Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Big Hello And a HELP!

This week I'm still busy working on the bigger book... at times it has been like wading through treacle but I'm delighted to say that it's moving among much better now... It's taken me quite a while to find the right voice for the story.

Here's a BIG HELLO to everyone at Ashurst Primary School - I'm all packed and ready and can't wait to meet everyone - It'll be a fun day.

And now the HELP! bit... As well as being busy writing new stories, I'm always looking for ways to make my website more interesting and useful. On my Free Stuff To Download page you can download colouring sheets and word searches but I am working on lots of new resources that you can download and use in the classroom or at home... lots of teachers have been asking me to do this so they can do follow on work in the classroom after I've visited school. I've got quite a few ideas of my own for things to add but I would love to hear your thoughts too... So! What would you like to see added to my site. You can email me or you can leave a message here in my diary. I look forward to hearing from everyone. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Great Days In Schools

Had A fantastic day yesterday for my second visit to Ysgol Llanerchymedd on the Isle of Anglesey (Inys Mon). It was wonderful to see everyone again and to have the opportunity to spend more time working with the Year 5/6 and Year 3/4 classes to come up with story ideas. Last time I visited we had lots of fun working together to come up with story plots and I was amazed to see how much year 5/6 had continued with their story - even adding amazing illustrations... Here's the cover of the book they have made for their fantastic story about a teacher that has big ideas that always end up going wrong... Miss Honey Bee's Brain Waves...
Miss Honey Bee's Brainwaves
   Instead of working together to create, yesterday we came up with a very simple story idea and then everyone let their imaginations run wild as they made the idea their own and took it where they wanted. It was a real privilege to be able to work with Year 5/6 and offer help and advice and a little motivation so they could build on their Creepy Barn, Scary Farm experience... How would you like it if your bus broke down and you had to stay the night in a creepy barn that was filled with rats, spiders and wandering Scarecrows??? HELP... I'M A WRITER - GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!

In the afternoon I was able to work with the year 3/4 class who have been very busy indeed leaning about the Celts - visiting ancient Celtic ruins and writing about them. It was great working with everyone to come up with a story idea that involved time travel, ancient runes and fun and adventure in ancient Celtic times... Well done everyone!!!

Today I'm hard at work on my bigger book and feeling very pleased with the way it's moving along now that I've found the right voice for the story... Exciting Stuff!

Tomorrow I will be spending the day with everyone at Daisyfield Primary School... See you all soon - I'm looking forward to meeting everyone.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Ysgol Llanerchymedd

Today I'm doing a bit of writing and preparing to visit Ysgol Llanerchymedd on Ynys Môn (the Isle of Anglesey) tomorrow. This will be my first visit to the school and I'm very much looking forward to meeting everyone there.

So here's a BIG HELLO to everyone at Ysgol Llanerchymedd.... See you soon.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Happy Anniversary

Today is our second Wedding Anniversary so there will be no writing, texting, tweeting or anything... phones and laptops are switched of and we're spending a lovely couple of days together in the same perfect place where we spent our honeymoon.
Happy Anniversary to my beautiful wife, Vicky...
If you'd like to see more pictures from our perfect day click on Our Wedding on my website.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

School and Library Visits

Over the past month I've been busy, busy, busy visiting schools and libraries all over the place. I've been trying to squeeze in a little writing too but haven't had time to put anything in my diary for ages. I love getting out from behind my laptop and going into schools and libraries to share stories and work with people on their own writing. It's lots of fun and a real privilege to meet so many keen young writers.

On Friday this week I will be spending the day with everyone at Moss Lane Infant School in Surrey so here's a BIG HELLO to everyone there. I can't wait to meet everyone.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the whole week visiting schools and Libraries in the Vale of Glamorgan - starting with a visit to Llansannor Primary School (the Mountain School).

It took me quite a while to find the school - tucked away as it is down some very narrow country lanes - but it was well worth it.

I then visited schools and libraries with the Vale of Glamorgan Library Service so here's a huge hello and thank you to everyone that came along and joined in the sessions - and a special hello to everyone at Cogan Primary School who sent me this wonderful letter full of self portraits. 

It was great visiting Eagleswell Primary School in Llantwit Major where I got to see some familiar faces and meet lots of new people.

Last week I took a train to Chester from our home in Wales - then a train from Chester to Crewe, rushed across the station to catch another train to Euston Station in London, followed by one of the Underground trains across to St Pancras International and then the Eurostar across London, under the Channel, through France and into Brussels. From there it was a short taxi ride Tervuren so I could spend a couple of days at the wonderful British School Brussels (BSB).
This isn't one of the trains I caught, it was part of the playground at school... great isn't it.
The BSB were celebrating book week in a big way and had invited lots of authors, illustrators, storytellers and poets. It was a real pleasure meeting everyone in school - the staff and students were so friendly and welcoming - it was an absolute delight. There was even a little welcome bag waiting for me in my room... perfect.

