Monday, January 30, 2006

Some things about Macmillan New Writing authors.

I see that my fellow Macmillan New Writer Michael Stephen Fuchs has got himself a very cool website, promoting his own forthcoming book, The Manuscript. Go there. Read an extract. Be impressed. I was.

I have also discovered that Aliya Whiteley, whose novel Three Things About Me will be published by Macmillan New Writing in July, has her own website too. I love the squiggly type effect when you roll over the menu bar. Go on. Try it out. It's fun.

Incidentally, I was browsing the MNW website, checking out the bios of the other authors, when I turned up a few interesting, not to say impressive facts. Brian Martin, the author of North, has an MBE for services to English literature. Cate Sweeney is a successful playwright with a number of professionally produced plays to her credit. Conor Corderoy is both a horse tamer and a qualified barrister.

I could go on, but it's starting to make me feel inadequate. All I've done is write a book. Needless to say, I feel honoured to be in their company.

Friday, January 27, 2006

If only.

The good folk over at Macmillan New Writing have been busy. Not only is the shiny new website up and running, they have also been sending out press packs whipping up interest in the first six titles.

As if that wasn’t enough, I received a huge stack of glossy postcards featuring the cover of my book. (Taking Comfortby Roger Morris. ISBN: 0230 001378. Available in all good bookshops from April 2006. To order direct, visit:

‘Send them to everyone you have ever known,’ was the accompanying exhortation.

I couldn’t possibly do that. No, no, no. I’m far too reticent. What would people think?

If only I could learn to be a bit more upfront about my writing endeavours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ranam again.

Don't mind me. I'm just having a look at the latest version of the RANAM logo on screen. Hmmmm. Nice.

And if you're stuck for something to read, why not check out this new website.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sorry, Queen’s Wood.

We took the kids to Queen’s Wood at the weekend, for a bit of fresh air and a run-around.

Luke taught us a new game. Forty-forty-oh. It didn’t seem to make much sense when he explained it, but when we started playing it, everything slotted into place. It’s like a cross between Hide and Seek, and It.

I love Queen’s Wood. It’s one of my favourite places in London. Especially in the autumn or winter. And having a certain kind of mind (twisted?), I always imagine dark and macabre happenings taking place amongst the mossy boughs. Of course, I put one such happening in my book.

It was strange going there on Sunday. I felt a little shame-faced, as though I owed the wood an apology. Because, actually, it is innocent. The terrible event took place in my head, not there. And now, as the book’s release date approaches, I wonder what impact my betrayal (for it feels like a betrayal) will have when it becomes public.

Will the wood be over-run by hordes of literary tourists? I very much doubt it. And it wasn’t really that that bothered me. It was the sense that I had used Queen’s Wood for my own purposes.

I had the distinct impression that the trees had the hump with me.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My heart was pounding as soon as I saw the label.

‘What is it?’ demanded Rachel at my shoulder. The postman’s 7.30 hammering had brought her down from the shower.

I ripped open the cardboard without answering. I couldn’t speak.

‘Have you been ordering books again?’

These were books, but I hadn’t ordered them.

‘Advance copies,’ I mumbled. I tried to make my voice more assertive: ‘My advance copies.’

They have arrived. By special delivery, after being air-freighted to the publisher. One hardback, one paperback. (The paperback is for the Irish market, apparently, and for airport bookshops.)

They are both beautiful.

They have spot varnishing on the cover. Think of that. Spot varnishing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would ever write a book that would have spot varnishing on the cover. Yes, I fantasised about winning the Booker. Even sketched out an acceptance speech. But spot varnishing? I would not have dared.

By one of those bizarre coincidences, today is the anniversary of my Dad’s birthday. I really wish I could have shown him these beauties. He would have been proud.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Shepherd’s Hill murder, revisited.

I got it wrong.

They’ve put a poster up in Highgate tube station showing the murder victim. Turns out he wasn’t an elderly Afro-Caribbean gentleman at all. He was white. And a descendant of Alfred Lord Tennyson, to boot.

Hallam Tennyson.

Must have been a bad photocopy. And it was night. And the copper was reluctant to let the flyer out of his hand.

One thing I did get right. He would have had some interesting stories to tell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Froogle me.

I’ve been checking my amazon associates figures to see how many copies of Taking Comfort I’ve sold through the plog's advertising links.

The current figure is... let me just check again… oh yes, zero.

There are three possible reasons for this.

Reason one – no one can see the amazon box on the right, or the search box at the bottom of the page. Invisible links would naturally suppress sales. I have to confess that I am one of the ones who can’t see these links, at least not on my PC at home, though I can see them on my mac at work. Strange. Must be the internet’s way of telling me not to be so self-obsessed.

Reason two – the book isn’t available yet. Okay, you’re waiting for it to come out. That’s fine. But I would hate for you to be disappointed. The best way to avoid that is to place your order now, then you can be sure of getting your copy as soon as it’s out. And in good time to take part in Read A New Author Month.

Reason three – people have ideological objections to buying stuff through amazon. That’s fair enough. I admire principles in others because I am so incapable of holding firm to them myself. So froogle me. You’ll find a number of other online retailers offering my book, though I should warn you, none of them is as cheap as amazon. Ah well, that’s the price you pay for having principles, I suppose.

