The Black Hand, vol.10
Stabbing someone with a ceramic squirrel – we’ve all been there
As we’re approaching the holiday season (or in the holiday season. Or maybe peeking at the holiday season from behind our fingers), it’s always worth lightening the mood with a quick look at some of the sillier things that people have done at this time of the year.
I reviewed a number of articles about ‘Silly Christmas Crimes’ and the one that kept jumping out was this one, which has the amazing headline “Man stabbed with ceramic squirrel after failing to bring home beer on Christmas Eve”.
Frankly, this is not a complex crime, or something devised by a Machiavellian genius. But I think we’ve all been at the stabbing-someone-with-a-ceramic-squirrel point at various times this year, so I had a lot of sympathy for the people involved.
Til Death Do Part update
Okay, we have all been extremely patient about this, but unfortunately we must continue to be patient, as publishing – alas – works on geological time, especially at this time of the year. I said last month that my agent has gone back to my publisher to talk about the None Shall Sleep sequel – that negotiation is still ongoing.
What’s the hold up? Well, it’s holiday time – Thanksgiving and Hanukah and Christmas in the US, for starters, and people are winding down in the lead up to the New Year break.
But here’s what I can say so far: I have been asked to postpone the January newsletter sequel release until negotiations with my publisher are complete. So yes, that is what I will do, in order to give all parties a chance to confer.
Let me be official about this: The planned January release of the None Shall Sleep sequel in my newsletter has been indefinitely postponed. If there are more delays, I will ask if I can at least send out some little excerpts or snippets of the sequel-in-progress, so we’re not all twiddling our thumbs.
For those of you who have signed up for a paid subscription: I will be in touch with you directly, with clarifying information. Yes, that’s right – expect a small email from me soon.
In better news – the book is nearly complete! I’ve been snowed for the last few weeks under piles of student marking and reports, but I’m looking forward to finishing the manuscript by January. It’s in pretty good shape: I am an edit-as-you-go writer, so once the draft is complete, that’s pretty much the finished manuscript. I am – just quietly – excited about how this book is going to knock your socks off.
Finally, thank you all for your patience and support 💗 It has actually been really nice to share this process with you – the writing, the planning, the publishing negotiations – because this is usually something that writers go through on their lonesome. I hope it’s given you some insight into publishing processes. And it’s nice for me, to be able to share and chat about each stage along the way – all the frustrations and the victories!
I’ll continue to keep you updated, so thank you and stay tuned.
Weirdest thing I have seen this week
It’s this – a Japanese ad series for a product called Consome Panchi.
This is absolutely, without any doubt, the weirdest thing I have seen this week. Possibly the weirdest thing I have seen for some period of time.
I’ve been humming the theme song around the house, while my kids throw things at me and block their ears.
The Killing Code update
The book has gone through copyedits, hurrah!
That means it’s about to go to print, although that will not officially happen until the New Year – we still have to do a final proof pages check, and publishing basically shuts down in December (which is…now, goodness me).
I think (for the sake of my own planned holiday, I am fervently hoping, in fact) that it’s very unlikely I will get proof pages before Christmas.
There are loads of finicky little details that need to be squared away before this book goes to print – there are a lot of real-person quotes, for instance, and they have to be completely cleared with legal before the print date. Various other small items need tweaking, and I have to sign off on all that. We also need to finalise some nice blurbs and the cover. I’m particularly excited about the cover, but I’ve got nothing to show you yet except this - a completely unofficial Wombo Art trading card version:
(Wombo Art is this cool site where you can plug in a title and get an AI-generated interpretation, based on different artistic styles - click on ‘Start Creating’ in the top right corner and have a go, it’s fascinating and I’ve spent too much time playing with it)
Anyway I’m hopeful that we’ll be back in the groove of things by mid-January, and by then I should have some good news for you (and maybe a lovely real cover reveal).
Books I’ve loved this year
I’m not a huge fan of ‘The Best Of’ lists of books at the end of the year (they make no sense! My ‘Best Of’ is someone else’s ‘Meh’ – absolutely 100%) but here are a few books that I’ve loved or enjoyed enough to revisit this year:
Seriously, if I was only allowed to take one romance novel with me to a desert island? It would be this one. Ignore the unrepresentative cover.
