Friday, October 29, 2010

Pics from Manchester launch of The Birth Machine

...the first with great thanks to novelist Clare Dudman, who blogs about the event here. Blogger Clare Conlon posts about it here.

Look at them all chatting ten to the dozen: a really lively audience!

Reading Clare's blog reminds me of my nick-name, the Zedster, which Benjamin Judge, who was also present, gave me when I won his World Literary Cup this summer, and, really, it's how I should have signed his book! Ben, I should add, was shortlisted for the MLF novel-pitching event last weekend - congratulations, Ben!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Manchester launch of The Birth Machine reissue, and why I count myself so lucky

Well, it's here: the day of the Manchester launch for the reissue of The Birth Machine. And here I am, nothing much left to do towards the preparation, with time to contemplate how very, very lucky I am. People keep congratulating me on the reissue, as though it's something I've done myself: Well done, they say, to manage that, a reissue - at any time, they say, leave alone these difficult times!!! They think I must have worked hard, and be very clever, to achieve it. I have to tell them: no, I'm just unbelievable lucky. It's all down to my wonderful publisher, Jen at Salt, who brought the subject up, out of the blue, and offered to do it! Actually, she didn't even offer: there she was standing with her suitcase ready to leave after our Salt reading for Manchester Literature Festival last year, and she stopped and turned back and asked if I WOULD MIND her re-doing The Birth Machine!!

Being a writer can be a struggle for so much of the time - it's so hard to get published (and that doesn't necessarily stop being the case even when you've been published previously), and when you are published it's so hard to get your books noticed, and so hard to get the sales, and then the books go out of print (as indeed happened with the first edition of The Birth Machine), and in the face of all that it's quite hard sometimes to keep writing, to see the point, or to keep believing in yourself as a writer. But then sometimes this sort of thing happens: when suddenly someone in the publishing industry acts like a fairy godmother, and magic happens.

And I have to say some pretty frightening things happened to me over the first publication of The Birth Machine, as I described here, to the extent that I thought my potential career as a writer was ruined before it had hardly begun, and leading to a years-long struggle to overcome the setback, both practically and psychologically. So this really is a most wonderful occasion for me - the happy ending of a painful story. Do please come and help me celebrate if you're in Manchester tonight: Waterstone's Deansgate, 7pm, £3.00 redeemable against purchase of The Birth Machine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eureka Commissions at Manchester Literature Festival

Since science and scientific thinking have been preoccupations of both my novels Too Many Magpies and The Birth Machine, I was very interested in the Manchester Literature Festival event on Saturday evening: 'The Eureka Commissions.' In an ongoing project, Ra Page of Comma Press is commissioning short stories around the concept of the 'eureka' moment of scientific discovery - those 'breakthroughs and bolts-from-the-blue that change the game and shift the paradigm', as he puts it in the blurb - and in particular around the understanding that such moments 'are themselves a kind of fiction, a useful apocrypha for simplifying a complex blend of calculated experiment and pure accident.' Each story focuses on a particular moment of scientific discovery and is written after consultation with a scientist, and that evening Stella Duffy and Zoe Lambert were to read from their commissioned stories, and the scientists who had advised them would speak - astrophysicist Tim O'Brien and historian of science James Sumner, respectively.

The meeting was due to be held in the Manchester Astronomical Society's Godlee Observatory at the top of the university's Sackville building, and there was great excitement and security as we, a strictly limited number, gathered. With great ceremony and import we were let through a turnstile one at a time by the Astronomical Society's Tony, who shouted strict instructions after us to wait for him when we got to the top in the lift. Then we were escorted up some tiny wooden stairs to a small room in the centre of which an ornate metal spiral staircase went up - and up and up! - to the observatory above. But in spite of the regimentation things went haywire: only 36 people were allowed in the room at one time, and somehow 40 had ended up there, and we weren't going to be able to have the meeting there after all, but in a lecture room elsewhere. Before that, though, and excitingly, those who wished - and who didn't have vertigo, Tony said - were to be escorted by him in groups of seven up the stairs and into the observatory. I went in the first lot, telling myself, no I didn't have vertigo. And I damn well couldn't afford to have it, as first Tony and then fellow writer Annie Clarkson shot up before me, leaving me climbing much more slowly and gingerly and working on blanking the spaces opening up beneath me through the lacy metalwork, and wondering when on earth the top would come... And, via a precarious metal ladder at the top, out we came into the tiny round space with its domed roof made, apparently, of papier mache, which slides sideways to allow the view of the sky. The telescope, made in Dublin in 1903 for the society which was founded that year, takes up the main floor space. The woman behind me was a bit dizzy, I think, as she arrived at the top, and she kind of swayed towards the telescope, and Tony jumped in alarm and told her to get back and made us all stay flat against the wall, well away from the precious equipment. And now we had to go down, and although I'd come up in high heels I knew there was no way I could go down in them. But then I had my eureka moment: I would carry my shoes in my teeth (no way would I be able to let go of the rails), and so I did, although this had the unfortunate result of obscuring my view of the steps - but then it also had the fortunate effect of obscuring my view of the spiralling spaces below.

