Sunday, 29 January 2012

15 Days Without a Head in bookshops now!

I'm not sure I'll ever get lose the thrill of seeing my book in a bookshop. More than any other part of the process, finding a copy on the shelves makes it finally feel real. 
I was delighted to walk into my local branch of Waterstones and find 15 Days Without a Head at number six in the Kids' Chart!

And number ten in the store paperback chart!


Huge thanks to the staff at Waterstones and to everyone who has been in to buy a copy.

During my recent schools tour, I spent a day with Nigel French from Cole's Books in Bicester. After a great morning with students from years 7 and 8 at The Cooper School, we managed to find time to grab half an hour to browse his fantastic bookshop.


I was extremely chuffed to find myself next to Phil Earle on the display. Cole's are selling signed copies of 15 Days Without a Head through their website, with free postage and packing to UK addresses. (see the link in the sidebar)

It was also a pleasant surprise to walk into my local Empire cinema to find 15 Days postcards on the racks, next to Sky Hawk (a superb book by fellow OUP author, Gill Lewis)


But possibly the best thing about the past few weeks has been going into schools and having the opportunity to meet students, and talk to them about books, writing and wanting to be an astronaut! The response to 15 Days Without a Head has been fantastic. So a big thanks to the staff and students at The Broxbourne School*, St Gregory the Great and King Alfred's Academy in Oxford, The Cooper School in Bicester and Bruern Abbey, Oxfordshire – for their time, enthusiasm and cake!*



Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Blog Tour #10: 15 Days Without a Head – On Location.

After fifteen days on the road, the blog bus doesn't smell quite as sweet as it did when we started. It's been a great trip though, stopping off at some of the best book blog sites on the internet and meeting some fantastic folk in the process. 
Appropriately enough, our final stop brings us all the way back home to Hardacre. We've parked the bus in Parkview Parade, under the shadow of The Heights, and are taking Cicely on a tour of some of the locations used in 15 Days Without a Head. Why not click over to Cicely Loves Books and join us.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Blog Tour #7: My Dream Holiday - if you can dream it, you can go!

In 15 Days Without a Head, Laurence attempts to win an all-expenses-paid holiday of a lifetime courtesy of local travel company, Hardacre Holidaze. Readers sometimes ask what my dream holiday would be like … 
You can find out at The Book Zone (For Boys) – today's stop on the 15 Days Without a Head Blog Tour.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Blog Tour #5: "Give your ears a go on these!" - Mina's playlist for Laurence

After a great fantasy dinner party with Sister Spooky, the 15 Days Without a Head BLOG TOUR is back on the road – only things are getting a little fractious. As we pull up outside Books 4 Teens, Mina is putting Laurence straight, regarding what he should be listening to on the Blog Bus Stereo …

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Blog Tour #4: The Heights of Sophistication: My Fantasy Dinner Party

What happens when you put a world famous detective, a future-world assassin and a tunnelling dwarf on a roof together, and hand them each a bag of chips? 


Find out at today's stop on the 15 Days Without a Head BLOG TOUR, when we join Sister Spooky for a fantasy dinner party at The Heights.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Publication Day! Wahey!

Huge congratulations to my fellow Edge authors Sara Grant and Katie Dale on the publication of their debut novels. The first two of Katie's Fairy Tale Twists series for younger readers are published today by Orchard, and Sara's excellent dark dystopian YA novel Dark Parties, by Orion. 


Today is also the third date on my 15 Days Without a Head Blog Tour. I'll be returning to chat with Vivienne at Serendipity Reviews as well as dropping in to see Emma at Book Angel Booktopia to choose the Song of the Month.


Oh, and 15 Days Without a Head is now officially out. Wahey!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

1 Day Without a Book! Countdown to Publication #15: On my desk – objects no writer should be without


15 Days Without a Head will be in bookshops tomorrow! By way of celebration, I have been publishing a new post here every day, for the 15 days leading up to publication. The idea was to provide a few bonus items, such as you'd expect to find on the extras disc of a DVD. Today is the last of the 15 posts. To read the rest, scroll down or see the archive at the bottom of the sidebar. Thanks to everyone who has been following and left comments. But this is by no means the end!

Today is the second stop on the 15 Days Without a Head Blog Tour, where I'll be visiting some of the best book blog sites on the internet to talk about 15 Days, writing, books, music and The World's Largest Rubber Band Ball

To find out more, join me over at Feeling Fictional and take a tour of the attic where I write.

Tomorrow: 15 Days Without a Head will be available in the bookshops and I'll be visiting Serendipity Reviews and choosing the Song of the Month, for Book Angel Booktopia.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

2 Days Without a Book! Countdown to Publication #14: 15 Days Without a Head On Tour!

15 Days Without a Head will be in bookshops in 2 days time. By way of celebration, I will be publishing a new post here every day, leading up to publication on Thursday. The idea is to provide a few bonus items, such as you'd expect to find on the extras disc of a DVD – except these will be available before the main feature of course.


Today is the first day of the 15 Days Without a Head Blog Tour, where I'll be stopping off at some of the best book blog sites on the internet to talk about 15 Days, writing, books, music and Monster Munch, probably!




The first stop on the tour is Writing from the Tub, where I talk about writing in the first person and what it was like inhabiting Laurence's head. To read the blog and check out the other great reviews and articles on Writing from the Tub, click here.


Tomorrow: Take a tour of my writing room with Feeling Fictional.

Monday, 2 January 2012

3 Days Without a Book! Countdown to Publication #13: 15 Days Without a Head Original Soundtrack

15 Days Without a Head will be in bookshops in 3 days time. By way of celebration, I will be publishing a new post here every day, leading up to publication on Thursday. The idea is to provide a few bonus items, such as you'd expect to find on the extras disc of a DVD – except these will be available before the main feature of course.


