Endings and beginnings. And Pigsticks

Has it really been a year?!

Too much has happened and I have no excuses for not blogging. Well, apart from dealing with everything life throws at a person, of course. (And the fact I forgot my password log-in.) So, time for a catch-up methinks!

I hadn’t talked much about it, but I’d been working steadily on a series of books about a young Robin Hood. They concerned BIG details about the character, such as him learning to fire a bow, light a fire, and survive as an outlaw – things that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before.

The trilogy began with Robin’s father dying, which proved problematic as during the writing I found out my mother had incurable cancer. I suppose the story and real life became intertwined in some way, and I found writing about a boy’s feelings concerning losing a parent was a bit too close to the bone. So when I used the word ‘steadily’ to describe my work rate, it was more stop and go. But the publisher and editor were really understanding.

Mum died, I grieved, things moved on, and eventually we were happy with book one. Book two, in contrast, was easy to write. It contained a huge battle at the end – one which I thought was probably the most exciting thing I’d ever written.

And earlier in 2016, I was close to finishing the final part in the series when I heard that the publisher no longer wanted the books. They were trimming their list.

It’s a very strange situation to find yourself in. The cathartic nature of battling through difficult work and finally succeeding in reaching the end was not to be mine. However, I do now sit with an unpublished trilogy of books about Robin Hood growing up in Sherwood. Who wants them?

robin background 2

So, that’s Robin out of the way.

What else happened? I set up This Book is Funny, which was successful, and is back on the road again for 2016.

I travelled the world. I visited the US and China, making school visits and talking about my books. I’ve been back to China once more in this time, and made some terrific friends. I also now know that Pigsticks and Harold will be published in China, which is a wonderful thing. I cannot wait to see how they treat it.

Of course, Pigsticks and Harold have a new book out – Pigsticks and Harold and the Pirate Treasure! We’ve started getting some lovely reviews, and I think this is my favourite of the series so far.


Now then, there is much more to say, but that can wait for a bit. Events are coming up, as well as new stories, and I am dead keen to write some ‘How-to’ posts about my model-making. I’ll be doing those soon.

So, for now, thanks for reading.

A long lost Mythical 9th Division story…

I’ve done some digging and discovered this first chapter of a new Mythical 9th Division story. It was an aborted beginning for book 2 – Terror of the Deep. I still love Timonen and his niece together.

I hope you like it…

Huffy - Timonen's niece - from an unused Yeti story

Huffy – Timonen’s niece – from an unused Yeti story

Chapter 1
Meet the Family

“I’m so bored I might eat my own feet,” said Timonen, thumping his head with his huge hands.
Albrecht continued to upload new books onto his RoAR.
“You’ve already chewed your toenails,” he replied. “I’ve been waiting for you to go further.”
Albrecht and Timonen had spent the past three months living in the secret caves of their ancestors, high in the Himalayan mountains. They’d planned to rest and have a spot of ‘yeti time’, but Timonen was feeling the strain of having nothing to do. He’d exhausted the possibilities of herding yaks. He’d learnt to make momos, which were supposed to be dumplings, but in his hands ended up the size of footballs. He was definitely ready for a new mission.
“It’s alright for you to sit there fiddling with gadgets,” said Timonen gruffly. “You don’t have my powerful body. I have muscles to keep in shape.”
Albrecht snorted with laughter.
“I’m sure you do,” he said.
Suddenly a chain of small bells rang out above his head. Attached to a thin cord on the ceiling of the cave they were an early warning system, triggered by someone or something’s approach.
“Saar back already?” said Timonen.
Albrecht shook his head.
“Too soon,” he replied. “He’s gone for days when he meditates.”
Timonen rubbed his hands in excitement.
“You wait here then,” he said, pushing Albrecht back to the ground so he could beat him to the entrance.
Albrecht threw his backpack into place, returned the RoAR to its compartment and waited.
“Uncle Timley,’ cried a young yeti’s voice.
The echoes reverberated down through the cave, shooting back and forth through Albrecht’s ears. He covered his eyes. Peace was over.
Timonen stomped back through the cave with an expression as dark as bat droppings. Hanging from his shoulders was a tiny yeti, a red bow tied to her head.
“Timonen?’ asked Albrecht. “Who’s this?’
The giant yeti mumbled something bleak and unrepeatable.
“Is this Albrecht?” asked a voice from further down the cave.
“Yes,” grumbled Timonen. The young yeti on his back stuck her fingers in his ear.
Albrecht moved to see past his friend and was confronted with the sight of a yeti even larger than Timonen. He had always thought Timonen was the biggest yeti of all. He had clearly always been wrong.
“Hello…” said Albrecht cautiously. He held out his hand in greeting, and it was soon engulfed in an enormous, paddle-like palm.
“Tumtum,” said the enormous yeti.
“She’s my sister,” said Timonen.
“Sister?’ said Albrecht. “Since when did you have a sister?”
Timonen shrugged.
“I’m heading north,” said Tumtum. “I thought Timonen could look after Huffy while I’m gone.”
“Here?” said Albrecht.
Timonen nodded sadly.
“But we’re soldiers,” said Albrecht, “we could be called away at any time.”
“My daughter can look after herself in combat,” said Tumtum.
Huffy was now pulling Timonen’s cheek skin in and out.
“By slightly annoying the enemy?” said Albrecht. “Look, we can’t be responsible for her in the middle of a battle.”
“Timonen’s already agreed to it,” said Tumtum.
“You have?’ said Albrecht.
Timonen nodded meekly. Big sisters can turn their brothers to jelly when necessary.
Tumtum pointed to the cave entrance.
“There’s a bag of toys at the front,” she said. “Whatever you do, don’t lose Baboo…”
“Baboo?” said Albrecht.
“Her favourite toy,” said Tumtum. “A cloth yak. She won’t sleep without it.”
“Right,” said Albrecht.
“And she eats on the hour, every hour…”
“She does?”
“A mix of vegetables and yak butter. I’ve prepared a few meals…”
“Timonen,” said Albrecht, “I take it you’re listening to all this.”
Timonen’s eyes drifted to the wall. He knew Albrecht would be better prepared for receiving orders.
“And her nappy needs changing at least four times a day,” continued Tumtum.
As if on cue, the waft of a rancid full nappy blossomed to fill the cave. Albrecht sighed and looked to Tumtum.
“I’ll show you what to do,” she said, smiling.


