This Scot travelled to Hastings at the weekend to meet with my agent, Simon Kavanagh and my UK editor and publisher, Peter Lavery from Macmillan. It was my 37th birthday... or so I thought. That belief would later turn out to be wrong. But then, with demonic toy rabbits on the prowl and public information broadcasts about the dangers "of the Scot" the day was bound to descend into madness.
Simon and Peter had offered to help unravel some stubborn knots in the next Deepgate Codex book, Penny Devil. Sometimes you can be so close to the text, that you need a fresh perspective. Now, thanks to a spot of unravelling and some clever reweaving the story is finally coming together.
We spent most of Saturday breaking the plot, then fixing it, then trying to break it again. One character who shouldn't have been there took a plot holiday. Another character morphed into a different person. A chapter sidled into the prologue when nobody was looking. And by mid afternoon Penny Devil had become a slightly different, yet more solid book, and everyone was happy.
Celebrations ensued with a glass of wine or four and a stroll along Hastings promenade for a game of pool and some fish and chips.
Simon thinks he's really good at pool.
"You'll beat me easily," I said, "I haven't played in years." But actually I was thinking, Mwahahaha, prepare for a hammering, Kavanagh, because I'm actually an immensely skilful player. I only choose not to say this out loud in order to savour your inevitable defeat all the more.
In a minute flat my bastard agent had sunk all of his balls like a hustler and I was standing gaping at a table clogged with reds. By the time I realised I wasn't actually a pool-god at all, but was actually a pretty crap player, the game was over.
Then again, I did have a slightly bent cue.
We stopped at Waterstones where I signed some books -- taking my time, because it always feels kind of nice to sign books in a bookshop. I briefly considered changing my surname to one which would be most likely to appear at eye-level on the shelf. But a quick glance at the top of bestseller display put me off the idea. It seems I'd sell more if I had huge plastic breasts.
Peter Lavery and I bought demonic toy rabbits from a Vietnamese street seller. Let me just point out that Mr Lavery, one of the most highly-regarded editors in the world, was buying a replacement demon-rabbit because his old one had ceased to hop.
On the way back I ducked into a doorway to light a cigarette, furtively re-emerging, apparently, like some dodgy geezer who'd nipped out of sight for a swig of Special Brew. This prompted Simon to start making "Beware the Scot" public information broadcasts as we continued along Hastings seafront. In a 1950's upper class English accent: "Ladies... he may approach you on the promenade. Ladies... beware the Scot."
By the time we stopped for a drink at the Italian restaurant near Peter's flat neither Simon nor I could speak without succumbing to fits of uncontrollable, explosive laugher. Simon's wine sprayed out of his nose. I couldn't touch my coffee for fear of snorting it across the table. Poor Peter watched us in the way a kind headmaster might observe some misbehaving students.
Back in the flat, Simon found some string and hung Peter's crippled demon-rabbit up from the light shade. We watched its battery-powered death throes.
The new rabbits were friskier, so we set them against each other in battle on the carpet. Simon's "Beware the Scot" public information broadcasts continued. We decided to film one on my phone.
Peter had very kindly bought me a cake, so we had all had slice and toasted my birthday. I wondered why I'd reached this age so quickly. There was a reason, as it turned out... it wasn't my 37th birthday at all, but I didn't discover that until later.
My brother Neil and his girlfriend Sian arrived by train from Brighton. We ordered pizza and continued celebrating into the night. At some point, Neil observed that I had actually turned 36, and not 37, which came as a pleasant surprise to me. It isn't every day you become a year younger. I wish I'd bothered to do the maths twelve months ago. It seems I missed being 35 altogether.
The next day, to kill time before the train back to London, we took a stroll along the other end of the promenade -- the barren, run-down end, where few tourists venture and the shops are either closed or closing down. There's a wood flooring shop, imaginatively called "Wood Flooring", and a Scalectrix shop, imaginatively called "Scalehectic." Other shops sell cheap tat in dusty plastic wrappers: buckets and spades, sunglasses, pirate puzzle games, all of which looks like it's been on display since the seventies. Opposite these dying shops is a newly built Restaurant and Leisure complex. It's empty. Someone has drawn the letter "I" in the middle of the "To Let" sign. At least the seagulls have somewhere new to rest.
We made another "Beware the Scot" video on the train...
After a few failed attempts...
So that was Hastings. The work we did on the book has been a huge help, with Simon and Peter providing invaluable insight. Peter was a very gracious host, putting up with us all and taking care of us.And now the Scot is back in Scotland.