It was also fantastic to have the chance to meet and chat with the other authors as most of the time
I visit schools on my own. So here's a BIG HELLO and THANK YOU to everyone at the BSB and to all the other authors taking part - including Adam Bushnell, Liz Million, Theresa Breslin, AdisaHelen Grant and Andy Mulligan.
Here's Adam with megaphone in hand just before we climbed onto the cherry picker and went 30 foot into the air to shout out a big welcome to everyone as they arrived at school.

Driving around Tervuren we couldn't help admiring some of the beautiful houses but we were particularly drawn to this interesting fountain that decorates one of the roundabouts...
That's all I've got time to write at the moment.... but come back soon as I'll be writing more...

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Ysgol Sychdyn

Just got home after spending a great day at Ysgol Sychdyn, just up the road in Flintshire. It was great to see some familiar faces and to meet lots of new people too for lots of book and storytelling fun and lots of great questions being asked by everyone...

Looking forward to going back tomorrow to work on some story writing and to work more on the story with Year 5 - An Evil Scientist, Robot Guinea Pig Army and a girl called Georgina Box to thwart his plans - Phew!!!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Robbie's Robot

This morning, and during the week, I've been busy working on my bigger book. I'm very happy with the way it's coming together and am very hopeful that I will have a completed first draft by the end of this week. I've had to make a lot of tweaks and changes to the first few chapters as the story has evolved and developed as it's gone along.

As well as this bigger book I have also worked on a few shorter books for younger readers. One of the books - Robbie's Robot - will be published next year. I've just been sent the finished cover  and the rough layouts for the inside. I can't show you the rough layouts yet but here's the cover - illustrated by the excellent Rory Walker. I think it's great and hope you like it too.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Pendine Sands - Land Speed Records

Whilst in Tenby, a few weeks ago, we went to visit Pendine Sands - just a little drive along the coast from where we were staying. With its long, flat beach Pendine Sands was a popular spot for land speed record breakers in the early 1900's.
Today there is a Museum of Speed at Pendine Sands where you can learn about some of the record attempts that were made there and also see some of the old motorcycles and one of the record breaking cars - Babs.
On September 25th 1924 Malcolm Campbell achieved a new land speed record in his Sunbeam 350HP - the first of many land speed record breakers to be powered by an aircraft engine. Campbell reached 146.16 miles per hour (235.22 kilometres per hour) - it was his first land speed record. The following year, Campbell beat his own record by reaching 150.87 mph (242.8 km/h).     
Then, in 1926, Wrexham born John Godfrey Parry-Thomas smashed this record by reaching 170 mph (273.6 km/h) in his car BABS.
Interestingly, BABS was originally called Chitty 4 (also known as the Higham Special as it was built on the Higham Estate by Clive Gallop for Count Louis Zborowski. The Count, who was a keen amateur racing driver died before Chitty 4 was completed and the car was then bought by J D Parry Thomas. 

The Count's cars and racing adventures later helped to inspire author Ian Fleming to write Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car (published in 1964). You might know Ian Fleming better as the creator and original author of the James Bond books... 

On February 4th, 1927, Campbell beat Parry-Thomas's record in Bluebird II - achieving 174.88 mph (281.44 km/h). Later that same year, Parry-Thomas tried to beat Campbell's record. Unfortunately, Parry-Thomas's car went out of control and the daring speed racer was killed. BABS was buried in the sand and land speed record attempts at Pendine Sands came an end.

After the crash, Babs was buried in the sand on Pendine Sands and there it remained until 1969 when the car was dug up and restored. 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Start of Our Summer Holidays

Even though it's the summer holiday it's still a busy time... I've been busy writing... working on a longer book for older readers, a short story for younger readers and tweaking and checking the History Heroes layouts that my publishers have  been sending me. So far they are looking really good and I'm very excited about them...
Vicky has been busy too, working hard in the library... Summer is always busy in the library with the Summer Reading Challenge, but despite all the busyness we've still managed to have a few days of fun and relaxation - though not everything has gone as planned.
At the start of the holidays we went to Barry in South Wales so I could take part in a big Author Day at Barry Library. It was great meeting other authors - especially, and in alphabetical order,

Phil Carradice (broadcaster, poet and author of The Wild West Show, and much more, and history blogger for BBC Wales - a great blog to look at if you are in search of places to visit in Wales)...

