Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Literary Genius

I was very interested to find out this week, the man who inspired Charles Dicken's, Ebeneezer Scrooge, is set to be honoured in Edinburgh for his place in literary history.

His real name was Ebeneezer Scroggie, a Scottish merchant who died in 1836. Scroggie's tombstone was moved during redevelopment work and his real identity was temporarily lost and forgotten. His grave, now lies unmarked just off the city's Royal Mile. Edinburgh authorities plan to erect a memorial statue in his memory, which will be part of a guided tour.

Dickens stumbled upon Scroggie's tombstone in Canongate Cemetery in 1842, whilst visiting Edinburgh for a lecture. It was the inscription on this tombstone that gave birth to the mean, miserly Scrooge in Dicken's brilliant novel, A Christmas Carol.

But, in reality, the tombstone read 'meal man' rather than 'mean man', which referred to Scroggie's job as a successful corn merchant. The real Ebeneezer was well-known for his generous nature and often enjoyed a good party.

So why was the name and personality of the now most famous Christmas character in history, changed in this way? Maybe, Dicken's wanted to protect himself from possible litigation by purposely changing his antagonist's name, or maybe he simply misread the name on the tomb. We will never know. What we do know is, Dicken's wrote in his notebook:
"To be remembered through eternity only for being mean seemed the greatest testament to a life wasted."
So, was Ebeneezer a victim of Dicken's poor research? Or were the changes more to do with the wild imaginations of a great writer who thought, 'What if...'?

To read the original newspaper report, check out: The Scotsman.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GOSH Party

Today I went to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Christmas Party, where it was my great priviledge to give the children at the party a book each. All the books had been donated by SCBWI members whilst we were at the Annual SCBWI Conference. Many of the books were signed by the SCBWI authors who wrote them.

It was a wonderful party. The children were amazing and really enthusiastic about the books. I am hoping it is something we can do every year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meeting Andy Stanton

One of my youngest son's favourite authors is Andy Stanton, who writes the Mr Gum series. So, when I was invited to go to a book signing on Saturday 11th December, at Victoria Park Books in Hackney, London, I was very happy.

Joe took along all the books he had (except Book 6 - which he has lost, but I am sure will turn up again eventually!) We also bought several new ones - that I have never bought before. (I refused to buy Book 6 again, as we all ready have it somewhere!!)

This meant Andy had a massive big pile of seven books to sign. Andy impressed me by signing each one with something different. He can even write backwards. That was pretty cool! To my surprise, Andy managed to persuade Joe to get one of the books signed to his brother.

It was a great event with mulled wine and mince pies. Yum!

Before, we arrived at the bookshop though, we went to Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park Corner. The boys went on a couple of rides. Dan convinced me to go on the Christmas Coaster with him, which I loved. We also went on the Giant Observation Wheel and Dan promptly decided he was scared of heights.

Being the kind, understanding mummy that I am, I told him to stop talking rubbish. How can he be scared of heights when he just went on the Christmas Coaster? Then, I remembered - I am scared of heights too.

Hmmm! Maybe he looks a little nervous.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Chainsaw Gang

Some of the best most gruesome YA horror writers have got together to form The Chainsaw Gang and are currently undertaking the Twelve Deaths of Christmas Blog Tour. You can find out more details on who the members of The Chainsaw Gang are and the books they have written, at:

The tour started off on Monday at the My Favourite Books blog where the YA authors answer the question:
Did you think you would end up writing darker horror fiction than we normally see?
On Tuesday, they were featured on Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books and you can find out their answers to:
How would you describe yourself, as a character, to be portrayed within one of your books?
Yesterday, they were at Narratively Speaking where they talked about the spookiest place they have ever visited. If you want to read the answers to these and other gripping questions, the dates and locations for the entire tour are:

Monday 6th December - My Favourite Books
Tuesday 7th December - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books
Wednesday 8th December - Narratively Speaking
Thursday 9th December - Wondrous Reads
Friday 10th December - The Book Zone
Saturday 11th December - Book Gazing
Sunday 12th December - Book Gazing
Monday 13th December - The Book Zone
Tuesday 14th December - Wondrous Reads
Wednesday 15th December - Narratively Speaking
Thursday 16th December - Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books
Friday 17th December - My Favourite Books

They are also writing a Twelve Deaths of Christmas song, adding a new verse each day. Take a look if you dare!!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Bill Bryson wins 2010 Educational Writers' Award

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and the Society of Authors yesterday announced that Bill Bryson had been awarded the 2010 Educational Writers’ Award for A Really Short History of Nearly Everything  (Doubleday), which was abridged and edited by Felicia Law. 

