Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Big Issue, Ladies

Something Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of know, that one, said in the paper the other day struck a chord with me. Like my late friend Siobhan Dowd, he'd written a book with a central character who has Asperger's Syndrome – which, to quote Siobhan delightful term, is "like having a brain that works on a different operating system from other people's". Haddon said he wished he hadn't allowed his publishers to put the word "Asperger's" on the cover, because it then became an 'issue book', and he found himself constantly protesting "it's not really about Asperger's, it's about difference. It's about acceptance of others. It's about that sidelong, Martian view of the world." (Would it have made any difference to people's perception of Curious Incident if the word 'Asperger's' hadn't been put on the cover? Personally, I doubt it. I think maybe Haddon should trust his readers a bit more to 'get it.')

Now, the last thing in the world I want to write is "issue" books. Perish the thought! The very term conjures up the image of an angry, frustrated teacher with greasy hair haranguing their class to "PAY ATTENTION NOW,  while I tell you something IMPORTANT, OK?". Argh; heaven save us from Worthy Folk Imparting Knowledge! I just want to tell a cracking good story.

HOWEVER I also think this: you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't. Not highlighting 'issues' has problems of its own.

I was recently at a publishing party and I mentioned to a well-known (male) author who shall remain nameless that I tackle some pretty big issues in my books, and he quipped, 'what? Like choosing which dress to wear?' Something tells me this author hasn't actually read any of my books; he's making assumptions based on the undeniable girliness of the covers.

So here, just for fun, I've mocked up some alternative covers for some of my titles – just in case you were wondering if my books really were about anything else besides choosing a frock:

OK! That's that cleared up, then! Any questions, see me at the end of class.

Incidentally, speaking of Siobhan Dowd: as it's Easter and you might be wondering what to do, I may as well remind you that the stage play of her book-that-features-someone-with-Asperger's-but-isn't-'about'-Asperger's, The London Eye Mystery, brilliantly adapted for the stage by Carl Miller, is on in London NOW – but be quick! It closes on April 18th.You can read Culture Witch's piece about it here, and Bookwitch's piece, which I'm linking in spite of the fact that it includes an extremely unflattering picture of me, here. Below is a picture I took at the (belated) launch party, of Siobhan's sister Oona (mother of the nephew who inspired the book!) with actors John Cockerill (Ted) and Samantha Adams (Aunt Gloria):
Oh, and another "incidentally": for reasons I can't divulge without giving the plot away, Toonhead is the perfect read for Easter. We're in for a cold, wet one, so curl up in front of the fire with a nice Fair Trade chocolate egg (see what I did there? Issues!) and read this.

And finally...

Jinx update! If you're a fan of the program, do join the Jinx Facebook fan page! We're hoping there might be a second series.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Happy New Year!

And what an exciting year it's going to be. So many of my friends have wonderful things happening, I decided I'd have to blog about them!

I'll start with my two FIRST-TIME AUTHORS!! Candy Gourlay and Keren David.

Candy you will know about by now; very possibly you have been following her excellent blog for longer than you have mine. Given that the blog's title is Notes From The Slush-Pile, she may need to change it; the slush-pile, in case you didn't know, is the heap of unsolicited and not-yet-read manuscripts that grows on publishers' and agents' desks. And Candy's work will no longer be sitting in any slush-pile; her first book, Tall Story (David Fickling Books) is to be published in June (NB: this is not the actual cover: it is a temporary design by Candy herself).

I've read it, and it is an absolutely captivating and original tale, both funny and touching. The story is alternately narrated by Andi, in London, and her giant (yes, really!) brother Bernardo, in the Philippines (where Candy herself originates from), but on his way to join her in London. You're going to love it.

Keren David is another brilliant writer (as well as star blogger: puts me to shame!) and her book When I Was Joe, (Frances Lincoln) out now(ish: you may have to order it) is already creating a buzz among readers. It's about a 14-year-old boy who has to go into police protection after he witnesses a stabbing. He assumes a new identity...but all does not go smoothly, and he is in danger. It's a hard-hitting novel that I wouldn't advise for anyone under 12 – this couldn't be more far removed from my own stories! – but if you've outgrown my stuff anyway, then read this.

Next up, two more fabulously talented writers who have feature film adaptations of their books coming out this year: Cressida Cowell and Sally Nicholls.

