Thursday, 12 October 2017

Research for the BIG book


The big book I'm working on at the moment mixes fiction with non-fiction. All fiction contains some elements of truth but using historical people, places and events in my story has meant that I have had to do far more research than I've ever done before.

The story focuses on the life of a certain pirate captain - a notorious man that captured lots of ships (I will go into more detail about him at another time). Although I've seen pirate ships on the television and have read about them in books, it was still hard to imagine what it would be like to actually stand of the deck of one of these tall ships?


How big were they? Books tell you the measurements of the ships but it's still hard to actually visualise it yourself. A trip to Bristol helped sort that out...

What does it feel like to look down from the rigging at the very top?

An important member of a ships crew was the doctor. I wondered what sort of equipment a doctor would have had on those days. If you imagine rows of shiny medical instruments laid out then you'd be wrong. A trip to the maritime museum helped with that - and lots of other things too.
As you can see from this doctor's bag, the main tool is a saw. Ouch!
Some of the things I have needed to find out weren't as exciting as ships or as interesting as a bag of doctor's tools... I wanted to know what the inside on an old farmhouse would look like. A very short scene in my story is set inside a house. I've also researched hats and clothes... If you want your character to sound believable you need to know a lot about them. What did they wear? What did they eat? How did they light the rooms in their houses? Lamps, candles or something else.

Dice play an important part of my story too - so I had to find out about those. I will tell you more later... on with the book.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

I Am Writing #AmWriting

Today I #AmWriting ... it's what you do when you're a writer. You write. Some days are great and some days are not so great. Some days the words flow gently like a stream. Some days they more like a torrential river and it's hard to stop the words coming.

These are the good days...

Other days the words get trapped and nothing moves at all. You feel that your mind is a stagnant pond full of useless thoughts and ideas.

Needless to say, these are bad days...

Today is a good day. The words are flowing nicely. I can see where the story is going. Days like this make you feel happy. They make you feel that you really are a writer and that you will get to the end of the book you are working on.

Right now I'm sat at the table with the French doors wide open beside me. The sun is shining in. Birds are singing. 

The book I am working on is the biggest thing I've ever tackled. It's exciting and frightening in equal measures. I'm mixing fact with fantasy - an interesting thing to do as I keep having to stop to do just a little bit more research before I can continue. Sometimes you have to get things straight in your head because you want things to be just right...

So what sort of lights did they have in those days? Did they have lamps or did they only have candles and flaming torches? They had lamps... of course they had lamps. Lamps of one kind or another had been in existence for many years... Glad that's sorted. But hang on... would my character and his family have had lamps? No - looks like were back to candles again.  

"The boy carefully picked up the flickering candle and slowly made his way towards the door."

Phew... glad that's all sorted out. I can carry on with the rest of the story now. 

"Carefully picking up the candle, the boy slowly made his way to the door."
No...

"He picked up the candle and headed..." NO!

"After picking up..." NO! NO!!

"The candle flickered on the shelf by the door as the boy made his way towards it." NO! NO!! NO!!!

"The boy carefully picked up the flickering candle and slowly made his way towards the door."

There... That's it. DONE!

Now I just need to remember why the boy was even going to the door in the first place. If there was someone there they're bound to have gone by now. 

*sigh*

And today's a good day...

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... 

Friday, 24 February 2017

World Book Day (World Book Week)

Next Thursday is World Book Day and I will be spending the week visiting schools around the country to join in with the celebrations...

Here's a HUGE HELLO to everyone at Light Oaks Junior School in Salford and Horspath CE Primary School in Oxford - looking froward to meeting you all... and I can't wait to see all my old friends at Eveswell Primary School in Newport. 

It's going to be a busy, fun week and I will be writing more about it right here as the week goes on.

Monday, 6 February 2017

A Quick Hello To,,,

...Everyone at St Ignatius Primary School - I'm really looking forward to meeting you all on Tuesday for lots of story fun.

And a huge hello to everyone at Sacred Heart Primary School too - can't wait to see you and your amazing school library.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Visiting Schools

As an author I spend most of my working time sat on my own with my laptop or my notebook writing. Sometimes I'm working on very short stories for young readers and at other times I'm working on something bigger... right now I'm doing a mixture of both. As well as writing I love going out and about to visit schools and libraries so that I can tell stories and get people excited about books, reading and writing. 

Last week I visited my first school of 2017 - Heygreen Primary School in Liverpool. I was made to feel really welcome and had a wonderful time sharing stories and talking about what I do. Working together with Key Stage 2 we came up with some great story ideas... I hope you have fun finishing them off. 

Click here to see a picture of the day on Twitter...

This week I will be visiting Holy Trinity C E Primary School in Bury so here's a HUGE HELLO to everyone there... See you all soon.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Granny At The Park - Reading Champions

I've been busy working on some very short stories with Franklin Watts recently to encourage and help very young children with their independent reading. The first of these is Granny At The Park, illustrated by Jan Smith. I've only seen the rough inside artwork so far but have just spotted the colour cover on Amazon so thought I'd share it here with you. It's fun and a bit challenging working on very short stories (there's only six words on each page) and they need really lively artwork to bring them to life. I think that Jan Smith has done a wonderful job of showing Granny having fun at the park as she causes more and more embarrassment for her Grandson. 

If you want to find out more about the illustrator, Jan Smith you can visit her website here.

Right now I'm busy working on more ideas...

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Late Happy New Year

It's hard to believe we are already ten days into 2017. Christmas really seemed to fly by this year and I've been busy writing since then. At the moment I'm working on lots of little story ideas for young readers but will soon be getting back to my big book. 

Before Christmas we had a couple of days in London, though we didn't have a lot of time to look round as our time was taken up with other things... We set of early in the morning and I drove us down to Watford to go on the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio tour. If you've never been before it's well worth a visit... make sure you give yourself plenty of time though as there is lots to see. Going at Christmas, the Hogwarts Great Hall (and Hogwarts itself) all had a Christmas theme which made it that bit more special. 
The Hall had Christmas decorations and even Christmas cakes on the tables...
 
After spending a few hours at the Warner Bros. Studio we were back in the car and heading down towards our hotel in London. We arrived just in time to grab a bite to eat before it was time to go to bed... we had to be up early the next morning. 

After a delicious cooked breakfast we headed down to the underground and caught a tube train into the centre of London. We just had enough time to call into the British Museum to take a look at the ancient Egyptian artifacts - mummies, statues and lots more. 

It would be easy to spend the whole day in the museum as there's much to see but we didn't have a lot of time... we had to get to the Palace Theatre in time for the first part of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.

The story is in two parts; with each play being just over 2 and a half hours long - with short interval half way through and then a couple of hours gap in between the two so you have time to go out and get something to eat. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child is set after the films so Harry is grown up... and that's all I'm going to tell you (I don't want to spoil it). 
We didn't really know what to expect from the plays but I can tell you that they were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed them. I would certainly recommend them to anyone. The acting was excellent and the effect were brilliant. 

Between the two plays we had time to grab a burger and have a little wander round to stretch our legs... it was great to see London all decorated for Christmas.
We had a lovely Christmas and hope you did too... it's back to work now and I'm on with the writing. Looking forward to a really good year with lots of writing and lots of school visits. 

If you would like me to come and visit you school or library - please don't hesitate to get in touch.