Friday, 24 June 2016

Shake it all about

I wasn’t going to Blog. I really wasn’t.

I wasn’t going to get involved with the doom mongering and the ‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got in in for me!’

I wasn’t going to mention how smug some of the ‘Leaver/Brexit’ campaigners have acted and I certainly wasn’t going to mention the bile that’s being spewed by some of the ‘Remainers’ about how HMS UK is on fire and sinking and it’s all due to a deluded racist minority who managed to raise their normally dragging knuckles high enough off the floor to fill their ballot form in with a pen that they’d bought from home so MI5 couldn’t rub out their pencil mark and put it in the box that was less inclusive… The box that had taken us one step away from Global Citizenship and membership of the Justice League and the United Federation of Planets.

I wasn’t going to launch into the ‘How the Baby-Boomers have destroyed the future of the Millennials with their Death-dealing spikey Nazi Jackboots of Death’ debate. And I certainly wasn’t going to point out that our polling system is based on anonymity and the age-distribution figures that are being bandied about are from a YouGov telephone poll of 1,652 people over 2 days who just happened to be at home when the market researchers called (So, Students and pensioners) and are therefore, not massively representative.

And I certainly wasn’t going to put the Jackie Chan meme WTF meme at the bottom of every Facebook status that said ‘I am so upset by the UK giving up on the EU and just unilaterally leaving – which I (the original poster not me) think is a proper dick move, that I am going to give up on the UK and unilaterally leave.’

Neither was I going to answer anything slowly explained to me by a hobby-economist with ‘So, is that a fact or is that just a guess.’ Or ask a weekend-politico to ‘Prove it to me or show me some clear evidence.’

What I might have said, if I had blogged, would probably have been something like:

I agree that a lot of the leave campaigners have lied to confuse the weak, and that many of the remainers are only upset because they can finally see their personal gravy-train rolling to a halt.  I have no idea whether our long, drawn-out exit from the EU is going to be good or bad for the UK in the long term. No-one does, people can offer their opinions and go through their detailed forecasts and I’ll acknowledge that some of the things they forecast will be right – but just as much won’t be.

You can argue for the difficulty or otherwise of renegotiating trade deals, you can tell me how hard whoever the Prime Minister will be in October will have to fight tooth and nail for our rights once Article 50 is triggered, and I’ll nod, and I’ll agree because I know that whatever challenges we face in the future, they’ll be overcome by people who’ve had to realise, like it or not that we’re on our own that we are the Captains of our future now. There’s no EU safety-net for those who believe there ever was.  Our government will have to work harder because they’re our last line of political defense now, no running off crying to Brussels when a bigger country has stolen our dinner-money and poked us in the eye.

The only thing any of us can be sure of is that: if you took the time to vote yesterday, got off the sofa, turned off Jeremy Kyle and made a cross in a box, you did the right thing – Whatever box you ticked… Congratulations.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Southcart Book Club May 2016

Let’s just imagine that a couple of weekends ago, hang on, it might have been last week. No, it was definitely… Oh, I don’t know, I’m not Doctor bloody Who (Although I would no doubt, make a bloody brilliant Doctor Who. Admittedly, there’d be a lot less reversing the polarity of the neutron flow and a lot more ‘Hold my beer and watch this’ before all the running and yelling started)

Anywho, 3... 2... 1... back in the room… Where was I? Oh yes, one weekend in the recent past, I was invited down to Southcart Books, the only independent book shop in the Black Country (Where Lenny Henry comes from) to talk about all my books – Past, present and *Whisper* future. You’ve heard me talk about Southcart before – I bang on about it like it’s going out of fashion, you should really go there and spend lots of money. Also, say it was my idea that you go there, I might get a free coffee out of it or maybe some vodka at Christmas – Because everyone knows that that’s what authors live on, coffee and vodka.

