Tuesday, 29 June 2010

This is Rouen, signing off...

Well, there's no getting round it. It's time to put away my beret and baguette, and dust down the old bowler hat and brolly – I'm moving back to England. Actually, I hope to be dumping clichés like that over the side of the boat, but something tells me I won't escape them, wherever I go.

This will be my last post for a while. As is always the case, despite all efforts to avoid it, I'm sure to be cut off from the internet for weeks. But I have decided to try and embrace this spell of analogue life and do things like write postcards and throw pebbles in the sea. Who needs the internet anyway? I've managed to blog once a week during this complicated move, so I hope to do more once the dust has settled. In the meantime, it's the Eighteenth Century for me.

It's very strange to leave a whole life behind, a whole way of life, not to mention another language (bien que je n'aie jamais blogué en français). So many lovely people, so much that's familiar, exchanged for a new town in a country that has changed a lot in the seven years I've been away. But I won't bore you with my strange emotional state. And I have things to look forward to as well, such as the arrival of a certain contract (fingers crossed! fingers crossed!), not to mention the ability to actually say yes to publishing parties. Also, the pub.

So this is me, signing off for a bit. But it's not adieu (unless those clichés capsize the ferry) merely au revoir. Have a great summer and see you soon.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Wasted by Nicola Morgan

Wasted is a story about chance, about Jack who seeks to control it by directing his life through the toss of a coin, and about Jess who has to deal with the consequences. Oh, and it has to be one of the most nerve-jangling books I've read for a long time, though in a good way. I mean, I'm used to getting attached to characters and worrying about them, but Wasted dials that edge-of-the-seat anxiety up a notch. Why? Because not only are we shown how chance determines what is, we also get to see what could have been. And the reader has a hand in shaping both.

The driving force within Wasted is the way small seemingly unrelated moments can combine to determine the course of events, even spelling the difference between life and death. But those moments could easily have been different. What if we had arrived somewhere slightly earlier, or missed a particular phone call? What if someone glanced up and noticed something they might easily have missed? Life is shot through with What Ifs like these, but in Wasted we are given a god's eye view of this process. At two points during the book the reader is even shown the dramatic role of chance through alternative chapters, and then, at the end, it's our turn to toss a coin to decide the fates of Jack and Jess.

I must admit that I wasn't very keen to read this book. I'd got hold of the wrong idea about it and its coin-flipping peculiarity. I imagined it would be like those choose-your-own-adventure books I read as a boy. But I'm a grateful follower of the author's blog and knew this was an important title for her, so I added it to the pile. The fact that it has turned out to be one of the highlights of my reading year shouldn't really surprise me though, because I knew from Fleshmarket that Nicola Morgan writes beautifully and vividly. But to think I almost didn't read Wasted! There's a What If right there.

The voice of the narrator (and therefore the author) is very present in Wasted, and this might grate with some. But don't let it. The presence of the author at our shoulder is key to how the book works. This is a puppet show where not only can we see the puppets and their story, but also the puppeteer, and even the way the strings interact. The result is a completely engrossing reading experience -- literature in the round. Actually, it's like being invited backstage to watch the play, and is all the more fascinating for that.

It says something about how much I got caught up in the story that I took that final act of coin tossing very seriously. I was determined not to sneak a view of the alternative ending, and I still haven't. I flipped the coin and got heads, and with it the end of the story that chance dictated. Then I turned the book round and round in my hands, looking at it, as I always do when I finish something and know I'll never be quite the same again. It is, quite simply, a brilliant book.

Wasted by Nicola Morgan was published by Walker Books in 2010. Nicola's superb writing blog (soon to be a book too) is essential reading for anyone who needs help finding a publisher.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Nose of Not Letting Go

The deadline for my Jack's Tractor HB give away has been and gone, and Higgins the dog has rootled for a winner in the Pink Hat of Fortune (not mine). My foreign correspondent and animal handler has just sent pictures and yes, I can confirm that -- despite Higgins' surprising lack of professionalism -- one name did stick to his snout more convincingly than the others. And so the winner is...

...fellow writer, Natalie Bahm.

Congratulations Natalie! And don't worry – Higgins hasn't slobbered on the book itself. Please send an address and anything you would like me to write in the book to *** at free.fr and I'll put your prize in the post this week sometime.

Who was it who said one should never work with children and animals? Oh well, at least no dogs were hurt in the winning of this book, though I doubt anyone will be wearing that hat again.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Win a Book!

As there are only a few weeks to go before my family and I (minus one refugee cat) head north across the English Channel (for good), I am increasingly living in a cardboard Manhattan of packed boxes, and it won't be long before our internet connection is switched off. Since I can't be on-line at the beginning of July to note the release of the paperback version of Jack's Tractor, let's celebrate early with an amazing, stupendous hardback give away!

Simply comment on this post before noon of Tuesday 15th June (GMT), and you could win this beautiful glossy book about noises and boyses and rhyming animal fun. Your names will be put in a hat and my mother's dog, Higgins, will carefully select one using the latest psychological profiling techniques. If your name is still legible, I will sign and dedicate the book either to you or the young person of your choice and send it off to any valid address you care to give.

So what are you waiting for? Comment without delay! And thank you for leaving me with one less thing to pack.

Friday, 4 June 2010

No cartwheels without a contract, but...

…I think I can risk a small blog post to announce that I've just accepted an offer to publish my novel, The Ghost Effect.

As I'm very cautious by nature, I don't want to even name the publishing house yet, just in case something happens before the paperwork comes through, but I think you can tell by the way I'm grinning that it's a good one. I went to London about ten days ago to meet the publisher and my future editor and had a really rather galvanising and inspirational time. Beside their enthusiasm for the characters and the story, they did say that they think the second part of the novel could do with some work, and I hope I made it clear that I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to make this the strongest début novel I can manage. There was even speculative but exciting chat about the future, but stop, Taylor, stop...

No cartwheels without a contract.

But it's very exciting! All the more so because there were two top-notch publishers interested at the end, and I was able to pursue my chance with the one whose list seemed the more natural home for my book. I'm pleased to say that Boris is utterly speechless about all this, and even Natasha left a congratulatory post-it on her way through to see someone more interesting.

The publication window mentioned is Spring 2012 (gasp), though that's still a quite normal period of delay. The book will be published in all the obvious English-speaking countries... but I'm getting ahead of myself again.

Anyway, to all those who have kept their fingers crossed for me, please feel free to flex again, and thank you for your moral support and kind comments here. My own fingers will remain firmly in the crossed position however, right up until I need them to sign my name on the contract.

Then I'll post a picture of me doing a cartwheel:)