Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Procrastination station

What I ought to be doing today is working on Kett's book. What I'm actually doing is fannying around making her family tree on I found this site after getting frustrated with PowerPoint's limited ability to keep track of Kett's admittedly complicated family tree. I was losing track of who was whose stepmother, half sister, cousin...whatever. Hey, it's not my fault it all my characters keep shagging around and creating half-families everywhere.

Oh...wait. It is. It's probably a reaction to my own, very very simple family tree, which could be created on PowerPoint using about five clicks (no divorces, no remarriages, and only four cousins).

Well, at least it's something to do while I wait for the heating to be mended.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Can I get a SQUEE!!?

Because my friend Patrick just told me his wife is pregnant. I'm going to be a...well, whatever you call it. Mad Auntie Kate. They've been married just over a year (yes, the wedding with the big pink hat). Now all I have to do is stop him calling the kid Spartacus (yes, it'll be funny the first time the teacher calls the register, and then the poor bugger will get beaten up in the playground) and everything's shiny.

Cold showers

How is it I always forget that when the heating breaks down, the hot water supply also goes on the fritz? At least, I forget until I'm in the shower, and the little bit of hot water left in the pipes has run out...

Still, cold showers are supposed to be very good for the hair. And skin. And for killing the rather yummy dream I was having last night... dammit.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Still Waters locations part 2

Okay, after searching two hard drives and several shoeboxes in the garage (where I also partook of a little light beating-the-crap-out-of-the-punchbag), I found the photos I was looking for. Back when I was working with an analogue camera. Ahh, the good old days of 2004.

This is the first Sophie book set entirely in England. although the Cornish might argue that fact, since Cornwall used to be regarded as a separate country, with its own language and its own flag (which is still used sometimes, as is its Cornish name, Kernow).

I also made a couple of maps (heavily borrowed from Google maps) , for those of you who haven't got a clue where in the hell I'm talking about. (If you want to see them bigger, right-click and open them in a different window--Blogger will open them in this window if you let it).

And yes, for those of you who do know where Cornwall is, I know I've included Devon in half these maps. Deal with it.

Tintagel, looking down the path to the cove. This path doesn't look so bad, but trust me when I say it's so steep my lungs were burning by the time I'd climbed back up. There is actually a Land Rover Defender service to carry tourists up and down so they can see the castle. Sophie mentions this service, which Luke reckons is for wimps, but she likes the sound of--not only because her beloved Ted is a Defender too.

Tintagel Head, seen from Port Isaac, through a typical sea fret. And yes, that is as cold as it looks. I can tell you from experience how bitterly cold it is standing up on the headland with the wind slicing through you. Imagine living in a dark age castle there (the dark ages being when King Arthur was supposedly born in that very castle, now sadly almost completely obliterated).

Tintagel cove. First look at the cave on the left--that's known as Merlin's cave (yes, that Merlin). It goes all the way through to the other side of the headland like a tunnel, and when the tide is out you can walk all the way through.

Now look further left and up at the walkway between the mainland and the 'Island'. Those tiny, tiny little dots are people. Pictures can't possibly convey how high that is, how jagged the rocks below are, how loud the crashing waves, and how completely terrifying it is to someone as frightened of heights as I am. Even once you reach hard rock again, you climb up more steps, carved into the vertical rock face, until you get to the very top of the Island.

The top of that Island is also a setting in Still Waters. Okay, I'm not really sure a helicopter could land there, but that, my friend, is what they mean by poetic licence.

Back to Port Trevan, or Port Isaac in real life. The street known as Squeeze-ee-belly Alley, which I showed a picture of below, ends by passing under a couple of cottages. This is me standing there in the narrowest part of the gap. I know I have giant man-shoulders, but they both touched the walls as I went through.

Crystalline turquoise waters, a tiny cove near Port Gaverne just around the headland from Port Isaac. This tiny little cove always reminds me of something out of the Chronicles of Narnia (I think it's the Voyage of the Dawn Treader I'm thinking of, where they find a beautiful pool with the statue of a gold man in it. When they try to hook it out with a sword, the sword turns to gold on touching the water. The statue is actually a man who dived in and turned to gold. Why I think of that when I look at this, I've no idea--but that's the power of imagery for you).

Pretty pretty views, with imminent death just behind you in the form of those falling rocks. Honestly, there are so many ways to die around here--the water and the cliff are spectacular enough--that it's a wonder I didn't pop off more characters in Still Waters.

Aha! The cave! I found the picture of the cave! The tide here is, obviously, well out, but when it's in it completely covers the floor of the cave. I truly don't know how high up it actually goes (you can only see the place by walking there when the tide is out), but in the book I had it high enough to drown someone a few feet from the ceiling.

