Thursday, March 17, 2011

And Another Thing...

I'm really proud to be taking part in the Firestation Book Swap tonight, at Windsor Firestation Art Centre at 7.45pm.

Organised by the inestimable Scott Pack and Marie Phillips, Book Swaps involve a couple of authors (tonight, it's me and Robert McCrum), talking a bit about books, while periodically the audience get to plug a book they've brought along and swap it with another. I'm bringing The Book Thief, which is my favourite book of the year so far, and probably deserves a proper review when I have time...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Authors for Japan

As we all know a devastating earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan last week. The very brilliant Keris Stainton has swiftly put together an author auction which runs until 8pm this Sunday. All manner of people are taking part, and you can not only bid for signed copies, but for critiques on your work, to have your name used as a character in a book, or have a book dedicated to you.

I am very proud to be part of it, and have donated a signed copy of The Bridesmaid's Pact, and will donate one of The Summer Season when it's available. I have also offered to critique the first three chapters and synopsis of a children's book.

You don't have to bid for my stuff, but I do urge you to go to :

and support the auction, as it's something small we can all do.

All proceeds go to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oh woe is me....

... and huge huge spoilers....

BEING HUMAN IS OVER. Now what am I going to watch?

The good news is that series 4 has been announced, YAY!!! Well, frankly the Beeb couldn't let it go after that finale. That would have been nearly as bonkers as recommissioning Outcasts.

Of course,
















It's not going to be the same show without Mitchell, who finally met his wolfshaped bullet, in the shape of George, a stake and a friend saving his soul, in much the same way as Mitchell saved Lauren in Series 1, but I have faith in Toby Whithouse's visionary genius. I also think this series has suffered sometimes from having four main characters to follow, so having three may be better, just so long as they give the girls more to do, and stop having them act so stupidly, which is my major criticism of series 3.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before I launch into my thoughts on the series finale, I just wanted to do a quick recap on the whole series. There have been faults it's true - Annie needs to get some gumption for a start, and be allowed to be this powerful ghost we've seen hinted at, but frustratingly not used to her full potential, and both she and Nina were soooo stupid at times - but on the whole I think the series has worked brilliantly. And for me, it's possibly been the best series so far. It has been dark - very dark at times - bleak, touching, compassionate, funny, and always unexpected. What I particularly like about it, is the fact that the makers of Being Human don't flinch away from the darker side of the world they've created. Mitchell is appalling at times, and during a lot of this series has been self serving and pathetic, but at other times heroic in his attempts to control the evil within him (such as offering Herrick Nancy, and then thinking better of it). He does do evil. The Box Tunnel Massacre is every bit as horrific as we think it is, and Mitchell has faced the consequences of it throughout the series. George, Nina and Annie are all affected by their relationship with Mitchell, and when Herrick reappears at the end of Episode 4, it is noticeable that George and Annie, so often Mitchell's conscience won't think twice about getting rid of Herrick. It is only Nina, who has no idea of what Herrick is capable of, who treats him with any kind of compassion.

I blogged at length about episode 1, but episode 2, which introduced teen vampire Adam (a means of sending people off to the spinoff series Becoming Human, which I've also been watching online), was a lot of fun. If a little inappropriate when watching with a fourteen year old. It was funny enough (if you are a fan of Gavin & Stacey, that is) that our favourite quartet had decamped to Barry Island, but it was a STROKE OF GENIUS to cast Stacey's mum Gwen as a vampire into S&M. Hilarious. I loved the way Nina and George became all parental (foreshadowing their particular storyline) around Adam, and their realisation that far from sending him to a better life, where his addiction to blood could be "managed", they'd left him in weirdsville, and had to go and rescue him. George confronting a group of vampires with a pot plant was particularly sweet.

Wonderful too, was episode three's introduction to Type 4, a zombie called Sasha, brought back to life thanks to Mitchell's trip to purgatory to save Annie. At first repulsed by her - a being even more monstrous then any of them - the characters all found themselves ultimately showing compassion, as Sasha dies a slow and tragic death. It is also the catalyst for Nina to accept the pregnancy she has threatened George she will abort (patter of furry feet, people, oh yes!!!), and for Mitchell and Annie to reveal their true feelings for one another. (George and Mitchell's exchange about Annie fancying Mitchell was a hoot. I do love their conversations, and shall certainly miss that aspect of the show next time around.)