Huffy danced playfully around a clump of trees at the edge of the forest, swinging her cloth yak back and forth by its legs.
“At least she’s being quiet,” said Albrecht, as he brushed dried yak butter out of his fur. Huffy had enjoyed smearing it all over his face. “We haven’t had a break in days.”
“Funny,” said Timonen, “I was just the same at her age.”
“That doesn’t surprise me,” said Albrecht. “Looking after her is about as difficult as looking after you now.”
“Well, you’re doing a great job,” said Timonen. “You’ll make a wonderful parent some day.”
“I’d hoped that day was a long way away.”
“I can tell you love it,” replied Timonen. “You’re so good at it.”
Albrecht collapsed down at the base of a tree.
“Yeah, I love it so much,” said Albrecht angrily, “that I’m not moving another inch.”
“No,” pleaded Timonen, “don’t say that.”
Albrecht defiantly switched on his RoAR and scrolled through its options to find a story about homesick penguins.
“It’s your turn,” he said, his eyes not leaving the screen. “She’s due a nappy change too.”
Timonen growled.
“You wouldn’t do this to a friend,” he said.
“I would and I have.”
The young yeti charged out of the forest and out of sight. Albrecht pointed in her direction.
“You should probably go after her,” he said.
Timonen clenched his fists, growled at Albrecht and stomped off. Luckily, she hadn’t gone far.
“Oi, Huffy,” he shouted, seeing the young yeti hurtle down the mountainside.
“Come get me, Uncle Timley,” she shouted back, bundling ever onwards.
Timonen rolled his eyes. “Why me?” he muttered.
He ran through the trees, branches snapping as his wide shoulders caught hold of their ends. Out of the cover of the forest, the mountainside dipped into lush green hollows and the two yetis were bathed in bright sunlight. Each mammoth step counted for forty of Huffy’s and he soon caught her, scooping her up in one of his giant hands.
Timonen threw his niece into the air, her gurgles of joy splurting out as she landed happily back in his arms. She giggled and poked him in the eye.
Timonen laughed aloud, even though he was in quite a lot of pain. But suddenly Huffy’s joy turned to tears. Her wide smile slumped and transformed into an angry howling open mouth.
“Shhh,” said Timonen, trying desperately to calm her. “What’s up?”
“Baboooooooo,” she wailed, her piercing cry echoing down into the valley.
“Shh, shh,” he said.
“Baboooooooo,” she cried.
Timonen finally realised her toy yak was nowhere to be seen.
“Okay, okay. I’d be crying if I lost a yak too,” he said, warmly. “I’ll find it for you, just calm down.”
Huffy sniffled.
“Baboo,” she said, her eyes red with tears.
Timonen lowered her to the ground and crouched down to ask her a serious question.
“Now where did you leave it?” he asked.
Huffy’s bottom lip trembled as she shook her head. She couldn’t remember.
Timonen took Huffy’s hand and walked back into the forest.
“It must be somewhere around here,” he said, scouring the floor.
Huffy led him through the trees as though she remembered where she might have left it. He let go of her hand, thinking she was much closer to the floor than him and more likely had far better eyesight.
Before she’d gone too far, Timonen caught scent of something incredibly tasty.
“Wait,” he said, opening his nostrils wide. “You smell that, Huffy? That’s lunch, that is.”
She was digging around at the base of a large pine tree, flicking pine needles back and forth.
“Baboo’s hiding,” she said.
“Is he…” said Timonen, his focus drawn towards a large piece of meat hanging from a low branch. It was calling to him in a way that only food could. His eyes misted over and not once did he question why a prepared piece of meat was lying waiting for him. But he was Timonen, after all.
As he lifted the meat from the branch, a thick metal rope snapped tightly around his leg. With great aptitude and an amazing grip, Timonen kept hold of the food while he shot upwards into the air, not coming to rest until he was dangling upside down at the top of a very tall tree.
“Not ideal,” he said dizzily. He sniffed the meat in his hand and took a bite. “Could be worse though.”
“Timley,” cried Huffy from the forest floor a long way below. “Uncle Timley…”
“Go and get Albrecht,” he shouted.
“Why are you up there?” she replied, peering upwards.
“Just get Albrecht.”
Huffy started to cry, and even up in the top of the tree, Timonen winced at the sound.
“Albrecht,” he shouted. “Go to Albrecht.”
Huffy didn’t want to stop crying. She wailed and bawled and screamed and choked.
Timonen clutched his face. Blood was rushing the wrong way through his body and a screaming toddler was the last thing he wanted. At that moment the screaming stopped.
“At last,” he muttered.
He looked down again and his heart stopped. Huffy was gone.