We repaired to the lecture room, and Zoe read a moving story about a female chemist (shame on me, I have forgotten her name!) cut out of the discovery of a radio isotope, and Stella Duffy gave us some stunning literary space-time pyrotechnics around that very subject, space-time. Then historian of science James Sumner spoke about the fact that, while eureka moments are a populist concept, in reality they rarely happen: scientific discoveries tend to come about by accretion. The audience didn't seem all that convinced of this. John, whose recent writing of a textbook on the way we learn language seems to have been a whole series of eureka moments - we will be out walking and he'll suddenly get a new insight and have to rush back home - questioned the premise, and another man suggested that scientists themselves believe in eureka moments. James conceded that this last was so, that scientists as well as the public need to believe in such a phenomenon as a way of shaping and narrating events, but held that that didn't mean it was an objective truth. On the other hand, he did also concede that there were moments of sudden movement forwards. He agreed with one questioner who pointed out that some famous discovery - maybe something to do with DNA - was actually made by a third-year undergraduate, and while he seemed to see this as proof of the accretion effect (it wasn't just the famous scientist having the eureka idea) it seemed to me proof rather of the opposite - the eureka moment as the sudden insight of an individual person outside of the system. And surely, I thought, the eureka moment is after all just the moment when all the connections suddenly come together and make a meaning or a proper picture, the 'turning point' that even those arguing against the eureka moment kept referring to. In the end, I decided, maybe it just depends how you define it...

Tim O'Brien, asked what popular misconceptions about science he'd like to address, said that most people like to think that science is about certainty, but in fact science is very much about doubt. I liked this very much, but I also thought 'Tell that to the doctors in The Birth Machine...'

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bookshops I love: Waterstone's Deansgate

Well, some of my best memories are of Waterstone's Deansgate, and I met some of my really good friends at readings there, and so it's really the very best place for me to be having the Manchester launch this week of the reissue of my first novel, The Birth Machine, and some of those friends, I am very happy to say, will be there. Here (above) is the copy of Balancing I found in their fiction section this afternoon: I pulled it out temporarily, as the spine was reflecting the shelf light so brightly you couldn't read it - I did put it back again afterwards!

Do come to the launch if you're in Manchester: all are welcome, and I'd be delighted to have my readers celebrate with me on what will be for me a very special occasion. Wednesday, 7 pm. £3.00 redeemable against purchase of The Birth Machine.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Well, I am utterly EXHAUSTED - and that's before I do the actual launches and readings.

As you can see from my (very personalized) flow chart above and the stuff now crossed out, since 1st October I have been working flat out on the launch of The Birth Machine reissue. Crossed out and done are the giveaway, poster-making and delivering, invitation-making for two launches (designing and distributing leaflets, facebook messaging and much, much endless emailing), press releases to local papers, contacting of listings publications, visits to bookshops with advance information of the publication and liaising with the bookshops holding the launches. Meanwhile I managed to do just one other thing: read Sue Guiney's fascinating new novel A Clash of Innocents and host her blog tour. You will see from the chart that I failed to do any of my other scheduled reading (or any other reading at all): I didn't get the book read for my reading group, and I still haven't got further than the first chapter of Kate Pullinger's Mistress of Nothing, which I'm reviewing for Eco-Libris's Green Book day on 10th November - the very same day as my London launch: I hope I manage that manoeuvre; I've been so preoccupied I got the date wrong and only belatedly discovered the clash!