Episode 4 was quite possibly my favourite episode. First we had Annie and Mitchell trying to cement their new found relationship by a weird kind of threesome, as the only way Annie can "feel" anything is if she is touching someone touching Mitchell (the scene when the three of them encounter George in the landing was hilarious, as was Annie's goody two shoes attempts to talk dirty). Unfortunately, Mitchell's predilection for blood/sex rather gets in the way, so it's a more chaste relationship for our undead duo. Meanwhile, George and Nina go on the hunt for McNair and Tom, believing them to hold the secret to giving birth to a werewolf baby. McNair, it turns out is not too keen to be tracked down, and not at all keen to befriend werewolves who shack up with vampires. Plus, turns out he's not really Tom's dad at all, having adopted him after killing Tom's real parents.

Mitchell's hostility to McNair, thanks to a worry about that wolf shaped bullet (which of course he can't tell anyone - that was an aspect of this series that did annoy me. I get that Mitchell has a peculiar set of problems, but FFS TELL the people closest to you, why don't you, man? Except of course, there would be no series if he did that), leads him to betray McNair to the vampires who are planning another cage fight. And this was the bit of the programme that had me hyperventilating, because of course, Mitchell's plan goes horribly wrong, and it's NOT McNair who ends up in the cage, but Tom, Nina and George. Eek. I was literally on the edge of my seat for the finale of this episode, with Mitchell and McNair forming an unlikely alliance to rescue the trio, and if that wasn't enough, the episode ends with our first sight of Herrick, in a straitjacket, in a mental ward, apparently not knowing who he is. I could barely speak. Spouse and no 1 thought I'd finally lost it, but really. What a way for an episode to end...

Episode 5 was a very different beast, but teasing, subtle, dark and clever, it totally messed with our minds. Had Herrick (or Mr Herrick as Nina insists on calling him) really forgotten who he is? Are George and Nina, right to give him another chance, and not let Mitchell stake him (I think we know the answer to that one), and if he doesn't know what's going on, how come he's so keen to show Nina the scrap book about the Box Tunnel 20 that Mitchell's hiding in the attic. This episode for me was dominated by Jason Watkins' awesome and restrained performance as Herrick, playing him as a mild mannered slightly confused man, who really doesn't know who or what he is, and even appears to be frightened of the dreams that torment him, and yet, and yet.... Annie's comment when he asks, Who are you? , On to you, is spot on. Herrick, even an amnesiac Herrick, is dangerous...

My least favourite episode was episode 6, where George encounters his dad again, first of all thinking that he's dead and a ghost. It was quite sweet I suppose, and amusing at times, but overall, I felt it was just a bit dull, and although the Box Tunnel stuff was bubbling away in the background with the arrival of Nancy, a very nosy cop, the menace present in the rest of the series was lacking here. Plus Annie was irritating the fuck out of me. HOW could she not guess that Mitchell was responsible for the Box Tunnel 20? Particularly after what she says to him when they get together and he tries to confess - she claims to know what he's done in the past, but knows what kind of a man he can be. Right. Mind you, as she also tells McNair, this is the girl who's first boyfriend put a video of her on the internet, second suggested a threesome with her mum, and third killed her. Mitchell would seem like marriageable material by comparison. But she knows what he is, surely she must have an idea of what he could be capable of? I know love is blind, but...

So moving swiftly on... episode 7 picked the action up again nicely. With Nancy getting closer to the truth, Mitchell's desperation to discover how to dodge the wolf shaped bullet, leads him to try and offer her to Herrick to help restore him to his former self; Herrick being the only one who can give him the secret of escaping death. Luckily for Nancy, Mitchell's conscience gets the better of him, and she's reprieved ... for now.

