Blog Archive

 4th October 2010

Deary me, where has the time gone since my last post? It has been pretty hectic, really it has.

I’ve done visits to Dunfermline and St Andrews as part of the Fife Book Festival. For me, the best moments there were when I got to cuddle a real, live Lemur and stroke a real, live Skunk! Not something I’d ever thought I’d get the chance to do. It was lovely to be working with the people from Fife Library Services again too (mustn’t forget the humans).

I’m also off to the Oxfordshire Book Awards ceremony later this week, which I’m hugely looking forward to. I’ll be visiting Wheatley Park School while I’m there.

Most of the time when I’m not at work just now, I’m busy editing ‘The Breaking’. I sometimes think writing the initial story is the easy bit, but this is when the story is crafted into the absolute best it can be, so it’s hugely important of course. It’s horrifying how many plot holes and mistakes come to light, even at this stage. I think we’ve got a really exciting story though; plenty of action, hopefully some twists that you won’t see coming, and a bit of romance, which is a departure for me. Not too much of it though! I think Jess is my favourite heroine so far. She’s very down to earth and practical, but she has to completely rethink her idea of how the world works when she discovers what has actually happened to the children who have gone missing from her town…

26th August 2010

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, in a very enjoyable way, due to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I did a session on my Science Books on the 16th, and had my fingers crossed all the way through it, as I’d decided to try and extract some DNA live in front of the audience in a moment of madness. it worked however (huge sigh of relief) and the audience seemed to like that, and the fact that it’s something you can try in your own kitchen. Almost all my ‘recipe sheets’ for trying it out at home were taken anyway. I wonder if anyone’s done it yet? I’d love to know – leave a comment on the website and tell me if it worked for you.

On the 25th I did a Schools’ Event, talking about The Keepers’ Daughter and the Science books. It was a great audience, who asked lots of brilliant questions. The best one was ‘Which writer would you like to meet and what one question would you ask them about writing?’ That’s a fabulous question, and I feel guilty that I didn’t have a good answer for it. I’m still thinking about it, in fact. When I come up with a really good reply, I’ll post it here.

I have found time to do a bit of writing too. I’ve been working on the text for a picture book – something I’ve never tried before – and hopefully it’s edging closer to being right. I hasten to add, I won’t be doing the pictures. Anyone who knows me, and my complete lack of artistic ability, would fall about laughing at that idea!

The biggest bit of writing news is that I’m about to start editing a new novel for Chicken House. I’m very excited to be working with them again. the new book is going to be called ‘The Breaking’ – a really intriguing title, I think – and it’s due out in July next year. I’m going to be keeping you up to date with what’s happening to it on the blog.

So I’d better go and get writing then!

15th August 2010

Had a great afternoon yesterday at the world final of the Kids Lit Quiz, watching awesomely well read teams from Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand compete to be crowned World Champions for 2010. In the end, City of London Girls’ School beat Edinburgh’s Mary Erskine’s by the narrowest of margins. Wow! Congratulations to all who took part and made it such an exciting contest.

I came back from a holiday in Cornwall a few days ago (It was great, since you ask, and I put on a wetsuit and tried body boarding) to a lovely letter from Helen Derbyshire. I would have loved to write back to you Helen, but you didn’t put your address on it, so I hope you read this!

Of course, in Edinburgh it’s Book Festival time, so I’m off now to get ready for my Crazy Science event tomorrow. Need to find my strawberries, and the VERY big needle…

22nd July 2010

I’m sitting here thinking about rabbits. Why? Now, this is really sad and geek-like, but I’ve just found out that

a) they only arrived in Britain with the Normans (11th century), and

b) they weren’t running wild in the countryside until the 19th century

I wonder how many books have the little blighters hopping around in the background of a scene where they shouldn’t be? I think I’m going to start a ‘Rabbit Watch’ when I’m reading historical novels. I suppose I should check my own books first… I have a nasty feeling I’ve included impossible rabbits in at least one.

Feel free to send me any rabbit sightings of your own!

12th July 2010

I’m chained to the keyboard just now, revising The Next Novel. I love it really, but I’m awfully aware of the weeds advancing, Triffid-like, towards the house. It’s so nice to be on holiday though: no alarm clock for several weeks, thank goodness. Looking forward to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the launch of my first e-book. (Small fanfare please). I’ll have to find someone with an i-phone so I can actually read it though, since I don’t have one. I’m busy putting together my launch event for the book festival,  trying to work out just how fast I can extract DNA from strawberries. It’s like Ready Steady Cook, but less appetising at the end… And just so I don’t get bored, I’m trying to write my first picture book. Watch this space!

