• Out now – the Dentist of Darkness

    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.

    Here’s the fabulous animated trailer – made by illustrator Claire Powell.

    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!

    There’s even a menu!

    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.

  • Nice news

    Blogging is less of a chore when there are lots of nice things to write about.

    Firstly, lovely letters. Here’s a drawing from Theo, aged 7, a Monster & Chips reader. He’s drawn a brilliant monster with a snot-burger and chips. Great use of colours, too. You can almost smell the fart!

    theo

    barry_letter

    I also had a very nice letter from Charlie, which was beautifully written, so I’ve taken extra care with my reply. Charlie, from St Bede’s School in Weaverham, said the Barry the cat was his favourite character in Monster & Chips so here’s a little picture of Barry that I drew at the bottom of the letter.

    Recently, I finished the illustrations for the last Creature Teacher book. It’s a great series and I was over the moon when the first book won the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award! Woohoo!

    I couldn’t be more pleased for writer Sam Watkins as it was her first published book. And I was completely bowled over when Sam tweeted about an animated trailer that the children from the participating schools had made. It’s absolutely amazing and I keep replaying it and having a chuckle!

    Freshmade NYC are a cooking and craft studio that run cookery sessions for kids in New York City. They have a storybook cooking class, which sounds like a fab idea, and recently ran a Jampires doughnut making session! Here’s a pic from their Instagram feed:

    Banana doughnuts! Yum.

    What am I up to at the moment? I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately and a few weeks back finished a manuscript for a book idea that I’m really hopeful will prove to be publisher-friendly. It’s doing the rounds of publishers right now, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying to the book gods that it works out.

    I’m also working on a window artwork display for the nice people at Chicken & Frog bookshop in Brentwood. I visited them a couple of years back and am doing an event for the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival which they are organising (tickets on sale!). It’s not something I’ve done before so it’s very exciting.

    In the meantime, When I’m A Monster Like You, Dad! is out in the shops very soon! My advance copies arrived from the publisher today. Illustrator Francesca Gambatesa and I are hosting a launch event at Gosh! Comics in London on the evening of May 27th – all are welcome, so do come along if you can and say hello (and buy a book!).

    WIMLY_party

  • A Late Catch-Up!

    It used to be that I wrote blog posts as a way of procrastinating before work. Now I find that I’m procrastinating before writing blog posts. It does seems a very cumbersome way of communicating news in these days of Twitter and other social media. But it’s a useful way of recording what I’ve been up to so I’m going to keep at it, even if updates get a little few and far between.

    Find me here:
    Twitter
    Instagram

    I can be found in a couple of social media-type places (above) but here’s a more long-winded catch-up with some things that happened in the latter part of 2015. Mega-post alert!

    Books

    A second book of Sam Watkin‘s Creature Teacher series came out in August with me on art duties again. Creature Teacher Goes Wild is set at a theme park which meant lots of fun things to draw. Here’s a bit when Mr Hyde and the gang are on their way to Wilf’s Wild Adventure Theme Park – it gets messy pretty soon afterwards:

    CT2_spread

    There’s another Creature Teacher book out very soon – next week in fact! Creature Teacher Science Shocker introduces a new character who’s more than a match for Creature – but who is it?

    The fourth CT book is due out in July and I’ll be drawing the illos for that any day – can’t wait to get started!

    Writer Sam and I will be doing an event together at the Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival in July – come along and say hello if you can. Tickets are available here.

    creature_teacher03

    CT is also coming out in Turkish which is very exciting. I love seeing books I’m involved with coming out in different languages! You can find information on all the Creature Teacher books here, or on Creature’s very own website where there are a load of activities to do too.

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    Speaking of foreign editions, JAMPIRES is going to be coming out in Korean which should be really interesting to see as it’s such an attractive written language. My fab co-author, Sarah McIntyre, and I donned our Jampire gear for a spooky Hallowe’en window-painting session at the wonderful GOSH! Comics in London back in October.

    jampiresoct1501_tweaked

    It’s very hard to paint on glass, never mind back-to front. I’ve borrowed these photos from GOSH’s Facebook page – they’re both taken by Mauricio Molizane De Souza and there’s plenty more of his ace work to be seen there too.