But on Wednesday this week I came to a point where there wasn't all that much more I could do for the moment (at least not that I'd thought of), and for the first time I relaxed. On Wednesday night I slept right through for the first time in ages, and lo and behold I woke in the morning with the start of a migraine - the usual symptom for me of relaxation after stress. Not that in fact there weren't still things to do. There was a question mark over books getting from the distributors to Waterstone's Deansgate via the 'hub' in time for the launch next Wednesday, which needed to be sorted out, though my lovely publisher Jen came to my rescue and fixed it. And then there were the trains and hotels to book for my few days' trip away - and god, doesn't that take time - and isn't it confusing: I ended up paying £20 more for one leg of a journey than I discovered later I'd have done if I'd booked in a slightly different way! That trip will be exciting, though: it will include not just my own London launch but a visit to Brighton to see my good friend and fellow Salt author Vanessa Gebbie and celebrate the publication of her wonderful-looking new collection, Storm Warning.

But you know, I don't even think it's just the work that's tiring - I know from experience that it's not, as I've done it for others. It's just so damned emotionally draining, I find, pushing your own work. But maybe that's just me. I blame the parents...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fleur Adcock, Amanda Craig and Michele Roberts at the Manchester LIterature Festival

I really only woke up to the Manchester Literature Festival on Tuesday when I came to a lull in publicity for The Birth Machine. I sat up and looked around and realized that the festival was already in full swing, so that evening John and I headed off to Manchester Museum to hear the poet Fleur Adcock. We all sat in the Prehistoric Life Gallery under a huge suspended dinosaur skeleton beside a mock-up of a prehistoric forest. The sense of the past pressing in and physically coming to life again was fitting, as the engaging, accessible and pithy poems Fleur read were very concerned with the past, her new book Dragon Talk centring on her own childhood, and indeed she talked interestingly about how as you get older your own childhood becomes a history, linked with the events occurring in the greater world. In fact, the past kept popping up all round: in front of us sat someone who turned out to be poet Tony Roberts with whom I'm reading in a couple of weeks at the Bolton Octagon: I hadn't met him before, but John had met him some years ago. And afterwards we all went for a drink - just like the old days.

Then yesterday I went to the lunchtime event at Waterstone's: Amanda Craig and Michele Roberts. A very good turnout for lunchtime, but only two men in the audience, I noticed, which seems to support the notion that women are the majority of fiction readers. It was a very interesting session. Amanda Craig was talking about her latest novel, Hearts and Minds, a novel concerning the murder of an au pair in a contemporary London which is, after all, not too far from the London of Dickens. I found Amanda a particularly engaging and intelligent speaker: she talked of being struck by how little London has really changed in terms of its underbelly, and how little this is actually addressed in fiction. She told us that the novel came from first her growing awareness that so many people in the services industries in London now come from other countries and then from her own experience of falling seriously ill and finding that those people she needed to employ to help her were indeed from abroad. As a result of her illness, her novel took her seven years, and was, she admitted in answer to an audience question, at times harrowing to write. Some people, she said, had been upset by its depiction of London, which they didn't recognise, but she assured us that, the result of her research interviewing prostitutes and trafficked girls, it was accurate. The beginning of the novel, which she read out to us, was in my view stunning - beautifully written as well as ultimately shockingly dramatic.

Michele Roberts is a writer whom I've always thought of as a fellow spirit - we were after all both published by the same publisher early on. She's a more experimental writer than Amanda Craig, I think: in keeping with her sense of the continuity of London's underbelly, Amanda consciously writes, she said, in the tradition of Dickens, but Michele plays with voice and our concepts of reality, and it seemed when she began talking that the two writers would provide a contrast. Michele was reading from her new book of short stories, Mud: Stories of Sex and Love . Beforehand she talked about how sex and love have become difficult subjects to write about, and that a lot of writers now seem to avoid it: you have to get around the cliches about love and sidestep pornography and the fact that sex and love have become artificially separated in our culture - if you don't use the language of either the clinical or the pornographic gaze, what language do you use? Therefore, typically I think for her, she found it a challenge, and what she's interested in in writing this book, she says, is the complexity of both sex and love - all kinds of love including non-sexual love, and the stories of those whom the language of newspapers objectifies even when taking a positive stance.

