Sunday, 23 August 2009

Everyone's talking about...


...my book!
I came across this display in the Stirling branch of Waterstone's on Sunday. Bottom shelf, left hand side in case you're struggling to see what all the fuss is about!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Become a fan!


http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bree-McCready-and-the-Half-Heart-Locket-by-Hazel-Allan/118033827475?ref=mf

ouch!

I've only gone and flippin' broken my hand in two places! What a real pain (quite literally). I just haven't got time at the moment for injury or illness and this could not have happened at a more inconvenient time - what with the massive promotional tour for Bree McCready happening all over Scotland this weekend. I cannot even do the simplest tasks like clean my teeth or get dressed without experiencing gut-wrenching, sweating pain and picking up a pen is impossible. How am I going to do signings in just 4 days time?! I will ice and elevate (as recommended by the nice doctor at the Royal Infirmary A&E department) but who knows what the weekend will bring.
I would love to say I got my injury from something really exciting and adventurous but I actually got it from getting off a double decker bus yesterday afternoon. When I heard the sickening snap of bone I knew something bad had happened. I'm trying to stay positive and think, "It could have been worse". I might have fallen down the steps of the bus and broken a leg or worse. Oh! and I got chatted up by a gorgeous guy as I waited to go in for my x-ray this morning. It's amazing how people can bond over their broken bones.
Thanks to my fantastic friend Caroline who dropped everything this morning to drive me to hospital and do a spot of childminding while I had my wounded hand x-rayed. What am I going to do without you when you jet off to America...X

Monday, 17 August 2009

As promised....




..here is a bit more about launch night. It's an abridged version of a blog I wrote for the Scottish Book Trust which should appear on their website in the next few days (the blogs only stay up for a day or two and then they go into the archives so you might have to hunt around for it if you're reading this after August!)

"In 1979, when I was eight years old I wrote to “Jim’ll Fix It” to ask if it would be possible to make my dream come true and lock me in a book shop late at night when everyone else had gone home. Now, for anyone under the age of 25 “Jim’ll Fix It” was a television show hosted by Jimmy Saville - a man who made the dreams of thousands of children come true every Saturday teatime. Sadly, my letter was never answered and I didn’t get my “Jim Fixed It For Me” shiny medallion to show off at school.
Fast forward thirty years… I am standing alone in Waterstone’s book shop on George Street at the end of the launch party for my debut novel “Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket”. All is quiet, the lights are dim and it’s just me surrounded by row upon row of books. It wasn’t quite how I imagined the scene when I penned my letter to Sir Jimmy but it was as close as I could imagine to perfection.
August 13th 2009 was without a doubt the best night of my life. It’s not every day you get to have all your friends and family in the same room celebrating something as amazing as the publication of your first book! I signed so many copies of “Bree McCready” that by the end of the night my signature had gone from the usual legible loops to a sloping, spidery scrawl. My cheeks hurt from smiling and my mouth was as dry as an astronaut’s slipper. But I was floating around on cloud nine and nothing was going to get me off!
It’s taken me quite some time to get to this point you see, so it really is quite a big deal. When I was younger and I was asked “that” question - “What do you want to be when you grow up?“ I always had the same answer. A writer. However, having been brought up in a family that valued the old-fashioned work ethic, writing was never encouraged as a career. I was told repeatedly that only the very best get to earn a living doing something they actually enjoy! At school I was complimented for my colourful imagination (or scolded for my daydreaming!) but on the whole my talent seemed to go unnoticed. Despite this I always knew I had a novel in me somewhere...
...During a particularly challenging time in 2006, when I found myself thrust into the unexpected world of single parenthood, writing seemed to organise the chaos in my life and helped to make me feel whole again. Suddenly I was grabbing every spare second I had to scribble down a few paragraphs here and there. I took to carrying a notebook with me for those flashes of inspiration that inevitably occurred in the oddest and most inconvenient places. I began to take my writing seriously and within two years I had a manuscript that was worthy of sending to publishers. It was certainly far from easy getting accepted. I have a head full of grey hairs and a drawer full of rejection letters to prove that! But I would never have given up on my dream. No matter how often I doubted myself I never stopped believing in my book.
I have never been motivated by the thought of fame and fortune and quite honestly I don’t expect it. I am just delighted to see my story in print. It gives me such a thrill to think that young people are reading my book and perhaps escaping some difficult times by immersing themselves in Bree’s story. My greatest pleasure comes from thinking that some may even feel inspired to write down their own thoughts and feelings as a result of reading my work... ..It took me until I reached the age of 34 to even consider trying to write the novel that I knew was inside me from an early age. This has been a most important journey, pursuing the one thing that has always mattered to me. On that humid Thursday evening, as I stood in the deserted Waterstone’s book store I had the chance to reflect upon the journey that has brought me to this point in my life. A shiver ran up my spine as I imagined my dog-eared, yellowing letter still lying, unread under a pile of thousands more like it in the archive boxes at the BBC. And it occurred to me in that moment that some dreams are worth waiting for…"

