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Last Month's Newsletter

December 2002

Dear Visitor

Well…Christmas is hurtling towards us again. Are they certain it comes but once a year? Not that I have any objection to Christmas – I like it. But I feel a little as though I’m in one of those montages from old biopics. You know – pistons pounding as the train-wheels race along the track, superimposed playbills, theatre-full notices, ever-larger Variety headlines, all spinning out of the screen at us as we are zipped through someone’s rise to fame and the leaves fall from the calendar at breakneck speed…

So…have the falling leaves of 2002 charted my rise to fame? Nope. Have they even caused me to become slightly less obscure? Nope. Well…yes. I will be slightly less obscure in Sweden, which is nice, because Births, Deaths and Marriages is to be published there. And, you know, that’s kind of how I like it. I’ve got publishers, and I’ve got readers, and I don’t think any writer can ask for anything more. I’m not at all sure I would want anything more. I certainly wouldn’t want to be famous – far too much hassle. As it is, I can even count what I’m doing now as work, even though all it amounts to is sitting at a computer musing about old Hollywood films and the nature of celebrity.

The best thing about the web site is that no one pays me to do it. No one decides whether or not to commission it, whether or not to publish it. No one edits it but me. That’s freedom. And that’s fun. And – I’ve not been idle. The site is getting a birthday wash and brush-up. I don’t know exactly when the various things will be on the site, but you can now click on the link to see the BBC movie of me touring some of the locations in the books, for instance – it only lasts two minutes, so it won’t take forever to load.

Soon, you’ll be able to hear the audio extracts from the books, and those of you in Sweden, or Japan or any of the other non-English speaking countries who publish my books will be able to see exactly which books are (or were) available in your language. I can’t promise you’ll still be able to find a copy, but if you can’t, and you want one, try me. I might be able to help. The writing advice is going to be interactive, if it isn’t already, and there’s a new-look competition, if not this month, then from next month.

Now, if I might crave your indulgence…I haven’t used this newsletter to send a personal message before, but there is just a chance that a reader of mine is still interested enough in my work to be reading this. As some of you may know, there was a lot of work done to my house in the spring and early summer, and as a result, drawers and cupboards that hadn’t been looked at in years got turned out. And that’s how I found the letter. Dated August 10, 1998, it was from Illinois, and I realised, almost four years after I had first opened it, that I had never replied to it. I felt dreadful – I always reply to reader’s letters, but this one slipped right through the net. Now – I freely admit that I’m disorganised, but even I usually manage to reply to people the same century they write to me. Not this time. Naturally, I immediately wrote a letter of apology, but the letter has been returned to me with ‘Forwarding Order Expired’ stamped on it. So, Tanya from Illinois – if you’re reading this, please get in touch with me again. End of personal message.

And speaking of personal messages – you might know that I’ve added Friends Reunited to the list of my favourite sites, and if you do, then you’ll also know why. If not, have a look at my favourite sites page, and find out. It really is a great way to get back in touch with people you lost touch with years ago, and it isn’t restricted to schools – you can register your name with places you’ve worked, too. And you can check out who is listed on it without adding yourself to the list, if you’re not sure you want to be contacted yourself! What is particularly good about this way of finding old friends is that you know they want to be found, so I recommend it.

That, and writing number thirteen, is what I’ve been doing for the last few weeks. Have a lovely Christmas, and here’s hoping that the new year brings us better news than it seems likely to at the moment. You never know. Tides turn.


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