Plain-written, utterly unornamented, compulsively readable – as Reacher would say “Everything necessary, and nothing unnecessary”. I am a complete convert. I’ve read about eight books in the series, so there’s plenty more to enjoy!
Just read them – you’ll enjoy the plots, but adore the characters even more, and laugh yourself silly.
An extraordinary and mind-bending horror novel about grief, loneliness and technology – the writing absolutely blew me away.
Basically all the Grady Hendrix books. You can’t go wrong with these three, but you should also read the rest.
A masterclass in how to write a NYT Bestselling action thriller.
Something completely original: a YA crime tale set in Korea in the 1800s. And it’s utterly compelling and gorgeously written.
What I’ll be reading on my holidays: more Jack Reacher by Lee Child (can’t get enough, no lie), Laidlaw by William McIlvanney, and also another four or five books that I’ve been saving for my time away, including the legendary horror novel House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski, which I was STOKED to get a copy of (the bookseller told me she ‘had to sleep with the lights on for two nights,’ so yes, I’m excited!).
Go on, buy a book for the holidays
Well this is some shameless self-promo, but of course if you’d like to buy any of my books I will certainly not dissuade you 😁 I’m featuring all my books, one by one, in special posts on my Insta over the holidays.
Every retailer I can think of is here in this little link, so go for it.
And if you’d like personalised and/or signed books, feel free to contact my local indie bookshop Stoneman’s Bookroom and ask for what you need (they will get in touch with me, and I’ll drop in and sign your books before they send them your way) – their info is here.
I encourage you to buy books for the holidays - my book or ANY book - because books make such wonderful presents, with the massive bonus that they are easy to wrap.
Other holiday gift suggestions
Still searching for that perfect something? Maybe one of these things might be your ideal gift!
GNFaure – an Etsy store by a Tasmanian woodworker who makes really simple but cool, quality stuff (including cheese knives, cutting boards, rolling pins etc) out of beautiful Tasmanian timber. Efficient, fast delivery.
Peninsula Hot Springs – honestly, the Mornington Peninsula hot springs in Victoria are AMAZING, and vouchers for this place are something I wish someone would gift me on the regular.
Long woollen socks on Etsy – because everyone needs thigh-high woollen socks.
Jasper Hill Cheese – for US friends, these folks make the best cheese, hands down.
Holy Goat Cheese – for Australian friends, these folks make the best cheese, hands down!
UGG boots – the original and the best.
Donate for the holidays
And if you’re feeling really kind this holiday season, and you have the capacity, maybe extend your kindness to some of these excellent organisations, which always need and deserve love:
This month we’re reading Anything But Fine by Tobias Madden as our final book of the year – I wanted a book that felt like a hug. As our end-of-year title, this book will take us all through the holiday season while bookclub is on hiatus, and we’ll return for the New Year in February 2022. See you on the bookclub FB page then!
Die Hard is definitely a Christmas movie
I will not be taking questions or rebuttal at this time.
Thank you – I’m on hiatus!
This has been such a massive year, on so many levels. At my place, we had all the OH NO things – pandemic lockdowns, remote teaching, kids in quarantine, worries for immunocompromised family members, losing our beloved dog Bodie – and all the OMG YES things – personal successes for my children, new writing, friends’ successes, the None Shall Sleep paperback release, the NYT listing, excitement for The Killing Code.
Overall, it seems to have balanced out okay? For me personally, it has been a period of extreme highs and lows, but the highs have cancelled out a lot of the bad stuff. The most important thing is that everyone in my circle has stayed healthy and basically happy, which is the only really important metric imho.
I really hope that your personal highs have cancelled out your lows, and that life has smoothed out for you as this year comes to a close. I’d like to express my deep gratitude for your support this year, and my sincere hopes for the very best for you for the year to come. All my warmest wishes for the holiday season to you and your family, from me and mine ❤️
This is my final newsletter for 2021 – I will be on hiatus from Friday 17 December, and my out-of-office is all cued up. The Black Hand will return in February 2022, after I’ve had a chance to rest and recharge and refill my well for all the exciting adventures coming in the New Year (there will *definitely* be adventures – there’s plenty of embargoed news I haven’t shared yet!).
Until we meet again – fair weather, friends! Take care of yourselves, stay well, and happy reading 😍