There’s a Dragon in My Dinner! is out now!

So happy to finally write these words:

There’s a Dragon in My Dinner! is out!

image1

Thanks to everyone involved – Sarah Horne for her fantastic, hilarious artwork, my editor Emma and all the brilliant, supportive people at Stripes and to my awesome agent Jodie for general awesomeness.

It’s available in most places that sell books. If it’s not then you can try politely asking for them to stock it. If you like. Or get it from somewhere else I guess. Look, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life okay? You do what you got to do.

I’ve been out visiting more schools to promote the books this week. Even though my first visit had gone really well, I was still nervous about these visits. Mostly my fears were:

  1. The kids wouldn’t care what I had to say.
  2. I’d completely forget everything I had to say.
  3. I’d say everything I had to say within the first five minutes and be forced to stall for the remaining time. “Okay kids, who wants me to read chapter 2 for the fourth time?”

Luckily I was fine.

  1. I can’t say if the kids did actually care about what I had to say, but if they didn’t they did a great job pretending they did.
  2. I wrote everything I wanted to say down on some paper then referred to them if I needed it, which I did a few times but less as the events went on.
  3. If anything the opposite was the case. I had to cut stuff on the fly for some events.

The thought of school visits was so terrifying to me at one point that it caught me by surprise how much I actually enjoyed them. I know I’ve still got some way to go before I’m completely comfortable doing them. I’d love to be able to go in without the safety net of notes for example, and I’d love to figure out why my mouth goes so dry half-way through doing a reading, but I’m hopeful that these aspects will get easier with time. Here’s some pictures from some of the events:

image3

image2

school visit - cockenzie3

school visit - cockenzie2

school visit - cockenzie

My favourite moment so far was when a very talented young boy called Daniel presented me with a picture he had made of all the characters in There’s a Dragon in My Dinner!:

DIMDPicture

Thanks to Liam for looking after me on the visits.

Feedback has been really positive on the book so far:

Minerva Reads

Bookwitch

Rhino Reads

My Book Corner

Love Reading 4 Kids

 

School Visits

I was lucky enough to have my first school visit this week, meeting some of the P3 pupils at Law Primary in North Berwick. Law Primary are one of a number of schools in North Berwick who make their own radio programmes for local community radio station East Coast FM and I had been invited to be interviewed for their show. It was a great experience. The kids asked some brilliant questions and really seemed to be enjoying There’s a Dragon in my Dinner! which their teacher had been reading to them. They all had their own favourite bits and it was wonderful to see a story that had mostly lived in my head for a while finally out there and actually being enjoyed by the people it was aimed at.

There’s a Dragon in my Dinner! officially releases this week, 11th February so I will be visiting a few more schools in East Lothian this week. Really looking forward to those.

If you’d like me to visit your school, feel free to get in touch via my contact page.

And if you’d like to buy There’s a Dragon in My Dinner! then you can do so here:

Amazon

Waterstones

Foyles

WH Smith

2015 – Listogeddon

As you might be aware, they’ve only gone and changed the numbers on the years again. Those of you with long memories will recall that around this time last year, they dropped the ‘4’ at the end of 2014, replacing it with a ‘5’. Well, apparently the ‘5’ wasn’t working out either so that’s gone and now we have a ‘6’ making it 2016. I don’t know what I make of it. On the plus side, they seem convinced that ‘201’ is still working so that’s something at least. It looks unlikely that they’ll consider ever changing those again, but given recent history, I don’t like ‘6”s chances of still being around this time next year.

Anyway, here’s some things that I enjoyed this year, not necessarily things that came out this year:

Books

The Last Wild/The Dark Wild/The Wild Beyond – Piers Torday

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

After The Crash – Michel Bussi

Dead Girl Walking – Chris Brookmyre

All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett

Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey

Films

Mad Max – Fury Road

Inside Out

Star Wars – The Force Awakens

What We Do In The Shadows

TV Shows

Fargo

The Leftovers

Jessica Jones

Rick and Morty

Mad Men

The Walking Dead

Better Call Saul

Portlandia

Silicon Valley

Girls

Video Games

Elite: Dangerous

Her Story

Rocket League

The Binding of Isaac Rebirth/Afterbirth

Battlefield 4

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Grim Fandango Remastered

Death Ray Manta

Here be Dragons

Well… this has been a year.  I’ve spent most of the last few months writing three books in the There’s a Dragon in my… series. It’s been a lot of hard work.  My day job can be quite mentally exhausting at times and it wasn’t always easy to come home and then start writing about Mini-Dragons. But it’s also been a lot of fun and even on the days I really couldn’t be bothered writing, once I got going it was almost always enjoyable.  I also have an amazingly supportive and understanding wife which has helped a lot.

