Sunday 25th March 2007
Must tell you about this! Today I met the youngest daughter two old friends of mine, Jo and Adrian: the girl's name is Esme, and she's not yet one year old. Now: Jo and Adrian didn't name their daughter after the Esme in Black Tat – in fact, they named her (partly at least) because of the person I named the fictional Esme after, if you see what I mean! But they knew well before Black Tat was published about the book's heroine and what she's like, and they approved thoroughly. And you know what? This 'non-fictional' Esme seems to have a surprising amount in common with her fictional namesake.
Esme has an intensity about her. Right now she obviously can't say much more than 'Da,' and that sort of stuff, she's too young, but you can tell Esme's mind is full of secret and powerful thoughts, and while I was with her she proceeded to prove it.
I was sitting next to her on Jo and Adrian's sofa, dressed all in black as usual. To be honest with you, folks, babies aren't really my strong suit(!) but Esme and I were getting on OK: she was examining the shiny black buttons on my overcoat, touching them with her fingers and looking pensive.
'Ninnnnnnnnnnn...' says Esme (winning my total respect forever) '-ja.'
'Adrian,' (I ask), 'did Esme just say "Ninja"?'
'She did!' he replies, calling Jo to make it official. It was definitely deliberate too, she'd just been watching a cartoon about sinister pie-stealing ones with her sister: Esme's first proper word was NINJA! How cool is that?
Friday 16th March 2007
What a lot of MySpace friends you seem to have got - around four hundred now, I see. And I have to admit it, for a repulsive shape-shifting blancmage monster you've got surprisingly good taste in comics authors, record labels, celebrity horror icons and, er, shrunken head vendors.
You've been quiet for a while since you mentioned on your blog that you're still trying to track me down. If you still want to battle this out to the finish, I'm ready when you are, of course. But just in case, I wanted to try to contact you again here first.
Jagmat: I honestly thought I'd treated you right in Black Tat. I've always aimed to be a friend to monsters everywhere and, no matter how unprepossessing you might be on the outside, I think the things we have in common outweigh the things that keep us apart. By all means let's feast on each other's brains – but how about if it was in a less literal way, by learning from each other?
Come on, Jagmat. Can't we talk about this?
Tuesday 13th March 2007
John Jude Palencar, the wonderful artist whose work appears on the UK and US editions of Black Tat, has just got himself a beautiful new website You can check out a whole load of his stuff, including (on the third page of the 'Illustrations' section) a certain painting of Charlie floating in the air in front of the palace of Hell! Quite how a first-timer like me ended up with such a breathtakingly fabulous piece of art on my book is still, frankly, beyond me. And now a wide selection of other pieces by Mr Palencar are available online for me to gawp at whenever I like: ahh, the ever-evolving wonders of t'internet! [Cheers, John! ;)]
Friday 9th March 2007
This week's been kind of intense, to be honest. Among other things, I've been painfully aware that I haven't been updating this page as often as I should, and I'm sorry about that. But that problem is going to get worse for a while I'm afraid, because on Monday I started work rewriting my NEXT BOOK.
Now: that's never an easy thing for me. Even with the help of a letter full of excellent suggestions from my editors, my first reaction on reopening an early draft of a book is always one of absolute horror. So many dreadful things to fix! How will I ever manage to fix them all? AAAAGH!
Well, when I'm worried about stuff, I have a weird nervous habit: I snip at my hair with scissors. And this time...
Nobody mention Britney Spears! (;p
Wednesday 7th March 2007
Something else unusual happened to me last week. At my event at Corbett's bookshop, a lady came up to me and accused me of "introducing evil into innocent young lives."
As you can imagine I objected to this pretty strongly, and for a number of reasons. For a start the lady hadn't actually read Black Tat: she just didn't like the look of the cover. That didn't exactly help her case against me in my opinion, but I decided to let that slide: where I really had to disagree with her was the 'introducing' bit - evil, and where it comes from.
It was the lady's strongly held conviction that human beings start their lives in a state of blameless innocence. According to this view, it's only the influence of 'evil forces' (and she presumably included me in that category) that first gives young people the idea of doing bad things. Well: as you'll probably have worked out if you've read Black Tat, I think that's just nonsense.
