Happy Christmas, Nathan?

Ever wondered what Christmas looked like for Nathan back when he was locked up and guarded by Celia? Sally’s letting us into his world on Christmas Eve, as an early Christmas present to Half Bad fans – so enjoy, and spare a thought for Nathan whilst you’re tucking into your turkey tomorrow!

 

Christmas in the cage

I’m supposed to be cleaning out the chicken coop. But sometimes I just don’t want to do what I’m supposed to, whatever the consequences. So I’m standing here watching the hens feed, just for a minute or two, thinking . . . coming up with a new plan.

I’ve not been told, but I’ve worked it out that we always have my monthly assessments on the 21st of the month, and that was four days ago. I’ve also noticed that the only meat in the pantry is sausages, the same sausages we’ve been having for the last two weeks. So my new plan is a different kind of plan. As with most of my plans the chance of success is minimal but looking at the bright side, when it goes wrong, so what? Life can’t get much worse.

I grab the fattest hen by its feet, it flaps its wings furiously for a second or two but quietens as soon as it swings upside down. I reach out my left hand –

‘What’re you doing?’ Celia asks as she comes round the corner of the cottage.

My left hand grabs the hen’s warm neck and head and pulls.

‘No, Nathan!’ Celia barks but she’s too late and knows it. I expect her to use her Gift on me, to bring me to my knees with her magical sound, but instead she steps close to me and I take a step back, out of reach, I hope.

‘I didn’t say you could kill that.’ Her voice is even quieter than usual, which is a sign that she’s really seething and I have to tread carefully.

I take another half step back, holding the chicken out between us and I say, ‘It’s Christmas Day isn’t it?’ She blanks me, as if that information is too dangerous for me to have. I continue, ‘So, I thought we’d celeb– I thought I’d cook roast chicken.’

We have chicken once a month on the first of the month (I’ve worked that out too). That’s when I normally kill and pluck and pull all the innards out of whichever hen Celia selects.

‘What makes you think I haven’t ordered a turkey?’ she asks. That’s her idea of a joke. Her voice is still very quiet.

‘Didn’t see one in the pantry, thought you must have forgot.’ And as I get to the ‘t’ of ‘forgot’ she hits me: a sharp punch to the side of my face. I stagger to the side, blood in my mouth. Fuck!

She’s not used her noise on me though, which is a good sign.

I heal my face and stand straight, the chicken still hanging between us.

She says, ‘Is that the biggest hen, the best layer?’

‘Yeah but it’s dead now anyway. So I might as well-‘

Another punch, harder and faster. I didn’t see that coming at all. And another and I’m on my knees. Her boot slams into the ground where my face was as I coil and roll away. Shit! Her boot comes at me again as I roll again and get back onto my feet like she’s taught me. But then I get her elbow in my face. I stagger back but at least I manage to stay on my feet. The chicken is on the ground.

‘You need to get faster,’ she says and then she points at the chicken, adding, ‘It better be the best roast dinner I’ve ever tasted.’

I heal my bloody nose and retrieve the carcass, trying not to grin. Yes! The plan has worked, sort of. Roast chicken for dinner!

‘You can finish cleaning the coop first. And then do two circuits – the outer ones.’

I don’t answer or nod or ‘yes sir’ her, I just get on with stringing the chicken up and plucking the feathers off. It’s a good size carcass, should be a great meal.

Celia watches me all the time, whilst I’m preparing the chicken, whilst I’m cleaning the coop, times me on my runs and then as soon as I’m back from the second one and I’m still bent over hands on knees breathing hard, she says, ‘Now we’ll do some hand-to-hand. If you beat me I’ll let you eat your half of the chicken.’

I turn my head up to look at her. I can tell she’s not in the mood to let me win: she’s in the mood to make sure I don’t even land a punch. I stretch up and flex my shoulders and neck, wondering if I can beat her this time. I say, ‘So if you win I get no chicken, and if I win I get half the chicken? Doesn’t sound fair.’ I pause then dare to add, ‘And I know you love to be fair.’

