Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Land of Christmas Socks (A Cautionary Tale)


When whiteness frosts your eyebrows,
And hair sprouts from your ear,
No one can guess just what you want,
At this time of year.

It’s woolly festive footwear,
Inside your Christmas box,
Yes! You have been transported,
To The Land of Christmas Socks!
Once you got a bicycle,
With combination locks,
But now you are consigned to…
The Land of Christmas Socks!



Your children get the video games,
Your missus, she gets chocs,
Abandon hope of toys for boys,
In The Land of Christmas Socks!

It’s cardigans and kipper ties,
In colours made for shocks,
And tartan slippers, nice and snug,
In The Land of Christmas Socks!

So get a taste for whiskey,
Or expensive cuckoo clocks,
Or fancy hats or poetry or sparkly party frocks.

Cos if you don’t, it’s ‘woe is you,’
It’s Christmas on the rocks!
When you’re forever banish-ed,
To The Land of Christmas Socks!


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A Little Calamari Anyone?


Although James Mason isn't how I imagine Nemo at all. I can't resist a giant squid. Squidophiles enjoy yourselves!

Friday, 9 November 2012

Dating Nemo

Obviously, reading the title, you might be forgiven for thinking we're going out for lunch with a clown fish! But no! I'm talking about Captain Nemo. We really need to reclaim the man's name, people.

When I was looking at writing about a young Nemo, I obviously had to try and establish his age in the books written by Jules Verne. Easy, right? Just read the books and even if it doesn't tell you his exact age, there'll be clues the reader can pick up. 

Actually, it proved a tad more tricky!



You see, somewhere along the line, someone fouled up. This is the problem. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was followed by Mysterious Island. In Mysterious Island, Nemo is an old man, at least sixty years of age, and he is dying. In Twenty Thousand Leagues, Nemo is at the height of his powers and seems much younger.



In Mysterious Island, a group of prisoners of war escape from imprisonment in a balloon in 1865. after some three years they meet Nemo who is old and dying. He tells them that at the age of sixty, he moored the Nautilus under the island and waited to die. He had been there for six years, since 1862!

And yet the events of Twenty Thousand Leagues begin in the year 1866. 

Nobody knows how such an error happened. Editors are blamed as Verne himself had a reputation as a stickler for detail but I'm not convinced! In some translations there are even bogus footnotes that purport to relate to the chronology issue but just lead the reader in a circle back to the place they were reading!



What we do know is that Nemo died on October 15th 1868 and he was well into his sixties.

Happily, these problems meant that I could be a little 'flexible' with Nemo's age; he might have been born in 1800 or possibly 1802. I needed Nemo to be a teenager or maybe an "old 12." This meant that the first story takes place in 1814, a great time in History when every war seemed to have the prefix 'Anglo.' Lots of scope for intrigue and action!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

School Libraries

The library in my school consisted of a few shelves of dusty books in a classroom that was usually locked.










The 'librarian' was a teacher who made sure nobody came in and moved the books around. That would cause mess and consequently, work.



When I started teaching, I met a number of inspiring school librarians. Proper ones who cared about books and children and the environment in which they encountered one another. As an author, I've encountered even more. 

Anyone who wants to go back to the dusty bookshelves and a teacher who is too busy to actually do such an important job needs their head examining. There's a lobby of parliament tomorrow. I can't get there but I can let my MP know what I think. So could you.

Monday, 15 October 2012

At Your Party Be A Smarty……


To celebrate the publication of Brotherhood of Shades, we have a guest post by its author Dawn Finch!


