Wednesday, 29 December 2010

New Year

I love New Year. My daughter Katie and I always write out our New Year resolutions, our goals for the next year, our plans for the future. And when we look at last year's resolutions it is amazing how many of them we have acheived. I'm one of those really boring people who believes in writing lists, and ticking them off. But it has always worked for me. You don't just write out your goals of course, You have to take the steps to get there. If I am going to write a certain book, it doesn't just appear in front of me, I have to start with that first page. I have lots to do next year, lots to look forward to. I have another blog to write, about a book that means a lot to me. The book I have chosen is Therese Raquin, lust, passion, ghosts and murder, what more could you ask for in a book? Another Me is being made into a film. I have my next Bloomsbury book to deliver, It Walks Among Us, I love that title. Hope my readers do too. Another Tyler Lawless book to write, and the first, Out of The Depths, coming out later next year.  My cup runneth over. How lucky am I?
   So, this will be my last blog until 2011, and I wish everyone a wonderful time, and a fantastic 2011. 

Saturday, 18 December 2010

catching up

I haven't written here for a while. A very personal loss stopped everything. I was down in Stockport and I so wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful time they gave us there. They really do know how to put on an awards presentation. The prize is a fantastic piece of art from a student, and I am so delighted with mine. It hangs in pride of place beside the first prize I won at Stockport. My thanks to Louisa Diep for the terrific scene from Grass which she painted. I think all the writers enjoyed that evening, and next day we were taken to different schools to meet and talk to pupils. And both schools gave me such a wonderful welcome. I was going to Liverpool that night  and my plan was to tell all in this blog, but sometimes fate changes everything. I had to race home, and I missed an event in Wigan the following week too.
   So I have to get back into work now, and this blog is going to help me do that, I hope. At the moment, I can't even face my diary, and I love keeping that diary. But I did manage a visit to London this week, meeting up with my editor and discussing the new covers my publishers plan for my books when my new one comes out next year.  I also met the producers of Another Me, so much is happening there. But I am not going to speak of it for now. Within the next few weeks, there will be lots of news about the film, which I will happily share.
   And thank you everyone for the lovely cards of sympathy I have received.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Yesterday at the Greenwood Centre in Dreghon with Debi Gliori and some wonderful librarians, so enthusiastic about childrens books. I shouldn't say children's books, because they are enthusiastic about books in general. We don't realise how lucky we are to have librarians like that.  Debi Gliori is always fun to be with, and at one point, one of the librarians told us a story about her son. A fantastic story, and both Debi and I leapt on it. That would make a great plot! But it was Debi who was the first to say, " Can I use that?" and I bet she will. And me, being the lady I am, will let her. Only if some terrible misfortune befalls her...and these things can happen...especially if I am the cause of the terrible misfortune, only then will I steal it. But it just proves the point I m always making in schools. Writers seem to have a wee invisible aerial that searches out ideas for stories. And I believe you can train your brain to find them.
   But here is another thought. Perhaps Debi and I can both use the idea? There is a wonderful movie, Throw Momma from a Train, about a writer who just can't get past that first sentence in his novel. His student, Danny De Vito wants him to kill his momma, and he will kill the writer's wife...a kind of Strangers n a Train scenario.( See, ideas are recycled all the time) but after all they go through together, the writer can finally finish his story using what's happened to them, Throw Momma From a Train,only to find his student has written the same story. But his is a picture book, very gentle and funny. Totally different. I really recommend writers to see this movie, so many ideas are in there.So perhaps, Debi could use the idea in one of her wonderful picture books, or even in a dark comic fantasy, and I could use it in a ghostly supernatural thriller? Then, again, maybe not. Debi is great fun, but I think she could trail me anytime!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I haven't been able to get into my blogs. But here I am, back, just home from a wonderful day at schools. How's this for imagination ? All I gave the primary school at Bankhead was a key. What can a key open? And it opened the floodgates of their imagination. The key to Doomsday. The key to Oblivion. The Key to the Underworld, where you unleash all the demons and there is a race against time to get them back in, save the world, lock the Underworld again. Or the key to a Golden House, where everything you touch turns to gold, and the golden statues inside the house, are real people turned to gold. That one even spawned sequels, the House of Silver. The House of Bronze. I was amazed, as I always am, by their imagination. One of the other ideas I threw at them was a football shirt pinned on a tree trunk. A tribute to a dead boy. I got a detective story out of that, a mystery story, and a ghost story. And once again these wonderful children then decided this could be a series. So we ended up with The Enchanted Underpants. The Spooky Socks, and even the Terrifying Toothbrush. I find these days inspires my imagination as much as theirs!  I'm going to Drreghorn on Friday, so I think I will let you know the imagination and the stories I get out of those pupils.

