The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker

I’ve been umming and ahhing over this post for a while, now. I’m not very good with self-promotion; it doesn’t sit right with me but, I guess, sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns.

I’ve got a new book out: The True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker. You can get it here. It looks like this:

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There we go: that’s that bit done.

Part of the reason I’m a bit reticent to promote this one is that it’s had something of a difficult birth.

It isn’t the story or the characters; they sorted themselves out, quite cheerfully. What it is is that the book’s racked up some opposition, in The Industry. The main reason seems to be some of the issues it touches on, stuff like censorship, library closures and lying to the masses. It was made pretty clear to me that some people in power don’t like that sort of thing being told to teens.

So, I’ve done it anyway.

Tam is a character that shot her way out of my head in a cloud of gunsmoke and onto the page about a year ago – but I wasn’t quite sure who or what she was at the time.  As I started out writing Tam, there was an awful lot in the media about library cuts, the lack of championing mainstream children’s literature, the government was starting to make noises about what young adults ought and ought not be reading and there was even talk of banning books from prisons. Now, I’m not – or wasn’t – much of a political animal, but I don’t like being lied to, I don’t like being told what to do without good reason and don’t like being dumbed-down to.

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So, like any rational human being, I read loads of Judge Dredd comics, watched a load of westerns, soaked-up some sci-fi and listened to lots of angry music from my less-grey days. The thing that got under my skin was a constant central voice; a figure, uncompromising and with an unwavering moral compass: The Man with No Name from, the Spaghetti Westerns.

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And then I wondered what it would be like if it was a Girl with No Name; a female Clint Eastwood, raining bullets (or laser-beams) and judgement on all that she found wrong with the world.

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Tam Barker was born. Tam Barker: the Last Librarian.

 

You won’t find her demurely telling people to shush; you’ll find her cocking her Smartgun, while trying to hunt down a book banned by the Powers and, along the way, trying to find out who she is.

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That’s about the size of it. Weirdly, this story has started to feel like the book in the book, if you see what I mean: ‘the book they tried to ban’. It might not be quite as dramatic as all that but I’ve found it interesting, frustrating, disappointing and weirdly empowering to have written some words that have caused such a strong reaction.

Pens and swords and all that.

So, the True and Untold Story of the Outlaw Tam Barker is now a real thing.

I won’t be doing much more in the way of spreading the word; I’m hoping that the book will speak for itself and that the word will spread itself.

Final, pithy quote from the book, to end on:

“It’s a truth,” Jangles shrugged. “And a truth’s got to come out.”

 

 

 

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The Legend of the Brentwood Literary Festival

I like a literary festival, me – and I’ve been lucky enough to get a few under me belt.

It’s hard to define exactly what it is I like about them all, because they’re all so different. Hay Festival is quite grown-up and organised, while Edinburgh is a bit more bohemian and have-a-go. Bestival was mayhem – but in a positive and free-spirited way, while Bath was more cosmopolitan and cool. But, they were all brilliant.

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I think what unites them, tents, yurts and books aside, is the gang mentality; lots of people all working together to make things happen. Being part of a gang – even if it’s just for the day – is very life-affirming. Plus, there are all the people you get to meet, even in passing: the unsung heroes backstage, the heroes front-of-stage who are so sung they’ve practically got their own theme tunes and all the people in between.

But what I also like about literary festivals is that, like music festivals, they’ve got their own mythology. Like, if you go to Knebworth (as I did to go and see Oasis), you can’t help but be swept up by the history, myths and stories that surround the event: “This is where Led Zeppelin did such-and-such…” “This is where the Stones did so-and-so” “This is where Freddie Mercury said…”

All these stories seem to have been soaked up by the land itself, giving each festival its own feel.

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I think the same’s true of literary festivals. “This is where Anthony McGowan…” “This is where JK Rowling…” “This is where Malorie Blackman…” All these little events and stories go on to create the myths, legends and verbal tapestries that surround each literary love-in and help to make it the event that it is.

This is, in part, why I’m so pleased to be appearing at the Brentwood Literary Festival. Apart from being an independent festival, put together by the heroic Chicken and Frog bookshop, it doesn’t yet have its own mythology.

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It’s myth-free. Legendless. Bereft of tales.

But I’m lucky enough to be one of the first to start the threads of wherever this tapestry takes itself. Not by being outrageous or stupid, but by doing what we do and seeing where it goes. All the authors involved; we’re starting a story that, fingers-crossed, will be built on and embellished and altered until the Brentwood Literary Festival has its own feel, its own identity and its own tales to tell.

