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.”

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's the losing that matters

Losing. You will. I will. I have and so have you. In fact, I've lost far far more than I've ever won, and that's probably true for most.
Last week I lost the Branford Boase award to Lucy Christopher.
I know, I couldn't believe it either! After all, her book, Stolen, doesn't have a single Templar in it at all!
The truth is, while it was an honour to be nominated, it would have been a greater honour to win. Obviously.
But what can we, the losers of the world, do? A few months ago I attended a young writers award ceremony and the same thought occured, what becomes of the losers? Would they give up writing? Have a little cry and soldier on? Throw a tatrum? Or rationalize why they lost? This wasn't fair, nor was that, etc.
Things to remember:
1. There's always someone more talented than you.
2. And it doesn't matter.
What matters is getting up, dusting yourself off, picking up the pen, tennis racket, football, bat, whatever, and carrying on regardless. Losing is a far better test of character than winning could ever be.
So, I'd like to celebrate some of the greatest losers of the world, and my heroes.
1. Napoleon. Died on a lonely island in the middle of the ocean. But did he rock the world and defined an age.
2. Hector. The loser in the big fight in the Iliad but the paragon of what a loyal, dedicated soldier should be. The perfect HERO.
3. Wild E Coyote. You could do much worse than model your attitude towards defeat than by following his. The same applies to the Vulture Squadron.
4. Dracula. Comes back from the dead time and time again. He's been staked, burnt, drowned, beheaded, drilled full of garlic and he's still at it. Learnt nothing, the poor bloke, but nevertheless, I salute his tenacity.
5. The 300 Spartans. Slaughtered to a man, but never lost their cool nor the pithy one-liners.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Hood- Short story

As you know part of the fun I've had with Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess is taking different myths and fairy tales and given them a dark, modern twist. Obviously the King Arthur mythology is a big part of what I write but Ive always wanted to do my Robin Hood tale. So hear it is. It's just a bit of fun but takes place in the three months between the end of Devil's Kiss and Dark Goddess.

What it explains is how the Templars keep uptodate on the supernatural goings on around the UK. There are only nine of them and they need contacts. Since they operate well outside of teh law it was clear their allies would be amongst the criminal underworld. And of course, what are criminals called but 'hoods'? So meet the original 'hood', a man called Robin...

THE HOOD (Part 1)
Billi emptied the box of padlocks, salvaged door locks and various combinations onto the kitchen table. Arthur grunted and slid his plate off it and onto his lap.
Tuesday nights were lock-picking.
She put the table lamp up near, unwinding the power cable from the tangle around her feet. Of course, she should be able to do it all with her eyes shut by now. Then she unzipped her canvas pencil case and ran her fingertips over the picks within.
Gareth had given them to her for her twelfth birthday. Other girls got shopping trips to Oxford Street and concert tickets, she got lock-picks and archery lessons.
Like she needed archery lessons.
She rummaged around in her school bag and pulled in the headphones. Lockpicking called for something mellow, so scrolled down her list.
Prodigy? No.
Motorhead? Definitely no.
Same with all the classics her dad had loaded on. David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, the Sisters of Mercy. She paused at Abba, Percy’s favourite, then moved to Natasha Atlas.
Music to break and enter by.
There was a knock down below.
Arthur sat up and looked to the door.
“You expecting anyone?” he asked.
“Yeah, right.”
The clock said one in the A.M.
That meant business.
She went downstairs into the dark hallway and passed the line of portraits to the front door.
Billi didn’t bother with the chain. Anyone trying anything stupid here was making the biggest mistake of their soon-to-be-ended lives.
The man wore pinstripes. His hand rested on an umbrella and his hair was a thick trail of dreadlocks, decorated with coloured string and beads, all piled up on his head. A random set of pins and nails held the tilting construction in place, more or less.
“Mornin’, gorgeous,” he said.
“Uncle Rob.” She didn’t move, yet. She shifted her boot behind the door, a move Rob didn’t miss. He grinned and held up his hands. “Don’t trust your old uncle Robin? After all I’ve done for you?”
Done? He was almost as much trouble as her dad. Still, he’d bribed the old headmaster into agreeing to keep Billi in school, which meant she might even pass her GCSEs. Maybe.
“Dad’s not expecting you.”
“Some gangster I’d be if I waited for an invite.”