It wasn’t just me that got invited. Well, it was that time, but… Well, what happens is that every month, on the lunchtime of the last Saturday, they hold a book club in the shop. It’s where they get a local author, or other person of note, to pop down for a couple of hours and chat about stuff and things, maybe do a reading, maybe recount some funny story from their past and generally hold sway with their feet on the table like a cut-price Tyrion Lannister until it’s time for them all to leave so that they can pick their kids up from ballet, or football, or organic weasel plaiting or whatever it is that passes for children’s weekend entertainment in the West Midlands nowadays. The punters also get the chance to buy copies of whatever book the author’s hawking at the moment. It’s like the thing that Waterstones do with authors you’ve actually heard of, but without all the nasty queueing out of the door and not being able to eat an ice-cream while you’re looking around the shop.

I got there early, spread out some signed copies of ‘The Pangolin Yodels’ and sat on one of the shop’s comfy sofas to await my audience. Before long, Lucy, the organiser of the whole book club thing arrived – Calling her an organiser is selling her short really, she’s a successful author too, and a musical photographer (in that she specializes in taking photos of bands, she doesn’t spin around whilst whistling the Sugar-Plum Fairy as she worksAlthough who am I to judge? She may well do that too.) and she’s the lead singer of a massively popular soul band – I hate her actually, she’s so bloody talented that it makes my teeth itch.  She let me know how these things usually played out, and confided that usually it followed a pretty strict timetable of five minutes of the author bigging up their book, then a break for cake, then the remaining hour was reserved for random knob jokes and comparing favourite flavours of crisps, then a couple of people would buy a copy of your book and we could all go home (via the Organic Weasel Plaiting Foundry Est. in Walsall December 1749, obviously)  

So then the fine upstanding members of the book club started to arrive and some of them talked for a while about the damage caused to their boobs by rabbits, (Plus other famous local author James Josiah whom I may have mentioned in passing before - Wait, no, I don't mean that James Josiah caused them some boob damage too... Oh Christ I can see the litigation now!) I sat at the head of the oversized oak table, with a line of completely normal people down each side, some with more damaged boobs than others. They looked at me like jackals in a kebab shop, ‘Go on,’ I could tell that they were thinking, ‘do something literary, I dare you.’ I started off with telling them who I was, just to let them know that they were in the right place. And gave them a quick five minutes of why I do what I do, and where I stared and stuff like that. Then I was asked for a reading… I’d prepared some stuff, but I was requested to read the Gullible Steve story ‘The Concussion Chilli with Rottweiler Sauce’ – I read it, stopping every few minutes to wait for people to stop laughing, and told them that this story wasn’t actually in the book that was available for sale, it was in my previous one (Luckily, I’d bought a copy of it with me for advertising purposes). I got through ‘Thermodynamics,it’s the law’ about my Dad and a pigeon from the 60’s and I think that there might have been one other, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

Then I read ‘Bek’ – Now, I can’t tell you what ‘Bek’s about, because it’s a story from my next book, which includes both some extended versions of existing (fiction) stories and some completely new stuff – I’m trying to get it out for Christmas (2016 before you ask) – I’ll keep you in the loop.  This is the cover:

Yes, that's my daughter there, well spotted

It promoted some interesting reactions, there were yelps, there were covered faces and various cries of ‘No!’ from people.  At the end there was a stunned silence for a few seconds, and one person asked, “How can that story have been written by someone who writes things like that.” (Pointing at ‘The Pangolin Yodels’) another remarked that it felt somehow comfortable and horrific at the same time (I’m paraphrasing as I can't remember exactly what words he used, but I know that I was quite pleased)

I looked up at the clock and we’d over-run by about half an hour. I inscribed some books for people, and every single person who was there bought a copy (apart from the people who already owned it, obvs) – We even had a Viking film director come in off the street to buy a copy (And by Viking film director, I don’t mean someone who directs Viking films, I mean he directs films, and is also a Viking)

(Don't tell anyone, but there has even been talk about the possibility of one of the stories from 'Forever Girl' being made into a film - Remember, Mum's the word. Shh...)