Cressida's series of Dragon books have been making readers laugh out loud for a long time, and now her work is transferred to the screen in How To Train Your Dragon, which opens in March. Here's a still from it, which I think is lovely; look at that CUTE dragon!

To be honest, I am slightly blinded by the shimmer coming off Cressida right now, and not just because every time I see her, she out-blings me (see evidence of out-blinging below); I mean, this film is BIG HOLLYWOOD stuff. It's Dreamworks, for heaven's sake! Yes, THAT Dreamworks, the Steven Spielberg one, that brought you Shrek! Ha! Like she need publicity from me. I'm just trying to bathe in the reflected glory.

Sally Nicholls is going to have an amazing year; not only is she getting married, but her first novel Ways to Live Forever is being made into a film. If you don't know the book, and I tell you it's about a boy who's dying of leukemia, you might think 'argh! Depressing!' But you'd be very, very wrong; Sam is a funny and engaging character. Yes, of course there's sadness too, but in that really good tear-jerky way, not a weighing-you-down-with-grief way.
I think the film's going to be good as well: it's crammed with really good actors like Emilia Fox and Ben Chaplin and director Gustavo Ron has stayed faithful to the book and set it in Newcastle. Get your hankies ready. No release date as yet, but will definitely be this year; will keep you posted!

One of the friends I want to mention here is sadly no longer around. My lovely friend Siobhan Dowd died of cancer in 2007, so has missed seeing her novel The London Eye Mystery being made into a stage play, at the Unicorn Theatre, London (6th March - 18th April).

She would be thrilled. I'm looking forward to seeing it; absolutely loved the book, and am intrigued to see how the London Eye itself will be realised on the stage.

Finally, but no less excitingly, I have news of forthcoming books by my friends Jo Cotterill and Lee Weatherly. I have lots of friends with new books coming out, but these two stand out because they are new directions for both.

Despite the demands of a full-time job (until very recently) and a small child (still!), Jo Cotterill (nee Kenrick) is already racing ahead with her new romance series for 10-13s, Sweet Hearts (Random House). The first story, Star Crossed, comes out in June. I'm particularly curious about this one, because as with my own Cupid Cakes (Lulu Baker), it has a plot centred on a Shakespearean school play – in this case, appropriately, Romeo & Juliet. Jo used to be an actress, so she has a wealth of experience to bring to this theme! Other stories in the series of six will feature different characters and themes.

Writing under the name of LA Weatherly, Lee (who has also published under the names of Titania Woods and Kitty Wells) has new trilogy coming out, starting with Angel (Usborne) in October; it is set to do for angels what Twilight did for vampires. Need I say more?! Lee is a superb writer (um...dare I say it? Yes I will: better than Stephanie Meyer) and I'm excited to see what she does with this theme. Again, it's aimed at a slightly older age group than my own books. I don't have a cover to show you, so here instead is a rather silly picture of me with Lee (and that's Candy Gourlay on the left):

Books, films, a play...what a lot to look forward to! Happy new year.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Yule Blog
(saving the best bit till the end, so DON'T MISS IT! Scroll down...)

I was looking for a nice Christmassy picture to put here, and came across this, which made me giggle: I especially like the 'too dumb to win an award' sticker. Looks like a fun stocking-filler.
So, what have I been up to? Well, I've been going to the dentist a lot.

 I could make a career out of going to the dentist. By the way, the above drawing lives on the wall in my house, along with half a dozen other vintage artworks by MOI. They are drawings I did for a magazine called Punch; this one is from a column by the late Miles Kington called "Let's Parler Franglais" – which is why I put in a caption in Franglais, a language he devised that could be understood by almost anyone who failed GCSE French (trivia: Kington was invited to join the Monty Python team, but declined).

Occasionally I have been allowed out of the dentist's chair long enough to go home, jot a few barely intelligible sentences on my computer, consume baby food and even go to other places like Winchester and Oxford. Because of my fragile dental state, my dentist arranged for me to be looked after by a tall bearded person whenever I ventured too far. It was very nice of said bearded personage (henceforth 'Beardy') to provide this service, as he was paid only in Chunky Kit-Kats (hmm...I wonder if my dentist is looking forward to some more fillings...?)