Anthony Lavisher (an excellent fantasy fiction author) and the brilliant Colin Parsons (fantasy and science fiction author) as well as 

Wendy White (author of the Tir Nar Nog award winning book - Welsh Cakes and Custard) It's always great to meet fellow authors as being a writer can be quite a lonely job at times.

On the way home from Barry our car broke down and we had to wait to be driven home on the back of a recovery truck... not a great end to the weekend. And did I mention that the lady in the hotel room above ours had left her bath running so it flooded our room and we had to move to be moved to another??? All part of the fun...

Our car was repaired just in time for us to go and spend a lovely week in Tenby - a beautiful seaside town on the southwest coat of Wales.

We were a little worried that the weather might not as good as we had hoped as the tail end of Hurricane Bertha had just reached Britain... but apart from a few showers and blustery days, the weather was good. We love visiting Tenby with its gorgeous beaches, fantastic scenery and lots of places to eat and drink... yum!

We had hoped to go on a seal/whale spotting boat trip but the sea was a bit too rough for that - but it still didn't spoil our fun. St Catherine's Island had just been opened to the public ( more about that in my next post) and we enjoyed our visit there...

And for most of the time the weather was great... looks almost tropical doesn't it???

I was able to take lots of great pictures off the sea and the harbour... especially nice as the sun was setting...
And quite impressive with rain clouds gathering overhead as we walked and paddled in the waves...

That's all for now... I will write more tomorrow and tell you all about St Catherine's Island and the rest of our holiday... including land speed records and another trip on the back of a recovery truck... Fun Fun Fun....

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Quick Update

Over the past few weeks I've been busy writing so haven't had chance to put anything in my diary. As well as working on my bigger book - more about that as the year goes on - I've written a new picture book and sent it off to one of my editors to take a look at. Fingers frantically crossed there. I've also written a few very short stories - around 200 words each for one of my publishers. I was delighted when one of them -  Robbie's Robot - was accepted. Today I was sent a rough sketch to show me how the cover will look and I'm delighted with it - it should be a real fun little book. As soon as I get a finished cover I will put in here in my diary for you to see.

I have read through the final layouts for 
another of the History Heroes Books - this one all about the Dutch/Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder - just a couple of little tweaks to be made there and they should be perfect. The artwork is great, as is the book that accompanies it about L.S. Lowry.

Both of these books will be published in December this year - I can't wait to see them. To go with the 8 History Heroes Books I have been slowly working on pages for them on my website. They are still under construction but please go and take a look and let me know what you think. You can even download Word Searches for each of the books to do at home or in school. Just click HERE to visit the History Heroes page.

That's all for now folks... Hope you're enjoying the Summer Holiday.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Mythical Maze #Summer Reading Challenge

On Monday this week I had a great time with everyone at Rhyl Library as this year's Summer Reading Challenge got under way...

I spent the day telling stories, talking about books, recommending books to read and helping some of the eager readers negotiate the maze and find all of the characters that were hiding amongst the shelves. All of the artwork for this years reading challenge has been done by Sarah McIntyre - you can find out more about Sarah by visiting her website HERE.
Throughout the day the library team were busy helping children join the library, sign up to the Reading Challenge and having fun with craft activities. It was a great day and I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone at Rhyl Library for making feel so welcome...
If you haven't already signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge then get down to your local library and do it today... Just in case you don't know anything about the reading challenge, here's what the Reading Agency say...

"Children's reading can 'dip' during the long summer holidays. The annual Summer Reading Challenge helps gets three quarters of a million children into libraries to keep up their reading skills and confidence. Because everything changes when we read.

The Summer Reading Challenge encourages children aged 4 to 11 to read six books during the long summer holiday.

There is a different theme each year. Children can read whatever they like - fact books, joke books, picture books, audio books - just as long as they are borrowed from the library.
Every time children finish a book they get stickers and rewards and there's a certificate for everyone who finishes.
The Summer Reading Challenge is open to all school children and is designed for all reading abilities. Schools work with local libraries and give out information to encourage children to take part, and most libraries run Summer Reading Challenge linked early years activity for pre-schoolers.

Find out more about the Summmer Reading Challenge by visiting the Reading Agency Website HERE or for information about the Mythical Maze click HERE.

If you've read a good book for your reading challenge, why not send me an email and let me know... or you can post a comment here in the diary.

#SummerReadingChallenge @jabberworks @WelshLibraries

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

On This Day In 1969...

The Apollo 11 space rocket was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. On board, the three American astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were just setting out on their voyage of discovery to the Moon.