‘Fair would be me breaking you right arm for not cleaning out the coop when you were first told, and your left for killing the best layer without permission.’ She rolls her shoulders and gets into her fighting stance and says, ‘I’m letting you off punishment because it’s that special time of the year.’

‘Peace and goodwill to all men,’ I mutter, raising my fists.

I do manage to land a couple of hits, two good punches and a kick to her stomach that has to hurt.

But in the end I have a vegetarian Christmas. I’m not even allowed any gravy, though I have to make it all and watch her stuff her face. She mops her fat lips clean of grease and says, ‘Praise where praise is due, Nathan, that was a good chicken and well cooked. And it looks like there’s enough meat left for stew tomorrow – for those of us who’ve earned it.’

At that I lose my rag and throw the metal oven tray at her.

 

So all that means I’m fasting on Boxing Day: the oven tray sliced across Celia’s nose, which I’m still rather proud of. It took her by surprise, which is hard to do. A small victory. But the price is that I’m not allowed out of the cage all Boxing Day. It’s a long, cold day to be chained up doing nothing but thinking, and when the rain arrives brought by a cold wind, I can only protect myself from by covering myself with the sheepskins in the northwest corner of my cage.

I’ve spent the day remembering things from my past: my school, my home and my family. Last Christmas Gran cooked a massive turkey, with me, Deborah and Arran helping her, all our cheeks red with the heat. Jessica didn’t come home for the holidays, which made it even more perfect. We ate too much and had fun, smiling over our huge stomachs, Arran teasing Deborah, me teasing Arran, Gran telling stories about Christmases past. And afterwards Arran watched an old movie on telly, his favourite one that he always watched.

And here in my cage I’m curling up as if I’m on the sofa, Arran’s arm lying over me, my eyes closing as I fall asleep, and the guy in the movie is talking to the other guy telling him how wonderful life is. And Arran knows all the lines off by heart, saying them as the actor says them:

‘Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many others. He leaves an awful hole when he’s gone.’

 

Can’t wait for Half Wild? Half Lies is out NOW!

Half Lies_hires

Half Lies is a brand new short story for fans of Half Bad – and it’s out today!

We know that lots of Half Bad fans just can’t wait for the release of Half Wild in March 2015, so Sally has written Half Lies, telling the backstory of one of Half Bad‘s most popular characters – Gabriel. Below is more from Sally on the journey to writing Half Lies, which you can download through Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy – and as ever, let Sally know your thoughts in the comments here, or on Twitter (@sa11egreen).

HALF LIES: Writing a short story.

The Proposal
My editor said, ‘It doesn’t need to be long. Between five and ten thousand words.’
‘Five thousand and one then,’ I replied.
‘That’s fine.’
Easy for him to say. And as it turns out pretty impossible for me to do. I went past the 5,000 mark in no time, was hovering between 8,000 and 9,000 for two weeks determined not to go over 9,999, adding 200 here and cutting 150 there until I gave up trying to keep it ‘short’ and just wrote the story I wanted to write. It ended up at 15,000 words – three times as long as I was aiming for.

The Idea


My editor said that a story about Gabriel would be good, ‘Everyone likes him.’  And I wanted to write about Gabriel – for those of you who haven’t read HALF BAD or have done and have forgotten who Gab is (splutter!?!), well he’s the French/Swiss handsome guy who saves Nathan’s life at the end of the story by risking his own (Sorry – have I not mentioned the SPOILER ALERT thing too late). So I started writing a story about Gabriel from Gabriel’s point of view, but it was just WRONG. It didn’t work. Gabriel is not a ‘me, me, me’ person. He doesn’t think about himself (and once he meets Nathan he definitely only thinks of Nathan). So I quickly dropped the Gabriel voice and told his story from a different angle.

Gabriel has a father and sister (mentioned in HALF BAD) and dead mother and grandmother (the latter killed by his father in self-defence), which seemed like a plenty of plot to expand on. And HALF LIES does cover some of this ground explaining how his mother and grandmother died, but goes much further than that to paint a picture of the remaining family (dad, Gab and Michele) and what they do and how it ends up that Gabriel returns to Switzerland from the USA where HALF LIES is set.