Discovering that Mitchell's prints are not only all over the Box Tunnel 20 murders, but a murder that took place in the 60s, Nancy realises she's run into something weird, but how weird, she doesn't discover till confronted by a superior back at the office, who turns out to be a vampire, just waiting to recruit her to the cause. Luckily this time, Annie (in her self imposed - deeply irritating - role as avenger of the Box Tunnel 20) saves the day. Annie of course then discovers the truth about the massacre, and decides to dob Mitchell in...

And then in classic Being Human style, everything kicks off, and nothing turns out the way you might have imagined. It's full moon so the werewolves (McNair has been injured, so they turn up to join the party) are out in the woods, but McNair has smelt Herrick (responsible, it turns out for putting him in the fighting cage in the first place) and is intent on revenge. The house is empty apart from Herrick and McNair and it's showdown time...

Nancy turns up to arrest Mitchell and Annie reveals what she knows, leading Mitchell to give himself up for her. Nancy triumphant, thinks she's got her man, not realising quite what's waiting for her in the attic. Oh dear, oh dear, just when you thought she couldn't possibly be a victim now, it's time for her to meet a resurgent Herrick, who's stabbed McNair and is beginning to remember himself.

But THAT wasn't the worst... Nina and George return to find Mitchell has been taken away, George, furious with Nina for having tipped off the police in the first place, rushes off to help his friend, and then Nina meets Herrick...

OH GOD. The scene when Herrick stabbed Nina has to be one of the most shocking BH moments I can think of. I really thought he wasn't going to do it... and then he did... BLOODY HELL....

Which takes us finally to the final episode.

Things I didn't like: Annie was still being stupid. I see her need for justice, but I don't see how she can think what she is doing can help.
I really hated the fact that Lia's wolf shaped bullet was all made up to mess with Mitchell's head. I'd have rather seen Annie having been let in on what was really going on when in purgatory and being part of the plot to teach Mitchell a lesson.
And I'm now a bit confused about what happens when you die. What about the men with sticks and ropes we kept hearing about in Series 1? Where did they all end up? Lia can only have been manipulating stuff this series, as she died at the end of the last, so who were the people trying to get Annie to cross over?

That aside. BLIMEY. What an episode....

Just as it looks really bad for Mitchell (who FINALLY tells Annie about the wolf shaped bullet) , up pops Herrick in his policeman's outfit to rescue Mitchell, casually revealing what he's done to Nina. As Annie gets to the hospital, she's in time to see one of the policeman at the scene die, so she can follow him through to purgatory, and discover what Lia has been up to.

Meanwhile, Herrick's plan is to get Mitchell together for a little tete a tete in the cage. Oh yes, the wolf shaped bullet. It will be George after all. Oh no. It won't, because George is not going to fight Mitchell as he has suspected all along that he is responsible for the Box Tunnel 20. Oh yes, he will because Herrick's killed Nina, and it's all Mitchell's fault... Oh no, he won't because here's Tom, having found out what happened to Daddy (Oh what a touching fatherly farewell from McNair - nice one Robson Green), intent on revenge. In a stand off, the two vampires leave together, Mitchell now forever bound with Herrick (You're dead to me, says George bitterly. Noooo George, you can't do that to Mitchell!), George desperate to find Nina....

... and he does, in time for Annie to be back from purgatory and be there to wake Nina up. And breathe. Nina is still alive... and yes, so apparently is the hairy baby. I was convinced it was going to be a goner...

So Mitchell is back to his bad old ways with Herrick. Apparently. Except, before they go and find a nice quiet village to destroy, Mitchell takes Herrick on a trip to the seaside. And there having confessed he doesn't want to come back anymore, and discovering that once you're staked, you stay dead, quietly stakes him.... ANOTHER disappointment I had hoped we'd get to see more of Herrick, but I do get that maybe their story has played itself out now.

So it's back to normal at the B&B, except of course it can't be after all this, so here's Mitchell offering himself to George, saying George has to be the one to stake him, to make up for all the stuff he's got involved with thanks to Mitchell. (Vampires, so dramatic, huffs, Nina. Quite.)
But, can George actually do it? They all know Mitchell will kill again - George gears himself up, he's on the brink and oh no, Mitchell escapes again. Because now the Old Ones, led by a mean dude called Wyndham (whose conveniently sorted out all awkward questions with the police) are back, and they want Mitchell as their attack dog...