And, by coming along and supporting it, you get to be part of that, too. You get to start the “I remember when…” stories and the “This is where…” stories and the “Did you know…” stories.

But, more importantly, you get to say:

“I was there, when this story started.”

 

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The TommyvCancer Blog Tour – The Bash Street Kids

This blog has been written to show support for an Author of Might: Tommy Donbavand. In March 2016, Tommy was diagnosed with cancer and the bell rang for the fight of his life! Rather than lie down and take a battering, Tommy’s been slugging it out with the Big C and has posted almost every aspect of his battle on his website. I’m not a great reader of blogs, but this one is superb: funny, moving – the whole shooting match. If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to. You’ll find it at: http://www.tommyvcancer.com/

Tommy’s a well-established author, having written the Scream Street series – which is also an animated show on CBBC. But there’s something else about this Man of Many Talents; something that I wanted to write about, because it always has been – and continues to be – a big part of my life.

*drum roll*

Tommy writes the Bash Street Kids strips for The Beano!

How My Bad Teeth Introduced Me to The Beano

I can clearly remember the first time I saw a Beano and The Bash Street Kids. I was born without any enamel on my teeth, which meant endless trips to the dentist. In the middle of the room was a huge, round table that bore a pile of magazines and newspapers: loads of boring stuff for grown-ups. I always had a root through, in case there was something interesting in there, but was always disappointed. Until one, particular day…

I’d never seen The Beano before. I can remember the big red and yellow lettering and the black scrap-cloud that announced that there was somebody called Dennis the Menace involved, with someone called Gnasher involved. I started reading.

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Meeting The Bash Street Kids for The First Time

Once I’d made it to the centre pages, there was a strip called The Bash Street Kids. If memory serves, this was before they were able to use full colour and everything was rendered in black, white and varying shades of orange – and if you looked closely you could even see the little dots of ink that made up the blocks of colour. But there they were: Dany, Smiffy, Plug, Sidney, Toots, Spotty, Wilfrid, Fatty and ‘Erbert – all trying to dodge, prank and fight their ways through another boring school day – watched by the thin, mortar-board-wearing Teacher.

Already a fan of Just William, this was right up my (Bash) street. William and the Outlaws were great – but here, I had nine little rebels to read about, each with their own distinct personality and forever trying to undermine the rules and regulations set by Bash Street School. There was a paper-shop on the way home and I begged my mum to take me in, to see if I could find a Beano. I did and every Thursday after that, a portion of my 10p pocket-money was set aside for buying a copy. Thursday became Beano Day – for the rest of my life.

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My Failed Attempt at Comics

I love reading Tommy’s Bash Street stories. On the face of it, writing a comic-strip looks simple, but it isn’t – years ago, me and a mate wrote a graphic novel, which was bloody awful. What really let it down was the story: you can’t have great artwork, if the story’s rotten.

Comics are a huge and important part of getting kids reading and there’s much more to them than interesting artwork. My son was introduced to the Beano almost as soon as he could read and, years later, we still sit down on a Thursday and chuckle over the antics of our favourite characters. Mine’s Smiffy – I know Tommy is a big Plug fan – but I love Smiffy’s cheerful insanity.

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A Mountain of Sausage and Mash

It might sound daft, but I’m always amazed at the way Tommy treats the Bash Street Kids. These are iconic characters that feel as though they’ve been around since time began and Beano readers don’t just identify with them – they know them – so any deviation from the character just isn’t going to cut the mustard. I’ve been reading Tommy’s work for a while, now and you can almost feel his fondness for the Kids, the school and the strip itself. Put it this way: as a comic-reader, you know when someone’s tinkering with the lore and laws of your favourite characters – it just doesn’t feel right. I’ve never read a Bash Street by Tommy and felt something was out of place: it’s the Kids, as I know and love them and each time I read what they’re up to, I’m six years old, having found a ray of hope in a dentist’s waiting room.

Keep fighting, Tommy! I hope to see photos of you tucking into a Beano-style pile of sausage and mash, in the Not Too Distant.

 

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Tommy Donbavand

This is the first post I’ve done in a while. To be honest, I’d sort of fallen out of love with it – but something important has happened that’s given me a real reason to start tapping the keys.