You can read all about it in my History Heroes book all about Neil Armstrong - published by Franklin Watts, and illustrated by the excellent Mike Phillips... 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

History Heroes

This week I've been busy working on a picture book - not quite finished yet - and a longer book. The longer book is coming along very nicely now and I'm eager to have it finished so I can let Vicky read it all before I tweak it again and send it off to a publisher. I've also been working on my web site, adding a section for my new History Heroes books - the first two of which were published earlier this month. The pages are still in progress as not all of the books have been published yet but please do take a look and let me know what you think...

On Monday this week I returned to Ripley Junior School to  work with year 3 and with the year 2 children that will be moving to the Junior School in September. It was great seeing everyone again and we had lots of fun coming up with two stories... One about a Ghostly Granny and one about a Cat who is a Master Thief. I hope everyone enjoys finishing the stories off - It'll be great to read them.

Tomorrow I'm visiting The Heys Primary School in Ashton-Under-Lyne... see you all soon.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Neil Armstrong

Today I'm busy working on a picture book story... but while I've been eating my lunch I've been making an animated gif of Neil Armstrong for my website's History Heroes section...

What do you think???

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

L. S. Lowry

Just a quick diary entry while I eat my lunch...

Here's a quick hello to everyone at Ripley Junior School in Ripley, Yorkshire - I'm looking forward to coming to school again so I can work with year 3 and the up and coming year 2 children from the Primary School on Monday. . I'm sure we will have lots of fun coming up with new stories together... I love the creative process of creating character and story ideas so it should be a fun day.
On Thursday next week I will be spending the day with everyone at The Heys Primary School in Ashton-Under-Lyne - can't wait to meet everyone there...

Right now I'm eating my lunch - a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich - and also making a little animated picture for my website. This will go on my History Heroes page when it's finished... Here's L.S. Lowry - illustrated by the most excellent Yulia Somina... hope you like it.

Monday, 23 June 2014

History Heroes

The first two books in my History Heroes series have just been published by Franklin Watts and I'm very excited about them...

History Heroes is a series of eight little books that focus on the lives of some famous people in history, all of whom are being looked at in schools - so hopefully they will prove to be very popular. The people's lives are told in a story style to make them more interesting to read and they've been illustrated by some fantastic illustrators to really bring them alive and add a little extra humour.

The first two books are about explorers - Christopher Columbus and Neil Armstrong. As soon as I receive my copies of the books I will be able to show what the insides of the books look like...

Monday, 16 June 2014

Last Week and This Week

This is a very quick diary post to start the week as I've got lots of work to get finished today... I'm busy working on some short stories and they really do need sending off to my editor.

Last week I had a great time visiting Ash Green Primary School in Trentham, Stoke-On-Trent, and St John's RC Primary School in Kirkdale, Liverpool. On Thursday Vicky and I went to watch the final of the North East Wales Book Quiz, at the Town Hall in Llandudno... 

It was great meeting everyone there - especially the teams from Cornist Park, Mountain Lane and Bryn Hedydd - as well as the excellent Paul Cookson (guest poet for the day)... At lunchtime we went to sit in the sun on the promenade so we could eat our sandwiches, then we went back to listen to Paul share some of his poems and to find out who had won the Book Quiz...

Over the weekend we went for a walk along the River Dee in Chester with Laura and Deanna... It was a beautiful day - hot a sunny.
Tomorrow I will be spending the day with everyone at John Shelton Primary School in Coventry so here's a BIG HELLO to everyone there... I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone.

I've just had a cup of coffee and some toast and it's time to get on with my work... be back soon...

Monday, 2 June 2014

Back to School

Here's a picture a couple of weeks ago of some sheep in a churchyard... It's got nothing to do with today's diary entry but I quite like the picture. 

The half term holiday seems to have flown by... I've spent most of the week busily working on a longer book - tweaking and reworking the first five or six chapters and adding new bits and pieces here and there.

I'm eager to get on with the rest of the book now but I also need to work of a few very short stories for a publisher. Over the next couple of weeks I will be doing a bit of both. I will also be busy visiting a few schools.

This week I will be visiting Oxford Grove Primary School In Bolton, Caldmore Primary School in Walsall, and Churchfields Junior School in East London... Here's a BIG HELLO to everyone there... see you all soon.