Then she read to us from a stunning story in the book about a trafficked girl forced into prostitution and suddenly - since Amanda's novel hinges on the rescue of such a girl - the work of both authors dovetailed dramatically. (I was particularly interested at this point, as my most recently published short story also features such a girl.) The authors agreed wholeheartedly about the transformative power of London, and the way it provides transitional spaces, both in reality for people wanting to start again and as the setting for stories exploring complexity and eschewing the false divisions of good and bad. Both spoke of London as a living creature, Amanda referring (in answer to a question about the effects of the recession) to its heartbeat and its dystolic/systolic rhythms of change of expansion and contraction. Both said that they mined it for stories, Michele giving us a vivid picture of herself trudging in a huge coat and boots and constantly getting chatting on street corners to people who pour out their stories to her.

Both agreed that fiction is both about change and can effect change - something has to happen in a story which brings about change - but also reading a story can change you, shift your perceptions. Stories too, Michele said, can help us to recognise change in our own lives.

Someone asked if in consciously giving voice in their writing to people who didn't have a voice in life, the authors felt an extra special responsibility of authenticity. Michele said that one has to always acknowledge that fiction is making things up and that one's first responsibility as an author is to the story. Amanda, however, did feel that, since the characters of her novel were indeed based on real people she'd interviewed, she felt some responsibility to be true to their experience - and added that much of what she'd included in the novel was only the tip of the iceberg of that experience, in spite of the fact that some people had objected to the 'over-grim' portrayal.

And then it was out into the lovely sunny streets of Manchester and the posh shops of King Street, though it's true that a few of them are now empty, and there weren't that many shoppers about, and there was the Big Issue seller on the corner, and the echoes of the authors' writing following me all the way home...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is it a novel?

There's a new review for Too Many Magpies in the magazine Front&Centre. Interestingly, although the reviewer was clearly engaged by the book in the end, he seems to have struggled initially, mainly because he says that knowing that I'm also a playwright gave him misleading expectations. What tripped him up was the internal nature of the book. In a play, where we observe characters from the outside, we are often aware of meanings and implications that remain a puzzle to the characters, and it was a while before he realized that in Too Many Magpies we are meant to share the protagonist's puzzlement and sense of mystery.

It set me thinking. People often ask me if I know from the start whether a piece of writing is going to be a play or a novel, and I do, and this clarifies to some extent why: it's very much to do with the perspective. Too Many Magpies is about not only uncertainty, but the experience of uncertainty which I wanted the reader to share, and so that's how it came to me: as an interior first-person narration, ie a novel, and it just couldn't have been anything else.

There's another curious thing about this review. So many reviews of this book have called the prose spare, yet this reviewer calls it 'oft-florid'. It seems to me that it would be pretty difficult to be both. In fact my aim in writing is always to be vivid and often visual (which is perhaps what leads to florid?) while striving at all times for economy and concision (which is probably what makes people call it spare) - which seems to give rise to some very opposite descriptions of my prose!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bookshops I love: Chorlton Bookshop and Blackwell University Bookshop, Manchester

Yesterday afternoon I went with my sheet of information about the imminent new edition of The Birth Machine to Chorlton Bookshop and Blackwell in the university precinct.

The bookshop in Chorlton where I used to live was started in 1983 by Alan and Ceri Johnson, and is now run by their daughter Vicky. Right from the start, however, Vicky made the most wonderful window displays I've ever seen in a bookshop, and she continues today, as you can see from the pic above and her current display of fashion history books. They really are an excellent bookshop, tiny but always stocking the key books of the moment and the classics, and absolutely on the button if you need anything ordered. They have always been very supportive of my books, beginning when the first edition of The Birth Machine came out, and yesterday they said immediately that they'd order copies of the new one.

Then on into town through the falling orange leaves to the university precinct and Blackwell, who said right away that they'd order a couple of copies too.

See, no wonder I love these bookshops...!

I had forgotten both my camera and my phone yesterday afternoon (!), so I can't show you the carpet of leaves outside Blackwell, and have to rely on this official pic (below), but in the evening John and I went back to Chorlton to eat at Croma next door to the Chorlton Bookshop, and I was able to get the pics above.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Amazon review for The Birth Machine

I've had my first Amazon review for the new edition of The Birth Machine - already; and it's a rave!