A while I go, I made friends with guy on Facebook, by the name of Tommy Donbavand. For me, this was a Big Thing, because Tommy writes for the Beano. I still buy The Beano – I’d love to say it’s for my son, but what he doesn’t know is that I read it in the car, while I’m waiting for him in the playground.

Sorry, buddy.

The Bash Street Kids and Scream Street

One of my all-time favourite strips is the Bash Street Kids. I love their characters, the way they’re drawn ad the relentlessly-insane things they get up to – and who creates those bonkers storylines? Only Mr Tommy Donbavand!

Not only that – but he wrote the Scream Street series of books – totalling over 100! That’s a proper writer!

So, it was dreadfully upsetting to hear he’d been diagnosed with the Big C. But, in true Bash Street style, he’s using all his creativity, optimism and strength to battle it out. I reckon if he could use a catapult on it, he probably would.

Tommy Gets Tough!

In the wake of this news, Tommy’s started a blog: Tommy vs Cancer . Now, you might be thinking it’s all grim and that – but this guy writes for The Beano, for crying out loud! He IS the Bash Street Kids! It’s not grim – but it is incredibly moving and sometimes very funny. And incredibly brave. If you’ve not read it – do.

So, this is where blogging comes in.

There’s a blog tour on the go, to raise awareness of Tommy’s fisticuffs with the Big C. A lot an author’s income is generated through school visits, talks, personal appearances – that sort of thing. The trouble is, when you’re dosed up to the gills on chemo and radiotherapy, those things aren’t going to happen. So, along with doing his best Rocky impersonation against cancer, Tommy’s watching a sizeable chunk of his income dwindle.

We’re not going to let that happen. And neither’s Tommy…

How Can I Help?

Tommy’s set up a Patreon page, where schools, budding authors, librarians and anyone who wants advice from one of the best in the business can get it. All the details are here: Tommy’s Patreon Page

This is where my admiration for the man gets even more: he’s not taking this lying down and he’s not asking for freebies – he’s set something up that can benefit YOU and help him. Which, in my humble opinion, takes balls the size of maracas.

So, there’s a blog tour a-comin’ and if you want to be involved, then drop Viv DaCosta a line at: vivienne_dacosta@hotmail.com You can be a blogger, an author, a Beano reader or just somebody who wants to lend a hand – but give it a go.

If you don’t do anything else, check out his blog and Tweet your support.

 

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Apelo a todos os blogueiros brasileiros!

Oi, pessoal! Estou muito animado que missão improvável finalmente fêz sua maneiraao Brasil e eu estou ansioso para ouvir o que você acha de aventuras casual do Archie. Se algum de vocês quiser entrevistar um autor velho cansado, por favor entreem contato a leitores brasileiros e a comunidade de Blogs tem sido incrivelmentesolidária e eu gostaria de retribuir de alguma forma que eu posso! Muitas felicidades emuito obrigado. Andy.

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My Love of Chadda

On March the 7th, at approximately 7.50pm, I was reminded why I love Sarwat Chadda so much. Picture the scene: there I am, hosting the inaugural UKYABA ceremony and I remember, mere seconds before I announce an award, that the publishers sponsoring it aren’t there.
Dizzy on adrenaline, I went through the available options:
1) Do it myself
2) Pick someone else to do it.
As the number two screamed through my head, I scanned the expectant faces of nominees, publishers and authors and there, nodding away to himself, was Sarwat Chadda. The perfect stand-in – although he didn’t know it until about three seconds later.
My reasons for picking him might seem arbitrary on the face of it, but I have some history with old Sarwat and it all flew together, like filings to a magnet, to inform my choice.

The Force is with him

Sarwat is entirely responsible for my first ever launch party. The one with the stormtroopers.
When my first book, Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind, came out, ARCs were sent out hither and thither – and one of them ended up on Chadda’s lap. Bless him, he read it and even went so far as to offer up a quote that is on the inside page. If I remember rightly, I emailed him to thank him and we ended up in a virtual conversation about launch parties. As a first-time author, I didn’t even know they existed but Sarwat convinced me it was a thing worth doing. Not only that, but he found me a venue and suggested we meet up, before accompanying me to bludgeon the managers into submission.

Me and Sarwat Chadda - superb author and utter gent. Although you might not know it from the picture...

