Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and Vicky and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas... 2015 has been a busy year with lots going on. All the presents are wrapped and everything is prepared... we're looking forward to having a nice few days over the holidays before a busy 2016.

I've had a great time this year visiting schools and libraries all over the place and I'm really looking forward to visiting more in the New Year. There's going to be lots of travelling involved... but there's also going to be a lot more writing done in 2016.

There's a few little books due to be published in the early part of 2016 and I will tell you more about those in January. Have a lovely Christmas and a very Happy New Year...

Keep on coming to visit my diary as I will be posting a lot more in the New Year.... news of what I'm doing and what I'm working on. 

I've even got a story to be getting on with over Christmas... It's like having homework!!!

Better go now before Santa arrives... 

Have a great time everyone... 

Love Damian and Vicky


P.S. hope you like the pictures of our Christmas Tree

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A week in Switzerland

Yesterday I had lots of fun meeting and working with everyone at Ysgol Llanddulas and hopefully I will be seeing everyone again rally soon. There were some great story ideas and lots of great questions... It only took me half an hour to drive to school as it is only about 34 miles from where we live but not all schools I visit are as close to home.
Last week I was more than 650 miles from home visiting schools in Switzerland. It took me a lot longer to get there...

I was up early on Monday morning putting my bags into the car and then driving down the motorway to Manchester airport so I could catch the morning flight to Geneva. It was a wet and windy Manchester morning as I boarded the Easy Jet flight.

Once in the air, the plane soared above the clouds and into bright sunshine at a height of over 37,000 feet. From up there the world looks very different.  

The flight only takes about an hour and a half so there was just time for a cup of coffee and a little read of my book before were we flying over Lake Geneva and touching down in Switzerland where the sun was shining brightly and it was very warm. 

From there I collected my suitcase, made my way down to the railway station and caught a train to Aigle, a small town at the far end of Lake Geneva. The railway line runs along the side of the lake and it seems strange being on a train for so long (an hour and twenty minutes) and still having the lake by the side of you... but then the Lake Geneva is about 45 miles in length. 

I arrived in Aigle sometime after 5pm where I was met by Marco, a mini bus driver from the school that I would be visiting the next day. Marco drove me up into the mountains to the village of Villars-sur-Ollon and dropped me off at the hotel where I would be spending the night. 
You never know what to expect when visiting a hotel, but the Alpe Fleurie Hotel was perfect and my room was excellent - I could happily have stayed there all week. It was comfortable and cozy and I even had a balcony... what more could you want?
The hotel would be a perfect place to stay for a skiing holiday but there was no snow around last week (except on the highest mountains). After unpacking my case I went for a little wander around the town and picked up a pizza for tea... Delicious! 
The next morning I was up early, took this picture of the view from my window and went downstairs for breakfast (fresh, crusty bread, Swiss cheese, salami, ham, coffee and fresh orange Yum!) At eight o'clock I was picked up from the hotel and driven up to La-Garenne International Bilingual School for an early start. 
It was fantastic meeting everyone at school and I was made to feel extremely welcome by all of the children and teachers... The school itself looks very different to schools here in the UK as you can see from this picture of a couple of the school buildings...

The views from the classrooms were beautiful too. It's hard to imagine how anyone gets any work done.

The school day flew by even though its a much longer day than we have here and, after a great time sharing stories and talking about writing, I was soon waiting for a bus to take me back down the mountain to Aigle. I was on the bus by five o'clock and winding my way down the narrow road. Forty-five minutes later I was on the train to Nyon, then an hour or so later was jumping into a taxi for a short ride to my next hotel. It was just after 7 o'clock in the evening when I finally flopped onto my bed - Phew! it had been a long day but lots of fun. 

Another early start on Wednesday with a coffee and a croissant for breakfast before being picked up and taken to see the wonderful infants at College Champittet in Nyon. The school is only open in the morning so I had the afternoon free. 

There wasn't much to see by the hotel I was staying in but one of the teachers kindly drove me up the mountain to look at the amazing view... and it was well worth the trip. This picture was taken from high up on the mountain where you might normally get a good view of Lake Geneva, however, the lake and the surrounding towns and villages were overcast with clouds. After driving up through the clouds though there was a fantastic view. It looked as if a sea of clouds had covered the lake with only the Alps towering above on the other side of the lake. There was even a good view of Mont Blanc covered in snow. 
Up early again on Thursday and another taxi ride into Nyon to meet the head of English from College Champittet, Pully-Lausanne. There, we caught the train to Lausanne and headed down the hill to the College where I spend the day with years 5, 6, and 8. Another fun and busy day. 
After school it was time to head back up the hill... much steeper than it had seemed on the way down as I was dragging my heavy suitcase behind me. I caught a final train back to Geneva airport then a few hours waiting around for my flight home. I arrived home at about 11 in the evening, exhausted after all the travelling but thrilled to have been able to spend the week in Switzerland. 