 OK, some of you are smart enough not to be fooled by the above and will recognise recent winner of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, Philip Ardagh, seen above at the SCBWI conference in Winchester, where I was a guest author (my first ever grown-up talk! To grown-ups!) and he was the hilarious after-dinner speaker. Lots of other authors were there too, including Meg Rosoff, who revealed that when she first became a 'children's author', someone told her that she would now have to 'put on a big necklace and go round schools'.  
The other picture featuring Beardy was taken at the Kids' Lit Quiz National Final in Oxford, where there were even more authors, among them Mary Hoffman, Alan Gibbons, Julia Golding...oh, far too many of us than it is wise to cram into one room (find out more here), and Harry Enfield. The kids were a very brainy lot indeed, and it was a close-run thing; congrats to the kids of Wheatley Park School, who won.

One of the teams in the final was from Cockermouth in Cumbria, which was recently in the news because of the terrible flooding there. Another fellow author, Chris Priestley, has been persuading lots of us to contribute signed copies of our books, so that we can do our little bit to help replenish damaged library stocks in the area. He was hoping to get the whole thing done in time for Christmas, but the flood was very inconsiderate and didn't schedule its arrival well enough in advance to make this possible. But the good news is that Chris' initiative IS going to happen – in the New Year. And possibly – though I don't want to jinx it – a very well-known TV show will get involved in the appeal as this space. Meanwhile, a very happy Christmas to all of you in the flood-stricken area, and I do hope that life gets back to 'normal' for you soon.

Last, but by no means least! My friend Candy Gourlay is going to fill a new website with recommendations for really special independent booksellers – because she is worried. 'With only a few big players left in the bookselling market - Waterstones and the supermarkets,'  says Candy, 'our reading culture which is enriched by diversity and choice is under threat.'
So: here is my contribution: 
Readers of past blog posts will not be surprised to learn that my choice is the wonderful Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. It's still only a baby – not even two yet – but is blessed with the knowledge and startling charisma of one far older. This is because it is run by two guys – Tim West and Simon Key – who have 35 years of book selling experience between them (that's Simon in the picture, with Horrid Henry). They set up shop after the last chain bookshop in Wood Green – where they worked – closed down. A brave thing to do, but the passion and dedication they bring to what they do is second to none. They wanted to offer:
 'The kind of bookshop that we’d like to visit ourselves...with a thoughtful range of titles, friendly knowledgeable staff and some cracking gems that surprise and excite us'. 
Exactly what I look for in a bookshop! They also have a very amusing blog.

It is a general bookshop, not a specialist children's one, yet their calendar of events (of all kinds as well as children's) and their involvement with local schools is truly impressive. Here are Simon's own very personal current favourite children's books (at this particular moment in time):

'The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - A simple gorgeously illustrated picture book that I loved as a child and that is a clear favourite with my own daughter. She loves pointing at all the bad things the caterpillar eats before he gets a stomach ache.

'Olga Da Polga by Michael Bond - This in my opinion is a much better series of books than Michael's more famous Paddington Bear and follows the exploits of a rather extraordinary Guinea Pig. The stories in it are gentle and heartwarming, and it's a great bedtime read.

'You're a Bad Man Mr Gum! by Andy Stanton - This is a work of absolute genius. Andy Stanton has managed to write a series of books that adults and kids find equally hilarious. Very much in the vain of Roald Dahl, but with a modern twist.

 'Speaking of Roald Dahl, Danny Champion of the World is a book I read at least once a year. A magical story asbout the relationship between a boy and his father, who leads a secret life...As a story for boys, I'd say this pretty much tops anything.

'The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk by Sarah Matthias. Time travel, murder, mystery, fantastic characters and a hugely entertaining page turner for children aged 8-14. Written by Sarah for her own children, I devoured it in one sitting, and was left wondering whodunnit right until the end.' 
'Our customers are a real mix, which reflects Wood Green's demographic,' says Simon. 'Most people that come through the door are extremely well read and keep up with the latest reviews. We have particulary strong children's and literary fiction sections and also do extremely well with books on local history, which suggests there is an enormous pride in living in Haringey [the local borough].' 
Hurrah for booksellers who really love books, and know what they're talking about. Merry Christmas everybody!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Happy Halloween!

It's pumpkintide again.