The little dog there, by the way, is Honey, the real-life Norma Jean, trotting along behind my dad.

St Michael's Mount, on the south coast of Cornwall. The causeway here is only visible and safe to cross when the tide is out. Twice a day, the mount becomes an island, only accessible by boat. The island is inhabited by the family who own the castle at the top, and villagers in the cottages at the bottom. I took liberties with the island when I used it as the setting--both in Still Waters and Ugley Business--for the home of Angel's friend Livvy, by putting an Elizabethan palace there instead of a medieval castle. Still, I can't think of a more fantastic setting for the wedding at the end of the book, can you?

Location, location

Funny thing, the British summer. Comes in a flash--sometimes of lightning. Disappears some time around May, often not to resurface until September. Can burn or freeze. Nowhere is it more hilarious than on a beach, where you can observe the quintessential British summer pastime of wearing socks with sandals (well, sandals on their own would make your feet cold. And no, proper shoes aren't an option. It's summer), huddling behind a windbreak, under a parasol that's often keeping out drizzle rather than sun. We eat ice creams even when it's freezing. We splash barefoot in a sea that could keep beer cold. Hell, we surf in such a sea.

The funniest thing about the British summer is that the pictures below were meant to be demonstrating locations I used in Still Waters, which is set in December. But I took them in June. Can you tell?

The beach café at Watergate Bay. When I first started going here as a little girl, Watergate Bay was pretty much a car park, a couple of run-down hotels, a beach café and a beach. A really big beach. With really big waves. Around the headland is Newquay, known as the UK's surf capital (possibly rather optimistically). But unless you like streets full of traffic and puking teenagers, it's more pleasant to go to Watergate Bay. It's come up a bit recently--the café is now run by the Xtreme Academy, who offer tuition and hire for all kinds of mad watersports, most of which I don't even understand the names of. Oh, and behind the café is Fifteen Cornwall, Jamie Oliver's place.

The café is a setting in Still Waters, for a reasonably important scene between Sophie and Luke. At the beginning of the book, they're not really talking, having gone through a pretty harsh break-up. But Sophie has something important to tell Luke, and it's here she plucks up the courage.

The view of the beach from the café. The sea's a lot further away than it looks--see that tiny blob on the shoreline, on the right of the picture? I think that's the coastguard's 4x4.

Middle Street, Port Isaac, the real-life version of Port Trevan where the first part of Still Waters takes place. One of few relatively flat streets in a village where, as John Betjeman put it, most of the streets are 'almost perpendicular'. They're also very narrow--Middle Street is wide enough to accommodate a car, at least until it tails off into a passageway wide enough for one person, provided they haven't eaten too much ice cream.

Trebarwith Strand. This place really is just a beach and and ice cream shop. Oh, and the requisite few mad surfers. See the sea there? Go past that rock, keep swimming, and you'll eventually hit America.

This tiny church is St Endoc, up the coast from Rock, one of the most expensive places in the country in which to buy property. Wills and Harry holiday there. The chapel was for hundreds of years completely forgotten, buried completely under drifts of sand from the nearby dunes. When the steeple became exposed in the nineteenth century, it was excavated and renovated. John Betjeman, the war poet, is buried in its grounds.

This has bugger all to do with anything, except that the letters on the top of the postbox are VR. In England, postboxes belong to the Royal Mail, and are therefore marked with the insignia of the ruling monarch. Most of them now say EIIR (Elizabeth II Regina). A few are still marked GVIR for her father. This one? Was marked in the reign of Victoria, who died in 1901.

(Incidentally, the reason there are no numbers is because Victoria was the first monarch with that name {and contemporaries wouldn't have needed to distinguish her from any previous Queen Victorias--they still don't}. For the same reason, modern postboxes in Scotland are marked ER, no numbers, because Elizabeth I was never queen of Scotland; therefore, the present monarch is the first Queen Elizabeth in that country).

This street in Port Isaac is officially called Temple Bar, but it's known more often as Squeeze-ee-belly Alley. You can see where the street appears to end with a building facing it; in actual fact, the street runs under said building in a gap about the width of my shoulders, and opens onto another street about six feet wide and lined with cottages. It's reputed to be the narrowest street in Britain, but I'm pretty sure there are about half a dozen with the same claim.

Squeeze-ee-belly Alley is the location of the cottage where Sophie, Luke and Maria stay in Still Waters. Maria's aunt's cottage is the first one on the right ( try taking a picture of a building when you can't get more than six feet away from it!).

This also has nothing to do with anything. I just find it funny.

The stream that runs alongside part of Middle Street and eventually emerges on the beach, emptying into the sea, also runs under the window of the cottage I stayed in.