I tell the story of HALF LIES from the point of view of Michele, Gabriel’s sister, as a diary – her diary.

More about the Idea


Why use a diary to tell this story?
This story covers a long period of time – several years so I needed a format that would work for that. Short stories, I was told on my Creative Writing courses, are best when focused on short periods of time (a day, an hour etc. , one incident, one scene). But HALF LIES isn’t a Creative Writing Course short story and as I’ve said already, it’s not that short. Basically I hoped that a diary would keep the reader interested – we’ll just have to see if that has worked.

Almost ready to start writing


Before I began I re-read a few short stories from champions of the genre – Hemingway (always a favourite) and Carver (another favourite) but I also tried Flannery O’Connor. I feel a bit ridiculous mentioning these great names as helpers for my short story but there’s the truth of what I tried to do, not to copy them, but to get into the mood of the short story – and there is definitely an intense mood in a good short story.
So then I was almost ready to begin writing, I was in a short story mood, but I wasn’t confident about being in a diary mood (and I wasn’t sure about how to write dialogue in a diary – I mean who would do that?) Anyway, I read The Bunker Diary (I loved it by the way) to see what Kevin Brooks did and I realised that I had to stop worrying about dialogue and just use it. And if any girl was likely to write dialogue in her diary, Michele would.

Writing


I just wrote it. It kept growing as I’ve already said.

The Title


Half Truth? Half False? Half Lost? Half Found? Half Buried? Half Alive? Half Cut? Half Mad? Half bloody written and still no title!

I had lists of potential titles but what was the right one? About half way through writing the story I had to give my editor my final choice. I realised there were a few lies being told, so HALF LIES it was.

Editing


I set HALF LIES in Florida although I’d never been there and I don’t like writing about places I don’t know. But I had to set it somewhere in the US (this was the location Gabriel mentions in HALF BAD) but I didn’t want to use New York or California (places in the US I have been to) because, well I just didn’t . So I had to rely on the internet for lots of information (climate, locations etc.) and thankfully my wonderful US editors gave me lots of advice (no she won’t be eating muesli and she won’t be travelling by bus). I spent a lot of time trying to work out the bus system in eastern Florida and all I can say is that all mentions of buses have been edited out of the final story and Michele now drives a car.

The End
Short stories are funny things (not) they are often very worthy and almost like poetry in that the critics and writers of them can get a bit up their own arses about their meaning and merit etc. Really it just needs to be a good story – preferably a great one. I’ve tried to do what Flannery O’Connor asks of short story writers, and I’m happy enough that I’ve captured Michele’s manners and a little of Gabriel’s mystery.
Gabriel’s world is full of death and that is why he loves Nathan. Nathan to him represents life, possibility and hope.

 

Read the first chapter of HALF WILD!

With six months to go until the publication of HALF WILD, here’s the first chapter. Sally would love to hear your feedback, so do tweet your reactions to @sa11egreen!

 

a new day

  a crossbill calls

another bird replies, not a crossbill

the first bird takes over again

and again

the crossbill-

shit, it’s morning

i’ve been asleep

it’s morning, very early

shit, shit, shit

don’t panic

need to wake up                      need to wake up

can’t believe i’ve been asl-

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchhchchchchhchchchhchchchchhchchchhchhchchchchchchchchchhchhhchchccchchchchhchchchhhchhchchch

SHIT!

the noise is here. HERE!

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchhchchchchhchchchhchchchchhchchchhchhchchchchchchchchchhchhhchchccchchchchhchchchhhchhchchch

that level of noise means, oh shit, someone with a mobile is close. very close. shit, i can’t believe i’ve been asleep with Hunters on my tail. and her. the fast one. she was close last night.

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchhchchchchhchchchhchchchchhchchchhchhchchchchchchchchchhchhhchchccchchchchhchchchhhchhchchch

THINK! THINK!

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchhchchchchhchchchhchchchchhchchchhchhchchchchchchchchchhchhhchchccchchchchhchchchhhchhchchch

it’s a mobile phone, for sure it’s a mobile phone. the noise is in my head, not in my ears, it’s to the upper right side, inside, constant, like an electrical interference, pure hiss, mobile hiss, loud, three or four meters away loud. SHIT! THINK! THINK!

