I have this torn out page from a magazine on the wall of my office, right next to where I write. I can see it above the ever growing piles of manuscripts of Book Two drafts on my desk. It's a 'Things to Do' article from TimeOut about 'How to get published' my brother in law sent to me when I first started writing The Damned, the first in The Darkest Hand trilogy, three years ago. It has this impoverished looking badger (no, I'm not sure why a badger either), tapping away at a laptop in a crumbling dirty room, with discarded paper and takeaway cartons strewn all around him, along with five bits of sage-like advice for getting published. It's intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and I get it, but now that I am published, the scene, even the night-time, hole dwelling creature, seems still strangely familiar. Actually, things seem to becoming more like it by the day! Neil Gaiman said he became a writer so he 'wouldn't have to get out of bed in the morning.' But what about if you never get into it in the first place? I don't want to moan or complain. I don't want people to look the other way when I approach because they think, 'here comes that miserable sod who's achieved his literary dream and still ain't happy'. All my adult life I've wanted to become a published author. It's taken grit, determination, imagination, a hell of a lot of hard work and luck too and I still pinch myself when I consider just what I have achieved. I'm extremely lucky and appreciative. But life at the moment is such that I just cannot rest on my laurels and take it all in. Deadlines are looming, the day job is unrelenting, and CERN still cannot bend time to give me more of it. May was, of course, the biggest month in my literary 'career', with the release of The Damned, the launch party for the novel and my first ever book signing at Waterstones Salisbury. Much like when I was signed to Duckworth Overlook for the three book deal, the book launch sort of stuttered into existence rather than erupted in a blinding flash of wonderment. Amazon seized the moment, when the first shipment of books started arriving and began selling them a week ahead of the official launch date. Waterstones suggested they'd sell to anyone asking for it by name but couldn't advertise it or put it out onto the shelves until the official release date. Other high street bookstores however started selling it openly online and in store, and Waterstones followed suit, and two days after the official launch of the 21st, my agent wished me good luck, tongue in cheek, for the launch on the 28th May, the day Amazon were still advertising as the official launch day! I'm beginning to understand this is the way things are done in the literary world. On the Saturday between the official launch and the advertised launch day, I hosted my official book launch at the gothic wonder that is Salisbury Cathedral School. 120 friends, family, my brilliant agent and wonderful publisher gathered together and had what can only be described as a 'right proper knees' up which would have made even Poldek Tacit's eyes water. It was a fantastic evening, a chance to spend time around warm and generous people and say thank you for all they had done. And Sunday morning was suitably difficult to manoeuvre. The last date in my literary calendar was my first book signing at Salisbury Waterstones. You hear some horror stories about book signings, the author as popular a presence as leprosy. But it was a true joy to meet people genuinely keen to say 'hello' and support a local author and understand what it was like to be one. "Well, I'm a badger, in a dusty darkened room, surrounded by pizza boxes..." Aside from all the fun and hilarity of launches and signings and debauched behaviour, there has also been the serious business of writing The Fallen. Things are coming on. I hesitate to add the word 'well' to that previous line, because I have been here before and done a subsequent u-turn weeks later. But the current overall structure feels much stronger and appropriate a follow-up to The Damned. I just need to bend three months into two and everything will be fine. I know though that I cannot, and must not, rush writing it. The feedback to The Damned has been incredible. There seems to be genuine admiration for the book which has been very humbling and I know that I owe it to people who have bought it to ensure the sequel surpasses everything which has gone before. And so it's business as usual here in my writing bunker, eyes down, mind turning, pulse racing, whilst the piles of manuscript continue to grow. Come September, I expect no longer to be able to see the 'Things to Do' article from my desk, nor emphasise with the figure captured within it!