The harbour, Port Isaac. The crease in the rocks (in about the middle of the picture) is actually the cave where the corpse whose murder Sophie and Luke investigate, is found. Unfortunately, on that particular day (the only one, as I recall, where it wasn't tipping down with rain), the tide was in too far to walk out and take a better picture. I shall, however, endeavour to find another picture (because I've been visiting Port Isaac for about five or six years, and must have got one somewhere, in a shoebox, going mouldy).

The Golden Lion, standing in for the Blue Dolphin, high above the harbour. You can walk down a narrow alley (which I seem to recall being referred to as Bloody Bones Alley, after some incident I've mercifully forgotten but wish I'd heard about back when I wrote Still Waters) to the Platt, the all-purpose concrete platform (just) above the reach of the waves.

Standing on the Platt, looking down at the harbour beach. Since the tide washes it completely twice a day, dogs are allowed on the beach every day of the year. Pepper, the Demon Puppy, had the time of her life chasing tennis balls, rocks, seagulls, other dogs, waves and her own tail, for hours in the low surf. Honey, my old dog on whom Sophie's Norma Jean is based, was much more fastidious and didn't like getting saltwater in her pretty blonde fur.

Oh, and the red truck on the right is a cousin of Sophie's much-loved Ted. This is a the pick-up model, whereas Ted is the station wagon version, with a passenger cabin rather than a flat-bed. And he's dull khaki, not red--but he's still been designed in the same way, by someone who was only allowed a ruler and set-square.

Hope you liked these snapshots of scenes from Sophie's fourth adventure. If you want to see what Port Trevan, aka Port Isaac, really looks like, try and catch an episode of the ITV series Doc Martin, which is filmed there (Port Isaac this time doubling for the fictitious Portwenn). a couple of years ago, we arrived in Port Isaac in June, and found the place crawling with cameramen and girls with clipboards (why are there always so many of them?), some of whom we ended up on first-name terms with.

Now I'm off to find a picture I know I took of that damn cave...

Monday, May 19, 2008


Oh God, how did I forget to post about this? Bad Cat, bad. Spaceport: Incognito came out on Friday, and I still haven't mentioned it here. I'll go to Author Hell for this (you know that joke about author hell and heaven? In heaven, authors are chained to typewriters and constantly whipped. In hell, the same thing goes on. The difference? In heaven, you get published).

Anyway. Incognito, my contribution to the mad, seedy, sexy, exciting world of Spaceport, is out now to buy. I don't have any superlative reviews with which to convince you of its fabulousness, so I'll just have to post a blurb and hope that does the trick.

Jal is a bounty hunter. Kali is his quarry. When he finds the former socialite disguised as a cheap whore, turning tricks on Spaceport Adana, he can't believe his luck. All he has to do is return her to her fiancé, and he's rich. So what if he's sampling the wares on the trip home? It's not as if it's the first time she's traded in sex.

Except that there's a reason why Kali ran from her privileged background, and once Jal hears it, he's faced with a dilemma. Previously, knowing his skip was facing certain death would never have bothered him, but this time all the money in the 'verse won't compensate for it. Can he send her home, knowing she'll be instantly killed, or should he believe her story and help with her mission -- which might end up getting them both killed?

Besides, it's very possible that Kali knows the secret to finding the one thing Jal has been searching for all his life…

Buy it! In a wonderful feat of self-sabotage, I've also managed to neglect pimping out my next Kate Johnson book. The fourth (yes! fourth!) Sophie Green Mystery, Still Waters, will be available as an e-book tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. Step right up, folks, for ice cream, Cornish pasties, harbour drownings, holiday villages, equestrian sabotage, soppy declarations, secret babies (oh yes!) and murder riddles. You know you want to.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

RNA Summer Party

I've never quite made it to the RNA Summer Party before, although I've made the conference and Winter Party twice each, so at least now I'm a little more confident of walking in and actually seeing someone I know. This time, I at least managed not to take the wrong exit from Westminster Tube and find myself outside the Houses of Parliament (very nice, but not where I needed to be) or stack it on the pavement outside the IMechE and walk in with ripped tights and a bleeding knee, as I did last time.

I figured the problems I had last time were due to the stress of trying to be sophisticated in my mother's cocktail dress, so this time I wore my purple button boots and this dress (which I could only find an image of in black, but have altered with my shiny computer skills to give you a more accurate idea of the hot-pinkness of it). Of course, it looked more fabulous on me. It was certainly very boobilicious.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera, or I'd post pictures of the event (if anyone else has any pics, I'd love to see them!). But I do remember chatting to fellow Samhain author Jane Lovering, who came all the way from North Yorkshire (in not much longer than the time it took me to come from Essex) because she was up for the Joan Hessayon prize for authors who have gone through the RNA's brilliant New Writers Scheme and subsequently become published. Jane didn't win (congratulations must go to Giselle Green, who did), but she did attract plenty of well-wishers, who also stayed to chat to me. Hi, well-wishers!

