The year is whizzing by in a rather startling way and I’m very behind with my blog. I could blame my disorganisation or I could blame this guy, who happens to be my namesake:
This is Dave the Unicorn who, along with his BFF Mira, is the star of The Naughtiest Unicorn, a series of books written by Pip Bird that I’m currently illustrating. Dave and Mira meet at Unicorn School and have a bunch of silly adventures, mostly involving glitter, doughnuts and trouble!
There’s an interview with Mira and Dave here! Dave spends most of his time scowling, eating and farting. I’ve no idea why I was given this illustration job…
There are SEVEN books in the series, and they’re all out in the next year or so – that means lots of drawings of unicorns and rainbows which is keeping me very busy indeed! The first and second books are out already and the third appears in shops in September – you can’t miss them as they’ve all got very shiny covers. Perfect early reads for unicorn fans aged 6 and upwards.
But what’s happening in Dundoodle?
Meanwhile, The Dentist of Darkness had been out in the world for a few of months and appears to be going down well. I did some launch events at a few schools in north London, that coincided with World Book Day, that were exhausting but a lot of fun.
The story centres around Unquiet Night which happens to be very soon (the first Tuesday of the school holidays, as every Dundoodledonian knows)! It’s the night when tree-spooks, bog-people and other wyrdi-folk appear and dance their wyrdi-dance through the darkness of the forest.
Everyone in the town will be baking Gingerbread Dragons, amongst other goodies, to celebrate in the Unquiet Night festival held in Dundoodle’s main square. And they’ll have their own dance around the streets, as so brilliantly illustrated by Claire Powell:
You can make your own Gingerbread Dragons with the recipe from my DoD activity pack, available to download from here. As well as the recipe, there are puzzles and story-making ideas – ideal for keeping bored minds busy during the school holidays. If you need more things to do the CFG activity pack is here. I’m going to expand on the activities section of my website, to include more creative writing advice, so keep an eye on that if you know any budding writers.
I’ve also had to do some travelling and events back in May, thanks to the award nominations that The Chocolate Factory Ghost has received. I didn’t win anything (apart from the runner-up sparkly glass thing that’s the size of an egg from the Leeds Book Awards!) but it was great to meet all the children from the local schools who’d participated and sign all their books. I got more reviews than anyone else on the Leeds Book Awards website (not all of them good, mind you – young reviewers have very firm ideas about what they like!) and it was wonderful to know that my story had got into the hands of so many enthusiastic readers. Here’s a couple of photos taken at the ceremony:
Then in Surrey, I went on some school visits for the Surrey Children’s Book Awards, as well as popping into the wonderful brand new library at Horley:
Finally, the third Dundoodle Mystery is on the long road to publication – the text was signed off back in April and the illustrations are underway. And I can reveal its title: The Revenge of the Invisible Giant! Ta-daaa! Here’s the official blurb:
When a batch of his experimental sweets goes wrong at the McBudge Confectionery Company, Archie needs a distraction. And when he hears about a book of magical wisdom lost in a tunnel beneath the mountains, Archie is determined to find it. It’s DEFINITELY so he can be the best magical guardian of Dundoodle that he can be and DEFINITELY NOT so he can turn tree branches into flying surfboards. Only trouble is, the key to open the tunnel was broken into four pieces hundreds of years ago and hidden.
Archie, Fliss and Billy set out to find the pieces of the key, but why was the tunnel sealed off in the first place? And what is the deep, sinister, MOUNTAINOUS voice Archie keeps hearing on the wind?
This is a fast-paced, action-packed story that I’ve stuffed with magic and fun, and has a huge cast of mermaids, selkies, warlocks, golems, gods, druids and, of course, giants. It’s not out until next April but it’s already available for pre-order now from the usual places, but please do use your local bookshop if you have one. All the info on ROTIG can be found here, which I’ll keep updated as best as I can.