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    I’ve blogged previously about my friend Alex Milway‘s This Book is Funny initiative and was very pleased to be invited to join him and comics chum Gary Northfield at the Discover Children’s Story Centre‘s summer Storyfest that took place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford in July.

    funnysticker

    We talked about our books – all of them funny books – having visited the schools involved in the previous weeks to see what kind of funny stories they could come up with themselves.

    It had to be one of the hottest days of the year – not a day to be dressed up as a lion fighting a zebra Roman gladiator. Yes, dear reader, that is me in the furry onesie, having taken on gladiator Gary, and in the middle of my (very dramatic) death throes. A career highlight.

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    Finally, I’ve recently got to see the artwork for When I’m a Monster Like You, Dad!, the picture book I wrote that is being illustrated by Francesca Gambatesa. It’s been ages coming (for publisher scheduling reasons) and I was over the moon to see the final images. Francesca’s done such a great job so I couldn’t be more happy!

    The second book in our collaboration is in production now and will be out next year some time, but WIMLY (as I call it) is out in the beginning of June – just in time for Father’s Day. I’ll be talking a lot more about this before then, but here is one spread from inside just to whet the appetite:

    Monster_Dad-INS-2

    As usual, I have a page devoted to the book with all the buying information here.

    Comics

    I haven’t made any comics recently and actually took a break from even going to conventions in 2015. I’ve really missed being involved in comics and I don’t think it’s something you can ever really leave behind, although I know I’ve benefited creatively (and financially) from the break.

    However, when my friend Richy Chandler asked me to take part in his anthology that came out in September there was no way I was going to say “No”! The theme of Richy’s book Tempo Lush Tales of the Tanoox was the idea of positive transformation, with the Tanoox being an emblem or totem of this change. I decided to do a short slice-of-life comic, a genre I’ve become more interested in over the years.

    TLT-2-Cover-Double-Page-Spread-Update

    Here’s a snippet:

    David-Tanoox-Sample

    I’d like to do more with these characters, so might be tentatively dipping my toe in the murky waters of comics at some point this year.

    TLTotT is a great anthology, with a diverse set of creators who’ve all taken very different approaches to Richy’s challenge. You can get a copy here, at various comic shops, or at any of Richy’s many convention appearances (and it’s worth meeting him in person as he’s such a nice chap!). His webcomic Lucy the Octopus is back next month after a break  so make sure you bookmark that for some future funny-aquatic-eight-legged reading.

    Out & About

    There was a bit of London-exploring done last year – quite a lot of it underground.

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    We went on a tour of the disused Jubilee line Tube station at Charing Cross, that’s now used mainly for film-making (Skyfall being a recent example). We got to walk through the utility passages that stay hidden from passengers, although we could spy on them through the various ventilation grills that you see at the stations (but never give a thought to). The tunnels lead right underneath Trafalgar Square until you’re directly below the now-famous fourth plinth. Mind-boggling stuff.

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    We also visited the deep level bomb shelter that was built underneath Clapham Common to protect residents from the blitz during WWII.

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    Such a huge space! And very easy to get lost down there.

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be stuck in the shelter when the bombs were falling.  The smell from all the people must have been a bit wearing, at the very least. This shelter was later used as a budget hotel for visitors to the Festival of Britain, and as a temporary home for the first Caribbean migrants to the UK, which is the reason that Brixton and that corner of London became centres of the Afro-Caribbean community. The shelter is one of eight that were built and still exist today – they are mainly used for archive storage, but I think TfL want to try and open more of them to visitors.

    Lastly, a trip into the bowels of the iconic Tower Bridge to see the workings of the bascules (as the draw-bridge bits are called). You get to see the massive counterweights that were used in the steam-driven era, and the chamber into which the road disappears whilst its far end goes skyward.

    tower02

    tower01

    You can’t go in there when the bridge is open because you’d get squished!  You also get a chance to visit the old Victorian engine room, as well as the walkways over the road with their great views and rather sick-making glass floors.

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    This publicity video gives a good preview of the tour if you fancy it:

    Outside of London we spent our summer holiday in Blakeney, Norfolk. Brilliant beaches, lots of walks through wind and salt-blown scenery and lots of good food.

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    The dog enjoyed it and so did I!

    Now: time to look forward to the challenges of 2016. Onwards!