Another funny thing happened, all the people who were there, every man-jack of them, are now my friends on Facebook – I’m very social you know – And one of them has given me permission to screen-grab something she posted so that you can see that, despite your better judgement, it’s not just me that enjoys my books. (I also enclose a picture of her preparing to read the book, for science reasons *cough*) I’m going to be there again probably on Saturday the 25th June, so that people can ask me questions about the book – You could come too, it’ll be fun. There might be a bouncy castle*

Not gratuitous in the slightest...

Frankly written and beautiful? Open? Me? Surely some mistake... Anywho, Southcart might have some signed copies left, or if you get a copy of whichever book/s you want and get in contact, I'll scribble something unintelligible in them and send them back to you, free of charge (inc postage within reason) when I remember.

And what do you get for nothing nowadays?

*There almost certainly won't be a bouncy castle.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Help Southcart Books - You're their only hope

You know me right? Living on the edge, Lone Wolf, loose cannon, Maverick, One shot Trevor, The shiniest haddock in the shoal.

What I mean to say is… Everything I’ve ever done, every success I’ve had, every award I’ve ever won and achievement I’ve ever unlocked on the Xbox and Steam has been totally down to me and the sweat of my brow.

And if you do know me, if you have had the honour of meeting me in the flesh at one of my tremendously infrequent public appearances, you’ll know that the previous two paragraphs are complete balls.  Firstly, I’ve not achieved very much at all, and those things I have, have been with the help of people who have a lot more faith in me than I do.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a boatload of things – I’ve even done some things that didn’t have the capacity to kill me if my faith in blind luck had ever petered out even a little. (Which is why I have a large tattoo of a blindfolded lady on my back. Her name is PISTIS (Πίστις) and she’s the Ancient Greek personification of faith… Blind Faith in this case)

I’d never have written a book without the support of my friends, I’d never have published it without my family, (I’m writing my fifth, sixth and seventh books at the minute, all at the same time – Go me!) And I’m sure that most of you guys are the same, easy stuff is easy… The clue’s in the name, but to get the difficult stuff done, you’re gonna need help.  I consider myself really lucky that I’ve managed to surround myself, both literally and figuratively, with people who are willing to help me do some massively stupid things, purely because they’ll probably be funny.

One such institution has now asked for my help in return – And it’s only fair that I pass that burden on to you people, because you’re friendly types and probably have a lot more money than I do. 

Southcart Books in Walsall. Run by the odd, but tremendously friendly, Scott & Amy. Because of their tremendous financial skills (And the fact that their landlord is doing his best to sell their shop out from under them) are trying to move to larger premises avec le grande vitesse.

They’ve set up a Crowdfunder to cover the cost of fitting out the new place, having a decent frontage installed and helping towards the deposit. There are any number of pledge levels with rewards, from £1 - £500 (Although they’re almost halfway to their £4,000 target already, you see – it really is the type of place that has loyal customers – If only BHS had been so lucky.) There are many more fine photos like the one above on their Crowdfunder page, but you'll notice that none feature me, those pictures are saved for specialist customers and there is a waiting list as long as my... Well, let's just say that there's a waiting list.

But here’s the rub… If you pledge an amount, any amount, they will give you that amount back, in books, it’s as if you’ve not spent any money at all!. So, if you were to pledge, let’s say, £20.00, not only would you get free coffees AND your name painted lovingly on the outside of the shop, you’d also get £20.00 worth of free books. If you were to pledge £500.00, you’d get to run the shop for a day AND get £500 pounds worth of free books – I don’t know, you might get to name a bookshelf after yourself and hold your own Pagan rituals there too, I’m not really involved in the decision making process (for good reason, probably).

So, you lovely, lovely munchkins, click on the link below and swap a pledge for some books, and coffee, and the warm, tuberculosis-like tickle in your chesty-box that comes when you help good people do a nice thing.  Remember, without them, there’d be no me…

Actually no, forget that, I am the Captain of my own fate… I did it all on my own *cough*