Monday, 25 October 2010

crime central

There are times when things happen and you can feel an excitement build inside you. This is one of those times for me. It seems every day I hear about something new and exciting that makes me so pleased to be a writer. There are a lot of us who just love writing crime novels for teenagers. A genre that no one seems to talk about. But now, some of us, and I take no credit for this, have come up with a wonderful idea for a blog about teenage crime writers. Crime Central. How brilliant an idea is that ? I will keep you posted about how to follow this blog as soon as it is up and running.
  Last year a young reader got in touch with me, a young man with so many brilliant ideas to help me promote my books, and he has now got me on Twitter. So soon, I will be twittering away, thanks to his efforts. He knows how much I appreciate that! It was one of my other readers who got me on Wikopedia ! How lucky am I to have readers like that!
    Who knows what wonderful thing might happen tomorrow!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Excellent Exeter!

Just home from my tour with the Scottish Book Trust tour round Exeter, and what a great time I had. Schools well prepared, they had read and studied the books, and were really looking forward to my visit. And the whole week was made so easy and enjoyable by Chris and Candy from the Book Trust who were doing all the driving and the lugging and the carrying. All I had to do was sit in the car, go from place to place, and talk. And talking is something I have never had any trouble with. it's getting me to stop that's the problem.  I had some lovely news when I was down there, but I can't tell you about it yet. Sworn to secrecy! 
    Talking to readers, going round schools is for me the best kind of research I can do. I can watch how pupils talk to each other, see how they dress, how they wear their hair. Listen to how funny they can be with each other, how thoughtful they can be, and most of all, find out what kind of books they would like me to write next.
    I was also inspired by Chris and Candy about things I want to do next. It was great being with people who have so many fantastic ideas. So I am back home, all fired up!!!!The people I met in Exeter were so friendly, so helpful I would like to thank them all for a lovely visit. I will definitely be going back there!

Monday, 18 October 2010

A writer's life

A writer's life seems to be a series of journeys. Lately, all I seem to have done is travel. I love travelling. I was invited to Marple Hall School in Stockport, and was made so welcome and had such a lovely time. Underworld was part of the Booked Up Project last year, and it was great for me to see so many of the pupils clutching the book for me to sign. Also, Grass has been shortlisted for the Stockport Book Award, in one of the Key Stages. I won that award a few years ago with Dark Waters, and still remember the Oscar type ceremony we had for the presentation evening. Fantastic! I'm already receiving wonderful e mails from aspiring writers at the school. After Marple Hall, I moved on to Lancashire for the Shout About Books Festival. I love going there, once again the hospitality is so good, and I met so many lovely pupils and teachers and librarians and had a great time. I had given them a beginning for a story. I seem to be asked to do that a lot now, after the first line I gave to Tynecastle High which grew for me into not only a book, Out of the Depths, but also a series! Here's the beginning I gave to Lancashire. Any one can give it a try. See what you come up with.

  So, I took the shoes off a dead man. He didn't need them, did he? But if I had known the trouble they were going to cause I would have left them on the dead man's feet.

Just to give you a few tips, is the dead man a tramp? Homeless. Was he lying in the street, or in a house, or was he perhaps in a morgue? Was he someone the narrator knew already, or a stranger? And what kind of shoes were they? Special shoes, expensive shoes, running shoes? Had they something hidden inside them? Was someone going to come after them? Is that the trouble the narrator refers to, or could there be something else. When you take a beginning apart like that, you can see how your story can grow.  I am looking forward to seeing the entries from Lancashire. Who knows, maybe I might get another book out of it too!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

another me

This isn't another me. It's still me, the same one, unfortunately, but I had a lovely meeting on Monday, and it looks as if the film of my book, Another Me, is going into production early next year! The film rights have been bought for ages, and up till now everything has been moving slowly but steadily. Now, it seems as if it is really going to take off and I am so excited. I am lucky too that I am kept so much in the loop about what is happening. I think I am going to love what they are planning for the film. I've always loved movies. So, if anyone is reading this, keep your fingers crossed it all works out. I am keeping everything that can be crossed, crossed. For me, I am just going to enjoy the moment.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

busy week!