Me and Sarwat Chadda – superb author and utter gent. Although you might not know it from the picture…

Meeting Sarwat is an experience. When we met, it was in a café in London and he was wearing a long, white coat that made him look like he’d just finished work in a laboratory. But the thing about him that struck me was that he treated me like he’d known me forever, even though we’d never met before. He was affable, talkative (with a capital T) and ridiculously enthusiastic about my book – not even bothering to refer to his formidable canon.
Of books. Titter ye not.
Without further ado, he swept me into Waterstones on Oxford Street and secured the venue with me and for me.
But that’s only one of the reasons I love Sarwat Chadda.

The Show must Go on!
The next time I saw him in the flesh was at his home. By that point, I’d never been to the home of a proper author and it felt like I was being welcomed into his inner sanctum. That night, along with thee bewildered guests, we played a game of Deathwatch – which he masterminded with judicious glee. He acted out the parts of Orks and Dark Elves like it was: Sarwat Chadda – Live from the Palladium!

But it’s not that, either.

All Decks Stand By

I think I discovered my fondness for Sarwar Chadda on reading his Ash Mistry books. For those of you that haven’t, I suggest you do – they’re epic, action-packed stories, based around the central figure of Ash: a geek who is forced to stand up and fight.
That’s Sarwat.

Sarwat is a geek to his teeth. His Facebook posts often regale his followers with his latest triumph or defeat in the world of role-playing games or his latest literary escapade. But, beneath the D20s and the dungeon-crawling, Sarwat – like Ash – is a fighter.
I’ve met plenty of actors – and authors – who will try and fluff you about what’s happening next in their staccato careers – when we all know they’re as subject to the whims and fancies of their chosen creative vocations as the rest of us.
Not The Chadda (as I’ve come to think of him)
The Chadda is as disarmingly honest about his troughs as he is about his peaks – and it’s this, I think, that makes him the Constant Champion of the Underdog. Having been that underdog, I can reliably tell you that there’s no-one better to have on your side. Like his character, Ash, he’ll risk bringing his own world to its knees to make sure that yours gets a chance.
That’s why, in that flash-hot second, I picked on him to help me out.
Sarwat’s got some exciting stuff going on; if he’s not on your radar – find that shaven-headed blip and tune into it.

andy and sarwat
The Chadda is a proper gent and no mistake. Don’t let his boat sail without you.

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The UKYA Book Bloggers Awards 2015

As an author, I’ve been consistently humbled by the entirely altruistic support offered-up bloggers. Those lovely folk are always creating posts about us and creating awards for us, which found me asking the question in the Autumn of 2014: are there any awards for UKYA bloggers?

Awards for UKYA Book Bloggers

Without wishing to steal anyone’s thunder, I’ve recently found that there are a few campaigns underway – most notably from http://daydreamersthoughts.co.uk/  This awards thing is in no way meant to undermine or invalidate what’s being done by her or anyone else – it’s simply a case of two people having the same idea at roughly the same time. However, what really got me scratching my head was that, once again, it seemed down to the bloggers to redress the balance and vote for each other.

 

My plan was to create an awards ceremony that, bar one category, has been voted on entirely by people working within the industry; publishers, authors and publicists – but not bloggers. What I wanted was for bloggers to feel as validated as they make authors and publishers feel and I wanted it to work the way that awards work for authors: awards are announced and you suddenly find yourself in the sweaty, put pleasurable position of being on a long list or a short list.

The Story so Far…

I dropped Malorie Blackman a line to press her for her thoughts, which were wonderfully supportive. Next up was to contact authors, publicists and publishers to see how they felt about it. The response was uniformly positive; everyone has been happy to give up some time to help me get this thing off the starting blocks. It seemed as though the industry has been waiting for something like this – all it needed was some numskull to get the ball rolling…

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Since September, there have been a ton of emails flying around. Industry folk have contributed ideas, voted and helped me out immensely; while I might have started the machine up, since the first emails flew out, it’s been a team, industry-based effort.

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On a more serious note, this isn’t going to be perfect. I’ve never tried to get anything like this together, before, and as it’s my first go, I’m sure there will be a few mistakes to count up afterwards. Firstly, there may well be authors out there who didn’t get an opportunity to vote – all I can say is that I’ve tried my best to spread the word as far as possible. Secondly – and I think this is the most important point – this isn’t meant to be a divisive thing. When you’re an author and you’re suddenly pitted against others in some category or another, it’s always seemed to me to heighten the sense of camaraderie, rather than splinter it. I’m hoping that everyone will approach this in the same spirit; it’s a nod to ALL the hard-working, generous and passionate UKYA book bloggers out there, whether they’re on the short list or not. By the very nature of an awards thing, there are going to be those who are in the spotlight. There will be winners. But, there won’t be any losers: this is designed to be a celebration of you lovely bloggers, served-up with a side order of fun.

