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.
“Nappy?”
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.
“Right…”
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.

The different species of funny children’s book

What makes a children’s book funny?

It’s certainly not always fart and burp jokes, although they do feature a lot. No, I’ve pondered this question a lot of late as I’ve been making lists of all the children’s book that have ever made me laugh – and asked others for their favourites too.

(If you want to tell me your favourite in the comments, please do. Things are afoot, and I need all the funny children’s books I can get, old and new!)

While there’s no surefire answer to the funny issue, what’s been interesting is that I’ve seen themes appear within the differing formats – different species, if you will – of children’s funny books.

I thought I’d write them down here, so let’s start with the youngest species and go ever older:

The Picture Book
Picture books often end with a punchline joke, (sometimes it’s the whole reason for the book existing, other times it’s there’s simply to round off the otherwise quite straight story). An example? There are millions, but a GOOD one is I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.

Sometimes the whole concept of the picture book is the funny thing, (an absurd, surreal situation, or an insightful take on everyday life) and both the pictures and words combine to drive the humour from beginning to end. An example? Slow Loris, by Alexis Deacon, or There’s a Lion in my Cornflakes by Michelle Robinson and Jim Field. Many of these books also rely on warm, loveable characters, which always helps to draw you into the jokes.

Young Reader
Next up is the early reader book that exists solely to be funny. The set-up is funny, the characters are mostly absurd/grotesques/silly, and all the daft situations contain jokes. These are often illustrated, and even the illustrations are packed with zany humour. An example? The Twits by Roald Dahl. And don’t forget the gazillion Mr Men and Little Miss books.

Middle Grade
At the early end of middle grade are books much like the last category, most of which take the shape of series. Often taking a cracking premise and rolling with it (and also sometimes containing comic such as in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Captain Underpants). An example? The Scream Street Series by Tommy Donbavand, for example.

Comics
Next comes the funny comic/graphic novel. Sometimes full of mad-cap humour, sometimes full of jokes and punchlines, funny comics will always have wonderful artwork. An example? Teenytinysaurs by Gary Northfield.

(Comics are generally the most consistent and brilliantly funny works of fiction – a feat that is often forgotten by people in Britain. But times are changing…)

Middle Grade/YA
Last up, you get the screenplay-esque Middle Grade/YA novels that incorporate witty character dialogue into the plot. Taking their cue from the wisecracking characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show, these books will be a mix of fantasy adventures, rom-coms, and straight stories everyday life. An example? The Bartimeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, too.

If any of you have identified other species, do say so here!

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!

Pigsticks & Harold and the Incredible Journey out now!

Pigsticks and Harold cover

Good grief, it’s been a long time coming, yet here it is: PIGSTICKS & HAROLD AND THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. Out today! Who’d have thought?

The idea of Pigsticks was born close to five years ago now. I don’t remember many things these days (my children have somehow demolished most of my faculties), but I do remember that date, as my wife was pregnant with our first child. I’d been thinking about creating some stories for very young children so that my soon-to-be daughter could read them. Obviously, I was thinking years ahead – but then that’s what all of us in the slow-motion world of publishing are doing anyway, right?

And so, on this most momentous of days, I thought it would be a nice chance to share some of the slow growth of Pigsticks, from a gentle little idea to an 80-ish page, full colour monster. And one with a TV show in development!

If there’s one of my characters that can be shouted about, it’s Pigsticks the ‘can-do’ pig! So here are some of his early moments from my notebooks:

Pigsticks-Origin-1

The first ever drawing of my pig – which admittedly isn’t much of a pig!

pigsticks-origin-3

It’s not very often that you’re able to point to the exact time that a name of a character or an idea comes into being, but this is one. The very page where I first wrote the word “Pigsticks”, and it stuck.

pigsticks-origin-2

This was the first story I wrote for Pigsticks, and by this time, the nature of the relationship between him and his best friend Harold was forming.

pigsticks-origin-4

Everything changed for me when Viv Schwarz told me to try using a brush pen, which I did with this picture. Suddenly the look of the characters became something unique. It needed work, and I needed to practise with the pen, but I really felt that I was getting somewhere.

And that’s about it, really. We put a lot of work into getting it right, with much debate on format – it was going to be a comic at one point! – but I think the final book is just right. The lovely folk at Walker have really got their teeth into it, and guided me to its conclusion. And I think it’s safe to say that getting involved with Jam Media also shaped its final form for the better. It’s amazing how far these things evolve and grow from their initial conception!

And now I’ve got to get ready for book 2, which is my attempt at a Pigsticks & Harold Miss Marple mystery, with a touch of CSI thrown in for good measure.

Pigsticks and Harold do some gardening

It’s just two days until Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey is officially published, so, to get into the spirit, here’s the dynamic duo indulging in a spot of topiary. Yes, they’re adventurers, but they also dabble in some of the finer pursuits in life as well.

P&H-Gardening

Harold in a diving suit

Harold-diving-suit

The chance came to draw Harold in an old diving suit, so here it is.

It’s an incredibly exciting time for Pigsticks & Harold. I’m not going to talk about why, just yet, but hopefully in time for the launch of the first book in May next year there’ll be some super amazing news.

Keep your ears and eyes open!

Pigsticks & Harold get a little bit closer

p&H blad I went into Walker to talk about Pigsticks 2 today, and came home with this lovely little pre-pub blad of a section of book one. It’s always such a strange feeling seeing your book actually become a book, and while it’s not the finished thing, it’s edging closer.

Very exciting.

Pigsticks & Harold do Sherlock Holmes!

sherlock-pig

The colouring on Pigsticks & Harold 2 is under way!

Pirate Pigbeard

I once wrote about a pirate called Mousebeard, so…

pigbeard

Harold is Superhamster!

superhamster

My daughter picked up Sarah McIntyre‘s new picture book at the weekend – SUPERKID! – which has a hamster in it. And it’s no ordinary hamster, either, it’s… SUPERHAMSTER.

So, of course, I couldn’t resist drawing Harold in a SUPERHAMSTER outfit!