I have had such a wonderful week. Since I was last on here I have been on a panel with Ian Rankin and Don Paterson at the Central Libary in Edinburgh. This was for the Tesco Summer Read. My book, "Grass" was shortlisted, one of very few children's books on the shortlist, along with so many wonderful books for adults. I was so delighted to be asked to share a panel with such eminent writers and I was a bit worried that I might say something daft, no change there, but everyone was so nice and it was a lovely evening, And though I probably did say something daft, no one mentioned it. The next morning I was off to Islay for the Islay Book Festival, visitng schools on the island, and doing creative writing workshops with the pupils.  I didn't come back until Monday, and then on Thursday I was back in Edinburgh for the announcement of the shortlist for the Royal Mail Scottish Book Awards, and Grass has been shortlisted for that too! I have known for weeks, but sworn to secrecy, not easy when you have a big mouth like mine. But now, the secret is out, and just being shortlisted is so fabulous. The other writers and books shortlisted in my category are The Witching Hour by Elizabeth Laird, and Crossing The Line by Gillian Philip.  We'll have to wait until next February to find out who the winner is. So for now, I am just going to enjoy being on the shortlist.  Yesterday I was at Forfar and Kirriemuir libraries and for the first time was able to tell pupils about the Award shortlist.  I am writng this in my son's house in Perthshire. That's where I stayed last night and my son and daughter in law took me out for a lovely celebration meal. Not a bad week, eh? And on Monday, I have another important meeting , but more about that next time....

Monday, 23 August 2010

At the Edinburgh festival

I love being a part of the Book Festival at Edinburgh.  It's always so much fun, and I meet so many interesting people there that I haven't seen for ages. This morning, I met Malcolm Rose, who is doing an event with a robotic hand, on the 24th. That should be fun! Debi Gliori, who is always fun, Keith Gray who is just lovely, ask anyone, and ...the list goes on. I had such a great time, and I didn't have to worry about being spooky at 10am on a Monday because the weather was perfect for a spooky tale. Wind and rain lashing against the roof, and such a great crowd of pupils from schools all over Scotland, including a school all the way from Berwick on Tweed! One school from Callander was held up by traffic and weather and missed the event, but I did speak to some of the pupils later.
   Last night, sitting in my hotel room in the dark, with just one bedside lamp lit, I got the idea to give them a first line for a spooky story, and,( because I always like to make them work!) I challenged them to write the rest. Hope I am going to get lots of great stories out of that first line. One of my nephews said, 'oh, I see, you get them to write the story, then you get it published then you sell it back to them...good plan.' Honestly, no respect! What am I going to do with this family of mine! 
   Anyway, want to know what that first line is....?

   ' I'm alone now, and the room is growing colder and something is moving in the shadows. I'm so afraid.
     Somebody help me.....please. '

I asked them to think about what the writer means by ' I'm'? Have there been other people there before, and what has happened to them? And what kind of room is it? A hotel room, a hospital room, a room in a school, in a house. Is it derelict or is it home? And is this a letter found by someone, or is it an e mail, or a message left in a computer ?
  Goodness, it has got me thinking as well......
  ( and I promise not to steal their ideas!)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Schools event Monday 23rd August

Off to Edninburgh for the Festival. I have a schools event at 10 tomorrow morning, looking forward to creating a creepy ghost story with them!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Kids' Lit Quiz World Final

Had to tell you I was at the world final of the Kids' Lit Quiz yesterday in Edinburgh. What a great day. There were seven teams, representing New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, Northern Ireland , Scotland and the United Kingdom, but it was the team from England, The City Of London School for Girls who carried off the trophy after a nail biting finish!  I was so impressed by these young people. They were so clever, so smart and so quick. There were loads of other authors there, including Alan Gibbons who gave a really funny and inspiring  speech about how much we needed libraries, and stories. Later we were all invited to dinner, and heard about some of the young people's favourite books. Keith Gray and Nicola Morgan gave entertaining speeches too. And then, when it was all over and just as it began to get dark, the authors left in taxis to go to the launch of the Book Festival. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Hello all,

Welcome to my new blog!

I'm Catherine MacPhail - author, tutor and speaker.

Amongst other books, I am the writer of the 'Nemesis' series.

My latest book, 'Grass' is in the shops right now. 'Out of the Depths' is out next, but that'll be the New Year.

I'll be updating you on my news, as well as my many adventures travelling the World, so check in with me soon!