 

Lecture over.

What I Can Tell you at the Moment

So: what’s happening?

 

Here’s the website to watch: www.ukyabloggerawards.co.uk Over the next few days and weeks, the long list will be announced, followed by the shortlist. There’s also an opportunity for bloggers to vote on a particular category: the Blogger’s Blogger Award.

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Soon – very soon – I’ll announce the venue, date and time and there will be an awards ceremony, with a superb range of prizes, sponsored by publishers, trophies, sponsored by a marketing company and, hopefully, some speeches. Invitations will be sent out to authors, publishers, press and, of course, the stars of the night: bloggers. On the night, the winners will be announced. I’d love as many people to come as possible, from every avenue of the industry, to show bloggers just how much they really are valued. If we get it right, it should be a great night and, with a bit of luck, it’ll become an official, annual event.

 

I think that covers it. If you do come along, it might be worth bringing a bottle or a cake – I haven’t quite managed to sort out catering for the night – but I’m still working on it.

The Wheels are Still Turning!

Finally: a huge thanks to everyone that’s got involved. What started out as a bit of an idealistic pipe-dream is coming together at a rate of knots and without the input and generosity of the publishers, publishers and authors, there’s no way this would ever have got off the ground.

 

I really, really hope to see you there.

 

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Liebster Award

I have Jesse Owen to thank for this – which is finally prompting me to write a post! If you don’t know Jesse, he’s a fine chap and a well-respected book blogger whose mere word can reduce an entire publishing house to rubble. It’s rumoured that, without him, JK Rowling wouldn’t be where she is, today. In short, to refuse his challenge would end my prospects of writing anything ever again. If you want to quake in fear of his terrifying influence, you’ll find him on Twitter as @ThatJesseBloke or lurking on his website, here: www.thatjessebloke.co.uk

So, according to what I understand, I have to come up with 11 facts about me, answer some questions and nominate some other folk to do it. Here goes:

11 Facts About Me

1) I am a huge fan of the Rolling Stones.

2) I don’t like Twiglets. To my mind, it’s like eating twigs that have been dipped in Marmite.

3) I don’t like Marmite, either.

4) I have played in a few bands: One Man Short, The Furtles, The Sunday Club and The Raggedy Dogs. None of them were any good. Although, there was a band I briefly played in, called Hot Slacks and we nearly appeared in a Franco Zeffirelli film about Maria Callas.

5)  I always wanted to be Bodie whenever I played The Professionals at school.

6) I broke the index finger on my right hand, during a broadsword fight with my best mate. Miserable Jim. It never quite healed straight and still gives me gyp in cold weather.

7) I had 11 teeth extracted at the age of nine. For a couple of years after, I could pull the best faces in my class. Lower jaw up to my nose – that sort of thing.

8) My younger brother is taller than me, which he takes great delight in reminding me.

9) My first pet was a hamster called Migel. Apparently, a cousin of mine had one called Nigel and I was so enamored of it that my parents got me one. I was very young and couldn’t say ‘Nigel’, so Migel  it was.

10) My mum knitted me a 24 foot long Dr Who scarf. I still have it.

11) The first girl I sent a Valentine’s card to was called Sophie. I was about four and I couldn’t write properly, so I had to get my mum to help me do it. She drove me to Sophie’s house and I stuck it through the letter box. On Monday, Sophie announced that she was in love with Martin and was probably going to marry him. I still loved her, anyway.

The Questions

Why did you start blogging?

It was part of the deal of becoming an author. I didn’t – and rarely do – have a clue what to write about. My first blogs were about what it’s like to live on a boat. Thankfully for everyone else, I decided they weren’t that interesting.

Which is your favourite book?

The Lord of the Rings. I have others I like, but that’s the one I keep going back to.

Which is your favourite film?

There are loads, but I think it’s Star Wars: A New Hope. As a kid watching it in Exmouth’s ABC Cinema, it completely blew me away.

Which documentary would you recommend and why?

Gimme Shelter – the documentary about the Rolling Stones; ill-fated concert at Altamont is a fascinating glimpse into how music once had an enormous social and cultural impact on things. I’m not sure it does to the same extent, today. And I know it’s not a proper documentary, but the film, Microcosmos is just incredible. And anything with that Attenborough chap in.