Brilliant photographs by my good friend Caroline Harvey. She's a total star!!

http://youngscottishbooktrust.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Right, before I start...


..this picture was not taken today. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds. Pah! What are they? When I arrived at Charlotte Square this morning there was not a glimmer of August sun poking out from behind the iron grey clouds.
Oh the glamour!” I thought as I sheltered under the awning, decaff latte in one hand, spindly old brolley in the other. Now for some strange reason, I can’t imagine JK Rowling wading through ankle deep puddles in her summer pumps and dodging the tidal waves of water created by thoughtless taxi drivers. When I arrived at the entrance to the Edinburgh Book Festival I looked like a drowned rat. On the positive side the organisers of the festival had clearly considered the fact that this was Scotland in the summer so everything was under cover. Great! I made my way to the Children’s book shop where I was meeting Keith from Strident and one of the other authors from the team, John Ward. I spotted our display immediately - and there was "Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket" staring me in the face! My book, on sale at the Edinburgh Book Festival! Another landmark moment. I sauntered over to take a peek and tried my best to listen in to the conversations of people who were perusing the books on show. I willed them to look in the direction of my book! When John and Keith arrived we got to work signing some of the copies that would be placed on the “signed by the author” display shelves. The tent was fast becoming a sauna - steamy and sweaty - and I began to wonder why I had bothered to straighten my hair that morning. Between the rain and the humidity I had began to resemble Russell Brand (only without the beard). Next stop - Waterstone’s at the West End of Princes Street to do some more signings. Then we were heading all the way along to the opposite end of town to their other branch.
I’m glad I wore comfy shoes” I thought to myself as we marched briskly towards our destinations. Maybe this time next year I’ll have my own personal chauffeur?.. With all this walking, combined with my “too busy and excited to eat” diet, by my estimations I should be able to join the Hollyoaks cast sometime late 2010! Turned out the branch at the East end of Edinburgh were still waiting for the copies of Bree to arrive so I had a last minute reprieve. I left John and Keith for a bit and went to theee most horrible pub/restaurant for a cup of coffee. I had imagined sitting somewhere airy and trendy, maybe a bit of jazz and some interesting people to watch as I prepared myself for the next stage of the promotional tour. I had an hour to relax and soak up some of the festival atmosphere before Keith, John and I met up again back at the Festival. The pub I went to shall remain nameless. Now, to be fair the minute I walked in and caught the faint whiff of sick I could have turned right around and gone somewhere else but by this point I was dying for a coffee and a wee seat. Really, without sounding too cruel this place was truly horrible. They didn’t have decaff coffee either so I settled for a (flat) lime and lemonade which came in a glass like the one you get at the dentist. I sat in a gloomy corner on a beer stained seat and signed some copies of sampler Bree’s (the one chapter tasters that are designed to whet the appetite. They are fab by the way) while I tried not to come into contact with the table. To put it kindly, I was glad I had brought my antibacterial gel with me. I nearly said to the staff “Do you know who I am?! Get this table cleaned pronto!” but I just sat quietly and smiled politely whenever they caught my eye. By this point my tummy was rumbling but I daren’t have put my life on the line by eating anything. And no interesting people to spy either. Just a wee old man nursing a pint and arguing with himself in the corner. I didn’t finish the juice, it had a sinister after taste but I did use the time to catch my breath and write some personal comments inside the “wee Bree’s” which I am now calling them. Time to leave the grotty pub - I nearly left my shoes behind because they got stuck on the tacky floor!
Back to the book festival for round two! Now this was my favourite part of the day. I had a whole pile of ‘samplers’ and this was my chance to meet the public and introduce myself to potential readers. I wandered around taking in some of the atmosphere (the sun had made its long overdue appearance by this point) and trying to spy children who looked like they might enjoy “Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket”. It was such fun giving out the “wee Bree’s” and meeting so many great kids - who were really enthusiastic and chuffed to get a freebie. I even got chased for an autograph by a charming young lady called Emma. “Now that’s more like it!" I thought as I looked round to see where the paparazzi were hiding. My first request for an autograph, wow!
After a while I met up with Keith and John again and we wandered over to the author’s area which was the most amazing, hippy style tent with woven rugs scattered on the floor and fairy lights draped all around. I half expected to be asked to sit cross legged on the floor and light an incense stick! Luckily I wasn’t asked to do this - would have played havoc with my sciatica. I met some people from the Scottish Book Trust and then it was time to hand out some more samplers. I thought I had done really well to shift the pile of 30 copies that Keith had given me so imagine my face when he handed me his (rather heavy!) satchel full of hundreds of them!!
Where there’s a will, there’s a way” I thought as I bravely struggled to put the bag over my shoulder without toppling over. We all went our separate ways after that. I thought it made good sense to head back to the children’s book shop and the timing was great because just as I got there a whole load of kids came pouring out of the event tents and made a beeline for the shop. I managed to hand out all the samplers and I got the opportunity to meet lots of children who will hopefully decide they like the first chapter and buy the book. It was a buzz to see their faces light up when I told them I was the author and offered to sign it for them! So, not theee most glamorous day in the history of glam. I have blisters on my feet and writers cramp, a sore shoulder and muddy shoes but I also have a huge smile on my face! Another great day. Roll on next week for the mammoth tour!