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchh

ok right, lots of people have mobiles. if it’s a Hunter, that Hunter, and she could see me, i’d be dead by now.

i’m not dead

she can’t see me

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchh

the noise isn’t getting louder. she’s not moving closer. but she’s not moving away either.

am i hidden?

i’m lying on my side, face pressed into the ground. totally still. can’t see anything but earth.

got to move a little.

but not yet. think first. stay calm and work it out.

there’s no breeze, no sun, just a lightness. it’s early. the sun has to be behind the mountain still. there’s the smell of earth, the pine of the forest. the ground is cool, dry, no dew. there’s the smell of the forest and . . .  there’s another smell.

what is that smell?

and there’s a taste.

a bad taste. it tastes like . . . oh no-

don’t think about it

don’t think about it

don’t think about it

don’t think about it

think about something else

think about where you are

 

You’re lying on the ground, in the early morning and the air is cool. You’re cold. You’re cold because . . . oh shit, oh shit . . . you’re naked. You’re naked and the top half of you is wet. Your chest, your arms . . . your face are wet.

And you move the fingers of your left hand, the tiniest of movements, and they’re sticky. Sticking together. As if with drying, sugary juice. But it’s not juice.

don’t think about it

don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it don’t think about it

DoN’t THiNk aBOUT IT

THINK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE

THINK ABOUT STAYING ALIVE

You’ve got to move. The Hunters are close on your tail. That fast one was close. She was very close last night.

what happened last night?

what happened?

remember!

NO.

FORGET THAT. THINK ABOUT STAYING ALIVE

WORK OUT WHAT TO DO

 

You can look, move your head a fraction to see more. The ground by your face is thick with pine-needles. Brown pine-needles. But the brown isn’t from the pine, it’s the colour of dried blood. You’re left arm is extended. It’s streaked in it, dried, brown. But your hand isn’t streaked in it, it’s thick with it. Sopping. Red

close your eyes

close your eyes

close your eyes

 

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchhchchchchhchchchhchchchchhchchchhchhchchchchchchchchchhchhhchchccchchchchhchchchhhchhchchch

You need to go. Without thinking or looking or remembering. You need to go. For you’re own safety you have to get out of here. You need to get moving. Get away from here. You can find a stream and wash. Wash it all off.

The mobile phone is close, not changing. It won’t be coming closer.

You should look, check. Turn your head to the other side. You can do it. Look, check. . .

it looks like a log

Please be a log. Please be a log. Please be a log.

Please.

it’s not a log.

it’s a shape in black and red, with black boots and with two legs; one straight, one bent. legs dressed in black. black material covering the torso. light-brown hair. her hair. cut short. sopping with blood. her face is turned away.

she’s lying as still as a log

still wet

still oozing

not fast any more

the mobile phone is hers

chchchchchchchhchchchcchhhhhchchchhchcchchchhhchchchhchchchcchchhcchcchchchhchchchhcchchchchchchhchchchchchhchchchchhchhhchchchchccchchchchchh

and as you raise your head you see the wound that is her throat

and it is jagged and bloody and deep and

red

The world’s first glimpse of HALF WILD!

Half_Wild_CVR

 

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus,

and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.

Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

SO – what do you think? Let us know your thoughts, and don’t forget you can tweet us – @PenguinUKBooks and @sa11egreen

HALF WILD is out from 24th March 2015, but you can pre-order now via this link! Stay tuned for more exclusive reveals and extracts in the run up to publication…!

Which Witches Should be Making a Comeback?

A standard question I get from journalists is along these lines:- ‘So HALF BAD is about witches. Are witches making a comeback in contemporary culture?’

I’m not sure if journalists really expect me to be an expert on this subject (I’m not), and I’m not sure witches were ever a dominant force in stories (apart from Harry Potter of course). Okay, they feature in many fairy stories, but they are usually the bad guys playing a supporting role to show off the nice princess and the heroic prince. However, with Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in the just released Maleficent (the title of the film being that of the witch (hooray) rather than Sleeping Beauty (spit)), maybe the tide is turning.