  • Mega-May Recap

    Argh! Half a year gone and I haven’t achieved nearly enough, including blog posts. Here’s few things that have been going on:

    Creature Teacher

    The first book of this series came out in April. It can sometimes be a bit confusing working on a set of books that are being published at relatively short intervals. Whilst book one was appearing in the shops I was working on the illustrations for book two and simultaneously working on the cover for book three! I keep getting the books mixed up in my head. Here’s a rough pencil-version of an illustration from book two, with the CT gang on the hunt for mischievous creature!

    CT2

    Creature Teacher writer Sam Watkins had a very busy launch event at Thomas A Becket School in Worthing in May. She spent the whole day doing short events with children from years 1 and 3 – I think she was losing her voice by the end of it all.

    I joined her for the afternoon sessions to do a bit of drawing whilst she read from the book. It was a lot of fun but quite exhausting! It was the first time Sam and I had actually met (she is lovely, thank goodness!). Sam even made some swirly biscuits to match the book cover design. I can personally vouch for how tasty they were.

    CT_biccies

    Here’s a pic of us at the end-of-day signing (we didn’t play the bongos, alas). Not sure who took this photo – apologies for pinching it.

    CT_launch

    Our visit even made it into the Worthing Herald. Oh, the heady heights of fame. Here’s a clipping from Sam’s Twitter feed:

    CT_herald

    (You can read the online version here.)

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    We ran a competition at the school to design a cover for a Creature Teacher book – you can see all the entries at the CT website here. I love how much energy there is in all the drawings, but then it is a very energetic book!

    More recently, Sam and I visited Brighton Waterstones for a drawing and reading session. Everyone got to design their own Creature Teachers, drawing or doing a bit of collage.  Here’s some photos from Sam’s Twitter:

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    CT_brighton02

    It’s great doing events with someone else – you get to bounce ideas off each other, as well as providing a bit of support. Sam and I will be doing more events together at some point soon.

    Monster & Chips

    I was thrilled to see Whitchurch School in Hampshire have been reading Monster and Chips as part of their Year 4 book group. You can read all about it here. The readers have been creating their own monsters and even making up their own ‘delicious’ menu:

    • Bashed Beetleburger AND CHIPS
    • Slimy Slug Surprise with antennae eyes
    • Eyeball soup with slug slime chips
    • Bogey burger gravy AND CHIPS
    • Smelly cabbage soup with poo plop croutons
    • Earwax tart

    Poo plop croutons! Tasty. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book – I love seeing people’s reactions to it. Thanks to librarian and book evangelist Jo for the tip-off!

    I was very pleased the group had read Jampires too! The US edition is out at the end of the month and my co-author Sarah McIntyre and I were very happy to have a nice review from Publisher’s Weekly.

    Sarah has been very busy – and successful – with her Pictures Mean Business Campaign, trying to get more recognition for book illustrators in their contribution to a book’s success. You can find out more here, or follow the #PicturesMeanBusiness hashtag on Twitter.

    pw_jampires

    DinoPolice_cover

    Sarah has a new picture book out in June: Dinosaur Police! I saw the print proofs for it a while back and it’s her best book yet – absolutely brilliant!

    Red Alert! How will Dinoville’s police squad catch Trevor the T-Rex, who’s at the pizza factory, gobbling up all the pizzas meant for the town fair? Inspector Sarah Tops and Seargeant Stig O’Saurus are on the case!

    This Book is Funny!

    I’ve blogged previously about Alex Milway‘s initiative to promote funny books for children. He’s been sending out thousands of stickers to schools and libraries so they can help their readers find the books they love.

    Alex has also produced a couple (so far) of podcasts full of comedy sketches, readings and interviews. I’ve written a bit material for him for a future recording featuring Fuzzby and Barry from Monster & Chips. Need a laugh? Then follow Alex’s Soundcloud for guaranteed chuckles.

    Out and about

    I try to get away from my desk when I can. Whilst in Brighton for the Waterstones shindig I popped along to the Brighton Illustration Fair, part of the town’s fringe festival.

    It was good to catch up with comics chums Joe Decie, Warwick Johnson Cadwell and Amber Hsu, who all had tables, as well as bump into Matt Baxter (who designed the This Book Is Funny logo).