http://www.edbookfest.co.uk/

Friday, 14 August 2009

The best night of my life!


Thankyou to everyone who came along to the launch party for "Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket". It was a wonderful night. The best ever. I would like to write a lengthy blog entry outlining all the great moments but I am absolutely shattered! I have run on empty today, getting along on pure happiness but it has suddenly hit me that I need to stop for a minute. Tomorrow is another hectic day, book signings and the book festival in Edinburgh. I am looking forward to it immensely but I think it would be wise for me to have an early night.
So, here are a couple of photos from last night to keep you going and I promise there will be more soon. Thanks again to everyone, especially team Strident who are the most terrific people on the planet.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Check out the book that changed my life...

..on the Scottish Book Trust website:

http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/thebook/story/hazel-allans-story-about-lamb

An excerpt from...


..."Dear Fatty" by Dawn French

"That's the key, you know, confidence. I know for a fact that if you can genuinely like your body, so can others. It doesn't really matter if it's short, tall, fat or thin, it just matters that you can find some things to like about it. Even if that means having a good laugh at the bits of it that wobble independently, occasionally that's all right. It might take you a while to believe me on this one, lots of people don't because they seem to suffer from a self-hatred that precludes them from imagining that a big woman could ever love herself because they don't. But I DO. I know what I've got is a bit strange and difficult to love but those are the very aspects I love the most! It's a bit like people. I've never been particularly attracted to the uniform of conventional beauty. I'm always a bit suspicious of people who feel compelled to conform. I personally like the adventure of difference. And what's beauty anyway?"

I just love Dawn French. Do you know what would be a dream come true? If Ms French agreed to read the audio version of "Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket".....now that would really be the icing on the cake!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

A day to myself (at last!)