What has been your favourite vacation destination ever and why?

I’m not much of a one for holidays – it’s not something I was brought up with, so I don’t really do them. If I do go away, I go to Exmouth, where I was born. It’s where my mum lives and seeing her is a holiday in itself.

 If you had an open ticket to wherever you wanted in the world, where would you go?

Exmouth.

What would be your dream job?

I think dream jobs should stay dreams. Once you do them for real, you find out all the bad stuff about them that you don’t know about. But, in dreamland, I regularly play guitar with the Stones.

 Who is your biggest blog inspiration?

I think all the book bloggers I’ve encountered have been pretty inspirational. The fact that they do it for nothing and completely out of passion never ceases to amaze me. I might have something to say about that in December…

Which other hobbies do you have aside from blogging?

I play guitar and harmonica, paint miniatures and read.

 Who is your biggest life inspiration?

My mum and my son.

I Nominate

No pressure to do this if you don’t want to, but here you go. The nominations are *drum roll*….

Dave Cousins

Bev Sandford

Philip Reeve

Sarwat Chadda

Sarah Benwell

Sarah McIntyre

Jo Nadin

Karen SAunders

Matt Imrie

Darran Stobbart

The Rules

  • Link back to me in the blog post
  • Tell us 11 facts about yourself
  • Answer the questions above
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers or authors
  • Create your own 10 questions
  • Let those you’ve nominated know
  • Let me know you’ve taken part so I can see your answers

 

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Books Are My Bag


Why Books are my Bag

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I’ve always loved books; I was one of those kids who could generally be found in the school library or in my bedroom, with my nose firmly between the pages of a paperback. But with the whole Books Are My Bag thing, I decided to have a long, hard think about exactly why I love books – both as a faux-grown-up and as a younger reader.

So, here goes…

  1. Escapism. I’ve always read – everything from comics and RPG rulebooks to books about insects and fantasy novels. My childhood memories of Marvel comics certainly informed my reading tastes later in life; I was always looking to escape and imagine myself as something other than I was. However, the escapist thing really came into its own when my parents were splitting-up. That was the period where I read most voraciously and probably nailed my colours to the wall as a fan of fantasy. Life at home was pretty dreadful and books gave me an exit to other worlds and allowed me to inhabit other people. It allowed me to leave all the bad stuff behind.
  1. Company. You’re never alone with a book. You’re surrounded by friends and can immerse yourself into a story so much that you’re almost part of the narrative. This really came to be important to me when I split up from my son’s mother and found myself living on a houseboat in the middle of a river with little or no signs of life around me. Without the intelligence or know-how to rig up my DVD player, I fell into the comfort of books, reading as much as I could, whenever I could. I think it was during this period that I made some of my bigger leaps in terms of trying out new stuff. But, whatever I was reading, each book gave me a new set of friends and a new story to get lost in.
  2. 4kgajNew ideas. The best books for me are the ones that have something to say. That’s not to say there’s no room for the lighter stuff, but I like books to challenge me and maybe make me think of things beyond my comfort zone. Books are supremely valuable in this way, because you find yourself – no matter temporarily – having to assume the mind-set of someone who might have completely different views on life to yours. In my idealistic way, I have a notion that if we could all fully understand how the people we don’t relate to think, we might get a step closer to solving our problems with each other.
  1. Spreading the word. There’s that lovely, but slightly bitter, moment when you turn someone on to a great book. Lovely, because you know you’ll be able to yap about it at a later date and bitter because you’re slightly envious of all those experiences they’re going to have that you’ve already been through, with the characters and the story. But it’s a great thing to be able to point someone at a great book and welcome them ‘into the club’.
  2. image (6)Telling tales. For me, there’s no better thing than reading my son a bedtime story – and I’m dreading the time he gets too old for it! I’ve found some new and brilliant books just through doing this and I always look forward to snuggling up with him, putting on my best narrator’s voice and starting that first page. I like doing the character voices too, but that’s because I’m a show-off.

I’m going to be joining a load of other authors across the UK on October 11th in banging the booky drum and letting folk know why we do what we do, as part of the Books Are My Bag campaign. If you’re in the Kentish area, I’ll be at Little Mouse Books, from 10 o’ clockish. Be good to see you there!