    Lots of lovely things to see, but I was very much taken with the drawing activity they had: rotating towers of cardboard boxes that you could draw on in a heads-and-tails fashion. Worth bearing in mind for a future event.

    brighton_bif

    Nunhead Cemetery is an old Victorian graveyard near where I live. It was abandoned for years before the local council took it over and in the intervening years nature completely overran it, turning it into some kind of gothic film set.

    Burials still take place there, but the council have wisely left most of the cemetery untouched. I think some bits are ‘managed’ to encourage some bio-diversity. It must be heaven for foxes, judging from the number I’ve seen there. You have to be careful in some parts in case you fall into an ivy-covered tomb!

    I’ve been there several times (it’s good for dog-walking) but they had an open day in May, providing tours for those interested. I prefer to wander and soak up the peaceful/melancholy atmosphere (depending on your mood!).

    nunhead nunhead2

    I’ve also made a couple of visits to the recently opened Sky Garden. It’a worth a trip if you’re able, as it’s free (though you have to book) and has one of the best views in London, in my opinion, plus added tree ferns.

     

  • Doughbots, Goblins & Finches

    I’ve had a horrible cold with a nasty cough that’s kept me in bed for a bit. Yuck. It’s stopped me from getting out and about and doing things but I’m finally catching up. First up: DOUGHBOTS!

    I was delighted to hear from St Michael’s School librarian Sam Pope that the year 3 and 4 book group had been discussing Monster & Chips: Night of the Living Bread.

    In the book, Joe and the monsters create a robot made from bread – a doughbot! – and the book group members even had a go at making their own versions. You can read all about it and have a look at all the photos here – there are instructions on how to make your own, if you fancy it (I recommend adding some tuna and mayonnaise and erm… recycling the doughbot parts afterwards).

    I’ve pinched this photo to show all the doughbots lined up – aren’t they crumbily menacing? I’m particularly loving the hair extensions. Thanks so much, everyone! It’s great to see a school library being so actively used – do have a look at some of their book reviews and other goings on. It looks like a lot of fun.

    doughbots

    What else has been going on?

    Goblins

    Webcomicker Evan Dahm announced Goblin Week was going to take place at the end of January. It’s a week where people draw or do other creative stuff regarding goblins because… well, I’ve no idea to be honest, but it sounds like a fun way of getting the creative juices flowing. Here are the pics I drew:

    goblin_ambush

    goblin_queen

    birthday_goblin

    goblins

    (Click on any of the pics to make them bigger.)

    Jampires

    I’m not the only creative person in my family – my Mum is an excellent knitter. She’s one of those knitters whose needles go all blurry when she’s working, she’s that fast! My childhood collection of Action Men were always warm through the winter, thanks to their mum-knitted balaclavas. Anyway, a Jampires knitting pattern was obviously going to be a done deal, and Mum revealed the finished item the other weekend:

    jampire_knit

    Bless him! I’m very pleased to have a Jampire of my very own. I have to keep him on a high shelf, as the dog has taken a fancy to him and he’ll end up buried in the back yard!

    Here’s another wonderful Jampire made by Joy – thanks to Martin Hand for bringing that to our attention. This chap was made for his daughter Katie’s birthday (picture pinched from Martin’s Twitter stream):

    If you’re interested in behind the scenes stuff in the children’s book publishing world, my co-author on Jampires, Sarah McIntyre, has written a couple of interesting articles on the way illustrators are perceived as being something slightly ‘lesser’ than writers, particularly relevant to the creation of Jampires which we very much co-wrote/illustrated.

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    Here’s the first article: Why I hate the Word ‘Author’, and she’s recently written about how the problem seems to be ingrained in the publishing world’s very own reference systems: The Real Reason Illustrators Keep Getting Overlooked. Some excellent points made and well worth a read.

    Finches

    Lastly, last night I took the aforementioned dog along to the launch of Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz‘s new picture book I Am Henry Finch at my local bookshop, Review. I always think of Alexis and Viv as two people who have as much book DNA as human – they just seem to ‘get’ how books should be made. I think the key thing is they just focus on creating good books and don’t worry about target markets or any of that nonsense. As as result they produce work that is innovative, thought-provoking, funny and just downright beautiful, and Henry Finch is no exception. I loved it. You can see some of the insides at the link above. Using fingerprints for the finches was inspired. Treacle approves:

    henry_finch

  • End of Year

    I’m probably going to be staying off the internet for the remainder of the year, what with Christmas busy-ness and so on, so here’s a quick catch-up post. I’ve had a few computer issues recently so haven’t been able to update as much as I would like, particularly about November’s Thought Bubble Comic Festival up in Leeds.