Monday, January 16, 2006


I've been doing a spot. Over on the Cusp of Something.

My thanks to Jai Clare.

The things they say.

It was my daughter Claire’s eighth birthday last week. So on Saturday night we hosted a sleepover for eight little girls. I know, I know. Madness. Particularly as Rachel and I had to give up our bedroom to accommodate them.

It wasn’t too bad in the end. The threatened hysterics at 2.00 am were headed off by Mum joining the girls on The Floor of Mattresses.

Sunday morning I emerged bleary-eyed from the bathroom, to be accosted by Claire’s best friend Caitlin. She looked at me intently before pronouncing: ‘You look good without your glasses but you have a tiny head.’

I widened my eyes in mock outrage.

‘Well, you have,’ she insisted, before heading downstairs to join the others.

‘I may have a tiny head but at least I’ve written a book!’ I shouted after her. Okay, I didn’t. But I should have done.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wooden cooking utensils, revisited.

Okay, I’m obsessed with my sitemeter. It was bound to happen. I have that kind of personality. And like most addicts, I want to drag others down with me. So go on. Scroll down to the bottom and click on the little green sitemeter icon at the bottom.

Don’t say you don’t want to. You know you want to. Don’t say you’re afraid. What is there to be afraid of? It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll make sure nothing bad happens to you. What could happen? You’ll love it. There’s nothing like it.

It will open your eyes and blow your mind. You will discover, for instance, that someone came to my blog after googling ‘wooden cooking utensils’.

To that person, whoever you are, I can only offer a belated apology. I’m sure this site was not quite what you were looking for. I hope that in the 0 seconds you were here, your life was enriched, even if not in the way you expected.

I’m afraid this is not a site about culinary implements. But if you are interested in kitchen knives, I know just the book for you.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Where was I on the evening of the 21st?

Last night, as I walked down Shepherd’s Hill from Highgate tube station towards Crouch End, I was stopped by a plain clothed police officer investigating a murder.

He had in his hand a leaflet with a colour photograph of the victim. But it was dark and he seemed reluctant to let go of the leaflet. Obviously, he didn’t have enough copies to give out to everyone. The man in the photograph appeared to be an elderly Afro-Caribbean gentleman. He had a neat white beard, that much I could see. He was killed in his flat, which the policeman pointed out to me vaguely.

The murder took place on the 21st December. Was I in the vicinity that evening? It was a Wednesday. I must have walked down the hill exactly as I was doing last night. Had I seen anything suspicious? I didn’t think I had. Had I ever seen the man in the photograph round and about? I looked again at the white beard. I thought I would have remembered that face if I had ever seen it. So, no.

I felt a strange regret. He had an interesting face, now that I looked at it more closely. You had the sense that he had stories to tell, and the ability to tell them in an entertaining way. He looked like he would be good company. But he was dead now. And I had never known him. Never would.

The policeman didn’t seem to expect anything but negative answers from me. There was a definite sense of going through the motions. He seemed to find the exercise pointless, and was already casting about for the next pedestrian to stop, almost as soon as he began talking to me.

Of course, being a writer, I found the experience fascinating. I wanted to keep the interview going as long as possible and felt a keen sense of disappointment when he began to wrap it up. ‘Is that it?’ I felt like saying. ‘For Christ’s sake, this is supposed to be a murder investigation! Is this all you do? Flash a leaflet at passers-by, two weeks after the event?’ I wanted to help, too. Desperately. I even considered lying, just so I could be involved in the glamour and excitement of the investigation. ‘Yes. I see him around here a lot. That night, he was being bothered by a gang of teenagers. They all had hoodies on so I didn’t get a good look at their faces.’ Thankfully, I restrained myself.

It was given an added significance for me in that we were standing not far from Queen’s Wood, the place in my novel where a murder victim’s body is discovered. And Highgate tube station is where the story begins. So we were very much in the territory of my book. I felt, for a moment, that I had conjured this encounter out of my writing.

And, of course, I couldn’t help comparing the guy interviewing me to Barry, the fictional plain-clothed policeman who figures briefly in my book. In fact, weirdly, I almost believed it was him. Despite the gravity of the occasion, I couldn’t help smiling. I hope they didn’t take it as a sign of guilt.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Shocking fillers.

For slightly more than the price of a book by a new author, we bought the kids a couple of walkie-talkies from Argos. (I hope Claire and Luke never read this, by the way, because as far as they are concerned the walkie-talkies came from Father Christmas.)

Needless to say, the damn things failed to work properly, pretty much right from the outset. One of them alternates between silence and an annoying crackling noise. The other one makes the annoying crackling noise constantly. If you press the buttons, it will also fart.

Rachel says we should take them back, but as I have vowed never to set foot in Argos again, this is unlikely to happen.

Besides, even when they were working properly, they were shit. The range, which I tested by walking away from Luke as we communicated inanely, turned out to be around twenty paces. In other words, we could still hear each other talking in more or less our normal voices, and didn’t actually need walkie-talkies.

Oh, how I wish I had spent the money on a book by a new author.