Human beings are naturally born selfish. As babies (ask any parent!) one of the first things we have to learn is that other people exist in the world apart from ourselves, and from then on we still have to work on our empathy. We constantly have to remember that just because we want things, it doesn't mean it's all right to kill, hurt or take advantage of other people to get them. In short: people aren't somehow "born good". Being good takes effort.
The lady and I kicked this point around a bit, but she wasn't really listening, we didn't really get anywhere, and eventually she felt she just had to walk away. But the conversation left me mulling things, and a week later I came across an article in the ever-excellent New Scientist Magazine that tied in with all this quite nicely.
At Harvard University in the USA, a gentleman called Marc Hauser is currently conducting a research test into moral judgements: how they work, what they consist of. If you click on this link you'll find a site where he's setting up an interesting survey: a Moral Sense Test. If you're interested – and the site is working! there may still be some technical problems! – you can contribute to the research by taking it. Full information and FAQs are included on the site. The test is short (taking around fifteen minutes to complete) and it might help the continuing effort to understand how humans think about stuff – hardly an unworthy endeavour, I hope you'll agree. So: are young people really just innocent flowers, prey to the first whiff of brimstone from the likes of me? Hey, everyone! Let's find out! ;)
Mean time, the single biggest reason why this was a very silly argument for me and this lady to get into was summed up with piercing clarity by one of the members of the reading group I'd visited earlier in the week. When I told the group that one or two of Black Tat's reviewers had objected to the book on the grounds it didn't agree with their beliefs, this young man looked astonished and said, "But it's just a story."
Bingo. Books are full of ideas, that's one of the things that are great about them. Some of these ideas will be scary. But they're just ideas. And it should be up to the reader, the reader alone, to decide how they're going to handle them.
Moral rant over. Thank you. :)
Sunday 4th March 2007
What a terrific week that was. It's left me physically knackered - and someone in one of my audiences has given me an incredibly nasty cold to remember them by! - but I couldn't be happier with how it all went. Time's a bit too tight for me just now to describe everything in detail, but here are a few pics from the week to give you an idea.
No: this isn't actually the artwork for the upcoming paperback editions of Black Tat! In fact these are two of the lovely cards that students from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School kindly made for me after one of the sessions I did there on Feb 28th. If anyone from EGA happens to be reading this, thank you very, very much. Check out the giant spider's facial expression on the right-hand one: hee hee hee!
I'd also like to thank everyone from the Marcus Garvey Library Teenage Reading Group, for a really inspiring session on Feb 27th.
This great group came up with some of the best questions I've been asked so far. Brilliant. Carrying on backwards, I want to thank Sonia Swaby for inviting me to Islington Arts and Media School. The Year 8 students there were a real pleasure to talk to – but after five sessions during my day there (a personal record) the school's gift of a bottle of lovely wine was very much appreciated, I can tell you! ;)
Finally, here (above) is a kind of 'widescreen' shot of me doing my thing at The Marlborough School on Feb 23rd. Another huge thank you to everybody I met there (especially Alicia Marshall, the school librarian) for what was another exciting and hugely satisfying day. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the whole week, but the timing of it was perfect for me, too: for the next few months I'm basically going to be hard at work writing - not even coming out of the house very much, probably! Getting out and about to these schools, and the library, and the bookshop – meeting the people I'm supposed to be writing for, and making sure that what I'm doing is actually getting across – well: it was just exactly what I needed to keep me going. I hope everyone got at least something out of listening to me. I certainly got a lot out of talking to you.
Monday 19th February 2007
Take a look at this magnificent Black Tat window that the brilliant Cat has just constructed at Corbett's Children's Bookshop in Ealing (London, UK)...
Isn't it gorgeous? Cat cut the tattoo shapes out on her kitchen table, apparently – awesome! Anyway: this is to let you know that over the next week or so I've fixed up a sort of mini book tour to tie in with World Book Day 2007, which is coming up on March 1st. I'm going to be pretty busy! Check this out:
23rd Feb: All-day visit to The Marlborough School, nr Oxford.