The bit I like best is this:
This novel should be required reading for medics, politicians, teachers, lawyers and individuals who do not want to be crushed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A fate to avoid

I was out on a walk on Sunday afternoon and came across this which really struck me. It's kind of what I'm hoping doesn't happen to my WIP while I'm working with my publisher on the launch of The Birth Machine!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Clash of Innocents by Sue Guiney

Today I'm delighted to be hosting fellow blogger and writer Sue Guiney with her fascinating new novel set in Cambodia, A Clash of Innocents, which has the great distinction of being chosen as the first publication of new independent publishing house Ward Wood.

Against the backdrop of Cambodia's violent past and the beginnings of its tribunal for 'justice' unfolds the intriguing story of Deborah, the indomitable sixty-year old American (and first-person narrator) who runs a Phnom Penh orphanage, and Amanda, the young woman with a mysterious past who turns up one day to help. It's a story of hidden identities and questioned motives, during which Deborah must struggle with her own demons.

Here's the stunning beginning, with its ironic quoting from a Cambodian Tourist book:

Welcome to Cambodia! We are so glad you are here to learn about our glorious past and experience our remarkable culture. Come see the beauty of our traditional dancers. The comfortable temperature of February is a pleasant time to visit our many temples and our modern capital city. Please let our happy Khmer smiles be your guide. Cambodia From Us to You: A Touristic Handbook, p 8
You live here long enough and you stop taking things for granted. Where I grew up, in suburban Ohio, I could assume one day led to another, one season to the next: you reap in autumn what you sow in spring. People were who they said they were, generally speaking, and if they weren’t you could pretty much avoid them and surround yourself instead with people you could trust.But in Cambodia, you can’t trust anything or anyone. The rice you plant in May won’t necessarily be there in November to harvest. And if it is, it won’t necessarily be yours. A child who’s been put to bed by the caring hands of his mother might never feel that touch again. Actually, it’s not so much that you don’t know who to trust, it’s more that you don’t know what the word trust means. But after all these years in Phnom Penh, I had gotten kind of used to that. Trust. Friend. Murder. Victim. All ideas more like science fiction shape-shifters than real words. You think you have a hold of them, then suddenly they change. It makes for an interesting and challenging life, I’ll tell you that. And after so much time, I can’t really imagine myself living anywhere else.
At the wonderful launch of the book which I attended, Sue made clear that the book had been inspired by her own time in Cambodia, and also that she would be going back there to tour the book. Later I asked her about this last in more detail, and also what had drawn her to write so passionately about the aftermath of war. Here's the answer she sent me:
I’ve raised two boys and I’ve raised them in London, a city which is a little boy’s paradise.There are soldiers and parades and some of the best military museums, and toy soldier museums, anywhere. I couldn’t even count the number of hours I’ve spent at the National Army Museum over the years. So it made sense for me to try to write a book about war, and the war which meant the most to me in my life was the Vietnam War. I’ve never been to Vietnam, but I’ve been to Cambodia, and I can say that when I walked out of baggage claim and into the airport of Phnom Penh, complete with Cambodian soldiers and rifles standing guard, I did feel a moment of irrational panic. I grew up seeing too many news programs and Hollywood films about that era. So “A Clash of Innocents” was to be the novel which helped me sort out my feelings not only about war in general, but about that specific war which so coloured my adolescent years. I recognize the dramatic worth of war stories. They are, indeed, perfect for tales of humanity being stretched to its limit. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write a book about the actuality of war, placing my characters in those battles themselves. I don’t believe it’s because I couldn’t imagine the scenes or the dialogue. I think I could have come up with the story and done the research. But instead I realized it wasn’t actually war itself that haunted me enough to spend years of my life writing about it. It was the aftermath of war. It was the question: what do you do when the war is over and you have survived? How do you live your life having witnessed the worst that humanity can do? How do you come to terms with it all and go on? That is really the question that has always haunted me and that‘s ultimately what “A Clash of Innocents” explores – finding a way to survive, despite. For me, that is the more profound and difficult question. My guess is that this new novel of mine will turn out to be just one of several attempts to answer it.

I think all of Cambodia is still struggling to answer that question, and that might be one of the reasons why I fell so in love with that sad yet beautiful country, and why I’m planning to go back. Many people go away, get inspired, and then return home to create. That has certainly happened to me before. But I’ve decided that this time I wanted to take the fruits of that inspiration back to place that caused it. I’m actually planning a trip in early 2011 back to both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap where I’ll do a series of charity readings for the English-speaking communities there. There are two organizations that I’m talking to about holding events from which the proceeds of books sold can go to their charitable activities. Sure, this gives me a great excuse to go back, and I very much want to. But hopefully, I’ll be able to do a little bit of good as well.
Such energy and commitment! Congratulations to Sue and her publishers. Do buy the book: it's available from Amazon, The Book Depository and good bookshops.

