• 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.

  • 2019 here we come!

    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.

  • Spring happenings

    Here’s what has been happening with me for the first part of this year.

    When I’m a Mummy Like You!, the picture booked created by me and Francesca Gambatesa was released into the wild in February! We had a launch party at Gosh! Comics in Soho to celebrate (pic by Sarah McIntyre). It’s also out now in the US as When I’m a Mommy Like You! You can read a lovely review at Bookblog Book Monsters here. Francesca spotted the book in Foyles window as part of a Mother’s Day display.

    Meanwhile, I finished the illustrations for Tom Nicoll‘s Boyband of the Apocalypse that’s out in June, and I’m pleased to say there’s a sequel on the cards which I’ll also be drawing. I’m looking forward to that, as I really enjoyed working on Boyband.

    Also in February, Sarah McIntyre kindly invited me to take part with her show at this year’s Imagine Festival at the RFH, along with Katherina Manoulessou and Stephen Collins.

    We had to talk about our book characters and then lead the audience in a draw-along – the (huge) audience were very enthusiastic and some fantastic drawings were produced.

    Read Sarah’s report here (from where I pinched these pics).

    In March I had another big event at Leicester Author Week, organised by Whatever It Takes, an initiative to encourage reading within the city. I gave a talk to two sets of school children – about 400 children in all – about my work, followed by creative writing workshops. It was a busy day, but a lot of fun! Thanks to WIT for organising it, probably the best organised event I’ve been invited to. (Pic by WIT)

    World Book Day (or at least, the UK version!) is in March and it always pleases me to see how many people dress up as Jampires, year after year. Here are some pics that appeared on Twitter:

    So cute!

    Currently, I’m working on the edits for the first book of my novel series with Bloomsbury books, which comes out next year. An illustrator has been chosen and I’m very excited about the whole thing. Fingers crossed that other people like it too!

  • From the page to real life…

    Monster and Chips

    zombie cupcakes

    World Book Day was back in March – it’s a chance for children at schools all over the country to dress up as characters from their favourite books.

    I’ve not heard of anyone dressing up as characters from MONSTER & CHIPS so these photos sent to me by a mum yesterday are a first, as far as I know! And they’re brilliant!

    Take a look at ‘Joe’. He’s absolutely perfect – even the hair is right! And look at those hand-sewn zombie cupcakes! Spectacular creativity and a lot of hard work too. My day is officially MADE.

  • Codename: COMIC MAKER!


    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!


    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!