26th Feb: All-day visit to Islington Arts and Media School, London.
27th Feb: PM: Haringey Library Reading Group, London.
28th Feb: PM: Half-day visit to Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Girls' School, London.
The event at Corbett's will be free and open to all comers. I'll be there from 4pm until 7pm for readings, signing, and whatever else happens. If you'd like to come and meet me and hear me do my stuff, then do drop by!
Mean time, if anyone else reading this is tickled by the idea of a visit from yours truly to THEIR school, reading group, library, or bookshop, simply head over to the Visits page of this here very website and get in touch via the email address provided. Hurrah!
Wednesday 14th February 2007
Last night I finally got around to watching The Host, a pretty damn fine giant monster flick from South Korea. I believe it's about to get a cinema release in the US, so I thought I'd write something quick about it here for anyone reading this who's thinking of checking it out. Do. A surprising line in pitch-dark gallows humour keeps you on your toes throughout – there's some stuff in there that you'd never see in a Hollywood film, hee hee hee! And the monster is terrific: a fresh design, satisfyingly solid-looking, especially when it's COMING UP BEHIND YOU. While The Host isn't quite the jaw-unhingeing classic I'd been hoping for – the story wanders around just a little too much for that – it's still well worth the price of admission. For a while there I was definitely in my "monster heaven" - and you can't say fairer than that. Snort! Chew! RAAAAAGH! ;)
Monday 12th February 2007
My hugely talented illustrator and comics artist friend Barnaby Richards has just got himself a new website. His work just gets more gorgeous – and more strange! – every time I see it: do yourself a favour and take a look.
Thursday 8th February 2007
After nearly two years' planning and about a year(so far)'s writing - culminating in a monumental thirteen-hour crunch to reach the finish line - on Friday 2nd Feb I completed the first draft of my NEXT BOOK. Frankly my brains still haven't really recovered, so rather than lash the poor porridge-like grey matter into producing more words to describe for you what the process was like, I've elected instead to show you some pics I took over the course of that day, leaving the 'wisdom bit' up to a few of my favourite writers. Here we go:
'Your job is to sit there and make things up, so do it.'
'Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.'
'Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel sh!t from a sitting position.'
'A writer sitting at a desk is nothing very heroic and yet you have to find ways of feeling heroic because the effort required certainly is.'
'Back to work. I appear to have become completely nocturnal. Am now wild-haired as well as wild-eyed. Badly need a shave, too. God, I love being an author.'
'Most people can start a short story or a novel. If you're a writer, you can finish them.'
...So there you are. No apologies for using two quotes from Mr Gaiman: his blog is currently perhaps the single greatest place to find out what being a writer (albeit a hugely successful and famous one!) is actually like. My thanks, too, to the extraordinarily awesome Ryan North (and T-Rex!) of Dinosaur Comics for my "Stompin' Shirt™". Hint: when (or if!) you read my new book, you'll understand why I chose to wear this t-shirt while finishing the first draft! ;)
Right: now I'm going back to bed.
Monday 29th January 2007
Sorry for any slight radio silence that you may have noticed lately. I'm due to deliver the first draft of my NEXT BOOK at any minute, and I've been working like a crazy person trying to get it all done in time. As I've mentioned previously, the current project definitely won't be a sequel to Black Tat: it's something else, something new. I can't tell you much about it yet, except to say that I've been having a lot of fun with it (destroying London's Houses of Parliament has been a particular highlight!) and when you get the chance I hope you'll enjoy it too. But here's the thing: I also hope you'll forgive me if my News posts are perhaps a little less frequent for a while.
In case you can't tell – and this seems as good a minute as any to mention it – this website is ENTIRELY THE WORK OF ME AND THE WEBSPHINX. None of Black Tat's publishers are directly involved: everything you see and read here has been put together by the two of us. While I hope that – rough edges and all! – this means that the site gives you an unusually authentic look at me and my work, of course there's a bit of a drawback to it that some other author sites don't have. Look at it this way: if you enjoyed Black Tat and you'd like to read more of my stuff, then I've got to be able to go off and write it for you!