George picks up the stake, turns to Wyndham, who says, don't be stupid, and oh no, it's not Wyndham he's after, it's Mitchell. Unable to bear the thought of his friend being forced to kill again, George stakes him after all. I'm doing this because I love you ("a bit gay" was the response of the 14 year old), Oh George, we know, we know...

So Mitchell has finally copped it. No way back from that, me thinks, particularly as Aidan Turner is off to be a hobbit. I have to say, though I found it teary, emotional etc, I thought that was a fantastically fitting end for Mitchell, and bold and brave of the BH team to go through with it. Where could they go from there? Mitchell had to die, and did so magnificently.

And if that wasn't enough, George's last lines to the threat of Vampire War, "You've got a fight on your hands" had me cheering. Good old George, what would we do without you? Though quite how Being Human will work without the Mitchell/George dynamic I don't know as it has been so central to the show. Still maybe it will give the girls a bit more of a chance. I do hope so. It would be nice to see Annie behaving like a proper scary ghost, instead of being as limp and wet as she has been this series. We have seen periodically what she can do, it would be great to see her let rip properly...

So all in all, a fabulous end to a brilliant, if sometimes flawed series. On balance I can forgive what's wrong with it, because it's edgy, dark, has me on my toes and makes me laugh out loud more then any other programme I watch. I don't know how I'm going to cope till next year. Time to invest in some Boxsets, methinks...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Being Human...

...Finale tonight. Just sayin'

Am beyond excited of course. Last week's episode was so awesomely jumpy, unnerving and dark, I cannot possibly work out now how it's all going to end, except...

I think Mitchell is going to meet his wolf shaped bullet,

I don't think Nina and George will be hearing the soft padding of tiny feet, after all. Indeed, will Nina even survive...

And I'm not sure that

a) Annie's and Mitchell's

b) George and Mitchell's

c) (supposing she makes it) Nina's and George's

relationships will make it either.


And as to what Herrick will get up to... Yikes! Can he do anything worse then he's already done?

I do hope I'm not disappointed.

And that I will have time to breathe...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day

Ok, though I am at heart a feminist (less of one admittedly then I was in my youth, realism and motherhood have rather impinged on my youthful ideals), I have to confess the idea of International Women's Day makes me cringe. However... there's a rather brilliant YouTube video that's just been released in which James Bond aka Daniel Craig drags up to prove a point about how unequal we still are. Sorry having trouble cutting and pasting links at the moment, but you can find it on You Tube by keying in International Women's Day.

And my blogging/twitter friend Sarah Salway has just written a post about her five female literary role models at, and I felt duty bound to write my own.

Off the top of my head, I tweeted: Jane Eyre, Maggie Tulliver, Beatrice, Joan Foster and Granny Weatherwax, but I've just decided I should have had Antigone in Beatrice's place. And here's why...

Jane Eyre.
I fell in love with this book at the absurdly precocious age of ten. I was lucky enough to grow up in the sort of house where books were always lying around and came across it one day in my bedroom, picked it up and read it (understanding perhaps a third). I immediately identified with Jane. She was so put upon, and had the harsh orphan life I fondly imagined as being somehow romantic in the rather grotesque orphanage games we used to make up. But more then that, she is stoical, and tenacious. She loses everything and is prepared to walk away from the man she loves for the sake of principle. And despite being plain and ordinary, she is anything but. I reread the book recently and was struck by different things then on that first reading: I found Rochester's teaching of her patronising when I reread the book as a young woman, but now I'm inclined to think they learn from one another, and although it is a matter of debate whether they are true equals, by the end of the book the balance is definitely restored in her favour.