Now, before I start off talking about ghost stories I feel I should make a confession – I am a complete wet-blanket when it comes to horror. Those who know me are well aware that I am petrified by anything zombie related, and anything gory or ultra-violent is completely out of the question for me. However, despite being a complete sceptic, I love and am completely fascinated by ghosts and the paranormal and always have been and I do love a good spooky chill!
My grandfather started me off on this as he was a remarkable man who saw the world through very different eyes. He explained to me the true dark nature of faeries and how you should fear them and never cross or upset them, and how you should always stay alert and watch for the things that exist only out of the corner of your eye. He was a superb storyteller and I wanted more than anything to be able to emulate that.
The very first stories I wrote were faerie tales and ghost stories and I distinctly remember my teacher having a very earnest talk with me about how he was worried about my “macabre obsessions” and how I should try to write more “sunny” stories. I did write stories filled with sunshine to please him, but I made careful note of the delicious word “macabre” and used it in my notebooks with relish from that day on. I read everything I could about ghosts and unexplained phenomena, scouring the library shelves for books on subjects like Victorian spiritualism, possession and haunted houses and lapping up gothic authors like Edgar Allan Poe and MR James. When I was ten years old the rather fierce librarian in school would not let me borrow Bram Stoker’s Dracula as she said it was too “scary for my age” and so I hid it in different places around the library popping back in every day to read a bit more
In 1976 the BBC launched a show called Rentaghost; I remember how excited I was by the title and how my mind raced with the possibilities of an employment agency for ghosts. 


I did watch the show (I watched everything with ghosts in) but was slightly disappointed that the makers didn’t seize the opportunity to have a really spooky show with ghosts being sent out to tackle things that the living could not. I liked my ghosts with a lot more chain-clanking and spooky jumps and in Rentaghost they were more…well…spirited! I wrote a short story in one of my many notebooks about a far more serious agency of ghosts as a means of getting the story out of my head, and then I tucked it aside and forgot about it.

I continued to watch Rentaghost and loved it (despite it not really being spooky enough for me) as it was completely different from anything else I had ever seen and constantly came up with new and wonderfully crazy situations for the spectral staff of Mr Mumford’s agency. I’m still not sure how a panto horse managed to become a ghost (maybe a reader of this blog can enlighten me as to Dobbin’s origins) The series ran for a remarkable 58 episodes and continued for over eight years with Harold and Ethel Meaker taking over the agency from the second series. It was a charming and hilarious show and I have deeply fond memories it – even Mr Claypole! It had an impact on the nation too and lots more ghost stories and dramas for children followed. It seems that impact has lingered and now Studio Fox have bought the rights and Rentaghost is to be made into a Hollywood movie starring Ben Stiller as Fred Mumford. I wonder if he will have trouble with magical amulets that grant wishes or with the dragon in the cellar?  I had not considered how important Rentaghost was to me, or the impact it had on my writing, until many decades later.


Ghosts and the paranormal became hugely fashionable in the 80s, and 1980 saw the launch of the magazine The Unexplained. Suddenly the paranormal was everywhere and the public’s ghostly obsession hit the mainstream in a way not seen since the days of Edwardian spiritualism. Arthur C Clarke’s Mysterious World tv show launched later that year...and I never looked back. Now I no longer had to write those sunny stories and could indulge my passion for the world that existed out of the corner of my eye. My writing was full of life beyond death, evil faeries snatching babies, strolling spirits busy reliving past horrors, ectoplasm and macabre gothic hauntings.
Decades later, and with a child of my own who loved a spooky tale, the ghostly agency returned to my thoughts. I began to write it up as new short story, but that was not nearly long enough and so it grew and grew until it became a full novel – Brotherhood of Shades – and the agency now seems nicely established.
I hope that one day I will be able to elegantly raise a shiver the way my grandfather could, but in the meantime I will need to hone my skills and continue to pay very careful attention to anything that attempts to slip through my field of vision...

Dawn Finch is the author of the ultra-modern ghost story Brotherhood of Shades published in e-edition by Harper Collins on October 15th 2012
Isbn – 978-0-00-748741-7

Sunday, 30 September 2012

This is the Captain of Your Ship...


I've been thinking a lot about Captain Nemo recently. My next book for Bloomsbury is called "Monster Odyssey: The Eye of Neptune" and a young Nemo is its main character.

During school visits, I've mentioned the good Captain when I'm asked what my next book is about. Most children associate the name Nemo with a certain clown fish. But give them a second and they begin to remember. Nemo has a brief appearance in the recent film Journey2 The Mysterious Island or at least his submarine The Nautilus does. Many of them have seen the 1950's Disney film adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on a Sunday afternoon and he does crop up in cartoons from time to time.



I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a child and have to admit, I found it hard work. There are huge chunks of technical detail and Scientific speculation that just left me confused. Indeed, Verne did not write it for children and it was only really this country that decided to publish it for younger readers.