Anyway, all this got me thinking who are my favourite witches in films and tv programmes, and I was surprised how many I thought of. Here are a few of those who I’d love to see again or otherwise. . .

Maleficent (the Disney version)

Malificent

Maleficent from Walt Disney’s 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty is the archetypal Black Witch, she has it all from the clothes to the crow. Unfortunately she’s not a witch, she’s a fairy. A fairy!

This perhaps explains why her spells seem to lack true horror.  Maleficent performs an enchantment at Aurora’s christening which will mean death by spindle, but the enchantment is countered by another ‘good’ Fairy’s and so sleep rather than death is the result. All I can say is that I’m more impressed by Maleficent’s head gear than by her evil spells. Having said that I don’t expect I’ll be rushing to see Angelina play this part as I can’t see how Disney’s version can be improved on.

Samantha and her mother, Endora (from Bewitched)

Endora

Bewitched was one of my favourite TV programmes from the sixties. Samantha is a witch but wants to live the life of a normal human because of the love for her husband, Darrin, whilst Endora constantly tries, and fails, to break up her daughter’s happy marriage. As a child I adored Samantha and feared her mother, Endora.

You will be pleased to hear that I now realise the error of my ways. Samantha is awful – the typical goody White Witch who cutely twitches her nose to make everything alright, and weirdly seems to wear similar clothes to those sported by Dolores Umbridge (more of her further on). Now, I find Endora delightful as Samantha’s frustrated yet rather bored mother who wants her daughter to act like a real witch.  Witches like Endora really should be making a comeback.

Willow Rosenberg

Willow

I have to admit I didn’t watch many episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and when I did Willow always seemed to be reading a book (admittedly a large, leather-bound tome, but still a book) – which didn’t strike me as a very witchy thing to do. Being book-ish is such a good disguise for a witch that I wasn’t sure Willow was one, but a Buffy-mad friend of mine confirmed the truth of it.

I wondered if perhaps Willow was an American forerunner of the even more book-ish Hermione Granger of Harry Potter but it seems they both made their appearance in the same year (1997 was the first airing of Buffy and the publication of Harry Potter) – coincidence or perhaps there is something more mysterious afoot…

The Witches of Eastwick

Eastwick

Oh dear, nothing mysterious here, I think the picture says it all.

Based on the John Updike novel, The Witches of Eastwick – Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer – are (according to the blurb) sex starved…No, I can’t go on. This is just an excuse to ogle scantily clad, beautiful women and for some reason the photo reminds me of Charlies Angels – nuff said.

Hopefully these kind of witches, and I include that lot from ‘Charmed’, will not be making a comeback.

Ravenna

Ravenna

This is more like it. Ravenna, (and I think we all already know that black birds are going to be involved) is the Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize Theron as Ravenna). Ravenna is not referred to as a witch but she does use witchcraft to try to kill Snow White, which seems a decent indicator, though all her plans inevitably fail.

One of the great aspects of this film is the magical mirror, which has more personality and appeal than either Snow White or the Huntsman.

Miss Eva Ernst, Grand High Witch of All The World

Eva Ernst

Miss Eva Ernst, in the 1990 film version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, is all that you’d want from a Grand High Witch (including being played by Anjelica Huston), though she has no toes, not much hair and a terrible plan for world domination. I could have told her that trying to organise witches, and to have a convention to do so, would end badly. She only has to watch a few witchy films to know that complicated potions always backfire. Here, the potion that will make all children of England turn into mice so that they will be killed as pests by their parents is consumed (surprise, surprise) by all the witches and the kitchen staff chop all the mice/witches to bits.

Mortianna

Mortianna

Geraldine McEwan as Mortianna in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves is great. I seem to remember that she has an altar, upturned crosses and bones about the place and thinks too much of a reading she has made that foretells her death at the hands of ‘the painted man’, (why don’t they just say tattooed?) Morgan Freeman.

She is nasty, ugly, totally potty and actually a bit scary. More please!