The start of my musical adventure – check out the carpet!


Music has always played a big part in my life. I was lucky enough to spend nearly ten years touring and recording with a band, and was nearly famous! My leather trousers have long since been retired, though I still pick up a guitar most days and keep a stack of vinyl records in the attic for those moments when I need a blast. I envy writers who can actually write with music on. I’ve read that Stephen King listens to rock while he works, but there are others who need absolute silence – William Hussey, for instance, often writes with earplugs in.


I think I’m somewhere in between. I certainly can’t write while listening to music with words, and usually work in silence, but during the final stages of 15 Days Without a Head, I created an eight hour playlist of instrumental music which helped me through the long, and often late, hours I spent revising the manuscript. (Big thanks to RF who introduced me to much of the music on the list.)


I’ll often compile a soundtrack for the book I’m working on, it provides a reference for the mood I’m trying to create. Playlists for characters can be useful too, as it helps to get inside their heads. (A couple of the stops on my Blog Tour will be dealing with this in more detail, including Mina’s playlist for Laurence)


The one below is a small selection of the music I was actually listening to while working on the book. The Original Soundtrack album, if you like … 


1. Biosphere – People Are Friends



(I think the video for this is brilliant. It captures the cold concrete essence of The Heights and Laurence's belligerent determination to survive. Great track too!)


3. Gonzales – Overnight 


4. Max Richter – Autumn Music 1 
(I dubbed this one Laurence’s theme)

5. Max Richter – Sunlight 
(And this one for Mina) 



(There had to be one from Elliott and some of the words from this seemed apt.)



7. Stars of the Lid – Down 3



("There's a saying round here that goes: How do you know when you reached rock bottom? Answer: You wake up in The Heights")



9. The Cinematic Orchestra – Prelude


10. Tord Gustavsen Trio – At Home


Tomorrow: is the first stop on my 15 Days Without a Head Blog Tour when I’ll be visiting Writing From The Tub to talk about Getting inside Laurence’s Head.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

4 Days Without a Book! Countdown to Publication #12: You make your own luck! Customs to welcome in the New Year.



15 Days Without a Head will be in bookshops in 4 days time. By way of celebration, I will be publishing a new post here every day, leading up to publication on Thursday. The idea is to provide a few bonus items, such as you'd expect to find on the extras disc of a DVD – except these will be available before the main feature of course.

The theme of luck runs throughout 15 Days Without a Head. DJ Baz, is constantly asking Laurence, “Do you feel lucky?” This was deliberately ironic, given that for most of the book Laurence is having a hard time and could be forgiven for thinking he is the unluckiest person in the world. It is only when Laurence feels that fate is so stacked against him, that he might as well give up, that he remembers his Nanna's belief that luck can be influenced:

You make your own luck – that’s what Nanna used to say. She believed that if you expected the worst, that’s what you’d get. But if you counted on good things happening, then they usually would. The Power of Positive Thought, she called it.”
(from 15 Days Without a Head)

It is strange when you consider that luck, by definition, is random, and yet every day people modify their behaviour in attempts to influence it: not walking under ladders; wearing lucky underpants to watch football (or is that just me?); not opening an umbrella inside the house. There is no scientific reason why these things should change what happens to us, and yet if we break a mirror, many of us might admit to a momentary feeling of uneasiness about the seven years bad luck the superstition warns of.


Given these tendencies, it’s not surprising that there are many New Year customs around the world, designed to bring good luck in the following twelve months. The first twenty four hours are believed to be crucial and will have a huge impact on the fortunes that follow. 


Many customs in this country concern themselves with the idea of luck flowing into or out of the house. First-footing is probably the most well known. The details vary from region to region and have evolved over time, but all varieties seem to involve the person doing the first-footing (ie. the first person to enter a dwelling in the New Year) having a lucky characteristic – dark hair, for example – and carrying certain objects – coal, is a common one.


First-footing from Punch, 1897


There were also widely held beliefs in the nineteenth century, that it was inviting bad luck to let anything leave the house on New Year’s Day, especially fire.
“At any other time they would be quite happy to let a neighbour or stranger take a live coal or taper to light their lantern or house fire, but not at New Year.”  – The English Year
Another superstition that may provide a legitimate excuse to steer clear of the laundry basket today, is that it was thought to be extremely dangerous to wash clothes on New Year’s Day, as you would be “washing out” one of the occupants of the house (ie. they would die in the following year!) On the other hand, for those fond of washing (themselves) it may be worth noting the Herefordshire custom regarding the “Cream of the Well”. Servants would sit up to see the New Year in and then rush to draw the first water from the well, as it was “thought to be beautifying and lucky. The maid who succeeded in getting it would take it to the bedroom of her mistress, who would give a present for it.” * Unfortunately, I'm not sure the first water from the tap has quite the same properties.


As well as doing everything they could to ‘make their own luck’ for the following year, many people would go so far as to try and obtain a peek into their future
“before retiring to rest the old women opened their Bibles at haphazard to find out their luck for the coming year. The text on which the forefinger of the right hand rested was supposed to foretell the future.” – Folk-Lore Journal, 1886
Of course, this method left much room for interpretation and was the subject of some discussion during the following day. The bible was the book of choice, but other texts, especially poetry, were seen to be just as effective, especially if you were worried about using the Bible for such a purpose. I did consider trying this using 15 Days Without a Head, but I’ll admit to being a little bit superstitious at the best of times and chickened out. You’re welcome to have a go though, I’d be interested to hear what the pages predict!


Happy New Year!


* Much of the information above was taken from The English Year by Steve Roud, a fascinating book for anyone interested in folklore.


Tomorrow: My 15 Days Without a Head playlist.