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…
The second book of The Dundoodle Mysteries finally came out in Thursday – World Book Day in the UK! Once again, it feels like I’ve been talking about a book for ages and then, suddenly, it’s actually in shops and in people’s hands. It’s always exciting when a new book comes out, and this was no exception.
The trouble with talking about the same book over and over again is that it’s difficult to find something new to say each time. But I don’t think I’ve written before that I think The Dentist of Darkness is my favourite of the the Dundoodle books. It has the fun and sweets and the mystery of The Chocolate Factory Ghost, but it also has a atmosphere of magic and darkness all of its own. It goes deeper into the mythology of the town and Archie’s own family history.
I’ve loved getting lost in the world, and particularly loved creating Unquiet Night, the Dundoodle version of Halloween, as Archie learns from his friends over a hot chocolate in Clootie Dumpling’s cafe:
‘Dundoodle doesn’t have Halloween,’ explained Fliss. ‘Halloween is at the end of October, and in Dundoodle that means icy wind and horizontal rain. The weather’s so miserable even the undead stay in and watch TV! So we have Unquiet Night in the summer instead…’
‘Unquiet Night is when the dead and undead walk, and the spirits and ghouls rise,’ said Billy. ‘Legends say the magical folk come out of hiding for the night and dance the Dance of the Wyrd.’
Archie frowned. ‘That sounds like Halloween to me,’ he said.
From The Dentist of Darkness
Whilst Unquiet Night does sound a lot like Halloween, it has its own special Dundoodle flavour. Festive food such as Coffin Cake, Witchberry Buns, Spellcaster Sugarbeer, Wyrdie-pudding, Spooky Pie and Corpse Rolls are consumed in great quantities. But the favourite treats are Gingerbread Dragons, which prove to be central to the story as Archie discovers more about his magical heritage…
All the info for The Dentist of Darkness can be found here. I’m really looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks about it. I’ve been doing some events as part of the launch for the book, and will post some photos once I get hold of them.
Of course, World Book Day also means people dressing up as their favourite book characters. There’s a bit of a debate as to whether this is a good thing, as it puts parents under a lot of pressure, but I know that authors are delighted if their characters are chosen, me included. Sarah McIntyre and I regularly see a Jampire out and about:
But I was particularly pleased to see a Joe Shoe from Monster & Chips!
I love the apron – just right for serving some monstrous food. Monster & Chips came out almost exactly six years ago, so it’s great to see it’s still got readers after all this time. Thank you so much for choosing to dress as Joe, Xavier! It’s made for a fantastic week all round.
A very belated happy New Year to you! I’m having a catch-up with myself after a busy December and January, and February has been much of the same.
I spent Christmas in Southwold, Suffolk, in a little cottage sat beneath the lighthouse. Even then I was working. I was up at 6am every day – including Christmas Day – to do some writing. However, I stopped at 9am so I could have a proper holiday too.
It made all the difference: I managed to get my first draft of the third Dundoodle mystery completed on time, and the location helped a lot. Southwold is a very atmospheric town with its quaint streets, crab shacks and smokehouses on the wharf, its rolling dunes and flat marshlands. As the book is a sea-themed mystery there was plenty of inspiration. Look out for mermaids, viking boats and underwater chases! First reactions from my editors have been good, so the edits aren’t too taxing, thankfully.
But I’m getting ahead of myself – never mind about Book Three, Book Two is almost upon us!
The Dentist of Darkness
The second book of The Dundoodle Mysteries comes out on March 7th, which just happens to be World Book Day (in the UK). I’d love to know if anyone dresses up as Archie and his friends for WBD – or even Mrs Puddingham-Pye – so do let me know if you see any Dundoodlers out there. I think they’re quite easy outfits to make…
I’ve already been sent my advance copies, and I’m so pleased with it! Side by side with The Chocolate Factory Ghost, it looks very handsome indeed, thanks to Claire Powell‘s cover. And her illustrations inside are phenomenal. There’s a darkness to this book that’s she’s captured perfectly.
And you can see this for yourself: my publisher has just put the first four chapters online!
I hope that’s given you a taste for more!
All the info for The Dentist of Darkness can be found here, and I’ve just had confirmed that the audio book is in the works too.
Meanwhile, I’ve been creating an activity pack to go with The DoD, containing puzzles and creative writing ideas – you can download the one I created for The CFG here.
One of the activities for the new pack is a recipe for Gingerbread Dragons – they play a important part in the story, but then biscuits are always important. I’d thought I’d better test out the recipe, naturally! They turned out ok, but decorative icing was beyond my abilities – let me know if you do a better job! I can say they’re nice and crisp and great for dunking in tea – the perfect accompaniment for a good book.