The always effervescent Julie Cohen came to tell me she'd just sold a co-authored space-romp to Samhain, and Jean Fullerton to invite me to a meeting of the London chapter which I'll have to miss as I'm away. Jean, I know I'm always away when you mention these meetings, but it really is coincidence and I'm not trying to avoid you, honest!

Right, now I'm off to design more pretty postcards from Vistaprint. They were such a hit at the party that I'm definitely going to need more for the conference!

Monday, May 12, 2008

RITA scores

So, I didn't final in the RITA. But I did get my scores, which show I didn't do horribly badly. Well, not completely. A final score of 38.7, out of a possible 45, ain't bad at all. Two judges really loved the book, one giving a perfect score (9) and one nearly perfect (8.9). One thought it was okay (7.5) and two weren't hugely impressed (6.8 and 6.5). Probably too much sex. This, as I have argued exhaustively before, is partly my fault in entering an erotic romance in a competition run by an organisation that still hasn't decided whether it's porn or not. But I won't get into that now.

Fact is, Almost Human scored in the top quarter, so I'm fairly happy with that.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Faking it

Why is it that the bottle of Johnson's Holiday Skin I've been using bears the boast "As natural as your own tan"? If I tanned naturally, I wouldn't be faking it, would I?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A week or two ago I posted some brilliant examples of reimagined speeches, done in a Shakespeare style. Well, being the odd creature I am, I had to give it ago. Here's one of my favourite speeches (and the run-up to it) from Buffy. In places I hardly needed to change anything, which just shows you what a genius Joss Whedon really is.

Chosen Act III Scene 1

Spike We can take it back. Nay?

Buffy Nay.

Spike What sayest thou, nay?

Thou meanst ‘eventually’?

Buffy You have ever misunderstood that word.

Spike You can regain them.

Buffy Can, mayhap. Should? I am so tired.

Spike They need you.

Buffy Yea, but—

Spike ‘Tis chaos without you.

Buffy Is’t so?

Spike Aye! Aye, ‘tis. All is rank;

Bedrolls are spoiled, they all are frightened

And mean-apparelled.

Buffy Most dire.

Spike I saw little. I came to the house,

Fought with Faith, and went.

Buffy Didst thou? ‘Tis not

That I am not glad, and yet—

Spike Bid me do it, and she shall be

But a footnote in history. I will make it seem

As a painéd accident.

Buffy This is ever my sorrow. I bid,

And each time, someone dies.

Spike There are casualties in every war.

Buffy Casualties. It is too casual a word.

These girls have been slain. I am the Slayer

And I have slain my connection to them.

‘Tis my fault: connections are ever severed by me.

As you should know.

Spike ‘Tis in my recollection

We connected.

Buffy Ha!

We were never close. You wanted only

What you could not attain

Spike Is’t all you think?

Buffy Let us not go over the past.

Spike Nay, let us. I shall go over it.

I have hummed to your tune of pity

Now ‘tis my turn to sing.

Buffy Then sing, and cheer me.

Spike Thou art insufferable.

Buffy My thankings for thy help.

Spike I do not wish to cheer you—

Buffy Then what sayest thou?

Spike When I have said it, I shall know.

Thou made me angry. ‘Could not attain’,

Aye, that’s the rub.

Buffy Then I am attainable.

The pinnacle of attainment I shall be.

May I now sleep?

Spike Listen thou to me.

I have been alive longer than you

Aye, and dead longer than that.

What I have seen thou couldst not imagine;

What I have done, I implore do not.

I am known not for following my thoughts

But my blood, which rarely runs to my brain.

And so mistakes are mine to make,

Errors mine to call, by our lady.

But in a hundred years, one thing

Have I been sure of: You.

I ask you not for anything.

Say not, “I love you” as I want you

Or because I cannot have you.

It has naught to do with I.

I love what you are,

What you do, how you try.

I have seen your kindness,

Aye, and your strength. I’ve seen

The best and the worst of you.

And now I see with perfect clarity

Exactly how thou art.

Thou art a singular woman, Buffy.

Thou art the one.

Buffy I do not wish to be.

Spike I do not wish to be so pleasing

To th’eye. We all must bear our crosses.

Fun, huh?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Look, new cover!

Yes, it's been a week (or more, ahem) since I posted, but in my defence I was away. I just forgot to, er, mention that.

But anyway--look what I've got!

Spaceport: Incognito is out next Friday, 16th May. It's my first sci-fi and I'm very proud of it! I'm also delighted with this cover--isn't it gorgeous?