Monday 20 December 2010

Deep snow in Camden Town

Last Saturday in the teeth of the worst blizzard I've ever seen in North London, I ventured out to meet my daughter in Camden Town. By the time I arrived ice crystals were falling out of the sky. Camden Lock right in the heart of the famous Stables Market was covered in snow and the water was beginning to freeze in the canal.
The lock dates back to the 18th century when horses pulled the barges along the tow path.

The market opened up in 1972 on the cobbled yards outside the old warehouses and has become world famous. We had a festive mulled wine from Santa to keep us warm.

The market underwent a huge facelift recently and now there are statutes of horses everywhere and of course suitably covered in snow after the raging Arctic blizzards.

The canal looked so amazing in the snow. We crossed over the steep old bridge which also dates back to the 18th century. There were groups of young people throwing snowballs to each other from bank to bank but I was concentrating on staying on my feet.

After a while we were so frozen we settled down in my favourite cafe right on the water and watched the ducks go by. I love turning over ideas for new stories with my daughter. She has an excellent nose for what works and so we sat and talked books and ideas for over an hour.

Then we walked past Marine Ices looking decidedly chilly and out of place in the snowy landscape. This is our fave family icecream parlour and I don't remember ever seeing it in the snow.

We parted company at the iconic Chalk Farm tube rounding its red tiles between two arterial roads between Hampstead and Swiss Cottage, one of the oldest unchanged tube stations in London.

When I got back to suburban Golders Green the garden looked like a scene from an Arctic forest. I huddled down inside for the rest of the day, overheating my computer with all the ideas and poems from my trip to icy Camden Town.

English garden snow

Without warning the ground is covered
Rear windscreen a white out, wipers icing up

David Bowie gives us Major Tom on Kiss FM
 - Ground Control would never cope with this.

Cars back up in hour-long jams
Kids grab snow from my bonnet

Impatient now I run down the window
Feel the slab of deepfreeze on my skin

I want to slide home, pull on thermals
Snow boots, ski gloves,

Flick the security lights
And moonwalk onto virgin lawn

copywrite : Miriam Halahmy 2010

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Mince Pies and Sweeney Todd

What do you do if your publisher invites you for mulled wine and mince pies, but their offices overlook the former shop of Sweeney Todd Demon Barber of Fleet Street?
Accept and vow not to touch the mince pies? Warn everyone else not to touch the pies? Pretend to eat a pie but secretly drop it behind the book displays?
Answers on a postcard please.

As many of you know, my great passion is History and so imagine my delight when my editor, the lovely Lucy Cuthew, at Meadowside Children's Books,  informed me that their offices off Fleet Street overlooked Sweeney Todd's barber shop. The pie shop was next door."We get tour groups down there all the time, " Lucy said as we looked down into the Hen and Chicken Court from the fourth floor windows. "They love it, snapping away like mad."

So of course when I returned last week for the Meadowside Christmas Party I took my camera.
Here's the entrance to the courtyard, off 186 Fleet Street. Spooky, isn't it? You can almost imagine Sweeney Todd hurrying down there to his next victim, saying a cheery hello to the pie man as they squeeze past each other, water dripping down the walls and mangy stray cats brushing against their legs. Gorgeous!

The gruesome site itself, in all it's Victorian glory ( or should that be gory?) Sweeney Todd's window is on the right hand side above the wheelie bin.  Imagine what the dastardly barber would have done with wheelie bins!
The courtyard has very deep cellars too and you can look down into them through huge iron grids. Very grim, like some deep medieval dungeon prison.

But fortunately the Meadowside offices are lovely and bright and there was a real surprise of a welcome when I finally reached the fourth floor ( toilets on the floor below.) "We've got something to show you," said Lucy with a grin and pulled me to a bookshelf display at the back of the room. And there is was! My novel, HIDDEN, in proper novel format! I was so excited.
Here I am with Lucy proudly showing off our hard work!

It was a lovely party. I saw some old friends, Lynne Chapman and Anne Rooney, from Facebook, SAS and SCWBI. Made some new friends and got a bit squiffy on the mulled wine. I even bravely ate half a mince pie and it was ok - promise. I had a lovely chat to the publisher, Simon Rosenheim who talked about how fiercely independent Meadowside is  and I said I felt really at home here. Its good to have a publisher who is 100% behind your ideas. I also talked to Catherine about foreign rights and New York Art Galleries and to Rupert about sales. Meadowside publishes over 40 titles a year and has an established reputation for good books. That feels the right place to be. 2011 is going to be a great year!

Monday 6 December 2010

HIDDEN goes live with a great cover!

Here it is -  the cover to the first novel in my cycle of three novels set on Hayling Island.

Its been quite a journey, taking photos to send to the designer, Sarah Andrews, at Meadowside, looking at different ideas, but ultimately Sarah has come up with a wonderful image which truly represents my novel.

Perhaps the most important element for me that I hoped for in this cover was the colour blue. This is the colour I think of when I think of Hayling. It is the colour of the sky reflected in the sea and also in the pools left behind on the mudflats when the tide goes out.

Then my editor, Lucy Cuthew sent me the A.I. ( er, the what?)  It means Additional Information.
This what Lucy wrote about HIDDEN.

The AI also contained a bit about me. My daughter took the photo. I'm standing in front of a poster of Jean Genet!

So now I have a cover, a press release and a fully edited manuscript. What a wonderful way to end 2010.
Roll on 2011 and then I'll be in publication year.
Watch this space!