Maggie Tulliver
Mill of the Floss was one of my A Level texts. I'd never read George Eliot before, and it was a revelation. I was particularly taken with Maggie as she has dark hair, like me, and struggles with being clever in a man's world (ok, at that point our paths differ). She is passionate and feels things deeply, and her impulsive nature leads her time and time again into trouble. Like Jane, she does the principled thing, by walking away from a relationship with Stephen Guest, which leaves her reputation in tatters, but unlike Jane, she doesn't get the happy ever after. The image of her drowning with her brother Tom at the end of the book is one that I still find haunting after all these years. She's a metaphor for our grandmothers and greatgrandmothers; the ones who weren't lucky enough to get the education we take for granted today, and as such, a perfect choice for International Women's Day.

Joan Foster
Lady Oracle was the second Margaret Atwood novel, I read, in my early twenties. I loved the character of Joan Foster - a fat girl who becomes thin, a famous poetess who hides her hidden career as a gothic novelist from her oh-so-serious communist husband Arthur. She is full of wit, invention and the capacity to recreate herself. A modern heroine for a modern age. Oh and her propensity for writing gothic romance may just have influenced my career choice...

Granny Weatherwax
I might have mentioned before Terry Pratchett (along with Margaret Atwood) is one of my favourite living authors. Apart from writing hilariously bonkers fantasy books which neatly parallel the absurdities of our own world, he has a genius (unparalleled I think, among male fantasy writers) for not only understanding women but capturing them brilliantly. (There is a line in A Monstrous Regiment about ironing, which with no intended disrespect to the men of my acquaintance was so true to a woman's experience, that I wouldn't have believed a man could have written it). Granny Weatherwax is my favourite female character in the Discworld novels. She's cantankerous, difficult, tricksy, ballsy, always funny, and always (usually in a roundabout way) on the side of right. Her spiritual heiress, Tiffany Aching, the teenage witch who features in The Hatful of Sky quartet, also deserves an honourable mention. In Tiffany I recognise a lot of my teen self, and Granny Weatherwax provides a great model for growing old crabbily (for disgraceful growing old you need to look at Granny's partner in crime Nanny Ogg, whom I love, but not quite as much). Her pet phrase "I ent dead yet" is one I intend to use till my dying day...

I first read Antigone (in translation natch, I don't know any ancient Greek), when I was a student. It's the third play in Sophocles' retelling of the Oedipus story (Oedipus the King/Oedipus at Colonus are parts 1&2 though confusingly, I think Antigone was written first), and it tells the story of Antigone, one of Oedipus' two daughters from his incestuous marriage to Jocasta. After the truth is discovered in the first play, Jocasta hangs herself and Oedipus blinds himself and is sent into exile. During Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone looks after her blind father in his exile, until his death, but Antigone finds her back in the palace at Thebes. In the meantime her uncle, Creon has become the city's dictator and in the civil war he has had to undertake to gain power, Antigone's two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices have both been killed. But whereas Eteocles is buried with full burial rights, Polyneices is declared a traitor and his bones left to rot outside the city walls. Antigone defies an order from Creon to give him a proper burial and goes outside the city and performs the rites. For this crime, she is walled up in a cave, where she subsequently hangs herself. What is so wonderful about this play is it demonstrates the disconnect between civil duty and family duty - Creon demands that Antigone puts the state ahead of her family duty, but Antigone cannot do that. Even when given an opportunity to repent her actions, she remains defiant, being prepared to lose Haemon, the man she loves, in order to do what is right. Another principled brave heroine. In a world where daily many women are called on to make sacrifices that I cannot even dream about, Antigone seems to me to be a pretty good role model, her story as relevant today as when it was written over 2000 years ago.

I think all my heroines share a strong sense of principle and self, a ready wit, and the ability to stand up and be counted. All qualities I deeply admire. I'd like to be like them all, but Granny Weatherwax most of all(-:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Summer Season

Woohoo! Here is the cover for my new book, The Summer Season. ISN'T it lovely? Hats off once again to the wonderful designers at Avon. They really do a fabulous job.

I know Joanna Trollope last year, made a very sensible and rational plea for cover designers not to always go pink and girly on romantic fiction covers, but... there is a disconnect with what the sales team says the market wants, what in an ideal world we'd like to see, and what people will actually go and buy. I know this is a very commercial cover, and I love it, so there.

(Am particularly pleased with the pansies aka heartsease round the borders, as heartsease has an important part to play in the story)