One thing that did shine out, though, was the Captain. He was such a mysterious character. A freedom fighter and a villain. A man who can sink battleships, drowning whole crews but who weeps over one death amongst his own men. A genius who has turned his back on the world and vowed never to set foot on land again, Nemo has great strength and stamina, he is an artist, a musician, a scientist and engineer. I've always imagined his education and what brought him to such a hatred of humanity.



Of course, Nemo is such a complex and interesting character that he has seeped into popular culture from film and animation through to graphic novels such as The Extraordinary League of Gentlemen. When Jules Verne wrote 20,000 Leagues, he based it on the most up to date scientific theories of the time and he was very meticulous. It was the Science Fiction of its time.


Which left me with two choices, either try to capture the Science Fiction element of the story which would require a modern retelling (think about it, a deisel sub would be 'cutting edge' two hundred years ago but not now) or to focus on the fantasy element included in the books: The city of Atlantis, giant squid, undersea caverns.



I've kind of fudged the issue by including the fantastical in the story but rooting the events in a real historical setting. (More about working out Nemo's date of birth another time).

And so, my next books begin to explore Nemo's development and progression towards freedom fighter, villain and genius against a backdrop of sea monsters, pirates and privateers, prototype submarines and lost worlds!

I can't wait!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A Book Birthday

Today was the day that Deathmire was published by Franklin Watts. It's a small book, a quick read and it has come to print so quickly that I was taken by surprise by today. I dedicated it to my son Frank and his friends and we had a small party.

Mrs M often expresses our feelings through the medium of pies and today was no exception. Deathmire is about mudlarks battling an evil water sprite in the Thames. So the most appropriate pie was...


A Mississippi Mud Pie! It was very rich and had several different kinds of chocolate in it!


The boys rose to the challenge, though. I think we all felt a little bit sick afterwards.

Deathmire is a short book but I'm still very proud of it. I wasn't a keen reader in my late primary/ early secondary years but I think if a book like Deathmire and the others in the Edge series had been out, I might have been a little more enthusiastic. I hope it captures many imaginations up and down the country!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Waterstones changes store guidance on events

It was reported in the Bookseller that Waterstones have a new policy on author visits. They say they are ‘moving away from open-ended, handselling events and asking shops to focus on well-rounded event programmes that are more engaging in the long term.' It seems they want store managers to focus on events that draw readers, unless you are a local author who is launching a book or the kind of author who draws a crowd.



The news has been met with some dismay by self-published authors who all say that they’ve sold hundreds of their books in stores and never had a complaint.


In some ways, I quite like the new policy. I’ve done quite a few Waterstones signings and have always felt uncomfortable handselling my books. Personally, I hate it when someone approaches me in ANY kind of shop.



My pitch is always very low-key. I will approach people scanning the 9-12 shelves, tell them a little about my book, leave a postcard and go and sit down again. Sometimes, when it’s clear they aren’t looking for the kind of book I write, I’ll recommend something entirely different.


I’ve never had a complaint either.


But I don’t know if people have felt pressured.


I don’t know if my approach is unwelcome.


I do know that my books are well written, well edited, well designed, and popular with the children they are aimed at and so I can approach people with confidence.


There is a certain single-mindedness, an obsession that all authors have. You need it to write tens of thousands of words and string them into a cracking story. Sometimes that spills over into rampant self-promotion. You know how it feels, you friend someone on facebook because they’re an author and suddenly you’re swamped by wall posts about their latest book, links to their website, links to the latest reviews.


As a children’s author, I will do events. I love them. I’ll team up with local independent booksellers, with Waterstones and we’ll entertain, educate and sell lots of books. Everyone’s happy. In bookshops, I’ll try to turn the signing into an event, bring a band in or have my good friend Simon South performing magic tricks by my side.


I’m not sure how that works for adult writers – you may have written a gripping tale of espionage and betrayal set in Napoleonic France but how do you convey that into an event? A historical talk? Could be hard to pull the punters in. A writer’s workshop? Not all readers want to be writers and have they heard of you? Catch 22 methinks.


So I’m left confused as usual. My heart goes out to those authors self-published or otherwise who may be left high and dry by this. On the other hand, bring on the well-rounded events. I’ll lap ‘em up! I’m off to Waterstones Birkenhead now to run a writing workshop for children. There might be four children there, there might be twenty or none but it builds a local fan base and the staff there are lovely too!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A Good Telling Off!