I’ll finish with the bittersweet news that this will be the last of the Dundoodle Mysteries books, but…. it’s not the last of the tales of Dundoodle! I’m not allowed to say more just yet – something tantalising for the future…
It’s been a busy year and lots of good things have happened, though I feel like I’ve been chained to my desk lately. Here’s what’s being going on since the summer.
In August we paid a visit to Fife for a friend’s wedding. It was a chance to visit in person a place I had discovered when writing my first draft of The Chocolate Factory Ghost. When I came up with the story, I only had a vague idea of how the little town of Dundoodle looked. Originally, there was no chocolate factory at all, and Dundoodle was a fishing village, rather than in the Highlands. When searching online for images of Scottish fishing villages, Crail would often pop up. It’s very picturesque and, as it was only a shortish drive from the wedding venue, it wasn’t too difficult to go and visit.
Above is one of my photos, but there are plenty more much better ones online. I love the stepped gables that give the houses a castle-y look. It’s very distinctive of Scotland and I picture Dundoodle with similar look and feel, even though it’s ‘located’ on the other side of the country, and surrounded by mountains. I’ve written before about how a strong sense of place can bring its own magic to a story, and that’s particularly true of the countryside around Fife.
The Dentist of Darkness
In other Dundoodle news, Book 2 of The Dundoodle Mysteries – The Dentist of Darkness – is at the printers. The art by Claire Powell looks a brilliant as ever and I’m pleased to say it’s going to look as spectacular as the first book! Everything is on schedule for publication day next March. Here’s what the cover will look like:
But there’s no rest: book three of The Dundoodle Mysteries is under way, though I’m finding it quite a challenge to write whilst doing other work projects simultaneously. I’m not very good at multi-tasking but I’m hoping it should all be done by January. It’s set in the spring, and has a watery theme – but my publisher has demanded that there are plenty of sweets in it too!
The audiobook of The CFG has been released, with superb reading from award-winning actor Angus King. I think he had quite a bit of fun doing it, judging from some of the character voices. You can listen to a snippet:
The Dutch edition of the The CFG came out at the end of September, translated by Sandra Hessels (who also translated my Monster & Chips series). The book is called The Secret of the Sweet Factory (Het Geheim van de Snoepfabriek). It’s so exciting to see foreign editions. The Dutch version is in hardback which is always nice. The German edition – Das Karamell-Komplott, translated by Leena Flegler – is out in February 2019.
Cheltenham Literary Festival
I really enjoyed taking part in the Super Sleuths panel at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October. Actor and author Andrew Clover chaired, and Lauren St John and Lisa Thompson also took part. It was a lot of fun talking about how we write and what makes for a good detective story, and wonderful as always to meet some of our readers. It was also wonderful to do an event where I just had to sit and chat. If I’d had a mug of tea it could almost have been relaxing. Here’s a fuzzy photo. I’m wearing a cobwebby shirt specially for the occasion.
Finally, some lovely news I received a week or so ago: The CFG has been shortlisted for two book awards! It’s in the running for the 7-11s category of the Leeds Book Awards, and also for the Surrey Libraries Book Award 2019. I’m up against some very strong competition so I don’t think I’m being too modest in saying I haven’t a hope of winning, but it’s still a great honour. However, both awards ceremonies are on the same day so I’ve a tricky choice as to which to go to! A nice problem to have.
I hope you have a great Christmas break and a brilliant 2019!
Two nice things have happened since my last update:
This means a lot to me personally as I know loads of people who have worked on The Phoenix (which is published by Jampires publisher David Fickling).
It’s a great comic filled with serialised stories, jokes and articles (and it’s ad-free too) and is very much recommended if you’ve haven’t tried it already.
It’s available in quite a few places but you can get it on subscription so it’s delivered to your door. (photo by our excellent publicist at Bloomsbury, Lizz Skelly).
2. The CFG has been nominated for an award! It’s on the longlist for the North Somerset Teachers’ Book Award in the Read Aloud category. I’ve never had a book I’ve written nominated for an award before (Creature Teacher won the Heart of Hawick award for Sam Watkins in 2016) and although I’m under no illusions about it getting any further, I’m very much enjoying the moment.