No Pain, No Gain (So not true)

Over the past few weeks a recurring lower back problem has reared its vicious head and . . . well, imagine if someone were to set fire to your leg, encase it in ice, and electrocute it all at the same time. It hurts. And when it continues for weeks, it becomes difficult to see beyond it. Over this time, I’ve learned that constant pain has an incredible way of focusing your thoughts and invading your sleep. Concentrating on anything becomes almost impossible – unless it’s how to make the pain stop.

But, y’know, the pain will go. Eventually it will settle down or some clever doctor will fix it for me, so it’s not all bad. I’m now taking ALL the painkillers, which give me rare moments when the pain subsides with an awesome relief that’s like floating. I’m also very lucky to have a patient and supportive family to cheer for team Dan; although I can see the concern on their faces with every one of my painful, shuffling steps. They’re keeping me strong.

The worst thing about it is that I’ve had to cancel my appearance at the Staffordshire Young Teen Fiction award today. I’m very proud to say that my novel, Big Game, has been shortlisted, and it sounds like it’s going to be such a fun event, with over 200 eager young readers voting for their favourite books and enacting short performances based on the stories. I was so desperate to go, and hung on until the last moment before cancelling. It was a very difficult decision to make but eight hours on the train would have been too much for me and I couldn’t risk making the pain worse.

I feel awful to have let them down, and I want to apologise to them all. I hope the event is a roaring success, and that all those amazing young readers have a fantastic time. Perhaps I will have the chance to meet at least some of them once I have beaten this pain into submission. And I WILL beat it into submission.

In fact, I’m off to get Lucille right now.

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That’s all.

Being an author: It’s all about the parties and clever anecdotes.

I have been asked on more than on occasion, and more than once by the same person, ‘Don’t you get bored sitting on your own all day?’

Well, y’know, because the job ‘Being Han Solo’ was not available, and nor was ‘Space Pirate’, I opted for the next best thing. I’m an author. To some people, that might sound as if I just sit on my own all day waiting for inspiration, but I wait for nothing! What I actually do is sit on my own all day and MAKE UP STORIES.

Yep, I get to spend all day adventuring in the jungle, fighting off bad guys in the wastes of Antarctica, hunting in the forests of Finland, or nudging downriver in the wilds of Brazil. It’s tougher than it sounds. The words don’t always come as fluently as I’d like them to, and sometimes they don’t want to come at all, but I slog at them anyway. I do what Jack London suggested, and I go after inspiration with a club. I usually manage to catch it and beat it into submission. (And no, I don’t watch daytime TV. That’s not how novels get written.)

It's all about the parties!

It’s all about the parties!

When evening comes, I pack away my typewriter, slip into my tuxedo and then it’s off to those wonderful literary parties. Oh, yes, I’m at a party every night, martini glass in hand, regaling my influential friends with some clever and hilarious anecdotes. Oh how we laugh. And usually there’s some sort of fiendish crime that needs to be solved, which is lucky because there’s always a clever crime writer on hand to . . .

Yeah, that’s not quite it. In fact, I’m not sure where that misconception comes from. Why do people think that writers’ lives are glamorous affairs filled with parties and erudite conversation? And why do authors in stories always seem to have such fabulous adventures?

Could it be because writers have created those fantasies? About themselves?

Okay, so the reality is that I spend a lot of time on my own writing stories that I like – and hope other people will like too (especially my publisher!) – and then I pick my children up from school and the erudite conversation goes something like this . . .

Me:                  So what did you do at school today?

My Son:          Stuff.

Me:                  Oh. Okay. What kind of stuff?

Son:                 Y’know. Stuff stuff.

Me:                  Okay. Umm. Tell me three things you did at school today.

Son:                 Lessons, lunch, and . . . I dunno, breathe?

Me:                  *sigh*

 

 

When I reach my daughter’s school, she gets in the car.

 

Me:                  Hello, darling, how was school?

Daughter:       All right.

Me:                  What did you do? Anything good?

Daughter:       Lessons.

Me:                  Anything else?

Daughter:      Not really.

Me:                  Too tired to chat?

Daughter:       Mm.

And people wonder why I spend all day making things up.

Libraries, Schools, and More Books!

It’s been a while – I mean a LONG while – since I last blogged. It’s nothing you’ve done, though. It’s not you; it’s me. Sometimes things fall by the side of the road and it’s a while before you notice you dropped it and then . . . well, it’s too late to go back and pick it up.

Except I have come back to pick it up. Finally.

The last time I was here, it was to say that Boy X was about to be published. Well now it has been published and I’ve been zooming about visiting schools and talking to lots of brilliant young readers about Ash McCarthy’s jungle adventures and about some of my own jungle adventures too.

I always have a little nervous anticipation when I visit schools because I want my visits to be fun and interesting and inspiring for the students, but I always come away feeling uplifted – and I am always amazed at the energy and excitement of young readers. I go to schools in the hope of inspiring young readers, and find that they inspire me.

 

Oh, and the school librarians I meet – the brilliant people who  spend time organising and preparing for the visit – are always SO welcoming. Their love of story in all its forms, from books to comics to films, gives us so much to talk about and share, and they do so much to inspire a love of story in the students who pass through their libraries. It’s always a pleasure to meet them and spend time with them. School libraries and the librarians who run them are essential to the development and the opening of young minds. For many young students, their librarian is the only contact with the boundless world of story – and story is what broadens our minds, helps us to think more creatively, and teaches us about the world.

In April, I was lucky enough to be invited to the School Librarians Group (SLG) Conference and it was inspiring to see the level of commitment and passion held by school librarians despite the huge pressure they now find themselves under.

Every school should have a library and a librarian. Right now.

Okay, so that’s my rant over, and now there’s just enough time to tell you my other piece of news – I’ve signed to write two more books for Chicken House! Working with such an energetic and exciting publisher has been fantastic, so I’m very much looking forward to continuing working with them on my next novels. There will be more action, more adventure, and more mystery!

See you soon – and I promise it won’t be so long next time!

That’s all.

 

Who Is Ash McCarthy?

The thing about writing a book, is that it always feels as if I could work on it for a while longer. Maybe if I read it just one more time, I would find something else I could change, a few words I could rearrange, a sentence I could cut – or perhaps one I could add.

But there  comes a point when I have to let go – I have read the page proofs, made the final changes, and now it’s done. In fact, there’s really no turning back because it has been whisked away and is being printed and bound as I type! This is always both an exciting and a scary moment; it’s almost time for BOY X to go out into the world and meet its audience. And if it’s adventure you’re looking for then you’re definitley going to like this.

There’s a strange jungle island, and a remote black site research facility. There’s action, survival, and danger. There’s a race against time, with high stakes at risk. There are strong friendships, but there’s a touch of betrayal too. And there’s a mystery right at the heart of it . . . who is Ash McCarthy?

 

Boy X 1