    Sarah McIntyre and I looked after a Jampires-themed kids drawing area which was very busy all weekend. We managed to sell and sign a lot of books (and some lovely badges) too!

    Sarah wrote a magnificently comprehensive post about the weekend (you’re better off reading that than any account I could write) and what I really like about it is how she gets across how much fun the weekend was.

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    Particularly because of the help we had from Matt Badham and Molly Bruton in manning the tables (see the photo I’ve pinched from Sarah).They were great company and marvellous sales-people, and it really made a difference having their help. I’m not planning on doing any comic conventions next year so this was a lovely event on which to end 2014.

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    Speaking of Jampires, if you’re a crafty type and looking for last-minute gifts ideas, why not knit someone their very own Jampire? Graffiti knitter Lauren O’Farrell has conjured up a pattern to make a woolly version of our little jammy dodgers. I guess you could use whatever colour wool you like depending on your favourite flavour of jam. My mum’s a bit of a knitter so I’m hoping she’ll make me one!

    jampire_knitYou can download the pattern from the Jampires website, from the activities page.

    It’s been a good year, though not as productive as I’d like (but then I always say that). I had two books out in 2014, and will have two books out next year (that I illustrated) with books that I’ve written following on from that.

    I still need lots more projects to keep me busy and all the bills paid, and I’ve loads of ideas, but it takes a while for things to happen, and I keep getting caught out by just how slow the publishing world is. You need to have many irons in the fire, all the time, as so many of the ideas you come up with won’t go anywhere.

    I’ve been doing loads of writing and have joined an excellent writing group which has helped with that a lot.

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    Most recently I’ve written a book around this little chap which is one of the projects I hope will find a home somewhere in the new year. I’ve also ideas for picture books, early readers, comics and more. It’s just a case of getting it all down on the page! And that takes time! TIME! Ugh – there’s never enough of the stuff. So that’s what I’m planning to do over Christmas (with a festively-appropriate break, of course): have an Idea Audit, and spend time Getting Things on Paper so I can start 2015 up-and-running and ready to go!

    I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a brilliant New Year.

    xmascard2014

  • Jampire Jamboree

    story-museum

    Yesterday was a bit of a busy one: off to Oxford for a workshop and ‘show’ (look at the purple-y poster I made for it!) at the fabulous Story Museum. It’s an amazing and highly unusual space devoted to story-making and telling, and a real gem amongst all of Oxford’s better known attractions.

    I ran a comic-making workshop in the morning with a Hallowe’en-y/monster-y feel. Lots of keen comic-makers were there with loads of ideas – the beginning of a workshop is usually talkative and boisterous.

    But the moment they had to get on with making their own comics the whole room descended into such an intense silence that I wished I’d brought some music with me!

    And there were some fantastic comics made – we had some time at the end of the workshop for those brave enough to share their comics with everybody. Some were hilarious, some action-packed, some more gentle – I always try to get across that the great thing about comics is how versatile they are as a medium.
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    I made a handout for the work-shoppers to take away. There’s a PDF version available to download from my activities page if anyone needs a bit of inspiration during half-term.

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    One work-shopper brought along his collection of Monster & Chips books to be signed. I was so pleased to see how well-worn the covers were! Nice to meet you, Aydin! It was at that moment that Sarah McIntyre arrived for our afternoon event and she snapped me busily scribbling in the books.

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    Then Sarah and I rushed off to do our JAMPIRES show! Our performance is still a bit wobbly in some places, especially after the last-minute addition of a Jampires song (!), but it all adds to the fun. I need to brush up on my tambourine skills, that’s for sure. Here’s a pic from after it was all over (pinched from Sarah) with some of the audience and their Jampire artwork:

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    Sarah always manages to look so elegant in her costume whilst I just look a bit of a fool! Thanks to everyone who came along – both events were sell-outs – and huge thanks to the Story Museum for being such great hosts.

  • JAMPIRES! Out now.

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    Happy publication day to us! Sarah McIntyre and I are most pleased to announce our picture book, JAMPIRES, is officially in the shops! So go get a copy – or else!