Last weekend I went to The Festival at the Edge (FatE to it's friends). For those not in the know, FatE is a storytelling festival. I was stunned by the range and skill of the performers there. And it made me think about the difference between writing a story and telling it. It struck me that the 'Show not Tell' rule isn't what characterises the difference here. Skilled storytellers will create an image in your mind by showing you in just the same way as a writer would. But the performance of the story, the interaction with the audience is what makes it different. So different. Each time, the story changes and adapts to the listeners in a way that frozen words can't. I suppose it's to do with the physicality of the telling too.


One of the performers was Chirine El Ansary. 



Chirine is an Egyptian storyteller and she was telling tales from the Thousand and One Nights. I've read the tales (or some of them, there are different, vast collections) and, as I've said before, they were in-part, the inspiration for The Bonehill Curse but to hear the Fisherman and the Genie told and brought to life was a rare treat.

I've blogged before about the tension between readings and telling stories at events but this weekend has convinced me that what I want to do is find tales that lend themselves to my events and tell them. It was a great weekend. I'd recommend Festival at the Edge! Great fun!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Comics

Superheroes are big business these days. It seems that every other blockbuster film is about superheroes. Graphic novels are hugely popular. I often meet people who recommend this graphic novel or that magazine. I've lost touch now but I grew up reading comics.

I've detailed my on-off relationship with reading in the past but I always carried on reading Marvel comics. I wasn't a DC fan. DC when I was reading seemed hackneyed and stereotyped. I loved Iron Man and eventually collected all the back issues including when he appeared in Tales of Suspense in the 1960's.



I used to like the more horror-based titles such as Ghost rider, Manthing and Man-Wolf. I can remember being petrified after buying two comics. Not because they were the latest issues of Werewolf By Night or Dracula but because I knew that my Mum would find out I'd spent a whole 24p on 'horror comics' as she called them. 
I became a collector, focusing on specific titles but building up other lines too. I ended up with thousands of comics. They filled my wardrobes, under my bed and covered my bookshelves. Mum needn't have worried, I sold most of them for a handsome profit. I bought all the new X-men comics first time round for 9p and sold them for £15 each (I never look to see what they're worth now!)

And they inspired me thirty-plus years on:



Saturday, 7 July 2012

Doom Rider



Two confessions: I've met David Gatward on a few occassions and found him to be a tolerably decent chap and Hodder sent me a proof copy to read, which was very kind of them. So what is the book about?

"Seth Crow has lived a thousand lives, and in each one he's been murdered before he turns thirteen. And now he's being hunted again. But this time it's different ...

Enter Lily, who tells him of his fate: Seth is CONQUEST. The first of the four riders of the Apocalypse. And people want him dead, before he can fulfil his destiny.
Seth's only hope lies in finding the other riders - Strife, Famine and Death. Together the fate of the world will be in their hands.
The Apocalypse is coming. And the only ones who can save the world, hold the power to destroy it."

I really enjoyed this book. It's pacy and Seth immediately got my sympathy. He's edgy but as you read, it becomes obvious why. I loved the world Gatward painted. A world not far from this one where people put their faith in false prophets and it's impossible to distinguish who are the real ones! A world of chaos and political manipulation. And yet we still see something worth saving through the loyalty and friendship of the characters.

There are moments of real sorrow for Seth and some great horror scenes too.

What I loved most of all, though, were the horses. A horseman of the apolcalypse has to have a horse right? And these monstrous bruisers are not of the My Little Pony mould. They're brilliant skull-crushing monsters that any doom-merchant would be proud to ride!


Doom Rider is an action-packed and thought-provoking adventure that will appeal to fans of The Dead, The Dark and The Damned. Go out and buy it now while you're waiting for my next book.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bonehill Fragments




It's been a long time since I posted here. Apologies! I've been mad busy charging up and down the country with Bloomsbury, trying to finish the manuscript of my fourth book, interacting with my family and all manner of busy stuff.

Anyway. Did I mention the vampires in The Bonehill Curse? I didn't? Well, I am now. They don't dominate the book and they are vampires as I like them to be; ugly, vicious and hungry. I also like to think that the setting for them is unusual (I'll not spoil the book) and I'm quite pleased at the way they pop-up.