It was fantastic meeting everyone and all of the the children and teachers were enthusiastic and friendly. I was really made to feel at welcome and was very well looked after. A big thank you to everyone that I met and special thanks to everyone that took such good care of me. I can't wait to come again.

Au revoir for now...  

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Happy Anniversary...

to my beautiful lady, Vicky.

Today is our 3rd Wedding Anniversary and rather than writing about my writing... I wanted to say how lucky I am to have this wonderful lady in my life and to let everyone know how happy I am am that she is my wife. 

I love you with all of my heart Vicky - Truly, Madly, Deeply. 

Forever yours...


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Today I'm...

...looking forward to meeting eager readers from St Begh's Catholic Junior School and Monkwray Junior School this morning - and St Patrick's R C Junior School this afternoon in the library...

Now it's time for some breakfast :-) 

See you all soon.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Buzz About Reading Festival

A busy working today but I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone that's coming along to the Buzz About Reading Festival tomorrow... and everyone that's coming to the libraries on Thursday. I'm looking forward to sharing stories and having lots of fun. Make sure you come over and say hello...

This week I've been working on a new picture book story. It's been bubbling around in my head for a little while now so the story is flowing nicely. I still need to change the name of one of the characters though. Still not quite sure what to call him. 

My fingers are still crossed as I wait to hear final word on some Twisted Fairy Tales that I have been sending to my editor over the last couple of weeks or so... I'm very much hoping that one or two will go down well and get published.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Thornhill Junior & Infant School

Lots of writing and other bits and pieces to get done today but before I get started here's a BIG HELLO to everyone at Thornhill Junior and Infant School in Dewsbury... 

I hope you are all having a great book week.

See you all very soon.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

New Book Covers

Just a very quick post here to let you see the covers of three new books that will be coming out for young readers early next year... it's always exciting when new books are going to be published.

To coincide with the 2016 Olympic Games there are two Animal Olympic stories: Meerkat's Marathon and Hippo's High Dive
Meerkat's Marathon has been wonderfully illustrated by Steve Brown, and Hippo's High Dive by Andrew Painter. Both of the artists have great individual styles which suit the stories very well and give them both a different, fun feel which I love. 

I have added web pages for both of the Animal Olympic titles to my site which include information about each book and some fun things to do like crosswords, word searches and colouring sheets. Click on HERE to go there now.

The third new book is called Just Like Me! a very short story with around 50 words. So far I have seen the cover and some of the rough artwork... but it's already looking like a lot of fun. This is still being illustrated by two illustrators - Federica Muccio and Roberta Vottero at the moment so the web page isn't quite ready. It's interesting that there are two people working together to do the illustrations but then the story itself was created by me and my wife Vicky... so it's taken 4 people to make this little book...

Friday, 18 September 2015

Garswood Primary School

Here's a really BIG HELLO to everyone at Garswood Primary School. I'm really looking forward to meeting you all very soon. I've got lots of stories to share and lots to tell you about... and I'm really excited about creating some new story ideas with you and answering all of your questions....

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Out And About With a Camera

In my last diary post I said that, as well as working, we had a few days out over the summer holidays. Not only does getting out and about give you a nice break from normal work days but it is also a great way of filling up your mind with sights and sounds that can give you ideas or things that can be use in stories. Whenever we go anywhere we  always make sure we have a camera with us so we can take lots of picture of interesting things.

Over the summer we've had trips out: Tenby, Chester Zoo, London (including a day spent at the Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter Tour)... We saw lots of things and took lots of pictures. Doing all this gave Vicky an idea for a new little story about a boy taking pictures of animals with his camera. 

Just Like Me! is a very short story for young children - it only has 50 words but it's lots of fun and I'm sure very young children will enjoy sharing the story and looking at all the pictures. The book doesn't get published until May next year so it isn't even finished yet but this week my editor sent me a finished copy of the book's cover - illustrated by Federica Nuccio and Roberta Vottero - and I think it looks great. I wonder how two people do the illustrations together?

