Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Cave Boy And The Egg

A quick entry in my diary here to let you see the cover of Cave Boy And The Egg which has been beautifully illustrated by Bill Bolton. I'd not seen Bill's work before but as soon as I saw his rough cover illustration I could tell he was the one to illustrate this little book about Cave Boy and his dad as they go off in search of something to eat for their tea. It's always interesting to see how different illustrators interpret the story - each one fresh and different and bringing something new to the finished book.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Kelpies

One of our days in Scotland was spent driving around and sightseeing. We started the day with a drive down to Falkirk to see the Kelpies which stand at the start of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Modelled on the mythical Scottish shape-changing water spirits, the Kelpies stand 30 meters high and weigh 300 tonnes. They tower over the surrounding area. 
Here you can see Vicky standing in front of one of the huge horses just to give you a better idea of how big they really are. 

In myth, Kelpies are said to haunt rivers and streams, often in the shape of a horse but sometimes in the shape of a beautiful woman or other another form where they lure unsuspecting people to their death in the water. It's said that the sound of their tails hitting the water is like a thunderclap.

We managed not to get lured into the water by any sprites so made our way a little further along the road to see the Falkirk Wheel - a huge, rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.
The wheel which was opened in 2002 lifts boats 35 meters into the air. Up until 1933 boats had to travel through a staircase of 11 locks - taking a whole day to do so. 
Unfortunately, we didn't have time to wait for the next boat trip so didn't get to go on the boat lift - we will leave that until our next visit. After leaving the Falkirk Wheel we spent the rest of the day driving around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park... Keeping our eyes open for Highland Cows (Coos) and taking in the beautiful scenery...

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Wallace Monument

It was Vicky's birthday this week so we had a couple of days together in Scotland. We stayed in Stirling which was ideal for us as we wanted to visit The Trossach's National Park and Loch Lomond, The Wallace Monument, the Stirling Highland Games and a couple of other places while we were there.

Setting off in the morning it took us a few hours to get to Stirling but we had just enough time to visit the National Wallace Monument before going to our hotel. When you arrive in Stirling it's hard to miss the impressive monument as it stands on a hill and towers above the field where William 'Braveheart' Wallace, during the Wars of Scottish Independence, led his troops to victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. 

Arriving at the Monument you have the option of walking up the hill to the tower or taking the free shuttle bus. We walked - it seemed a good idea at the time - but you might like to take the bus. It's only a fifteen minute walk up the hill and you can take you time... walking or crawling to the top. That's just the start of the walking and climbing though as there are 246 steps up to the very top of the Monument itself. 

The first few steps are straight but after that they  twist round in a narrow spiral staircase with 3 different rooms to explore on the way to the open floor at the very top. 

It's well worth the climb... You can look at weapons, shields and armour, and discover more about Wallace and the battle of Stirling Bridge in the Hall of Arms. Carry on up to the Hall of Heroes where you can find out about other important Scots (like Robert The Bruce) and see Wallace's sword on display.

The next floor up is the Royal Chamber where you can find out about the building of the monument and lots more...

Finally it's on to the very top where you get amazing views of the surrounding land. There was hardly a breath of wind on the ground, but up at the top of the Monument it was very breezy... I can easily imagine what it would be like on a windy day.

After a leisurely walk back down, and a little visit to the gift shop, we headed off to our hotel for tea... all set for the next few days. More of our Highland trip to follow very soon. 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A Few Days Away

I've been busy working on my big book recently but we managed to get away for a few days together to visit Tenby on the Pembrokeshire coast in South West Wales. 
Most of the time was spent relaxing but I did manage to fit in a little research while we were there - useful because one of the characters in the book I'm working on was born, and spent the first few years of his life, in that area - so it was good to soak up the atmosphere. 
This plaque notes the birthplace of Bartholomew Roberts at Casnewydd Bach, a tiny village in Pembrokeshire. Roberts, known to many as Black Bart (though not in his lifetime) was one of the most successful pirates of the Golden Age - capturing over 400 ships in his short time as a pirate. Roberts is one of the main characters in the book I'm working on - but at the moment that's all I can say about it. As time goes on though, I will blog more about it.

As well as doing a bit of research and sightseeing we went on a boat across Cardigan Bay to see if we could spot any dolphins and other wildlife... it was great.
Here you can just see two bottlenose dolphins swimming side by side as the dive down into the water...
It's always fantastic seeing dolphins in their natural environment - there's something magical about them... it's no wonder they feature in so many children's books. We were also lucky to see Grey Seals, Guillemots and other sea birds high up on the cliffs. 
Now we're back at home and I'm busy writing... As always, I've got lots to get through. There never seems to be enough hours in the day.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Thank you Theo...

for the wonderful picture that you did for me... and for your lovely letter. Keep up the good work - you're a star.

It was great meeting you and everyone else at St Peter's yesterday. I had a really good time and hope everyone else did too. There were lots of great ideas and lots of great questions. Have fun with your writing... I can't wait to see how the stories turn out.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

What's Goin' On?

First, a huge HELLO to everyone that's coming along the the University of Northampton this week to take part in the Literature Festival - I had a great day yesterday and am looking forward to meeting everyone that's coming along today. If yesterday was anything to go by then today should be great. 

It's hard to believe just how fat 2017 is speeding along. I've been busy working on some little stories for Franklin Watts new Reading Champions series - these will be coming out later this year and they are looking great...

While I do enjoy working on little stories like these (it's just great to see them come to life with the brilliant artwork done by the illustrators) I also love getting my teeth into bigger stories and this is just what I've been doing...

I'm currently working on a BIG BOOK - the biggest I've done so far. The story mixes fiction with fact so I've had to do a lot of research... not something I normally have to do but I want to include lots of real events in my story. It's tricky knowing which details to leave in and which to leave out, especially as the story centres on one of the most notorious pirates of all time - Bartholomew Roberts (known now as Black Bart). What do you think it would be like to go back in time and find yourself on a ship full of pirates? Don't be fooled by the movies - the life of a pirate wasn't all 'yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum'. Life was hard and often very short...

On with the work...

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Big Birthday and other Big News...

It's my birthday today... and it's a big one. Not quite sure how I feel about it but I'm going to mark it down as the start of an exciting new chapter in my life. To help me get over the trauma, Vicky and I are having a couple of days away relaxing in a hot tub with a glass or two of champagne. I'm very lucky and she's spoiling me quite a bit - so I have nothing to complain about.

As part of my birthday present we went to see Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman in concert - performing an evening of YES music and more... and a fantastic night it was too. Lots of great rock music and with the added bonus of being in an audience that made me feel very young. We've seen Rick Wakeman a couple of times before but seeing him with the excellent Jon Anderson, whose voice is as good and as strong now as it always was, was a real treat.    

After having a couple of days off it's going to be straight back to work as I have lots of research and writing to do on my big book, which brings me to the other BIG NEWS...
I'm delighted and honoured to have been among a small number of writers to have been awarded a Literature Wales Writer' Bursary. This will enable me to have the much needed time to help with this big writing project... You can find out more about Literature Wales and their Writer's Bursaries by clicking HERE.

The book I am researching and writing combines time travel with the life a real pirate, Bartholomew Roberts (probably the most successful pirate of the Golden Age). I've made a start on the research and am looking forward to getting on with more - and writing the book. Over the next few weeks and months I will keep you up to date with how things are going - though I don't want to share too much about exactly what's going into the book...