My first encounter with a vampire was as a small child catching a glimpse of a programme about them. It was an extract from the 1922 film Nosferatu. I don't know if it was the shadows, the sheer brute-ugliness of the vampire or the strange other-worldliness about the way he moved but I was frightened witless by it.

I went on to enjoy all the Hammer vampires, Christopher Lee's Dracula of course and I remember Count Yorga with fondness. I've watched other more modern vampire films between my fingers but Nosferatu lingers...


Friday, 6 April 2012

Magic Carpet Ride

I always wished I had a magic carpet when I was a child. I do a bit now, too. It would be amazing to fly everywhere and anywhere on a whim. For nothing. And yet there's something flimsy and slightly dangerous about a flying carpet too!

The programmes I talked about in my last post featured flying carpets quite heavily and I can remember distinctly trying to get the hearth rug to levitate in a similar fashion. It never happened.

The most familiar flying carpet these days is probably the one from Disney's Aladdin. My children loved this film and the spin-offs too. I had a few issues with it that aren't worth airing here and now. The magic carpet in these films was an actual character. Comical, mischievous, the carpet would cause all kinds of chaos but often saved its master in the nick of time.



In Russian folklore, Baba Yaga supplies Ivan the Fool with a flying carpet.

Solomon was said to have a flying carpet, although it wasn't the carpet that did the flying really. In truth, it was Solomon's control over the winds that lifted the carpet. In the stories, he flew wherever he pleased, taking a huge entourage with him, even his throne!

But Solomon became proud and boastful so God took his power over the winds away midflight and the carpet plummeted to earth, spilling many thousands to their doom. Only a last-minute repentance saved Solomon.

Reading this story, I shuddered at the idea of falling from such a height. As I say, the idea of a flying carpet is exciting but also frightening. Your grip on it would be so tenuous, and the idea of a few centimetres of fabric between you an the ground makes me shiver.


And so the carpet in Th Bonehill Curse is some kind of hybrid. Mischievous, but fatally so. It has a mind of its own and is slightly psychotic. Ragged and torn, black and battered, it's not the kind of carpet you trust with your life. I wouldn't trust it if it were laid out in front of my living room fire!

And the tune that haunted my mind and ears whilst writing this? Enjoy!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

I Dream of Genies

I have a shameful confession to make... when I was a young, impressionable boy, I had a bit of a crush on the genie out of I Dream of Jeannie. Hey! Stop sniggering at the back there! I was only 10 or 11 maybe, and I never really liked the cartoon version! It was a simple tale of an astronaut who falls in love with a two thousand year old genie. What larks!


There were genies all over the place in my dim and distant youth. I seem to recall a children's TV series called Pardon My Genie, too. It was all about a lowly shop assistant who chances upon a genie. Again... what larks!


And then there was Shazzan! And The Arabian Knights! What larks again!



So my childhood was littered with generally benign but inept genies. It wasn't until much later and I read The Thousand and One Nights that I realised just how nasty genies could be. Or rather just how bad people's wishes could be! One final TV encounter a decade or more ago left me with the image of John Leguizamo's Lamp Genie:


Fewer larks! More adventure! And so, the genie in the Bonehill Curse turned out a little less benign and certainly not inept! He's a victim, to a degree and hell-bent on revenge!

I never watched any of the Wishmaster films because as you know, I'm a wuss when it comes to horror! And don't get me started on Disney's Aladdin which I sat through I don't know how many times with my darling children! I'll be talking about flying carpets next time!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bonehill Roots #1

It's just over a month until The Bonehill Curse comes out and I'm very excited! Plans for launch events are afoot and I'm left pondering what I'll say at school events. People like to know what influences brought the story to mind. Often I'm unsure. With my previous two books, many strands came together to be woven into thise particular story and Bonehill is no different. So it's quite fun to delve into my past and ask my inner ten year-old, "What excited you at this age?"

Now, I have to confess that I wasn't reading a great deal at this age (long story, ask me and I'll bore you with it). But I do remember seeing this at the cinema AND reading the (very thin) book of the film too:



I loved Ray Harryhausen's jerky monsters in the film. They blew me away as a young boy and Tom Baker made a superb villain! To a young boy sitting in a fleapit cinema in Birkenhead, the settings seemed so exotic. Another world, really. I've tried to bring some of this world into grimy, Victorian streets of Mortlock's London.