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Summer Holidays in Tenby

It's a wet Wednesday here in North East Wales... amazing how quickly the summer holidays have flown by and it's already time to go back to school and work... not that I haven't been working of course. Over the summer I've been busy writing but we've also had time for some really good days out. I will write and let you know about some of the things we've been up to over the next week or so.
Last week we were in Tenby, one of our favourite places to go. We had a great time with days of beautiful sunshine mixed in with a few heavy rain showers. For most of the week we had quite a lazy time just wandering around the town and along the beach - dodging the odd rainstorm like this one that had moved off over the sea.
I took my camera everywhere we went as there's always something interesting to photograph... great for helping you get ideas for stories or for adding interesting little details. One day we spotted these strange things washed up on the beach and had no idea what they were... 
And they look even stranger up close...
After a bit of research we discovered that they are Pelagic Gooseneck Barnacles. They are normally found in warmer parts of the world but they get carried around on the bottom of boats and on pieces of driftwood.
There's lots of interesting things to see around the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast. The coastline is impressive enough with it's beaches, cliffs and caves but there's lots of wildlife too. 

This Kestrel spent a lot of time sitting at the top of a mast while it kept it's eye out for something to eat... as soon as it spotted something it took to the air. I was just in the right place to get this picture as it glided by one afternoon. 

It was Vicky's birthday while we were away from home and as a special treat we planned to take a boat trip and go dolphin spotting (I will write more about that soon)...

Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Quick Hello...

To everyone at St Saviour CE Primary School in Bolton who sadly weren't able to join in with all the fun yesterday... hopefully I will be able to meet you all in the future.

Right now I have to get on with some writing but later today I will write all about yesterday's visits. It was fantastic meeting everyone and a real honour to be asked to officially open the brilliant new library at St Stephen's...

More soon...

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Summer Reading Challenge 2015

This year's Summer Reading Challenge is getting ready to start. You can find out all about it at your local library and by visiting the Summer Reading Challenge page. The theme this year is RECORD BREAKERS - so go and join the fun at your local library... I'd love to hear how you are doing in the Challenge so why not send me an email and let me know what you are reading.

Tomorrow I will be visiting St Michael's CE Primary School, St Gregory's RC Primary School and St Stephen Kearsley Moor CE Primary School in Bolton to talk about the Reading Challenge and to share stories and have lots of fun. I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone.

This week I'm busy working on some very short stories for a publisher - and they need to be finished and sent off by the end of the week so I had better get on with them.  


Thursday, 18 June 2015

Working Away from Home

A couple of weeks ago I visited a couple of lovely schools, one in Repton and one in Burton Upon Trent. The schools were great but the view from my hotel wasn't so great....

This week things are different though...
It's ten o'clock in the evening and it's getting dark outside. It's been a beautiful sunny day today and quite warm too. Right now I'm sat on the bed in my hotel room at the University of Northampton. My window is wide open and I can hear birds singing and the gentle rhythm of the rain on the leaves outside. The air smells fresh and clean. A little rabbit has been sat on the grass for the last hour nibbling and enjoying the cool evening.

On the way down here I drove through the beautiful little village of Naseby and I couldn't resist stopping off to take a look at the Cromwell Monument that stands on the Naseby Battlefield.

The Battle of Naseby, probably the most important battle of the English Civil War was fought on the 14th June 1645 between the Parliamentarian New Model Army commanded by Sir Thomas Fairfax and Sir Oliver Cromwell and the Royalist Army of King Charles I and Prince Rupert of the Rhine. The Royalist army were defeated and most of the King's army was lost.

It looks peaceful here now and it's hard to imagine that such a huge battle took place here. You can find out more about the Battle of Naseby by clicking HERE.
Think it's time to close the window and get some sleep... got a busy day tomorrow.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Creative Writing Festival

Here's a BIG HELLO to everyone that's coming along to the University of Northampton for the Creative Writing Festival... I'm looking forward to meeting all the keen readers and writers from Lumbertubs Primary School, St James CE Primary School, Bridgewater Primary School, Thorplands Primary School and everyone else that's coming along... big apologies if I've missed your school out but these are all the names I have at the moment. Leave me a message and I will add you to the list...

A while ago I said that we had been on a little tour of the Scottish Highlands over half term. Getting away for a few days is relaxing but it's also a very useful way of filling you head with little ideas that can be used in stories. There was a lot of driving involved in our little trip but were saw some really interesting and beautiful sights.
We set off from our home here in Wales early in the morning and headed toward the Scottish city of Stirling - overlooked by Stirling castle. On arrival we were greeted by this statue of Robert the Bruce who was king of the Scots from 1306 to until his death in 1329. You can find out more about this great Scottish King, and all about William Wallace HERE.