Saturday, 10 July 2010

But what's it all ABOUT (Part 1)?

So, DARK GODDESS has been out a week and I've had a lot of help across the blogverse in getting the word out. Which may be why you're here.
Hmm, still feeling on a 'OMG top of the world' to 'Where are the dancing elephants?' vibe. There's a huge buzz in seeing the book in the shops and hearing how well it's going down.
DARK GODDESS. Like DEVIL'S KISS but stronger, bigger, more intense. With werewolves. Which is what we want, right?
I'm going to do a BIG roundup of all the bloggers who've joined in the fun (worshippers of the dark goddess, as it were) at the end of the month but it's already pretty big. More have joined in as things have progressed so my Events page was, like out of date the moment I uploaded it. Below are some of the bloggers who've done wonders, do check them out, 'cause I love each and every one. I'll add the others over the next week. If you're interested in:
1. Why research trips are always good. Or 'Sarwat's excuse to go to Russia'.
2. Why Conan the Barbarian is a 21st Century feminist icon.
3. The baddest of the bad bad-ass heroines through history. Or 'where Billi SanGreal came from'. 4. Why Pride and Prejudice would have been so much better with elephants.
5. Tragic romance.
6. Supernatural horror.
7. Swordfights. Lots of swordfights.
8. Why your mother should read Dark Goddess.
Well, I think there's something there for everyone, don't you? Especially your mother.
Here are the links you're looking for.
Wondrous Reads, My Fav Books (Part 1), My Fav Books (Part 2), BookZone, BookZone again, Shelli's blog, Busy Mom, LoveReading, Fantastic Books.
Seriously, do check them out. Their opininons COUNT. I understand Liz takes conference calls from Obama on Fridays. She knows EVERBODY.

Right, I'm off to see Eclipse. Then Predators.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

DARK GODDESS launch day!

It came out today.
Aren't any of you paying ANY attention?
Anyway, if you want to find out more, you're in the wrong place. I've spilled the beans and more on blogs all over the place, as mentioned in the blog just before this one.
So, now's my moment to reflect and thank all those who helped get the damn book written. And for me to apologise for;
1. Being a complete pain in the a*se during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
2. Missing, like ALL my deadlines.
3. Rolling my eyes when I was asked another question about Twilight and if I was going to put vampires in my next book.
4. Missing all my deadlines.
Right, who to thank?
I know I'm going to miss somebody (which is why I'm always wary of acknowledgements at the back of books, since my full list would probably be longer than the book itself). Those who know they helped (because they just KNOW), those who think they helped, those who didn't help but thought they did, and those who should have helped, but didn't.
1. My agent, Sarah (like, d'uh). Greenhouse is becoming a playa and it was great it be there when it all started and we both thought we'd be looking for 'real' jobs by the end of the year. Hey, two years later and still not working for MacDonalds! RESULT!!
2. My wise and ever patient editors, Lins and Ari, to whom apologies 2 and 4 especially apply. Whoops. You're right, Draft One was a shambles. Same applies to drafts 2-4. But at least I wrote quickly!
3. Rest of the Puffin gang, that's Wendy and Lisa and the merry band. It remains immensely cool being at Puffin, 'cause that's where Roald Dahl lives.
4. Conor Leslie. You ARE Billi SanGreal!
5.Alan Steel who guided me around Russia so expertly and helped with all the Russian translations. It's guys like you who make guys like me look so clever.
6. The Foyles crew. Seriously owe you guys, big time.
7. Jon Main at the Bookseller Crow.
8. The family Chadda. Well, I wouldn't be here at all without you, would I?
9. My wife and daughters. Billi SanGreal and my career (such that it is) wouldn't exist without you. And for constantly reminding me that writing isn't everything.
10. Finally you readers! Thanks for joining in on all this! It would all be rather sad without you. The best vidication I have is when I meet you at schools and such. It's a constant honour, being a writer, and no honour is greater than being a children's writer. Just ask the Jesuits.
For those of you who I've forgotten, I'M REALLY REALLY SORRY!