot more people make your book work than you could ever thank. So, in no particular order thank you to Lins, Ari, Wendy, Lisa, Jonathan, Stephenie (not Meyer, in case you were wondering), Tamara, George (not actually a bloke), Jonathan (actually a bloke), Jeni, Jo-Anne, Sam, Neil, Telka, Sarah, Sara, Sara, Julia, Helen, Kathryn, Lee, Alan, John, Conor, my girls, my wife, my family.

*Okay, I've not actually met Steph, but I have met her editor.
**Yes, I know he's dead. I'm just trying to make a point, alright?
*** I had a big Dan Brown joke in Devil's Kiss but the lawyers demanded it be cut. I'll have to tell you about it one day.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Billi SanGreal, Book 3#

Or, what I'll be doing over my summer holidays.
Actually, it's not so straightforward as that.
What I can tell you is:
1. I'm writing it.
2.I have no idea if it'll be published.
There was never any plan to publish a third book. One thing I wasn't keen on was a trilogy which had a second book that was all set up. I've come across a lot of trilogies where, as you go through the second book, you really it's all just a long, long build up and nothing's really going to happen except you'll be left with a cliff-hanger. That really annoys me, mainly because I've forgotten what happened by the time the third book comes out. Hence when I wrote Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess each book (more or less) was designed to stand alone.
The fact is, I love Billi's world. I want to explore more of it.
Basically, it's all down to sales. If Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess do well, then Billi 3 will come out. If they don't, ah well, let's look at something new.
Not that something so minor's going to stop me. Sometimes, you've just got a story and you have to tell it.
So, what I can tell you is Billi's turned 16 and her birthday is 14th July, Bastille Day. For those of you who've read either book you'll know the SanGreal's have French background and it's family background which will form the basis of the story. Also, the plot centres around one of the ancient Templar Treasures. There were four and we've had The Cursed Mirror and the Holy Grail (oops, butter-fingers, Billi!) but in Book 3 we uncover the real game-changer.
What else? The action will move to the Middle East (this may change, slightly), so a trip out there is on the cards.
The plan is to work out the synopsis and the first 20,000 words, just to see what's developing. I try not to tie the books down too much so synopses aren't really that significant, but it's always handy to have some sort of plan, even if you go on to develop a better one as you write. For example the final drafts of Dark Goddess (and Devil's Kiss) were nothing like their original plans.
A final word? If you insist.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Classic heroes

I put this picture up because it's Sean Connery, at his most cool (though I suspect he's actually holding an air pistol) and for me he'll be the definative Bond.
However, there's a new version that's been out and about, the Young Bond series, written by Charlie Higson.
They're based on the books rather than the films and take place in the 1930's, when Bond's a boy and just started Eton and living with his aunt, soon after his parents death on a climbing accident.
Then we've got Young Sherlock Holmes by Andrew Lane, which I'm just reading right now, and last week a new tv series started on BBC, called Sherlock, which takes our two interpid heroes (Sherlock and Watson) and imagines what they would be like if they operated in the modern day.
Firstly, the question is WHY?
These are classic heroes who work perfectly as they are. Fleming purposefully kept Bond's background obscure, and I'm sure he had his reasons, the man's enigma is part of his appeal. Ditto Holmes. He's barely sufferable as an adult, as a kid you'd imagine the whole school lining up to slap him one for being such a smart arse.
But, but, but...
Young Bond is brilliant. What appeals to me is Bond's innocence. Granted, I've only read the first few, but he's noble in a way he isn't in the Fleming books, but there are subtle hints to how he'll turn out, a blunt instrument serving the government. There's a modern sensibility in the YB books, especially his attitude towards the female characters (remember as an adult he'd treat them as disposable pleasures) that's a necessary change and reflected in the movies too, where the women stick up for themselves a bit more than they used to (and, of course, I'm all for action heroines!).
I'm only half-way through Young Holmes and the Death Cloud and Holmes is smart, but learning from two unlikely mentors, an American and a street urchin. The principles of deduction are steadily forming as the story progresses and there's a healthy dose of straight action too, plus a suitably macabre mystery. What's interesting is (so far) it's not set in London, Holmes's natural stompim ground, but we'll see how the rest of the story develops. Check out the interview with the author at BookZone.
The new tv series I expected to HATE. But it works. The guy who plays Holmes is perfectly suited, smart and arrogant and excitable, very much like Jeremy Brett, the actor who defined Holmes back in the 1980's and 1990's. What's brilliant is Watson. In the original books he's a Afgan veteran, so is a man of action far more than how he's been protrayed in most Holmes' sagas. I think this is the masterstroke, the appealing Watson. Guy Richie did something very similar in the movie last year (which despite everything else, worked because of the chemistry between Downey and Law).
I suppose what I'm saying is that I approached these stories as a bit of a snob, not wanting to like them. We have the classic originals, but with the right writer and right team, they can be seen afresh, allowing you to fall in love with them in a new way. The fundamental character remains, it's clear the writer loves the template he's working from, and what's done is done with love and passion, with wit and a lot of style and charm.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Wot I have read this year

