Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cover proofs

Cover proofs arrived a couple of days ago, and I'm very pleased with them. Definitely the best yet. Collectors may see one coming up for auction soon. I've been trying to photograph them in a way that demonstrates the hot foiling - the red bits in these pics. Not having much success, though. Time I invested in a new camera, or borrowed one of my kids' mobile phones, which nowadays seem to produce better pictures than anything I possess.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Winter Wood - updates

*LATEST*: The new US edition of The Various is now available. Go to HOME.

Winter Wood hardback release - January 3rd 2008

New edition, repackaged as 'The Touchstone Trilogy' - Early 2009.

Any changes to this, I'll let you know,

Sunday, June 24, 2007

News from the Front.

At time of writing, my wife, daughters, and sisters - along with assorted nephews and nieces - are battling it out on the Western Front: Glastonbury 2007. A particularly brutal and muddy campaign, so I gather from dispatches, with a body count that doesn't bear thinking about. They're currently bivouacked somewhere south of Healing Fields, and planning a combined assault on the cider tent come nightfall, from whence they hope to strike out for the central arena once regrouped. Slow going, as each stage can only be reached by bog-snorkelling, and that under heavy fire from the dunny carts. Little chance of keeping your powder dry under such conditions - not that I advocate drug-taking in any case.

Ah me, I wish them well. I'd be there with them of course if I wasn't already de-commissioned. (Old head wound, Isle of Wight campaign, 1970.) Meanwhile I can only pace the battlements of Augarde Court, glass of port in one hand and a half-Corona in the other, anxiously awaiting further news. I've some smoked haddock in the pantry, and am planning to whiz up a kedgeree for our brave heroes on their return.

Friday, June 15, 2007

In loco parentis

Giving a child a book that you've never read yourself means taking quite a lot on trust. What might lie between those covers? Sure, the book will have gone through an editorial process, and so as a parent you can reasonably expect the content to be 'suitable' - whatever that may mean. Nevertheless a child with a book is effectively a child in the company of a stranger, and an adult stranger at that.

I am that adult stranger (on occasion) and I feel the responsibility. Children are susceptible. As an audience they're relatively easy to scare, manipulate, and indoctrinate. I feel that children's fiction writers therefore have to be particularly conscious and careful of what they say.

At one level this can simply mean censorship of dialogue. I'm under no illusions. I have children of my own, I've worked in schools and am around kids generally - but there's no way that my characters can be allowed to use the actual language of the playground. Parents wouldn't stand for it, nor would teachers, librarians or editors for that matter. Is this right, though? Shouldn't I be arguing for licence to reflect what is? No, I don't think so. Language is our precious gift. The ability to properly communicate across class creed and culture is essential to our future. I should be attempting to promote a higher standard rather than weakly mirror a low one.

The fact that I don't live up to my own ideals should not be taken as evidence of hypocrisy. Not a bit of it. I'm a pretty good cusser when I want to be, but there's a difference between giving the odd sentence a bit of a tickle and consistently bludgeoning each one into the ground. I keep the volume to a minimum - and down to absolute zero if there are kids around. Bad language should be regarded as bad. That's what makes it so good.

So I have to watch my tongue. I also have to be careful in other areas: religion, politics, sexuality. When you give your child over to me for a couple of days you want to be confident that he isn't going to return as your moral equivalent of a werewolf. If he's been brought up a staunch Protestant, you might be alarmed to find him well on the road to Catholicism. If he's been taught to believe in the sanctity of heterosexual marriage you won't thank me if he now wants to go and live with Uncle Joe and Auntie Nigel. Then there are the 'scenes of a violent nature' to consider. What if your formerly robust and cheerful child is handed back to you a pale and gibbering wreck, haunted by his own shadow? It's no easy dance, I tell you, to be continually on the lookout for issues that might cause pain or affront, and to get the balance right between the deliciously scary and the downright horrific. Well, I can only try. But perhaps I've an overinflated sense of my own power to influence. I'm only in loco parentis after all - just a glorified babysitter. Yes, that's me: the babysitter. Mmwah...ha...ha...ha...