Have to say, I love it. I'm not one of those who shut themselves away and refuse to hand out sweets to passing trick-or-treaters, muttering about how it's all those Americans' fault, and it didn't used to be like this. (If you catch an adult doing this, you can always ask them if they like a traditional Christmas; if they say yes, you can then remind them that we owe both today's Santa Claus and the Christmas turkey to our American cousins.)

I think the whole trick-or-treat thing is fun – well, as long as no trick is involved, which is usually the case. And it has its origins in the British tradition of souling anyway; that got exported to America, the Americans did their own thing with it, and exported it back to the UK. As indeed they have done with Shakespeare plays, breakfast cereals and Britain's Got Talent. And the jack-o-lantern, incidentally, has Irish origins.

One thing you simply must not miss this Halloween, conveniently scheduled so as to give you plenty of time tocarve out your pumpkin and sort out your costume, is "my" TV show Jinx! So here's a timely reminder: the first episode is this Saturday, i.e. Halloween, on CBBC at 10.30am. Here are some pictures from the private screening: This is me with Chizzy Akudolu, who plays "Cookie" (below); she is brilliant and very funny. Spookily, she also has the same name as the head teacher I had at my nursery school (her nickname, "Chizzy", was short for "Miss Chisholm").

Below, here I am with Amber Beattie (Lulu) and Gia Lodge O'Meally (Frenchy):
After the screening we had a book-signing session:

Another feature of this time of year is the long dark nights; perfect for curling up with a good book. So, as my special Halloween treat to you, I'm going to give you some suggestions for really good, spooky reads. OK, so you've done Harry Potter, you've done Twilight. Possibly you've read some Darren Shans...though if you're a fan of mine, very possibly not. Don't think we share a readership! Well, here are some ideas for you:

First of all, a couple of fairly obvious mentions: Neil Gaiman's Coraline – although you've probably seen the film by now (I still haven't! But I think the book is brilliantly chilling) and his Graveyard Book (both Bloomsbury). Then there's Joseph Delaney's highly successful Spook's Apprentice series (Red Fox); I reckon the more recent Tales of Terror from the Black Ship by Chris Priestley (Bloomsbury) is also worth a look. One of three similar titles, it's a succession of linked stories that evoke Edgar Allen Poe and M R James. Here are some more that you may not have thought of:

Dark Angels, by Katherine Langrish (Harper Collins)
In this 12th-century tale, Wolf is on the run from the monastery where he grew up; soon he is lost on Devil's Edge – a mountain where the Devil is said to hunt down lost souls with his dog-pack. Offered shelter by a local knight in his castle, he is given the task of looking after a strange elf-like creature, and befriends Nest, the knight's daughter. But on Halloween night a strange jester appears, and they get involved in a mystery that may condemn their very souls. This is an exciting, masterfully told story, heavily populated by elves, ghosts, hobgoblins, devils and angels.

The Fetch of Mardy Watt by Charles Butler (Collins Voyager)
What would you do if a double was trying to take over your life? Something is haunting twelve-year-old Mardy Watt. It's been in her room, it's fooling her friends and it's upsetting her home life. And the trouble is, nobody realises what is happening except Mardy herself. Exactly what it is and why it is picking on her, Mardy doesn't know - but she does know that she has to find out, before it takes over and replaces her completely.

The Wolf Sisters, by Susan Price (Hodder)

Best known for her award-winning time-travel novel, The Sterkarm Handshake (and its sequel, The Sterkarm Kiss) Susan Price is another brilliant writer of rich imagination. Here we venture even further back in time than in Dark Angels, to the Viking era. Another boy, another escape from a monastery – this time on a mission into the Wild Wood, to strike a bargain with the Wolf Sisters in an effort to save his people in a plague-riddled world vulnerable to invasion. But at what price?

Blood Sinister, by Celia Rees (Scholastic)

Never mind Twilight; read this! The excellent Celia Rees wrote this long before Stephanie Meyer's books came along, and here she deals with vampires in her own inimitable way.

Ellen Forrest is sick, apparently suffering from a disease of the blood; she has been sent to convalesce at her grandmother's house, but seems to be getting worse, not better. Can it have anything to do with the diaries written by her great great grandmother that she has found in the attic? They describe an encounter with a handsome young Count who comes from the Land Beyond the Forest...