I’ve been working with a great editor on the books. I think what I’ve really learned this year is that part of you that wants to write something and have everyone just declare it perfect, no issues here – that part of you needs to be dumped. I realise that’s probably easier said than done, but when I look at the drafts before and after for all the books, it’s staggering to see how much better the later versions are. I think it’s important to remember that everyone involved just wants to make the best book possible.

The books are being illustrated by the amazing Sarah Horne. I love Sarah’s hand-drawn style – she adds so much character to every drawing.  Her illustrations perfectly capture the wacky nature of the books – I’m so delighted she’s involved. I was also happy to hear that Sarah would be credited on the front of the book. Stripes recently announced that all illustrators would be credited on their book covers which is great news. Illustrators are often not credited appropriately. This is bad enough in general, but within the children’s book industry it seems especially crazy where illustration is so obviously important. Hopefully the Pictures Mean Business campaign spearheaded by Sarah McIntyre will improve matters, but in the meantime it’s great to see Stripes setting the example.

Yesterday, I finally got my hands on a copy of my book. Yeah, no big deal. It’s only the thing I’ve wanted forever. Whatever. Yeah right, it was amazing. I had fully expected to cry when I saw it, but I managed to keep it together.

I’m so happy with how it’s turned out. The illustrations and layout are ludicrously good, and the words inside are alright too imo. Needless to say, next year is shaping up to be quite an exciting one with three books due to be released. The publicity for There’s a Dragon in my Dinner! has already begun. I’m equal parts nervous and excited about that side of it, having never done anything like it before. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone, but that’s not a bad thing.

TADIMD is due to be released on the 11th February.  You can preorder it from a bunch of places: AmazonWaterstonesFoylesWH Smith.

Probably the coolest thing about it all is that for the past two nights I’ve been able to read my own book to my daughter at bed time.

She seems to like it.

xkcd 1498

One of my favourite webcomics xkcd has posted a nice tribute to Terry Pratchett, also sharing the love of the Bromeliad Trilogy:

xkcd: Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett

I was saddened to hear that Death had finally caught up to the great Sir Terry Pratchett.  It was only last week that I finished his collection of essays and writing – A Slip of the Keyboard in which he wrote passionately at length about, among other things, Alzheimers and assisted dying.  Reading about his condition and his thoughts about how he wanted to go, there is some relief in knowing that he was spared many of the things he most feared.  But the world has still lost a great man and a great writer and it sucks.

It’s hard for me to put into words how much of an influence he has had on me as a writer, and a person.  His books were the first I ever came across where the humour wasn’t just a garnish, but the main meal.  And what a meal!  I remember being amazed at how there seemed to be a joke in every other sentence.  And I remember being suspicious that there may have been jokes in every sentence, but that I was only getting half of them.  He wrote the kind of books I wanted to write.  Not necessarily fantasy, but funny.  Unrelentingly funny.

I was definitely jealous.  The Discworld was such a perfect idea, unlimited in it’s possibilities, that I wished it had been mine.  Like a lot of good ideas it seemed to me like anyone could have had it.  It seems mad to think that way now.  No one could have had that idea, and even if they did, no one could have produced the results he did.Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike HackRoblox Free Unlimited Robux and Tix

As it happens, I haven’t read that many of the Discworld books.  I’ve read most of the early Rincewind books and I believe all the Death/Susan books.  If it were any other author, I’ve read enough to be considered a huge fan, but for Discworld, I’ve barely scratched the surface.  My favourite Pratchett books remain the Bromeliad Trilogy – Truckers, Diggers and Wings.

Truckers aired as a stop-motion animated series by Cosgrove-Hall on CITV in the early nineties.  I found it again recently on youtube but at the time of writing it’s been taken down by the company that owns it (which unless they’re planning on releasing it any time soon, some twenty odd years later, seems a pointless move but nevermind).  Anyway, I enjoyed this show so much that when I found the book in my local library, I read the thing as fast as I could in an attempt to find out what happens before the TV show.  Basically like what people do now with Game of Thrones.  And of course, when the TV show ended, my head exploded when I learned that there were two other books in the series, Diggers and Wings, that never made it to TV because even in those days TV people were idiots.