Sue's website is here
Her blog is here
and you can visit her publisher Ward Wood here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Results of draw!

Here are the results of the draw made by independent adjudicator John from each of three of our hats:

Kate Brown and Mary of the Shorter Stories blog each win a copy of the brand-new reissue of The Birth Machine.

Michelle Teasdale and Alice Brockway (who came via Twitter) each win a copy of Balancing on the Edge of the World.

Angela Topping and Diane Becker (who came via Twitter) each win a copy of Too Many Magpies.

Congrats all, and please email me via my profile with your addresses so I can send your copies winging towards you!

Mary Sharratt posts about The Birth Machine

A nice piece about the reissue of The Birth Machine appears today on the blog of novelist Mary Sharratt, who with Maya Chowdhry edited the fabulous Bitch-Lit anthology I was thrilled to be included in. The piece touches on some of the history of the book's publication, so do head on over, and leave a comment if you wish: I'd be very interested in your thoughts. Thanks, Mary!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Given up!

OK, I've given in. Given up trying to write my novel for the moment. Just can't do it at the same time as launching another book. I'm not concentrating as well as I should on the novel, yet by the time I've been trying to do so for a whole morning I just don't have the whoomph I need for getting my head around press releases and pitches and mailing lists. And I'm starting to panic that if I don't concentrate on the publicity and organization I just won't get it all done in time...

So, speaking with my organizational hat firmly on now: don't forget that the draw for free copies of my novels takes place on Friday afternoon...

The Birth Machine has arrived!

And it's beautiful!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Progress report...

Well, to be frank, I'm struggling at the moment in my bid to keep on with my WIP now that the publication of The Birth Machine is hotting up.

These are the things I'm now engaged on:

Alerting people to the launches, one in Manchester and one in London (details in sidebar). This involves designing invites and leaflets and printing them out, inviting people by post and email, making Facebook events etc. Designing posters for the Manchester launch and spending time taking them around.

Spending time visiting bookshops with advance details of the publication.

Alerting interested academics to the imminent publication.

Writing and sending out press releases about the launches, and contacting listings with the info.

Designing postcards for more general publicity about the book and deciding whether to have them professionally printed.

Oh, and meanwhile I'm running my giveaway.

Maybe it doesn't sound as much as it actually is, but for one thing the emailing is taking ages, and for another my creative focus is now badly affected. Yesterday morning, after logging on to Facebook and Twitter to remind people about my giveaway - only a few minute's work, but needless to say I ended up getting involved in other people's tweets and status updates - I sat down to work, ostensibly for three hours, on the new novel. But they weren't productive. All that other stuff was crowding my head and the greatest part of my psychic energy went into suppressing it. And the words just wouldn't flow the way they have been doing and I kept getting stuck: basically, I was just no longer in the psychic space of the novel.

On Sunday night I attended the Jonathan Franzen conversation and reading at the Whitworth Gallery, and meant to post about it yesterday on my Fictionbitch blog. It was out of the question. After lunch I spent a couple of hours on emails before taking invites to the post, calling off at the library with information about the publication, visiting the printer to cost out postcards, and then came back and carried on emailing before supper and after supper started again. I ended up emailing until gone midnight, by which time I was so hyped up I didn't sleep well.

I'm about to log off now and try and write. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Things happening...

I was on my way to London yesterday afternoon when this pic popped up in my mail box: The Birth Machine had arrived at Salt's offices from the printer! My very smiley publisher Chris at Salt says that if you order now from Amazon it will be sent as soon as the distributor releases copies...

I was in London for the launch of Sue Guiney's intriguing-looking novel about Cambodia, A Clash of Innocents, and had a great time. Here's a pic of her reading:

Look out for her visiting this blog with the book on 10th October.

And now I'm back in Manc and here we are at October 1st, the occasion for the giveaway I announced yesterday. Here are the details if you'd like to be in one or all of the draws for free copies of the three novels I've had published on that date: Balancing on the Edge of the World, Too Many Magpies and the first of the three editions of The Birth Machine.