We're half-way through the year so I'm going to look back at books I've read and see if there's any trend developing, or not.
So in no particular order:
1. The Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur. Bernard Cornwell's take on the Arthur legend. Cornwell is still THE MAN.
2. S**t My Dad Says. Hysterical and strangely moving.
3. Path of the Warrior by Gav Thorpe. Some of you may know I'm into my WH40K and especially eldar (space elves, basically). This is so cool and I wish they'd made it into a trilogy, rather than a very condensed single novel.
4. The new Darren Shan about Crepsley. Managed to get an ARC of this one and Shan's story is very readable BUT it's the beginning of another long series so not a huge amount happens.
5. The Thin Executioner by Shan. Brilliant and a self-contained book. Shan ventures into Middle Eastern fantasy and a story about a boy finding his purpose in life. Which is to chop off heads, or not.
6. Carter Beats the Devil. Fantastic story sent in 1920's America about a stage magician.
7. Demon Covenant and the first Morganville Vampires book. You know what, they're the ONLY YA books I've read this year!
8. Skeleton Key, Furnace, Witchfinder, Curse of the Gloamglozer, Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth, PJ and the Last Olympian, Double or Die, Eagle Strike, Warrior Heir, Mortlock. Basically I went through a burst of mid-grade fantasy books to get me in the zone for writing my India book. Very helpful and very confusing. I've an issue re: YA v. mid-grade division and might discuss this later. In a nutshell I think it makes no real sense at all.
9. Build a New Kingdom. Templars, nuff said.
10. Let the Right One In. Now that's a vampire book.
11. The Gladiator by Scarrow. I love historical fiction and Scarrow's Roman series staring Canto and Macro is great fun.
If there is a trend it's defined by ACTION. Nothing too high-brow or literary and certainly no soppy romances in that bundle, is there? Maybe as the evenings draw in I might move into cosy tales of forbidden love and lingering looks and the such, but I doubt it.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Hood, Part 2 (spoilers if you haven't read Devil's Kiss!)