Before heading off to our hotel we took a look at the William Wallace monument which we could see from Stirling Castle. The monument is a very impressive building that towers over the landscape giving William an excellent view of the countryside around.
Wallace is a great Scottish hero and defeated the English at the battle of Stirling bridge in 1297. This statue of him stands high up on the tower... unfortunately we didn't have time to climb the tower ourselves so we will have to save that until our next visit.

The next morning our trip took us up into the Scottish highlands, down into Gelcoe, Fort William and finally all the way up to Inverness and its famous Loch.
On the way we took lots of photographs - like this one of a highland cow... and this statue in memory of the commandos who trained in the highlands about Fort William.
That's all I've got time for right now but I will write more soon...

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Robbie's Robot

Today sees the publication of my latest little book and the postman arrived with a few copies for me... always an exciting time. The book, Robbie's Robot is out today in Hardback and the paperback version will be out next year (published by Franklin Watts - part of Hachette Children's Books). 

It's always exciting to receive copies of a new book - no matter how big or small the book is... It's great seeing the story all together with the artwork. Robbie's Robot has been illustrated by the wonderful Rory Walker and he's done a great job of it too.
Robbie loves nothing better than lazing on his bed, reading comics, playing games, eating crisps and drinking pop. The trouble is, he hates tidying his bedroom and it gets messier and messier. Mum tells him that if he can't keep his room clean then he won't get any pocket money. Tidying his bedroom is hard work, but then Robbie has an idea. He looks on the internet and orders himself a robot... just the thing for keeping his room tidy.
Writing the little story I tried not to imagine how the robot would look so it was fantastic to see what Rory came up with... I love it. Robbie loves it too.... but if you were a robot would you be happy tidying Robbie's room?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Thrumpton and Grange Primary School

Here's a BIG HELLO to everyone at Thrumpton Primary School in Retford and everyone at Grange Primary School in Burton On Trent.... looking forward to seeing you all soon.

We had lots of fun last week touring round the Highlands of Scotland, visiting Loch Ness and lots of other places... no sign of any monsters in the Loch - but I will write more about that tonight.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Happy Birthday to Queen Victoria

On this day in 1819, Alexandrina Victoria was born at Kensington Palace in London.You can find out all about her in my History Heroes book... Victoria I....

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cardiff City FC Reading Stars

Here's a BIG HELLO to all of the Reading Stars that are coming along to join in the fun at the Cardiff City Stadium this week... I had a great time last week with everyone at the Swansea Stadium and now I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone from Pontypridd, Cathays High, Romily Primary School, Ifor Hael, Lakeside Primary, Albert Primary School, Dyffryn Taf, Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig and Fairwater Primary School (Ysgol Gynradd Y Tyllgoed)...

A big thank you to the national Literacy Trust for arranging the events and for inviting me to take part.

See you all soon.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Premier League Reading Stars

I had a great time last week visiting The Liberty Stadium in Swansea - home to both Swansea City Football Club and the Ospreys Rugby Team - so that I could meet keen 'Premier League Reading Stars' from lots of schools in and around the Swansea area...

It was the first time I've been to Swansea though Vicky and I will certainly be going back to have a proper look round in the near future. When I go off visiting schools and libraries around the country I usually only get a brief glimpse of places (just motorways, a hotel room and a school or library - but sometimes that's enough to make us want to go back for a better look).

I had planned to arrive in Swansea earlier in the day so that I would have a bit more time to have a walk and a drive around but unfortunately our car was in the garage being repaired so I didn't get there until around 7 in the evening - just enough time to have a little walk before getting something for my tea and then settling down for a bit of  rest before the rest of the week's activities. I was very impressed with the Sail Bridge that spans the river by the harbour...

On the morning of the visit to the Liberty Stadium I was up early for breakfast, a drive over to the stadium, set up for the day's events and still enough time for a little look round.

It was great meeting everyone and a real privilege to be allowed to have a wander around the stadium.
On the way home I took the scenic route over the beautiful Brecon Beacons...

Catching brief glimpses of wild ponies on the way

and past the Brecon Reservoir...

This week I'm off to Cardiff City Football Stadium for another big Premier League Reading Stars with the National Literacy Trust... I can't wait...