Another spooky read by Celia Rees: Ghost Chamber (Hodder)

Stella, by Catherine R Johnson (OUP)

This time we are transported back to the east London of Victorian times where Stella, a girl of mixed race, works as a stage clairvoyant. In her gauzy silver cape, looking out with her big brown eyes, she makes people believe she really can talk to the dead – though it's all a pretense; she has learned the tricks of the trade from Nana, her guardian. But when Nana dies suddenly, Stella is left alone to fend for herself, battling against those who try to cheat her and eventually finding out the truth about her own, unknown parents. An exciting page-turner!

Finally, a couple of special mentions: I'm currently reading The Undrowned Child, by Michelle Lovric (Orion): although more fantasy than thriller (though it is thrilling!) this contains the best evocation of a creepy, ghost-ridden Venice I have ever read. It's currently only available in hardback, but worth it, I reckon! When Teo comes to Venice with her parents, she soon vanishes "between-the-Linings" of the city; neither living nor dead. It is not until she encounters the mermaids that she discovers why...

Also worth a mention, since so many people tell me it's brilliant, is King Death's Garden, by Ann Halam (Orchard Books); unfortunately it's currently out of print. See if you can get hold of a library copy, or a second-hand one.

Well, there you have it; happy Halloween reading! Keep something humourous by your bedside too, in case you need some comforting – maybe even a Lulu Baker book (Chocolate Wishes, incidentally, has a very funny Halloween scene: see page 143). And don't forget to email me through my website, and tell me what you think of the TV show, as I shall be blogging about your reactions...but please remember, it's not meant to be the same as the books!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Children's Author Saves Planet

I bring you the exciting news that I, Fiona Dunbar, have single-handedly Saved the Planet. It was a close thing; there was just one chewy caramel one left in the pack, and I hadn't even had any yet. rolled out of the pack and under the sofa, but I rescued it just before the cat got to it. Reader, I ate it.

OK, I'm being flippant. Yes, I think Mars Planets are a truly great invention, but of course there are bigger and more important things to concern ourselves with than making sure we don't lose out in the caramel stakes. Today is Blog Action Day 2009, so I promised I'd blog on the subject of global warming and all that scary stuff. Here are my Top Ten Tips for Doing Your Bit:

1. If your school isn't already signed up for the 10:10 pledge, tell your head teacher to organise it now! . People who sign up to this pledge to cut their carbon emissions by 10% by this time next year. If they are politicians, that goes up to 20%, to account for all the extra hot air they generate. If they are Victoria Beckham it goes up to 50%, as that is approximately the percentage of her time she spends on an aeroplane;

2. Get your school, your family, and anyone else, to sign up for Earth Day as well: April 22nd, 2010 .You get to sit around in the dark with lots of candles and tell scary stories. In my day, it was the miners' strikes;

3. If you're getting on an aeroplane more than once a year, see if you can't cut that down. Holidays don't have to mean flying! Getting there by car or train can be so much fun! I really mean this; I honestly think flying is hell. Being on holiday means not having to work, getting to be outside a lot, and doing fun things like swimming and eating. You can do those things pretty much anywhere.

4. Eat less meat. Drive your parents up the wall by telling them you want to go vegan. If they
are really annoyed with me for telling you this, email me and I'll give you my address, so they can come around and punch me on the nose. It won't save the planet, but punching a smug preachy-type person can be awfully satisfying. Many years ago I worked in Soho, and this man (see tiny pic) used to parade up and down Oxford Street telling us that...well, you can see from the placard. I would see him EVERY DAY. I never bought one of his leaflets – I sort of wish I had, now. He's a piece of history. Look at his placard: I love the way he made it up, thought about it some more, then built an extension saying "and sitting". I never did work out what it was about sitting that was supposed to make people lustful. Or any of the other stuff, for that matter.

5. I digress. Grow fruit and veg in your garden. It's really fun! Even if you don't have a garden, you can grow things on a windowsill or a roof terrace – or an allotment, if you're really lucky. I have a LONG way to go with this. But I'm working on it. I'd keep chickens, but my part of north London is TEEMING with foxes; it's Fox City Central here, I tell you. I trip over one practically every morning, coming out of my house. They poo on your vegetable patch too.