While I get on with things like… staring at the monitor until my eyeballs bleed, not leaving the house for days at a time, forgetting to eat and, of course, screaming and yelling at myself [yep, I love being a writer!] …the WebSphinx will continue to work her special site sorcery, and I'll do my best to post News items and other bits and pieces whenever I get the chance. Mean time, rest assured that even if you don't see updates every time you visit, WE WILL BE BACK. On with the sinister masterplan! BWHA-HA! BWHA-HA-HA-HA! Er, (ahem!) 'scuse me.
Saturday 27th January 2007
Here's a small bonus item for you. Last Summer (2006), Random House Children's Books (my UK publishers) produced a limited number of special advance ('proof') copies of Black Tat. These appeared without cover art, and before the text had been completely finalized: the books were sent to British booksellers, the idea being that they would like what they read of Black Tat and (hopefully!) order lots of copies of the finished article to sell in their shops. As I know from my own experience, booksellers are always being sent stacks of proofs like this. In order to make Black Tat stand out from the crowd, one of the RHCB team had the idea of wrapping the book up and tying it with string to make it look like a bundle of newspapers - and I was asked to write the news. Thinking this was a terrific suggestion I agreed, but on one condition: it would have to be a HELL newspaper - one that demons read!
Click here to see what I came up with. I've got to tell you, I had a very happy afternoon thinking up this stuff. It also gives you a little extra glimpse into the lives of characters like Jagmat, Lord Slint and so on. A big thank you to Sara, for putting the layout together! Enjoy! ;)
Wednesday 24th January 2007
Something coming up soon that you might find interesting: February 4th is the birthday of one of my favourite writers, RUSSELL HOBAN. For the last few years some of his fans have marked the occasion in a particularly cool way, by putting their favourite extracts from his books onto special A4-size pieces of yellow paper and leaving them at various suitable locations all over the world. Sounds bizarre? Only as wonderfully bizarre and strange as the writings of Mr Hoban himself, and if you haven't come across his books before then this might just be a fine way for you to discover them. There's a special website all about SA4QE (stands for 'Slickman A4 Quotation Event') where every year fans who take part (or '4Quaters'!) describe the passages they chose, where they left them, and why: to visit, click on this link. For more background info, there's an article all about Mr Hoban and SA4QE from the UK newspaper The Independent here. I'm yet to take part myself, but in a quietly brilliant sort of way SA4QE has become one of the highlights of my year. Do check it out.
Thursday 18th January 2007
I've just heard some rather fabulous news! John Lee's wonderful unabridged reading of Black Tat - see Editions Details - was one of the winners of the 'Tops for Teens' category in US trade magazine Publishers Weekly's 2006 Listen-Up Awards. Here's a link to an article all about it. HUGE congratulations to Mr Lee and the Black Tat audio production team: this award is well deserved for the brilliant job they did. -YAY!
Wednesday 17th January 2007
Contrary to what's written in the blog post below, the WebSphinx has just announced – with no small measure of justifiable pride – that she's now cracked the password issue for the LOCKED section. The old dialogue box that used to pop up if you clicked on the link is now gone for good: instead, we now have a proper page where you can enter the secret password (BWHA-HA-HA!) and unlock the bonus scenes from the book. You'll need to have cookies enabled on your browser, otherwise you'll have to reenter the password for each of the three bonus pages, but this nifty feature of the site is now (we hope) finally and utterly sorted. HURRAH FOR THE WEBSPHINX!
Tuesday 9th January 2007
…So hold onto your lunch, here we go for 2007.
This point seems as good as any to say an enormous THANK YOU to everyone who's written in to the Black Tat Guestbook. I've had a lot of fun with this website so far, but if I had to pick one single thing that was best about it, the Guestbook would be the one. Sitting here in my flat in London seeing all these wonderful comments and questions rolling in from all around the world, especially over the last couple of weeks… I've got to tell you, it's been a huge thrill! But even better than that has been the fact that Black Tat, this story I wrote, has reached you, wherever you are, and made you feel like saying something. I'm touched. I'm stunned. I'm grateful. I'm… I'm… gonna vomit-
-Bleaaaauuuurgh, enough Oscar-speech already! Let's just get on with this, eh?? ;)
First up, we have a couple of new answers over on the Q&A page. Several of you have been asking about what "improvements" Godfrey made to Jack: if you scroll down far enough, hopefully I can scratch that particular itch for you. A question about "inspiration" has come up, too, and you can also read my take on that if you fancy it.