“Where’s Johnny?” she asked.
Robin watched Billi sly-like, his dark eyes twinkled in the lamplight. “What says I brought him?”
Billi laughed. “Come on out, Johnny.”
A shadow broke from the corner of Middle Temple Lane. The light caught on a shiny bowler hat and the guy stepped out, his hands tucked deep into his overcoat.
“M-m-miss SanGreal,” he said with a bow. He wiped his round face with a yellow handkerchief and tucked it away in under the hat. He looked like a clown, Big round waist and baggy trousers held up with red and white striped suspenders. The jowls wobbled as he walked and his hair, two tufts either side of his ears, seemed to slid across his face as they formed a pair of archaic mutton-chops. Johnny Little’s face was simple and open, except for the eyes. Small, sharp and darting, something unpleasantly ratty.
“Come in,” said Arthur as he leaned out the upper window. “But guns by the door, alright?”
“I am unarmed, Art,” answered Robin.
“I was talking to fat boy.”
Anyone else would have been collecting their guts off the floor. It amazed Billi, even now, how her dad got away with it.
“Of, of, of course, Mr Arthur.”
Billi took their coats. Robin slid his umbrella into the waste bin beside the door and Johnny unholstered a pair of Berettas hanging from shoulder holsters. He reached around his back and unclipped a shiny Smith and Wesson revolver. Then he lifted up his right trouser leg, he wore suspenders on his socks, and a small antique Derringer came out of the band around his thick chubby calves.
“That it?” asked Billi.
Johnny smiled shyly and took off his bowler. A Glock 26. He peeled off the tape and handed it to her.
“A girl’s gun,” said Robin. “You keep it, Billi.” He sighed. “Lord knows you should update your training. How many times have I told you father? All these swords and axes, it’s all very traditional, to be sure, but where’s the efficiency?”
“Swords don’t jam.” But it was more than that. Guns attracted a lot of unwanted attention. They were noisy and left a lot of clues. You brought a sword, you left with a sword. No shell casings lying around. No smell of cordite. No bullet holes in the wrong places, or the wrong people. You couldn’t fight the Bataille Tenebreuse with guns.
The three men settled around the dining table while Billi put on the kettle. Billi was more than aware how they were arranged. Arthur let Robin sit at the head, with Johnny opposite him. Johnny was going to regret that.
“Any Redbush?” asked Robin. “I’m trying to cut down on my caffeine.”
“Getting the jitters?” asked Arthur.
“My life is exciting enough, Art.”
Billi leaned against the worktop, watching the silence.
Robin, ganglord of Nottingham, rarely came south. But he still knew everyone and everything of interest in London. Johnny and Robin’s cousin, Much, kept tabs on the underground activities of the capital. A lot of people made the mistake of taking Johnny’s stutter as slowness. But his guns spoke like heavenly choirs.
Robin drummed his well-manicured fingers on the plastic table covering. “I see you’ve done up the place. You know, I do have a beautiful set of Chippendale tables and chairs I could have –”
“Not interested.”
Robin looked over at Billi, shaking his head. “There’s a truck not far from here that ... strayed en-route to Stella’s on King’s Road. Billi, why don’t you go with Johnny and have a look, while I talk to your father?”
“Billi will stay and listen,” replied her dad.
“Money, Arthur. Where is it?” snapped Robin.
“What money?”
Robin leaned forward, the humour gone. “Don’t be facetious, Art. You are much in arrears. I’ve let it go for old times’ sake, but I have my reputation to think of.”
“We had a deal, Robin. Payment for information.” Art didn’t move, but his voice fell flat. Not good. Billi glanced at Robin but he didn’t pick up the change in tone. Maybe he’d been out of London too long. “You didn’t deliver, Robin. And I lost good men.”
“That was unfortunate.”
Billi stiffened and her fingers tightened on the wood. Unfortunate. Kay’s death was unfortunate. Somehow her hand found the heavy ceramic jug. She forced herself to put it back down.
“No more until you demonstrate you’re value for money.” Arthur laughed. “Anyway, isn’t robbing city boys keeping you green? Or is the market’s flooded with stolen Rolexes?”
“It’s the credit crunch, Art. The city boys have taken to wearing Hong Kong knock-offs. It’s a sad day when you can’t trust a banker.” He looked cautiously at Arthur. The gap between then was about a metre. It wasn’t a wide table. “I appreciate that I was late in delivering, but you know that isn’t how it works. You owe me.”
“I beg to differ.”
“That’s a shame. A terrible shame.” Robin lifted his hands. “I’d hate to think what might happen if I lifted my guardianship. The dangers lurking out there, you know all too well. But without my eyes keeping look-out? Well, I don’t fear for you, Art. But Billi.” He held out a hand. “Poor Billi has lost so much already.”
Arthur smashed the stool across Johnny’s forehead. Robin leapt up, knife springing to his hand but Billi buried her boot in his guts. Her knee followed through into his nose and she swung the jug across his temple. Robin dropped, gasping. Arthur whacked Johnny again, to be sure.
“Never threaten me and mine. Ever,” he whispered. He leaned down and lifted Robin up by his hair. “London is my city. It always has been, always will be.” He wiped Robin’s face with his hand, making sure the man saw his clearly. “You’re not a fool, Robin. You’re a business-man. Think what it will cost you to drag this out. We fight to the finish, remember that. To the finish.”
He straightened up and pointed to the door.
“You’re dripping all over the new vinyl. Get out.”