6. Compost heaps, wormeries, all that stuff. I have a compost bin. I haven't opened it in about six months. I'll be honest: I'm scared to see what's in there; it might be Quatermass (ancient movie alien reference). BUT we do recycle all our food waste throught the council, which is not ideal, but better than just slinging it in with the landfill stuff. I know, I know, could try harder. Will try harder. It's just that we had a bad experience once, from putting the wrong stuff in. We're
still getting over the trauma of the smell, which must have generated enough greenhouse gases to quadruple our carbon footprint. Not the desired effect at all.

Wormeries are fun. Worms are nice.

...OK, I'm not going to do ten. Six will do; you've heard it all before anyway. Turn the lights out, wear a jumper, watch less TV, ride a bike, recycle. It's not rocket science. The important thing is to actually DO these things, and not SAY you're going to, then secretly go home and slip into your outdoor jacuzzi under your seven patio heaters, eating hothouse strawberries in December that have been flown over from Bahrain.

Last but not least: turn off the TV/computer and read a book instead: one of mine, preferably! Happy Blog Action Day!

Thursday, 24 September 2009


I suppose I should mention what I've been working on recently.

A number of you have been asking, and I did make that incredibly tantalising reference in my last post to some snail mail I was expecting, which I know has been keeping you awake at night ever since.

Well, the eagerly-awaited thingy that finally plopped onto my doormat was a long, long letter from my publisher that I'm told is called a "contract" – I have to be told this because I don't understand the language, you see; it's written in something called "Legalese", which is what lawyers speak.
Fortunately they sometimes speak English too, which is just as well as a) they can interpret the Legalese for you; and b) I can converse with my husband, who is a lawyer.

The other problem is that the contract is full of numbers, and I'm scared of numbers, so I can't look at it at all; I have to get my agent, who actually LIKES numbers, to do that for me. (She can also speak Legalese, so is officially a Very Clever Person).

Anyway, I've signed it now, which means I have agreed to write six books for them about that girl at the top of this post, whose name is Kitty Slade. You read it here first! It's a rough sketch I did of her, because this is what I always do when I am getting to know my characters.

Like all my hero(ine)s so far, Kitty has something massive and very, very strange happen to her around about the age of thirteen. Why does this keep happening to my characters? Because we ALL have something massive and very, very strange happen to us around about the age of thirteen. Think about it!

In Kitty's case, she develops something I call phantorama, which means she can see ghosts.
In fact, if I had to pitch the idea in one sentence, I might call it "Ghost Whisperer for kids" – but I might equally call it "Famous Five for the 21st Century", because the other thing about these stories is that they are all about kids solving mysteries.

Erm, except unlike in The Famous Five stories, there's no dog. In fact, there aren't even five of them, there are only three: Kitty, her twin brother Sam, and their younger sister Flossie. Though other kids sometimes get involved; their dogs probably will, too. But Kitty's the only one with the phantorama, and this is crucial because in every story, there is a part of the mystery that needs unlocking via contact with a ghost.

The mystery-solving part was actually my starting point. When you reach the stage, as I have done, of having written several books, a pattern emerges: you notice the things they have in common. And I've discovered there is always a mystery element in my tales. I didn't plan it that way; it just sort of happened. So I thought, 'well, maybe I should just go with that,' and actually call them mystery stories: the series title, therefore, is likely to be (though not definitely) The Kitty Slade Mysteries. I love stories that are spooky and funny at the same time: that's what I'm hoping to achieve here!

Oh, and the Slade kids don't go to school: they travel around in a camper van with Maro, their grandmother, who home-schools them. This is because I wanted to get around the whole Famous Five problem of, 'hey everybody, it's the school hols again!' So in case you were wondering why they don't have a dog...well, think gang + camper van + ghosts + dog and you get this:

The first two Kitty Slade books come out in spring 2011. Yes, I know: not next year. I'm sorry! But I promise they'll be worth waiting for. And there will be SIX of them (and possibly another six too, if you like the first lot!) Meanwhile, you can always re-read my other books, or even ones by other people (this is something else I need to blog about soon: my 'if-you-enjoyed-this-then-why-not-try-that' list. Because I can't write books fast enough for some of you, and I often get asked for recommendations. Will do this soon!)