    It’s been a long road to get here, and Sarah is blogging about some of the development work we did here. I’d forgotten about some of those sketches we did!

    All the information you need about Jampires can be found at the JAMPIRES website, including activities and buying information. Phew! Time for a doughnut.

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  • JAMPIRES at the Big Feastival

    It’s JAMPIRES week!

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    The picture book I co-authored with Sarah McIntyre is out on Thursday and to launch it we did something a bit different: an event at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival food extravaganza! The Jampires are all about jam and tasty treats so it seemed appropriate (as well as giving us the chance to sample some rather lovely cheese and ice cream, amongst other things…).

    But we brought our own treats with us – not just Jampires books but our own special Jampire Jam, courtesy of dapper jamologist Emma Preston-Dunlop. Emma joined us in a moment of relaxation prior to our event:

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    And here’s the jam itself, with its own labels and everything! It’s raspberry and vanilla with a bit of sparkly silver Jampire magic in there too. It almost seems a shame to eat it – almost.

    Emma explained how easy it is to make jam – she’s supplied loads of special custom jams for all kinds of occasions and has to be very creative.

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    Then it was time for us to be creative. We did our first dramatic reading of the tale of the Jampires. Note the intensity of the acting taking place. Oscars all round!

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    I’m holding a ‘prop’ doughnut, which I’m afraid had to be eaten in the cause of publicity. Check out Sarah’s amazing Jampire dress that she made with the help of her mom. I’m quite proud of my sequinned waistcoat and home-made Jampire hat too. I spent whole minutes stapling those ears on.

    Our reading was followed by some Jampire-drawing and Jampire mask-making. This is us with honorary Jampire Logan, son of brilliant comic-maker Neill Cameron, who was at the show with our friends from the Phoenix comic.

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    David Fickling, publisher of both the Phoenix Comic and Jampires turned up too, after cycling all the way over from Oxford! Time for a Sarah-selfie:

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    The little Jampire was made by the super-talented Ann Lam – he proved so popular with one audience member he had to be gently ‘liberated’!

    I’m so pleased with this book: it was a long time coming but I think it looks just lovely, as well as being a fun read. Sarah’s finishes are just magical. Here’s one of my favourite ‘spreads’ (pardon the pun):

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    I get hungry just looking at it!

    You can make you own masks, as well as download other activities, at the Jampires website – there’s more information there on where to buy the book too.

    Thanks to Philippa Perry our publicist for working so hard on the event, to Devon Black, who apparently did a brilliant job as ‘Jampire Jill’ on Sunday, and James for driving us there and back again – you can see more of his photos here.

  • Meet the JAMPIRES!

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    Who are the JAMPIRES?

    They are these cheeky little chaps! And that’s their friend Sam too. They’re flying off to… well, you’ll have to read JAMPIRES to find out! It’s a picture co-written and co-illustrated by the super-brilliant Sarah McIntyre and myself that’s out on September 4th.

    Sarah asked me years to ago to work with her on a book: she had an idea about little creatures who were like vampires but preferred jammy doughnuts to human necks! Interestingly, Sarah wasn’t a fan of vampires themselves and wanted to avoid all the easily recognisable vampiric clichés. We went all around the houses trying to come up with ideas – jampires are tricky little devils to pin down – but eventually found, as is usually the case, that one of the simplest ideas was the best. And it works, even if I do say so myself. A yummy, treat-filled book, perfect for Christmas (sorry for mentioning it in August but it really is!). We have a JAMPIRES website too where you can read more and have a go at some fun activities.

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    The book is a true collaboration: we worked on the text together, then Sarah drew the finished art over my page roughs. I think this might confuse some people who are more used to the idea of author and illustrator being something separate but it can make for a very satisfying creative experience for the people involved. Sarah has gone on to further collaborative projects: her books with Philip Reeve (Seawigs, Cakes in Space) are also co-productions and have been widely acclaimed.

    One of the collaborative tools we employed was the appropriately named ‘comics jam’. We improvised a comic together to generate story ideas, taking it in turns to write and draw a page, never knowing what was going to happen next!  You can read the whole comic here. We’ve had some copies of the comic printed – if you see us around we may let you have one. Here’s a page from the comic that explains how we worked (click for a bigger view):

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    Comics jams are a great way to make comics with friends or classmates – we’ve used them in workshops and events and the ideas come thick and fast. Find out more about how to make your own comics jam on our Jampires activity page.