Next, some of you have said you're having problems finding the extra scenes in the LOCKED section of What Is The Black Tattoo? I'm sorry to hear that. I admit the current situation isn't ideal, and the WebSphinx is working hard behind the scenes (as ever) to improve things. But in fact, the setup we've got now is really not too difficult once you get your head round it, honest.
To get to the bonus scenes, click on the LOCKED link. A dialog box will pop up, asking you to put in two things: a username, and a password. The username is 'user'. The password is… for you to find out! 'Nuff said! ;p
Sunday 7th January 2007
Stop it, Jagmat. Really, you're breaking my heart.
So [according to the latest blog post on his MySpace] you tried to tangle with my mate Marcus and got a bit more than you bargained for. Well my squidgey pal, I hate to say I told you so, but you know what? That's what happens when you bother a bookseller.
ARE YOU READING THIS, JAGMAT? You mention in the blog that you saw the last piece I wrote about you here, so I guess you are. Has having your &ss handed you taught you the error of your ways? Guess not, because it sounds like you're still suicidally set on wanting a piece of me.
I want to tell you something. Let's leave aside the fact that if word of your being beaten by a 'lowly human' ever got back to your buddies in Hell they'd laugh you off the throne. I'm not a mean-spirited person (though you're certainly trying to provoke me). I've still got my contacts in the big H., and I could pass the sordid details of this little episode up the line if I felt inclined. But don't worry: I can keep your shameful defeat a secret if you can.
Ask yourself, Jagmat: why are you doing this? Are you really so determined to (ahem: I quote…) '[CENSOR] my [CENSORED] until the snilgs run out of [my] phlorklocks'? Because I tell you, you won't succeed. If you really want to fight, I'll fight. I'll give you a trouncing you'll never forget. But I'm asking you Jagmat: do we have to? Can't we just meet each other instead - man and repulsive shape-shifting blancmange monster, face to… whatever you use for a face - and discuss this like equals, like civilised people?
Well, Jagmat? What do you say?
Friday 5th January 2007
The world is full of them – though, it's true, sometimes you have to dig a bit to get to the good stuff.
Well, let me save you the bother of digging! If you've read and enjoyed Black Tat – as I'm delighted to see from the Guestbook that some of you have – and you're wondering what to choose to read next, then I have a whole bunch of suggestions for you.
Simply click on this link. It'll take you to my reviews page at the booklover's nirvana known as LibraryThing. On the left, you'll see some reviews I've written. I've recently beefed them up a bit: there are now twenty recommendations up there, all to fings I find fine. Plus, on the right, you'll see reviews other LibraryThing people have written for books I have in my collection. It's a personal selection, of course, but the list of titles I've catalogued has grown quite a bit over recent months (especially the comics!) We're up to a whisker under four hundred and fifty books on there now. I happen to believe that everything I've listed is terrific: I wouldn't have put them up there otherwise (Hell, I wouldn't keep them otherwise, it's hard enough to find shelf-space here as it is). Have a go. Try it out. I'm sure you'll find something you'll like. And of course… happy reading!
Wednesday 3rd January 2007
Just a quick reminder: time is running out before the close of the first round of our glorious, gag-inducing NO MONSTERS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS WEBSITE CHALLENGE! Want to be in with a shot of winning yourself the US Black Tat audio edition, complete and unabridged on 11 cds, as read – wonderfully – by John Lee? Or perhaps you just feel like making a hideous mess and taking some pictures of it? If so, either way, well: what are you waiting for? Click on this link and get cracking!
Tuesday 2nd January 2007
Allow me to show you what was probably my favourite Christmas present this year. Yes: Elaine – she of the Chinj and the FSM (see archives for details) – really excelled herself this time, presenting Laura and I with this stylish matched pair of 'his 'n hers' hand-knitted NAUTILOIDS!
Aren't they beautiful? Isn't Elaine a genius?
Read earlier news posts here.