So that was October - almost!

So that was October - almost!

I know it’s been ages since I last wrote, and everyone, includng Puffin have been very patient with me - but this has been a busy month. For a start I had to finish Danger Zone Book Two which was supposed to be handed in by 15th September - they’ve got this in writing so it’s a very serious deadline - did you know a writer usually have to hand in their finished work a year before publication? Well, I’ve got it down to 9 months and even that’s a squeeze for me. Max Gordon’s adventures in Danger Zone 2, became a bit of a headache because of all the research I had to do - including the creation of a special code for Max to crack. And I’m not that great with numbers so I can now explain to everyone why I have grey hair! But of course, if I’m honest, I started going grey hair in my late teens - not enough vitamins apparently.

And then the computer fizzled, crackled and went splut. It decided to destroy everything just as I’d handed in the book, thank goodness it didn’t happen a week earlier. So now I have almost white hair. It was a very stressful time because my research ran into hundreds of pages covering half a dozen different subjects. Everything from astronomy to snowboarding to Zulu dancing. That last bit is a lie. There are no Zulus in Danger Zone 2 and there’s certainly no dancing but there’s a lot of action as Max survives a terrifying avalanche, witnesses an assasination attempt and is drawn into a complex plot which sees him wanted for murder. I hope everyone will enjoy it - should I ever get to finish all the edits and rewriting I have to do. It’s a long book - 400 pages - and some people think it’s too long for readers. I disagree but we’ll have to see what happens. Trouble is the hairy germ that spiked my computer - despite all my precautions with safeguards - also wriggled its way into my huge back up hard drive that I keep separately. It’s a mangled mess in there. Looks just like a lettuce leaf after the slugs have chomped their way through. So trying to double check everything is a bit of a nightmare.

Time has not been on my side. I also went along with Meg Rossoff and Helen Cooper to the Youth Libraries Group for their big get-together in Hertfordshire where Helen received her Kate Greenaway medal for outstanding illustration in a children’s book, and Meg gave a great acceptance speech for her Carnegie Medal award.

I noshed mightily well that night and talked and talked to Beverly Naidoo about Africa, where we’ve both lived - and to Alison, a librarian from Lancashire, who hasn’t lived in Africa, but says Lancashire can get a bit wild. I know, I used to live there. Anyway she’s promised to invite me next June to their book fair.

Next day it was my turn on stage and I felt like a standup comic without any good jokes to tell (mainly because librarians don’t really appreciate writers for Young Readers telling rude jokes - which are really the only ones I know) so I did a bit of a jig and told everyone how, when I was a teenager, I worked as a traffic cop for a while and had to direct more than a dozen streams of traffic during rush hour at a huge city intersection. Power at my fingertips. No wonder I wanted to rule the world when I grew up - whenever that might be. Anyway, the lights were bright, the audience very kind and no one threw any rotten fruit - or if they did it never got as far as me.

Then, back home, final chapters of the book to get on with - but then off to Cheltenham Book Fair for another talk. This time I was on stage with another author and a really nice guy - Steve Voake - we got on very well together. He introduced me to a big beard with a man hiding behind it - Philip Ardagh, who’s a very witty man, and who, like Steve, is a well-known and successful author. It would have been nice to have spent more time with them. They don’t let writers out much y’know.

More food! Are there any skinny writers out there? Another dinner with the Puffin flock and I met Kevin Brookes - who looks as cool in real life as he does in his photos - and I talked for a long time to Morris Gleitzman, who’s very funny, and had me laughing all night.

Finally, last week, I had to go back to the Pyrenees and Biarritz to double check on some of my locations for Max’s adventure in Book Two - especially a chateau I had discovered last year, where Max uncovers clues to the secret code. I’m so pleased I did return because I hadn’t taken enough photographs last year and had forgotten the shape of one of the weird statues - a huge snake - that the Chateau has sclulptured into one of its walls. The chateau is a fascinating place and the location will be revealed in the book. And if you’re into snowboarding or surfing then the mountains and coastline down there are great.

OK. Better go now. My editor has just sent my manuscript back with a thousand scratchy marks on the pages which she insists is her handwriting.

I’m going to try and keep the blog going with any bits and pieces that I think might interest you as time goes by. Oh yes! Almost forgot. The Italian and Dutch editions of The Devil’s Breath have just been published. Different cover on the Dutch edition which I shall try and scan in to show you - when I find a scanner. The Dutch edition is called Die Duivels Hette Adem and the Italian edition translates as Il Respiro del Diavolo. And the Italians have put together a website:

Read the blog and learn Italian!

So that was October - almost!