    We are launching the book at the end of this month at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Our amazing publicist Philippa Perry has even commissioned a special Jampires Jam from boutique jam-maker The Butch Institute for the occasion. Can’t wait to try it! We’ve also had a photo shoot (photographer: David Warren) in our glitzy Jampires event costumes – so showbiz! There’ll be more about JAMPIRES and the launch very soon, so keep an eye on our Twitter feeds: @davidoconnell and @jabberworks for more.

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  • Codename: COMIC MAKER!

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    As part of their Big Write festival, the Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford have asked me to organise a drop-in comics workshop on the weekend of 15th-16th March. To tie-in with their amazing Secret Agents interactive exhibition we’re making it Spy-themed! Come along to Codename: COMIC MAKER!

    Special Agents Sarah McIntyre, Gary Northfield, Laura Ellen Anderson, Jamie Littler, Richy K Chandler, Alex Milway (and me) will be on hand to guide you – those who dare – on a mission to create their own Secret Agent comic.

    They’ll also be signing books and comics on sale in the Centre’s brilliant book shop. It’s just one of the fantastic activities taking place that weekend – the place will be choc-full of book illustrators and writers. All the details can be found here. Hope to see you there!

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    Jampires via mail

    Speaking of Sarah McIntyre reminds me that the printer’s proof of our picture book, JAMPIRES, arrived in the post the other day.

    It’s out in September from David Fickling Books – lots more about that in the future.

    Also in the post were a couple of advance copies of MONSTER & CHIPS: Food Fright! It’s out a bit sooner: March 27th! I’ve put as much information as I can on the Food Fright book page and will keep it updated when I have more.

    World Book Day

    Finally, tomorrow is World Book Day (in the UK!). I shall be doing my bit by paying a visit to the Chicken and Frog Bookshop in Brentwood, Essex on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be there from 4pm – come along for some drawing fun. Here’s a photo from the shop’s Instagram account – looks like they’re ready for me!

  • Jampires, W.A.S.P.s and other animals

    The manuscript for MONSTER & CHIPS: Food Fright (or MC3 for short) has been handed in, and so I’m taking the opportunity of a brief break to catch up with various things before I’m plunged into rewrites and illustrations.

    Jampires

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    If you follow Sarah McIntyre or me on Twitter, you might have seen this announcement last week. Our long-in-the-making picture book, JAMPIRES, was on show at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It looks brilliant (though I would say that!) and I can’t wait to be able to properly be able to show it off to the world. It comes out in October 2014 – more on that nearer the time.

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    Workshops

    JAMPIRES started out as a ‘comics jam’ between Sarah and myself, where we took it in turns to improvise a story in comic form. I’ve been doing a bit of this in some recent workshops I’ve run at festivals and at schools. It’s such a great (and fast) way of putting a story together, with the pictorial elements (from my experience so far) being much better at generating ideas and stimulating the imagination of the participants than words alone. Here’s a lovely bit of imagination from a recent workshop:

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    Any pictures that get sent to me from workshops will go in a gallery at the Monster & Chips website! I’ll let you know when that’s ready. You can also download the template and send your character to me. I’d love to see what you come up with!

    W.A.S.P.

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    It’s the return of the one-and-only Webcomic Artist Swap Project!

    Masterminded by the estimable Richy Chandler, W.A.S.P. is where webcomics creators do the illustration duties on each other’s comics for an episode. I took part last time (even though my comic Tozo was taking a break) and drew a strip for his comic Lucy the Octopus.

    But now Tozo is back and I’m really looking forward to seeing how someone else handles him! Richy is recruiting new artists for the next W.AS.P. event – contact him NOW if you’d like to take part: all details at this link.

    Richy’s also recently been posting  about some of the comics workshops he’s been running. Some great ideas here, which look to be producing some great results too!

     Autumn Comiket

    Finally, there are a couple of comic conventions coming up next month: the fabulous Thought Bubble in Leeds on 23-24th November, but firstly the Autumn Comiket in London on November 2nd. I’ve a table at both events and am very honoured to have been asked to do some live drawing too as part of their Drawing Parade. It’s completely FREE to enter, so do come along!

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