Myca

Myca

Myca, from The Crow (the 1994 film starring Brandon Lee) doesn’t declare herself as a witch but I think we all know that she has to be one – there’s the unusual name, black clothing (though not much of it), her painted body (tattoos some might call them), the wonderful mix of evil, beauty, sex appeal and pottiness, and the black bird is a bit of a giveaway too.

Myca is also smart and her cunning is the most frightening thing about her (at last the audience can get excited about the possibility of a sensible plan to kill off the hero). She realises that the way to defeat the already dead (but not dead enough) Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) is to use the crow which somehow represents his spirit. Hmmm, already it is sounding a bit complicated and yes, the plan backfires eventually.

I really would like some bad witches like Myca to succeed more often and Myca should come back as she at least felt dangerous.

Jadis, The White Witch

Jadis

In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (one of my favourite childhood books) Jadis has gained power over Narnia and has brought a one hundred year long winter (I still spend too much time wondering what everyone eats: do they ship it in from warmer climes? Have they a big store from summery days?…)

Still, Jadis is frightening and bucks the black trend beautifully. It’s interesting how easy it is to assume she’s nice (and one can sympathise with Edmund for falling for her lies); it would be so obvious she was bad if she wore black. She is evil and cruel yet pushing the addictive Turkish Delight onto Edmund does seem terribly English and a little tame (though hints at food being shipped in from the Med., which puts my mind at rest a little).

 

Dolores Umbridge

Umbridge

Now we’re talking. Of course I could write pages about the numerous witches in Harry Potter books/films, and certainly choosing between Dolores and Bellatrix Lestrange is difficult. But Dolores is unusual for a witch, yes she is cruel and vindictive, she tortures children scarring their hands with a pen that cuts into their skin as it writes, and yes she will resort to the Cruciatus curse, but she also keeps cats, wears pink and speaks in a particularly irritatingly-cutesy voice.

Anyone who demonstrates so clearly that pink is evil wins my vote.

My Gifts For Nathan!

Thanks to those of you who tweeted their ideas for gifts to give Nathan on his birthday.

Photos of his loved ones/family seems the popular choice and I think is perfect for Nathan.

These are the three things I would have given him if I’d performed his Giving ceremony:-

–  a leaf (as a reminder of Annalise – more of this in Half Wild!)

–  photo of Cora and Marcus (it would be pretty hard to get my hands on this, but as I’m the author I’m sure I could think of a way)

–  silver knife (as a reminder of Gabriel)

Sally

Gifts for Nathan!

It’s Nathan’s birthday on the 21st June.

For a whet (a young witch) to become a full, adult witch they go through a Giving ceremony on their 17th Birthday. The Giver gives the whet three gifts, whispers a spell and the whet must drink the blood of his/her parents or grandparents.

But what 3 gifts would you give Nathan?

I’ve come up with a long list of possibilities, but haven’t decided yet which ones I would give him. The gifts don’t need to be valuable or even sentimental: a flower, a stone or a feather might be appropriate for Nathan.

Here’s my list to select from:-

– a silver bracelet (a manly one!)

– a sheepskin

– a leaf

– a piece of Welsh slate

– a photograph of Arran, Deborah and Gran

– a photograph of Annalise

– a photograph of his mother, Cora, and his father, Marcus

 

Or maybe I should give him something practical:-

– a new pair of boots (or would this count as two things? – I wouldn’t want to risk messing up the Giving)

– socks

– pants

– jeans

– shirt

– belt

– penknife

– torch

– anger management lessons

– driving lessons (he is 17)

– blood donor card (now he has turned 17)

 

What would you give? Have you any better suggestions?It’s Nathan’s birthday on 21st June – I’ll reveal my choices after his birthday.

Sally

Sally’s diary starts here!

Want to know more about Sally and all things HALF BAD? Keep checking back for regular updates to her diary entries!

20th May 2014

It’s the 9th of May, 2014. I have finished my first draft of HALF WILD (second book in the HALF BAD trilogy).

‘But?’ I hear you ask. ‘What does “finished my first draft of HALF WILD” actually mean. And does it really matter?.’