Best get to work now.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Hanmer and Ellesmere

As well as visiting libraries last week to help promote the new Every Child A Library Member initiative that is being piloted by Flintshire Libraries, along with five other local authorities in Wales, I spent a lovely morning at St Chad's Primary School in Hanmer. 
 It was great meeting everyone at school - and all the other year five and six children that came in to visit. I'd never been to Hanmer before and it was a real treat... a lovely picturesque little village by the side of a Mere. Walking down the path from the school Before heading home I had a little wander round and took a few photographs. 
It was so nice that Vicky and I went back on Saturday for a little drive around... As well as stopping off at Hamner we went a little further and visited Ellesmere. We didn't really have long enough to go and have a good look round so instead we just sat in the sun by the side of the Mere and watched the people and the ducks go by.
We will definitely be going back again soon... 
This week I will be visiting Ysgol Wepre CP School and Ash Green Primary School in Trentham... see you all soon. Time to get on with some writing now. 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Flintshire Libraries

Yesterday I had a great time visiting libraries here in Flintshire to help promote the 'Every Child A Member' initiative... and what a great thing it is too. All children in year four are being given library cards and made members of the library. I can't help wondering why this hasn't been done before - everywhere...

Holywell has a lovely library with enough room to have this great display of picture books on a row of shelves.

Year four children came along from three local schools - Ysgol Maesglas, Ysgol Trelogan and Ysgol Y Llan and it was great meeting everyone. As well as sharing my own stories I had the chance to recommend some great books by other authors too. I hope everyone had as much fun as I did and that you all enjoy the books you chose...

As soon as everyone had left, I whizzed off to Flint Library so that I could meet all of the year four children (and staff) from Gwynedd Primary School. Phew... another great session - and I promise to try and speak a little slower in the future :-)
Today I've been busy writing but tomorrow I'm calling in at  Mold Library and then Saltney Library... looking forward to seeing you all there.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Every Child A Member

Today I'm going to be visiting Holywell Library and Flint Library in Flintshire. Here's a big HELLO to everyone at the libraries and to all of the Year 4 classes that are coming along... I'm looking forward to meeting everyone... It's going to be fun!!!

To find out more about the 'Every Child A Member Scheme'... come back soon as I will be writing all about it.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Rick Wakeman

For Christmas Vicky bought tickets for us to go and see Rick Wakeman performing his classic 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' at Venue Cymru on Saturday 10th May. No one likes waiting for their presents but this was one present definitely worth waiting for... I wasn't the only one waiting for it either. Other fans had been waiting for over 35 years to see and hear Wakeman's performance - it had been that long since it had last been performed on stage.  

For those of you that don't know, Rick Wakeman is probably one of the best keyboard players in the world. He has recorded and performed with artists like David Bowie (writing and performing the piano piece for Life on Mars), Cat Stevens and many others. You can watch an old recording of Cat singing Morning Has Broken by clicking below...its a bit blurry but the sound is good - and you can see a young Rick on keyboard...


A lot of people will know Rick Wakeman from his work with the rock band 'YES', but as well as all this, he has also produced some fantastic solo albums. In the early 1970's Rick Wakeman produced a musical version of Jules Verne's 1864 science fiction novel, 'The Journey to the Centre of the Earth' which tells the tale of a group of adventurers that journey down to the centre of the earth and discover a world full or prehistoric creatures - you might have even seen the movie which stars Brendan Fraser. 
Movies are a great form of entertainment... you can just sit and relax and watch as the whole story unfolds before you. I think books are even better as, by reading,  you get more personally involved in the story and you can take it in as quickly or as slowly as you like. It also helps fed you brain and your imagination with words...  

There's something equally special about listening to someone tell you a story - you hear the words and your imagination mingles with that of the author and, again, you can picture what is happening.

Going to a theatre and hearing a story being told in a performance that combines the author's words being read by a narrator (in this case the excellent actor Philip Franks) and atmospheric, exciting music being played by an orchestra, sung by a choir and lead singers, rock guitar, drums and keyboards, is something else... Phew!!! it was fantastic.

The performance we saw at Venue Cymru was the last night of a long tour which made it even more special.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

History Heroes

After weeks of non stop school visits I'm making the most of today's strike day in schools by catching up with some writing. At the moment I'm still busy working on my History Heroes series which is due to be published later this year but I'm itching to get on with some new stories too.

I had a great day yesterday at Coupe Green Primary School - and at Redbridge Primary School on Monday. Hello to everyone there and thank you for making me feel so welcome...

I've just stopped working to eat my lunch and to have a quick write in my diary as I thought you might like to see the finished covers for two of the History Heroes books... Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria I...  

The covers, and the books themselves, have been illustrated by a wonderful illustrator called Rupert Van Wyk. I know what you're thinking... The book cover says they have been illustrated by Mike Philips, but that's a mistake - "OOPS!" Mike has illustrated a couple of other books in the series. The finished books will definitely have the right names on the front.