19th June 2010

Had my first visit of the year to the Sensation Centre in Dundee as part of the Crazy Creatures project. The P5 pupils involved have been doing all sorts of fantastic work based around Crazy Creatures, together with some really exciting science organised by Sensation. As usual, I was bowled over by how interested and well informed all the pupils were, and I came away with some beautiful thankyou cards and letters. You’ve got it wrong though, you lot: it’s me who should be thanking you. I LOVE taking part in this. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my year now, as is any event where I get to work with the wonderful Moira Foster. I’ll be back on the 25th and 28th. See you all then.

26 May 2010

Hello Dundee and thankyou! I’ve just had a rubbish day, which has been redeemed by getting some fantastic emails from pupils at Lochee Primary in Dundee. I’m going to be up there soon for this year’s chapter of the Crazy Creatures project, and helping start another one, based on my latest Reality Check book ‘Germ Wars’. Looking forward very much to working with all the fantastic people in Dundee at the Sensation Science Centre, and the wonderful Moira Foster.

22 May 2010

And another exciting day! I’ve just had a catalogue from Chicken House Germany featuring ‘Tochter der Huter’. (And if you’re a German speaker, yes, I know that’s not spelled right, but I can’t work out how to put the little dots over the U. Sorry.) This is, of course, the German edition of Keepers’ Daughter. I can’t tell you how fabulously strange and exciting it is to see an article about something you’ve written and not understand a word of it. I can’t wait to not be able to read the whole book (it’s due in November). It’s another lovely cover as well; I’ve been very lucky with covers. Thankyou to everyone involved in the German side of things, especially the incredibly skillful Christa Holtei who translated the book.

1st May 2010

It’s an exciting day for me, even though nothing’s actually happened. Not here, anyway. The reason I’m excited is that it’s PUBLICATION DAY in the USA! For the first time, I have an American edition coming out. It’s ‘The Keepers’ Tattoo’ , known in the UK as ‘The Keepers’ Daughter’. It’s a very handsome looking hardback (also a first for me). There have been quite a few references and reviews on US blog sites pre-publication, so I’m hopeful that there’s a bit of a buzz about it. Fingers crossed that people are buying it even as I speak…

23rd April 2010

OK, this is getting silly. I could have sworn I updated this about a month ago, but it looks as if I’m wrong, unless someone stole my blog entry…

Seemed to be snowed in here in Edinburgh for quite a bit of that time, and even now it’s cold and wet, so thought I’d spend the afternoon in front of a nice warm computer instead of in the garden, being rained on by volcanic ash.

I went on holiday with the family to Paris over Easter, which was every bit as lovely as it sounds, and we didn’t get stuck, which is probably just as well. The unexpected hit was a trip to the zoo (Who goes to Paris to go to the zoo, after all?), which turned out to be full of animals we’d never heard of, and not just because they’ve got different names in French. Go on – I bet you’ve never heard of a Binturong or a Takin. I feel a follow up to Crazy Creatures coming on…

 Here’s a Binturong…

Back teaching now, with quite a few staff and pupils stranded all over the world. Some fantastic travellers’ tales coming back with them. Friends who just made it back from Poland via the Zeebrugge-Rosyth ferry couldn’t get a bed on the ferry, so spent the night sleeping in the ball pit in the children’s soft play area…

Got my hands on a copy of the American edition of Keepers’ Daughter a few days ago. It has a different title (The Keepers’ Tattoo) and cover, and is out in hardback. I must say it looks very handsome.

7th January 2010

Oops! It seems the whole year escaped without me noticing. I can’t believe I missed 3 months without realising it. Like the rest of the country, I’m sitting here in my thickest jumper and socks, with all the radiators and the fire on full. I’m still cold.

What makes it particulary strange for  me is that I finished writing a novel just before Christmas in which a large chunk of the action takes  place during an unusually cold and snowy winter. All I need now is to look out of my window and see a wolf slinking up the street…

I haven’t written a word since then, which is quite scary. I think this is the longest break I’ve had from writing for over two years. I’m always slightly panicked after a break in case I’ve forgotten how to do it. Hopefully normal service will resume in the next couple of weeks though; I’m just not sure at the moment what to work on next.

And now, I’m off to make some hot chocolate.

29th September

Where on earth did the last month go??? I’m back at school teaching now, which always makes time go at least twice as fast as normal. I’ve been doing lots of school visits too, so Hello! to everyone I met at Royal High and Merchiston Castle schools, South Queensferry primary, and today in Dundee. I promised a special mention here to the pupils from Lochee, St Clement’s and Charleston primaries. Thankyou for a lovely afternoon and lots of really excellent questions. Hope to see some of you again soon…

In the meantime, it’s back to the writing, which means at the moment…wolves and roses, black horses and rats…

29th August

I had a really good (though very long) day yesterday helping to launch the SALT festival 2009 in Portlethen. Thankyou to everyone at Portlethen, Fishermoss and Newtonhill primaries for the enthusiastic welcomes and the 8000 fabulous questions! I also took part in the great launch event in the evening, where I felt like a complete fraud appearing beside lots of people who could sing or play an instrument really well whereas all I could do was talk… The audience were very kind to me though! Good luck to all the aspiring writers I spoke to – I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.