Well, it matters on a number of levels (and means a lot to me).

Level 1. I’m well on the way to a complete book.

A walk of a thousand miles (or indeed a walk to the corner shop) starts with the first step. A novel is somewhere between the two, I guess, more of a Lands End to John o’ Groats type of thing and I’m sort of hoping that a finished first draft means we’re around the Lake District (just over half way).

Level 2. I’m well on the way to a complete book (my third).

This is only the third book I’ve ever written. I wrote a book before HALF BAD that is not published, then HALF BAD and now HALF WILD, so I’m still very much a beginner writer. In fact writing HALF WILD has made me realise what a big risk Penguin and all my publishers have taken with me, an unproven writer. Can she even write a second book of a trilogy? Was HALF BAD a fluke? And similar questions must have crossed their minds, I think.

Level 3. I’m well on the way to a complete book and I think the quality is not embarrassingly bad.

I keep my writing private until I feel it’s at a level I want to share without being totally embarrassed by its quality. HALF WILD must have reached that level or I wouldn’t have dared let it out of my front door (I think it’s a gut thing – I like it for the most part). Having said that it’s not all great and it’s not the finished product at all. Certainly in HALF WILD I’ve tried out different approaches/techniques to see what works and what doesn’t, but all the approaches/techniques are at a level that I’m not ashamed of.

Level 4. I can go on holiday.

The first person I sent the HALF WILD manuscript to was my agent, the wonderful Claire Wilson. She read it in a day and said that I shouldn’t be at all worried about sending it out to Ben Horslen, my editor at Penguin (despite Level 3 I am still worried/terrified that the manuscript is rubbish). So the afternoon of Claire’s phone call I sent the HW manuscript by email to Ben. I half expected a phone call back later to say, ‘I’ve started it and am loving it so far.’ (Because I sort of hoped he’d love the first chapter). But nothing.

Saturday – nothing.

Sunday – nothing. And I’m beginning to feel sick that he hates it and I’ve gone to far and the story is rubbish.

Monday a.m. – nothing. I pace the kitchen as tumble weed blows by.

Monday early p.m. – nothing.

Monday late p.m – Ben rings. He says really nice things about HALF WILD. Really nice things. Fabulous. I stop pacing and smile. Jump around a bit (not physically but in my head).

Tuesday – I go on holiday. And I really do go on holiday – no writing, just reading and relaxing.

Level 5. I want to make HALF WILD as good as possible (the editing process begins).

Ben has now sent me his editorial letter which gives (over 13 pages!) his overview and comments about HALF WILD. Most of the comments I agree with. Also he has marked up the manuscript with comments (though I have to admit I haven’t read any of these yet, apart from the ones on Chapter 1, which he does love 🙂 ).

To give you a feel for the sorts of things in the notes here’s a summary of it:-
General nice, complimentary introduction (1 page) before getting stuck into the detail of his issues which come under the following headings:-

1. Motivation (not mine, not Ben’s, but Nathan’s) (3.5 pages!)

2. Nathan’s Gift (sorry, can’t reveal more about that until HALF WILD comes out) (2 pages)

3. Narrative Structure (1 page):-

Recapping – the bane of any book 2 (or indeed 3 etc.) where the reader has to be reminded/told what happened in book 1.

Time and Place (stuff about flashbacks and he does mention ‘some kind of astral plane’ at one point).

4. Characters and relationships (Nathan and Gabriel, Nathan and Annalise, Annalise and Gabriel, various others…)(4 pages)

5. Other Random Questions i.e. baffling bits that have raised Ben’s eyebrows. (1 page)
All followed by a final, closing, cheery paragraph (1/2 page).

Level 6. Money.

I get paid a proportion of my advance on delivery of the manuscript. 🙂

Level 7. Opportunity to remind myself of how much I’m loving all this.

I’m so lucky to have an agent, a great editorial team, numerous publishers around the world and, best of all, readers and fans of HALF BAD. I only started writing 4 years ago (June 2010) and with every passing day I’m more amazed with how well HALF BAD has been received. I’m feeling good about HALF WILD as I think it’s my best writing yet.