I reread the books last year.  They were even better than I remember.  Ostensibly it’s about Nomes who live in a department store and then have to find their spaceship to get back to their home planet, but it’s also about religion and people and seeing the world from different points of view and not letting tradition stop progress.

‘You’d think one world would be big enough for all of us,’ said Grimma.

‘Oh, I don’t know,’ said Masklin.  ‘Maybe one world isn’t big enough for anyone.’

If you haven’t read it, you should.  Well, if you like, I’m not the boss of you.  Reading it again, and rediscovering the themes it tackles, got me wondering what affect it might have had on me at that age, especially in regards to religion.  And it was interesting reading Pratchett’s views on the subject in A Slip of the Keyboard.  For me he sums it all up perfectly in one line:

I’d rather be a rising ape than a falling angel.

R.I.P.

Lists? LISTS? I got your lists!

The end of the year is traditionally the time of year where people from all walks of life, of all creeds and colours, put aside their differences and write lists of things on their blogs.  Me?  I do that at the start of the year.  But I do it about the previous year.  No it isn’t the same as just being late.  For reasons.  Okay so here are some lists of things I can remember enjoying with minimal comment.  Presume in all cases that I have forgotten loads of good things:

List of books that I can remember reading in 2014:

  1. Harry Potter and The Something of Something – JK Rowling (These are quite good – how come no one knows about them?)
  2. Us – David Nicholls.
  3. Funny Girl – Nick Hornby.
  4. We are all completely besides ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler.
  5. Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantell.
  6. Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel.
  7. The Bromeliad Trilogy (Truckers/Diggers/Wings) – Terry Pratchett (One of my favourite childhood books and even better than I remembered)
  8. Home – Bill Bryson.

List of TV Shows I remember watching in 2014

  1. Broadchurch.
  2. Game of Thrones.
  3. The Missing.
  4. The Good Wife.
  5. Sherlock (Was that even last year?  If not then pretend like this entry isn’t here)
  6. Homeland.
  7. Fargo.
  8. The Walking Dead.
  9. The Leftovers.
  10. Portlandia (Funniest show I saw all year)

List of films I remember seeing in 2014:

  1. Gone Girl.
  2. Frozen.
  3. The Hobbit: Battle of the whatever
  4. Frozen.
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. The Imitation Game.
  7. Citizen Kane.
  8. Frozen.
  9. The Lego Movie.
  10. Dawn of the planet of the apes
  11. Edge of Tomorrow.
  12. Frozen.
  13. X-Men: Days of Future Past.
  14. Frozen.
  15. 22 Jump Street.
  16. Frozen.
  17. Frozen.
  18. Frozen.
  19. Frozen.
  20. Frozen.

List of video games I remember playing in 2014

  1. Thomas Was Alone.
  2. Back to the Future
  3. Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines
  4. Titanfall.
  5. Quake Live.
  6. Age of Empires 2.
  7. Gunpoint.

List of games that I bought in the 2014 Winter Steam Sale even though most will go unplayed but I had a gift voucher, so you know

  1. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. Verdun.
  4. Gods Will Be Watching.
  5. Transformers: War for Cybertron.
  6. Nidhogg.
  7. Far Cry 3.
  8. Lego Lord of the Rings.
  9. Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
  10. Don’t Starve.
  11. Prison Architect.

Damn you steam, damn you to hell.

This Year

Yes, that’s it.  Write a post called Doing Writing then fail to write a blog post for six months.  Of course.

To be fair, I have spent a decent amount of the last six months doing actual writing, as in working on edits for my children’s book.  I had hoped to end the year with a book deal in place, all set to rake in countless trillions while receiving universal critical praise, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be for this one.  The general consensus seemed to be that the book itself was good, but that similar titles were due out.  By an odd coincidence I was able to confirm this myself on the very day I received the news, when one of the publishing houses I follow on twitter randomly posted an advertisement for a forthcoming book that sounded spookily similar to mine.

Of course this sucks.  The book was the best thing I have ever written and it was such a blast to write.  From start to finish it was a genuine pleasure to create.  I could have written a dozen more books in the series.  And there wasn’t really anything that I could find like it at the time I wrote it, so I can’t help but feel a little frustrated that there are other books on the way out similar enough to it to prevent it being published.  But Of course it can’t be helped.  Not without having some form of psychic ability to predict future publishing trends, which I do not have.