America here I come!

I’m juggling all sorts of work at the minute. Much of it is self-inflicted, but that’s no bad thing. It’s a good job I have three heads!

But come this Saturday I shall be in America. It’ll be my first time in the United States, visiting schools in Seattle and Colorado Springs with one of my US publishers Kane Miller. Am I excited? Too right I am, though it does mean I’m leaving behind my family and my This Book is Funny! scheme. And we’ve just had badges made, too 🙁

Still, once I’m back, and the Brighton Festival is done, I’ll get back to writing and illustrating. Life’s just too exciting for its own good!

Hello Shanghai!

Shanghai PudongHello World!

I’m here in Shanghai, and this is the view from my room. Now there’s a thing. I’ve been mega-upgraded to a riverview suite, with its own sitting room – don’t ask me why, but I’m really not complaining.

I’m visiting The Wellington College International Shanghai School, being looked after like a superstar, and drawing Pigsticks and Harold like there’s no tomorrow. The food is amazing, the people seem genuinely friendly, and I feel like I’ve totally lucked out. I won’t talk about the jetlag, but hey, I have two children and this is what it feels like on most days!

The landscape is so unreal out here. If you look closely at the photo you’ll see the awesome UFO-like Mercedes Benz Arena. It really does look like a spaceship – click on that link to get a better look and you’ll see what I mean. Though there are plenty of sad, depressed buildings to be seen, there are also some real stonkers.


This Book is Funny!

This Book is Funny has been taking shape for a while now, but after a presentation to the Press Association’s Children’s Book Group it seemed right to put it out there.

The scheme is in its infancy. We’re planning to launch with a small-ish trial in mid-April. The trial will be spread out over a limited group of libraries, schools and bookshops, and the idea is simple. We ask people to create displays of funny books, utilising our stickers and posters – the aim being to drive readers to funny books that might not get the press or interest other types of books receive.

This is a philanthropic scheme, which is inclusive and hopefully benefit all involved, from readers to authors to bookshops and libraries.There’s a lot of good will out there, and a lot of people wishing it to succeed, so I’m doing all I can in a very busy year to make it the success it could be.

So, this is a trial to begin with. The posters and stickers are the key to it all, tied to our reviews and newsletter, and we need to see how they work out in the wild to gauge its potential.

If the response is good, then we’ll seek funding to spread it nationwide.

So now you know what I’ve been dreaming of over the past few months!


Pigsticks and Harold and the Cybils nomination

It’s been a while since I last posted, much has changed – especially the length of my hair – but much remains the same. I’m writing and reading lots, jotting down ideas and planning ahead. I can already sense that there won’t be enough months in 2015.

However, in some exciting news, Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey is up for a Cybil! It’s a finalist in the Easy Readers category. This has come as a complete surprise and is utterly wonderful.

Hooray for Pigsticks and hooray for the Cybils!

My very first video diary!

It seemed like a good thing to do! Long may these diary entries run.

LEGO Research Institute is GO!


The most exciting news in the LEGO world is that this all female set has been released.

I write many reviews of LEGO sets for Dorkadore and it’s always clear that female minifigs and characters are in the minority. This set is a great and positive addition.

It’s a special edition, started and released through the LEGO Cuusoo/Ideas site (in the same manner as the Ghostbusters ECTO-1), and the first stock has already run out by the looks of it.

This has to be a step in the right direction, doesn’t it? And let’s all buy it to show how much we want more kits with sexual equality in mind.


Back to the Future

I’ve been practising with digital brushes in Photoshop, in an attempt to find a fully digital way of making pictures that I’m happy with. I need to play with it more, and a lot! But as I used to make oil paintings, and thoroughly enjoyed doing so, I thought I’d have a pop at recreating something like that.

Anyone who’s visited my house will recognise this, which looks a lot like one of the few paintings I still have left.


It’s obviously not perfect, but I can see potential!

Pigsticks on a moped!


It’s Pigsticks on a mo-ped! Varoom!