20th August

What better way to spend a glorious Scottish summer’s morning (rain tipping down yet again) than updating my blog?

Although I am in theory on holiday from the day job just now, I seem to have spent surprisingly little time lounging around reading, or indeed gardening (it’s drowned anyway), but now my children have gone back to school, perhaps some more free time will emerge.

Anyway, August in Edinburgh is glorious no matter what the weather, because it’s Book Festival time, so I’ve been spending a fair bit of time in Charlotte Square. My favourite events so far have been Kate Atkinson and Cornelia Funke, and I’ve done two of my own events. The first was on Germ Wars. I had great fun finding a plague doctor outfit for someone to wear, and we also had a variation on ‘pin the tail on the donkey’, this version being ‘pin the bubo on the plague victim’.

In the second event, I was appearing with Barry Cunningham of Chicken House to talk about the process of getting The Keepers’ Daughter into print. It was the first event of this kind that I’ve done, and I really enjoyed it. There were a fair number of writers in the audience – good luck to all of you, and I look forward to coming to one of YOUR events in a couple of years.

Ah well, back to the writing now…

6th July

My goodness, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. I had a great time in Dundee at the Sensation Science Centre, talking to lots of P5 pupils about Crazy Creatures. They (the pupils, not the Creatures) have been taking part in a project which involves Sensation going into their schools to do DNA extraction and all sorts of whizzy things. I feel a whole new generation of scientists emerging before my eyes… The new star of the ‘Crazy’ presentation is the Blobfish (really), which is without a doubt the ugliest and saddest looking creature on the planet.

Then it was down to Rokeby school for more talks on Crazy Creatures and Mad Scientists. I came the closest I’ve ever been to seeing some tennis at Wimbledon: that is, I went through Wimbledon on the train. Very disappointed not to see the odd tennis ball whizzing past the window…

Back in Edinburgh now, trying to get into a proper writing routine again, and starting to think about how to make the Germ Wars presentation I’m doing at the Edinburgh Book Festival next month really interesting, but not too gory… There are some pictures I found when I was researching it that I definitely can’t show! What I really need is a Plague Doctor’s outfit… Watch this space.

17th June

Just want to say thankyou to everyone who was involved in the Schools Launch of The Keepers’ Daughter yesterday. A great audience, from Hutchesons Grammar, John Paul Academy, Holyrood High School, Liberton High School, Merchiston Castle and Edinburgh Academy listened avidly, laughed in all the right places and asked probably the best selection of questions I’ve ever had. I’m still trying to decide who I’d like to play in a film of one of my books, and which other author I’d most like to collaborate with…

Especial thanks to the group from Holyrood who interviewed me for Teen Titles – look forward to seeing you all again – and of course to Scottish Book Trust (especially Chris and Jasmine) for organising everything.

12th June

Oops! Haven’t been very good at keeping up to date here, have I? I’ll try to do better in future.

It’s a busy and exciting time just now, with lots of appearances coming up soon and LAUNCH DAY for Keepers’ Daughter on July 6th. I can’t wait to actually see it on the bookshop shelves. It looks great – lovely cover artwork by Emile Facey.

I’m also working hard on a new novel. At the moment it’s trying to fight its way out of my head as fast as possible. The working title is Dark Horse…

And in my spare time (what spare time…?) I’m putting together my presentation on Germ Wars for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I want lots of audience participation, so if you’ve ever fancied being a plague victim, or perhaps an antibody, come along and join in.

23rd January

What a good week! Germ Wars came out yesterday and looks wonderful, thanks to a great cover, and some brilliantly funny illustrations by Mike Phillips.

Today I’ve been talking to lots of P7 and S1 pupils at Hawick High School. They were a great audience and asked some really perceptive questions. Thankyou Borders Book Festival for inviting me.

8th January 2009

Happy New Year to everyone! I had a lovely start to the year when an envelope from Elmfield School arrived for me a couple of days ago. Class 5 have been reading ‘Winterbringers’ and have written me some very interesting and beautifully decorated letters. I shall look at them whenever I need cheered up this month. Thankyou Miss Gulbis and all the people in the class.

I’m really looking forward to the publication of the next ‘Reality Check’ book later this month. It’s called ‘Germ Wars’. Have a look at the Books page to see the cover. I’ve just started writing the next one in the series. It’s going to be called ‘Life Story’ and be all about DNA and genes and stuff like that.


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