The award was made at the All Party Writers Group (APWG) Winter Reception at the House of Commons by Lord Hill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, who presented a £2,000 cheque to the winners. Bill Bryson shared the cash prize with Felicia Law.

Last year I went along to the award ceremony and felt very grand being at the House of Commons. I had to have my photo taken for the security badge as I entered and the canapes and wine were very good. I get an invite because I am on the Educational Writers' Group committee for the Society of Authors.

This year I decided not to go along as it was cold and I have been going to London quite a bit recently - the guilt has finally set in. However, maybe I should have gone. It sounded like a fun evening. The 2010 Award focused on books for 12 -18 year olds published in 2009 and 2010. A Really Short History of Nearly Everything beat off strong competition from a shortlist that was described as:

“highlighting humour, scholarship and lateral thinking.”

Fellow shortlistees for 2010 included: Ben Crystal for Shakespeare on Toast (Icon Books); John Farndon for Do You Think You’re Clever? (Icon Books) and Liz Strachan for A Slice of Pi (Constable).

The 2010 judging panel comprised three educational experts: school librarian Maggy Campbell, teacher Louise Gerrard and writer Stewart Ross.

The submission deadline for the 2011 award for the 5 – 11 year age group is 1st June 2011.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Tackling the torrent: Online piracy of educational books

I went to a very informative and fascinating talk a few weeks back at the Society of Authors. It was all about online piracy of books. I have blogged about this before - see: Electronic Piracy in Publishing. This mainly concerns educational books but, I did see some fiction up there too.

At the meeting I found out there are three types of sites that will put up digital copies of books for download. These are peer-to-peer sites, document sharing sites and file hosting sites. At the risk of boring you, I will go into a little more detail.

This is not a Playstation site. P2P stands for peer-to-peer. The books, pdf's, etc are not physically on a website but on somebody else's computer and are distributed via email, or such like. It is difficult to stop this type of piracy. The websites will list files they have available. To find a more detailed explanation of what P2P is, check out wikipedia Peer-to-peer.

It is a very similar system to the music website Spotify, which allows users to share their favourite tunes for free. Some sites which index a lot of torrent educational book files include: and You can check if your books are featured on these sites by using the search function.

Nicholas Tims warned us to be careful of false positive hits (sponsored links) on some P2P sites, such as and

These again are all legal, law-abiding websites. They also react promptly to requests to have your work removed. Such sites include:, and

They describe themselves as having:

"Millions of documents and books at your fingertips! Read, print, download, and send them to your mobile devices instantly. Or upload your PDF, Word, and PowerPoint docs to share them with the world's largest community of readers."
These sites are different from P2P websites as, it is possible to view and read the books available on the site.

File hosting
Again, these are legal websites. they normally react quickly to takedown requests. You must provide them with correct and detailed informationa dn they do not engage in correspondence.

Some of the biggest include: and They are different from the other two in that the files are hosted by the Interent service and are specifically designed to store static content.

What can you do?
To find out if your books appearing on such sites, you can set up a 'Google Alert' on your book titles and on your name. I have talked about this before in my post: Can't find it but, it will appear here when I do!!! Honest!

You can also check if your publishers are a member of the Publisher's Association where it is possible to check on the copy right infringement portal to see sites which respond well to take down requests and those that don't.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Taste of Christmas

On Friday, I travelled into London to the Christmas food fayre at ExCel - a Taste Of Christmas. I would like to say I was doing research for a book or feature, but this would not be true. I won tickets to go from Peugeot, who are sponsoring the event.

There was loads of chocolate, coffee, cheese, wine and spirits to sample. My favourite was the rum. I tried quite a bit of that and went back for seconds. I also tried the gin, which I am normally not so keen on.

I got to see Anthony Worrall Thompson cooking live at one of the demonstrations, which was quite fun. I found out about some special food for IBS sufferers and I ate samples of food from some the UK's top restuarants.

I also got to meet the very gorgeous, Andy Pearson, a mixologist. He was there in conjunction with Funkin cocktails! He told us how to make 'raisin rum' and demonstrated how to make a chocolate cocktail. You might recognise him from the BBC Sunday morning show, Something for the Weekend.

Andy Pearson

He must have one of the best jobs in the world. He gets to taste all sorts of alcohol and is paid for it. That must be the next best job after mine - day-dreaming for a living. He told me how he was travelling back home to Yorkshire after the event that day and that Yorkshire had got a lot of snow, unlike West Berkshire. I hope he got home OK!

For those of you who are interested, Funkin cocktails are the ones they used at the Caerleon student bar. I did taste several yesterday but, never achieved my aim of trying them all whilst at the Writers' Holiday. But, then there is always next year.