This is worth a quick watch even if it's just for the mad voiceover!

And then there's the whole 'genie thing.' But I'll save that for next time!

Friday, 9 March 2012

An Interesting Question!

On a high school visit last week, I was asked an interesting question. It went something like this.
Are children's authors competitive with each other?
It was quite gratifying to be able to reply with a negative. To my mind, it's quite a supportive relationship that we have. Not just socially, either. If someone has read Mortlock and the Demon Collector and are waiting with baited breath for The Bonehill Curse, then what better way to fill that aching void with something in the same genre? A little Chris Priestley, perhaps or something by Curtis Jobling? Maybe one of Barry Hutchinson's creepy Invisible Fiends or an offering from Tommy Donbavand?



Or maybe Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress? This is the start of a new series by Sarwat Chadda and having read it in one sitting, I can thoroughly recommend it. There are demons and ancient gods. There's action galore and a hero so recogniseable and ordinary (to begin with) that you're cheering him on from the start!

Mr Chadda always writes a breat-taking action scene and in Savage Fortress, he excels but the seeds are sown for some scary and fascinating character development too. I suggest you have a go at Ash Mistry. It'll put you in the mood for some adventure with an Eastern, exotic tinge... The Bonehill Curse, perhaps!

Website here: http://ashmistry.com/books

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Bonehill Curse

The Bonehill Curse comes out in May which is still quite a way off. So I haven't talked much about it yet. It seems so distant. Or it did...

This morning I received the Bonehill Curse uncorrected proofs. These are a kind of 'rough copy' that gets sent to booksellers and reviewers. And here they are!



It's sooo exciting! More details to come!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

To Read or Not To Read?

I always remember hearing Alan Bennett saying that there's a difference between writing and being a writer. Being a writer is fun, he says and involves eating cake at WI meetings, being smiled at and talking about yourself. Writing is the hard bit.

For me, events and school visits are one of the best bits about 'being a writer.' So I'm always trying to keep my talks fresh and interesting. One of the things that I do find problematic is the reading. It's not my short-sightedness or any difficulty sounding out letters. At an event recently, I declared to the audience that I didn't do readings so much because that was their job. And I meant it. I think.

Recently, I went to a reading by a famous author and faithfully bought his book. When I came to the passage he read, I found it spoiled my enjoyment of that particular passage and of course, it was a good one. He wouldn't have chosen to read it aloud otherwise.


My stories have their roots in traditional songs and folk tales. More and more, I find myself telling the stories that inspired me. And before I get a telling-off from my publisher, I do talk about my books too!

So do you like to hear an author read at an event?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Woman In Black and Other Stories

I recently re-read The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. It’s a brilliant story, cleverly delivered in a voice that could have easily been M R James or one of the other Masters. I’m waiting for the new film version to come out in February and hoping it does it justice.

But it did remind me of just how big an influence those short stories of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were on me. One story I often mention at events is The Clock by WF Harvey.

 Written in 1928, The Clock is a superb example of why I love stories set in a less technical age. The whole story hinges on clockwork. The fact that a clock has wound down when it shouldn’t have. I love the way Harvey leaves so much to our imaginations. We never know what it is the heroine has encountered, we never see it, we only hear it. It is so creepy because we are left to fill in the gaps and we can all scare ourselves more easily than anyone else can.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Writing Resolutions

It's another New Year so here are my writing resolutions:

1) Facebook and Twitter are great fun and the people I meet there are brilliant but it is not writing. I will be spending more time exploring my twisted imagination than social networking. Write more witter less...

2) I could well be wrong but I can't escape the nagging feeling that tweaking your Amazon profile, joining Linked-in, changing the colour scheme on your website is no substitute for actually visiting schools and talking to children, teachers and librarians. So I'll be starting a major school visit offensive!

3) I also need to tweak my Amazon profile and do something about my website too...

4) I'm going to get out more. Literally. The last 12 months has seen a marked decline in my running time and I reckon that I have my best ideas when I'm out in the open.

So, all achieveable, not too much. What re your resolutions?