Archive for March, 2011

How to Make an Author Happy!

heron cover

heron cover

How to make an author happy?  I don’t think there’s ANYTHING quite like seeing a new book (a new book which I’ve written!) for the very first time.  No book ever seems entirely real until I’m holding it, in its proper cover, with the pictures all shiny and bright.  

And I now have my own copy of How to Make a Heron Happy.  And it’s making me very happy!  It’s the shortest book I’ve written, with the simplest story (no minotaurs, no sea monsters, no slightly untrustworthy tall boys) but I LOVE the pictures of the heron (by illustrator Nicola O’Byrne), and I hope that anyone else who loves herons, or their local park, or cares about making animals and birds happy, will enjoy it too. 

Here’s the book (at the top of the post, I hope, I’m still struggling to get photos on the blog, so I hope you can see it!)  I took the photo just after the book arrived in the post, but not before I’d given it a cuddle.  Yes.  I do cuddle my books.  So, there you are: how to make an author happy?  Give them the very first copy of their new book!

(How to Make a Heron Happy comes out next week, and if you want to see me read from the book and tell a few connected stories, then check out my diary page.  And if you want to read some very silly heron jokes on my publisher’s website – here they are (thanks to Chani!) (There are big Bottom Hunt jokes there somewhere too!)

Archive for March, 2011

Viking hammer injury

Silliest writer injury I’ve had yet… I was in Port Seton Library this morning talking to the P5/6s from Cockenzie Primary about First Aid for Fairies and Wolf Notes. I was telling them a Viking myth, and explaining why I mostly like telling this particular story on Thursday. Because it’s Thor’s Day! (I also tell it on Wednesdays and Tuesdays – does anyone know why?) And I decided to demonstrate Thor’s hammer creating thunder by thumping a desk with my fist. I do this a lot – pretty much every time I tell this story, and as it’s my favourite story, I probably thump desks at least three or four times a month. Usually I thump school desks, which aren’t very sturdy – they wobble and they rattle and they don’t hurt at all. But today, while momentarily pretending to be the Norse god of Thunder, I thumped a library desk. And it turns out that library desks (in East Lothian anyway) are a lot sturdier than school desks! My fist on the desk made an excellent thunder noise, and hurt a great deal. It was like punching a wall (or a superhero’s chin.) The edge of my hand is still (8 hours later) completely numb all the way from my wrist to my pinkie, and I am typing this very very slowly! So – a Viking hammer injury! (And proof that pretending to be a god is a dangerous hobby.) But I really enjoyed meeting the pupils from Cockenzie – they had great ideas for fabled beast adventures and they asked me lots of great questions. But if I visit them again, I’ll tell them a story with no hammers at all.

Archive for March, 2011

Centaurs in boats

I’ve just about finished the very very final draft of Storm Singing, and in my final round of research, I had to find a boat expert willing to talk to me about the practicalities of getting a centaur across to an island.

My experience in boats consists of being in charge of a yacht twice at school – my physics teacher thought that as I was a whizz at vectors on paper, I’d be able to steer a yacht in Findhorn Bay.  In fact I need a diagram to work out my left and right, and as a teenager could crash a bike into a wall even if there wasn’t a wall there.  So the first time I was in charge of the wee boat it crashed into someone else’s boat (not even someone I knew), and the second time I sank it. So I’ve never been put in charge of a boat since.  Until now.  When I had to get Helen and the other fabled beasts round the north coast of Scotland. 

Left to myself I’d probably have drowned them all long before they even got to meet the rest of the characters, because until I spoke to Alec Jordan, a boat builder and boat expert in Fife, I was putting Yann right at the front of the tiny wee boat because I thought he would look good as a figurehead.  But I did, at the last minute, think, “oh, I wonder if that will make the boat unstable, seeing as he weighs the same as a HORSE.” So I did what I usually do, and I found an expert, and asked them lots of daft questions.  But this time, unlike calling people about selkies’ breathing patterns, and mermaids’ tails, and giving the impression that I was writing about seals and fish, I couldn’t really get away with saying, “so I’m planning to put this horse in a rowing boat…”  Because NOONE puts horses in rowing boats.  So I had to say, “this might be the daftest question you’ve ever been asked, but how can I get a centaur – yes a centaur, half man, half horse – how can I get a centaur in a rowing boat safely?”  And to his credit, Alec made himself a cup of tea, and chatted me through it.  We didn’t need ballast (which was a shame, cos I was quite proud of knowing the word ballast) all we needed was to put Yann in the middle of the boat, so that he didn’t tip it forward or back, and have Helen row from the front.  And, Alec suggested, the horse would need to be quite sensible and not rock the boat too much.  Do you think we can ask Yann to be sensible…?

Anyway, thanks very much to Alec Jordan, who I can thoroughly recommend for any queries about Greek mythological beasts in small vessels, or indeed the Scottish Coastal Rowing project, which looks great fun:

Archive for March, 2011

Mermaids at university?

I’m doing the final research double-checking for Storm Singing (the third Fabled Beast book) this month, and I spent today calling serious proper academics at St Andrews University and Edinburgh University about selkies and mermaids! To be honest, that’s not what I said to them, not at the start. I began with perfectly sensible questions about how long grey seals can stay underwater, and about fish scales and tails. And only once they had told me what I needed to know, or confirmed what I already thought, did I admit that I was writing about magical creatures, so I thanked the seal researcher for helping me create the perfect selkie and the fish expert for helping me create the ideal mermaid! I do like to make sure that my fantasy is firmly fact-based and believable…

Archive for March, 2011

Meeting monsters and dwarves on World Book Day

World Book Day is (and should be) a busy day for authors. I was in Bonnyrigg Library in the morning yesterday, and met a couple of very enthusiastic P6 classes from Bonnyrigg Primary, who asked some really excellent questions, and had a wonderfully gory collective imagination for inventing monsters. Then I hurtled into Edinburgh to meet more than 200 pupils at the lovely Flora Stevenson Primary School, and lots of them were dressed as their favourite book characters. Which gave me the wonderful opportunity to say things like “What do you think, Mr Gum?” and “Do you have an idea for defeating the monster, Fili and Kili?” (they’re experts at that sort of thing, being from the Hobbit) and “What’s your question, Pippi Longstocking?” There’s only one day a year you get to say things like that and not get very funny looks! There was also someone dressed as a faun from First Aid, with splendid furry shorts, which was the highlight of my day…

Hope you all had a great World Book Day, and if you want to tell me who you dressed up as, just get in touch!