 

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YALC 2014 ( A Coward’s Guide to Chairing) The Last Bit

So, it was off to do the signing bit. There was a sort of makeshift corridor of trestles and false walls, with authors scribbling and giggling with queues of fans and bloggers. I was lucky enough to find myself placed next to Bryony Pearce, who I’ve bantered a bit with on Twitter but, until that point, had never met. She was sporting a fantastic Firefly costume, which looked a little warm in the heat of Earl’s Court, but I’m pleased to report that she was as lovely in Real Life as she is in the Twitterverse. We gushed a bit about who we’d met and the  she happened to mention that the tall chap next to her was Jonathan Stroud.

Photo courtesy of Bryony Pearce

Photo courtesy of Bryony Pearce

Let’s just say I’m a fan. I love the Bartimaeus books and couldn’t finish the first of the Lockwoods because it scared me too much. Having not had the bottle to have a moustache-off with the Great John Hurt or pat Carrie Fisher’s dog, I decided to step-up to the mark and say hallo.

Like one of my other heroes, Philip Reeve, Jonathan is kind of what you want a writer to be: well-spoken, unassuming and sort of quintessentially English. Not a short twit in a Marvel shirt making a bit too much noise. Jonathan and his family were lovely and I found myself wishing I’d brought the Amulet of Samarkand with me, so he might sign it for me. Hopefully, there’ll be other times.

Darran Stobbart appeared out of the crowd. I’d met Darran briefly once before, at the Waterstone’s Book Prize, when Geekhood was on the shortlist. Although it’d only been a short hallo, I took to him very quickly and we’ve Twittered at each other a lot over the last couple of years. So, I hauled him over the table to come and sit in with me. I’m told that when I nipped to the loo, he actually signed a book, pretending to be me! I do hope this is true…

yalc3c

And then Jesse Owen appeared. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Jesse might appear to be a bit shy but, once he gets warmed-up, he’s a hoot. According to him, he doesn’t get out much, but I think he’s lying. In fact, I’d like to issue a challenge to anyone living in the Bristol area: if you see Jesse out and about, Tweet me a photo. I intend to disprove his theory that he’s a shy bunny with an online “Where’s Jesse?” photo campaign. Go on, do it. Here’s one of him with people, proving he LIES!!!

Photo courtesy of Sarah MacIntyre

Photo courtesy of Sarah MacIntyre. Jesse in blue, hating me for dragging him into the photo.

There were so many bloggers there that I’m hard-pressed to remember exactly who I met, but I remember being enthusiastically halloed by Blondie Camps, grinned at by Charli and laughing a lot with Books Bandit who was generous enough to forgive me when I thought she was someone else with the same name. And of, course, the ever-lovely Laura Heath was there, running in around in a hat not dissimilar from mine. I like to think I may have helped shape her blossoming fashion-sense.

If I met you, but haven’t mentioned you, I apologise – but it was busy.

I tell you what – if you RT this, then feel free to stick your name in this sentence:

And a real highlight was meeting……….

Hope that gets me out of trouble.

All too soon the signing was over and it was back to the Green Room to goggle at more famous folk and wish I had more guts to go and talk to them.

I don’t know how long I was there but, eventually, my body decided it was time to eat, so I snuck off for some food, before returning for the Post Gig Party.

The thing with publishing people, from fans and bloggers to publicists and authors is that everyone just seems lovely, like we’re all part of some Big Club and we all look out for each other. At the do, I saw Paul Black, who was looking after Patrick Ness. I love Paul. Not only is he consummately brilliant at his job, he’s got one of the most instantly-engaging personalities in anyone I’ve ever met. He’s funny and caring and an all-round good egg. It was a pleasure to see him. It always is.

This is the Publicity Guy. For real.

Paul Black. Wearing white.

Dave Cousins said hallo and I saw Sarwat Chadda being very tall, but I was starting to flag. Malorie Blackman made a touching speech and there was lots of clapping and a group photo, but I was done. Shortly after that, I said my farewells and made my way back to my car.

The YALC was brilliant and everyone should be proud of it as an achievement. I’ve seen some stuff on Twitter about its imperfections – some of which I agree with – but I think it’s worth bearing in mind that this was the First One. Even LFCC had to start somewhere and I bet that first foray wasn’t the well-oiled machine it is today. The important thing is that it happened at all; details can be ironed-out with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight but, for me, it’s enough to say that I was there and I was part of it.

And so were you.

That moustache is now gone.

That moustache is now gone.

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