"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out"
Erma Bombeck

During the week I find myself yearning for some time to myself. I crave some peace and quiet and a break away from always having to focus fully on Junior.
"just give me 5 minutes!" I hear myself saying on a regular basis, "that's all I want!"
But I never get it.
Maybe in a million years from now children will have evolved to include a volume control and a pause button....
Junior is a lovely wee boy but he is very demanding - not naughty, just full on and sometimes (particularly during the six weeks of summer holidays - how have I survived?!) it just gets a bit too much. It's like I reach saturation point - I simply can't take any more ninja moves or somersaults or high-pitched squealing or flying missiles or...well, the list is endless. Sensory overload.
Why is it then that when he is away from me I miss him so much? I have the prospect of a Junior free weekend ahead of me, where I can write and cook and read a book without distraction and yet if I'm honest, I feel a bit lost. I find myself pottering about Junior's bedroom smiling at the way he has arranged the teddies on his bed or rolling my eyes at the dirty clothes that have been stuffed back into his drawers. I even (and I can't believe I'm admitting this) sit on the end of his bed and sniff his pillow. Ok, ok! I'm a sad specimen.
I think it's just because when Junior is around he is like a human tornado. He simply never stops moving and talking (even in his sleep) so when he isn't here the void he leaves is huge and silent. I am usually so busy that I only really notice his absence when I sit down for a cuppa or at night when I go to bed and I can't hear his breathing through the wall. I can't imagine being away from my wee boy for more than a day or two (at the very most).
And then before I know it he's running back through the front door with all his dirty washing, spinning and jumping on the settee and leaving a trail of destruction behind him and suddenly I'm willing it to be the weekend again!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Bree has landed!!!.......

"Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket" arrived through my letterbox at 10am this morning! This picture doesn't do the book justice as I took it myself (with shaking hands) but you will all have the chance to hold one in your hands this time next week!
I am thrilled with the end result. It feels like all the hard graft and persistence has finally paid off. Bree feels like my second baby. Yippeeeee!

P.S The postie was too quick so he didn't get the shower of grateful kisses I had planned to give him - never mind!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

It's been a funny old day...

...starting with me setting up camp underneath the letterbox. Today was the day that "Bree McCready and the Half Heart Locket" was due to arrive through the post in book form. I was all prepared to jump on the postie and smother him with grateful kisses (whether he liked it or not). After about 10 minutes I heard my email alert 'bing' so I dragged myself over to my laptop, making sure I kept one eye firmly on the door just in case I missed anything. It was Keith from Strident informing me that Bree had returned back from the printers yesterday but because he had got stuck in a horrific traffic jam he had missed the postal pick up and as a result Bree would come a day late to me. Oh well, I thought, I've waited my whole life for this, another 24 hours is not going to kill me. And at least I would be able to prize myself away from the front door to make myself a coffee. As I pottered around in the kitchen the local news came on the radio and the newsreader cheerfully announced that exam results were due today. Agh! Back to the letterbox, coffee in hand and heart in mouth.
With everything going on recently it had completely slipped my mind that my maths results would be making their appearance on my doormat sometime early August. Talk about a roller-coaster ride! Sometimes life is like waiting for a bus - you hang around for ages and nothing much happens then ...well, you know the rest. I waited for ages for the post - pacing the room, peeking out of the window - but at around 11am I gave up hope of being put out of my misery. I was getting used to the waiting game! A watched pot never boils so I returned to the kitchen to start the washing up. Just as I plunged my hands into the soapy water I heard Junior's excited voice wafting through from the living room - "Mummy, it's the postie!"
When I saw the envelope I just knew. With shaking (and soapy) fingers I ripped it open and carefully pulled out the contents. Scanning down the text I searched for my grade....A!
A.A Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh) once wrote that, "to the uneducated, an A is just three sticks" Sorry Mr Milne but I don't agree. This A is my reward for a year of struggle and tears, recognition of all my hard work and dedication and proof that no matter how difficult you find something if you want it badly enough it is within your grasp.
It's nice to own those "three sticks" and to feel proud of my achievement. Hearing Junior tell people today that he had a "clever Mummy" made all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile. Ain't no stopping me now!
Anyway, must dash, I've got to prepare myself once more for jumping on the postie in 12 hours time. I can't wait to hold my book in my hand! I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Turbo hamster!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM3jzlyNIpc&NR=1

I promised Junior after I was finished checking my emails we could look at anything he wanted on the internet. He chose funny hamsters on youtube and we came across this wee gem!

Much hilarity...

Sunday, 2 August 2009