Another thing you can do is watch Jinx, the brand new CBBC show based on my Lulu Baker books.
And I can now reveal that the very first episode is to be aired at 10.30am on HALLOWEEN, i.e. Saturday 31st October. Then it will be on every Saturday and Sunday morning at that time. You can guess from the scheduling that younger kids will like it too, so watch it with your little brothers and sisters. It's for 6-12-year-olds, but will appeal to the whole family.

I hope you enjoy it: do please write and tell me what you think! I'm especially interested in your thoughts on how it compares to the books, as this will at some point be the subject of another blog post. I'll want to know what you think of the new characters, how you think Lulu, Varaminta etc are portrayed, and what works best for you. And of course the stories! I'll want your thoughts on the role the recipe book plays in the TV show and in the books, your likes and dislikes.

Thank you!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

...Which Was Nice

If you're one of my younger readers, you may be little more than vaguely familiar with one of my favourite comedy programmes of recent years, The Fast Show. It has come to mind as I write this blog, because whenever I have something to boast about, I get a bit embarrassed and think I sound like the character from that show called Patrick Nice. Patrick is always shown chatting to the camera in his kitchen; after a totally preposterous boast, along the lines of "...'...and I was rummaging around in the attic and I found the original copy of the Bible,' he will round it off with "Which was nice," said in that way that posh actors are wont to do, when mentioning awards and things.

Well, I don't have any awards to mention, but I did get a couple of NICE things in the mail while I was away on holiday, which makes a pleasant change from letters threatening to cut off my electricity, or parking ticket reminders. One was a renewed contract for the TV show Jinx (see previous blog posts), which will now...*fanfare* screened by the BBC, not Nickelodeon. I've known about this for some time, but the news was Top Secret, so I wasn't allowed to tell anyone, not even my neighbour's deaf dog. But it's public now, so I can blog about it. And tell the deaf dog, who as yet has not become a follower of my blog. (Actually, I cheated: I told her already...)

Also, rather excitingly, Orchard are bringing out BRAND NEW EDITIONS of all three of my Lulu Baker books, to tie in with the series (which will be screened in the autumn)! And yes, even though the TV series is VERY different from my books (again, see my previous comments on this) it's great to see those words "Now a Major CBBC TV Series!" (Incidentally, has anyone ever seen a tie-in book cover with the words "Now a Minor TV Series/Motion Picture!" on the front? No, neither have I).

There have been some changes to the production; I shall be very curious to see the
finished thing. One change I'm REALLY pleased about is that the 'Aunt Cookie' character that was in the original has been changed to simply 'Cookie', and has gone from being a white, matronly figure, to a funky young black lady:
This is especially good from my point of view because, as anyone familiar with my Lulu Baker books will know, I had a very central, important black character in them, Cassandra. She was ditched for the TV series; they were thinking at one point that they might make Frenchy black, but then this happened instead. Which is interesting because things have almost come full circle in that Cookie, like my Cassandra, is a sort of muse figure. I have no idea whether Glynnie, my Indian character, will feature.

Oh, and speaking of covers, you may be amused to see these new Japanese editions of Pink Chameleon and Blue Gene Baby:

Groovy, huh? Google translates them as the "Lolly & Elsie Magic Fashionable" books. I came across these when I Googled myself recently (in case you're wondering, I only did it because a writer friend Facebooked something funny she'd found while self-Googling, and NOT because I'm an egomaniac, OK?) I also found a review of Chocolate Wishes in Hungarian; here, Google's translating skills were taxed even further, resulting in many hilarious bilingual phrases such as "plenty of exciting kötetéből", which I have since adopted as my favourite quote about my books.

OK, so I mentioned there was something else in the mail, and...ah, no, I can't tell you about that yet. Because it was just an email about something ELSE that I'm hoping will arrive in the snail mail shortly. And when it does, I'll tell you about it. Meanwhile, here's me on holiday in some rocky place.

We hiked, cycled, body-boarded and ate an enormous number of clotted cream teas. We found baby crabs, and random teddies perched on lobster pots. I alone made arrangements out of seaweed.

And we took in views like this one:

Which was nice.

Oh, and PS: If you ARE a regular reader of my blog, I'd really like to know about it! Add yourself to my list of followers: just click on the button that says "follow" at the top left of the page. Thanks!