Still, I can’t be too disheartened.  The book was far from being a wasted effort.  It got me a fantastic agent for one thing, who did an amazing job in helping me improve the manuscript.  I also had the chance to meet with a publisher who provided me with tons of ideas for a rewrite.  The book lived mainly in my head for so long, so it was strange at first to have discussions with people who have not only read and enjoyed what you’ve written, but have actually spent time themselves thinking about how to make it better.  And once you get past how annoying it is that the ideas they’ve come up with are much better than the ones you had, it’s extremely rewarding.  It’s incredible to me how much stronger the book ended up being by the end, than it was when I first sent it off.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

The other thing the book gave me was a clear idea about what kind of writer I am and what kinds of books I wanted to write.  It’s funny, I’ve read a lot of people on the internet that are adamant that when writing a novel, you should pursue it till the end, even if it becomes a total slog.  I think they have a point in as much as it’s important to finish book, even if it’s just so you know you can.  If it’s anything like my first novel, the next step is to set fire to the thing immediately afterwards.  But personally, I think I know pretty early in now if something is worth pursuing or not.  Like first chapter early.  I knew early on that my last novel was worth pursuing.  The one before that in hindsight I should have given up earlier.  I’ve written a few first chapters in the last few months and while I liked the ideas in them, none of them excited me like the last novel.  Sometimes I think ideas can take a while to settle in, so there may be something worth pursuing there one day but right now they’re not grabbing me and forcing me to think about them all day.

Not like the novel I’m writing now.  4000 words in the last week and I definitely think there’s something here.  The characters and plot all came to me pretty quickly, really in the space of about a day.  I’m getting ideas all the time for it.  It’s in my head all day.  And I think it’s funny.  It’s making me laugh anyway.  And there is nothing like it out there that I’m aware of.  But we know how that goes.  If you are a writer and you have access to my brain, please don’t steal it.  Again.  Cheers.

Doing Writing

The past few months have been quite exciting.  First of all, after years of delays, I was finally able to get fibre broadband!  Hurrah!  I went from 3.5mb up to 38mb!  Sweet.  Oh, and I also signed with an agent.

I have been, in some manner or another, “doing writing” for fourteen years, which is how long it has been since I left school.  I wrote all the time at school, but I don’t consider that the same thing as most of it would have been for English.  Although to be fair it was a lot more English than most, since I took part in just about everything you could do writing wise – public speaking, debating, story writing competitions.  In my final year I was the only person in my Sixth Year studies English class (which made winning the English prize at prize-giving that year somewhat of a given).  I didn’t study English at University though, a decision that I’ve always questioned.  I studied computing instead and, following the advice of my sixth year English teacher (the best teacher I have ever had by the way), resolved to write in my spare time.  And so I did.

Fourteen years is a long time to do something and not know if you’re wasting your time or not.  Around about the time I started University, I signed up to a writing forum on the internet (I forget it’s name, be interesting if it’s still around).  I only recall starting one thread on there.  One question.  Do writers know that what they are writing is good?  The answers I got attempted to answer the question, but didn’t.  Not really.  Most advice offered was just to keep writing, get a first draft down and then edit it afterwards, which is fair enough advice, but it doesn’t answer the question.  When I looked at my own writing, I genuinely had no idea if it was good or bad.  This seemed like something of a problem.

It’s a question that’s stayed with me.  I’ve worked on five books over the years, three of which I’ve completed.  After I completed the fifth, I had my answer.  You do.  Sort of.  I knew it was the best thing I had ever written.  It was the book I wanted it to be.

Still… How do you really know?

It was a little strange getting an agent.  In a good way obviously, but it was odd to have someone telling you that they enjoyed your work and wanted to represent you.  Suddenly, you know you haven’t been wasting your time all these years.  It’s a relief.  It’s something you always wanted to happen, but part of you thought probably wouldn’t.

But saying that, it wasn’t a complete surprise.  I knew that what I had written was good.  And I only knew that because I had written stuff that was bad.  It might sound obvious but you have to be able to distinguish bad writing from good writing.  I genuinely don’t think I could when I left school.  I certainly don’t remember ever reading a book that I hated until much later in life (with the possible exception of anything by Enid Blyton) .  I couldn’t tell whether my own writing was good or bad because I couldn’t tell whether any writing was good or bad.

Moral of the story: If you’re going to do writing, you have to do reading too.