Friday, 29 June 2012

Life Drawing Friday #2

Well, that’s not a good start. After declaring last week ‘I go life drawing on a Thursday’, I couldn’t go at all last night. But hey ho, here’s a sketch anyway, from a few weeks ago.

Yes, sometimes the models are male. I liked the tragic look of this pose very much, though having drawn one hand well, I seem to have lost my grip on the second. The image of the drawing before -- a reclining lady in a dress -- is ghosting through. 15 mins. Graphite and paper. 

And this is probably a good moment to mention that my new novel is a mystery based on artists and drawing. More about that coming soon.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Life Drawing Friday #1

I’m inaugurating a new regular feature today. Obviously in time it’s going to go meme-tastic and roar round the internet like a virus in a bucket full of chickens, but until then, it’ll just bring a little variety to the old blog. I go life drawing on a Thursday evening. On Friday mornings I'll post a sketch, whether it’s any good or not. This should keep me on my toes.

I really liked this pose. Lots of angles and interest, and no way to avoid fore-shortening. 15 mins. Lump of sharpened graphite on a stick, and my trusty ‘Bushey’ sketchbook.

Keep an eye out for colour (!) in the weeks to come.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Spot the Difference -- and the winner is...

Well, I’m pleased to say there were 17 correct answers in the amazing Dan and the Dead ‘spot the difference’ competition. However, 18 slips of paper actually went into the hat because someone let me know it’s their birthday today (many happy returns!) so obviously that name had to go in twice.

But the pitiless gaze of Dame Fortune -- as mediated through the Hat of Fate and the Sea-and-Sand Fingers of my special helper, Benjy – takes little account of such things, it seems. For the name drawn out was…


Congratualtions, Valérie! And this is especially pleasing as Valérie is a good friend from France, and as the French are still refusing to publish anything I’ve ever done, it’s nice to think that one copy of one of my books at least will find its way to a bookshelf in Paris. Albeit en anglais, but hey ho…

Keep an eye out for the facteur, Valérie:-) 

Sorry to all those who didn’t win, but I had fun doing this, so there may be another spot the difference competition soon. Like Dan’s facebook page to hear about it first. In the meantime, Dan and the Dead has been selected by Julia Eccleshare for promotion on Lovereading4kids. Here you can buy the book at a discount, download an extract, and also find out a bit more about me and my new books. There is also a crumby picture of me looking like I didn’t sleep very well the night before, but you can just ignore that.  

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Book giveaway -- spot the difference!

To mark the publication of Dan and the Dead I’m giving away a signed copy. But since it’s no fun just handing books out willy nilly, you’re going to have to work for this one. So here, for your coffee-break amusement, is a pair of identical pictures of our hero, Dan. Identical, that is, except for one small but notable difference.

When you have found it, send an e-mail to and I’ll put your name into the Hat of Fate. On Saturday the 16th of June, I’ll pull out a name at random. And may Dame Fortune (who sort of appears in the book) smile upon you. 

Click for a closer look at the pictures, if your browser supports that. The difference is subtle, but should be visible even at crappy blogger resolutions. And if you really get stuck, ask a friendly child to do it for you!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Dan and the Dead is published today!

My comic gothic novella, with spooky pictures, is officially out there. Somewhere…

Of course, regular readers of this blog will know that it’s only a few days since I shouted hurray over the publication of Haunters, and some may be wondering what the hell is going on. Two debut novels? That’s not right, surely!

Well, right or not, it’s a sign of how little control I have over my career that after years of rejection and frustration, I made a simultaneous double breakthrough in my struggle to get into fiction. And on the same theme! No one was more surprised than I was. But believe me, no one is less inclined to complain about it now than I am. Hurray indeed!

But how did this come about? Well, back in early 2010, when I was still fighting Haunters into an acceptable first draft for commissioning editors to read, my agent called and told me that A & C Black were looking for illustrated stories for a new ‘high interest/low inclination’ series. By this they meant kids, mostly boys 10 to 14, who had sophisticated teenage tastes but little interest in reading -- kids who may yet pick up a book and have one last try, but who had all but given up on the world of books. It sounds high-blown, I know, but it felt like I was being given the chance to change their minds and win them back. Okay, high-blown and arrogant, but that’s honestly how it felt.

Anyway, one of the themes mentioned was ghost stories, and since I was just finishing Haunters -- an alternative ghost story where there are no real ghosts at all -- I had a lot of conventional ghost material left over. Using this, and inspired by a half-remembered childhood fascination with Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), I quickly put together a premise, wrote a pair of very short sample chapters, and sent it off to A & C Black with a sketch. Another iron was in the fire. But the fire wasn’t looking very hot.

Cutting a long story sort, AC Black expressed interest in the story around the time I was signing the contract for Haunters with Chicken House, though it took a long time for it to develop into something they would actually take on. I was only known for picture books, after all. But take it on they did, and then I had two stories to shepherd through the editorial process, at the same time, and two titles for the same age range, both seemingly about ghosts. And that’s hardly an ideal situation to be in – just ask a publisher! I’ve already had one bookseller get in touch and ask which of the two upcoming ghost books by a Thomas Taylor is the one I wrote.

But really, it’s fine. The two books are very different, and I’ve decided to stop wringing my hands over it. And I’m glad my agent talked me out of using a pseudonym – the publishing world is tough enough these days, without dividing  myself up. And I think it’s clear the two books will have two distinct readerships. As for the ‘changing minds about reading’ thing, well, only time will tell if I got that right. Whatever, it was enormous fun to write! 

I’m working on a second story about Dan and his mysterious ghostly sidekick, Simon, which is due out in 2013, provisionally entitled Dan and the Caverns of Bone. Do you detect a theme? Meanwhile, Dan and the Dead is available as both a hard copy and a kindle edition, and is easy to order through your local independent bookshop. And you can follow Dan’s ghost-busting exploits on his facebook page.

And lastly, do you remember that kid in your class, the weird one who kept talking to himself? The one who seemed to know too much, the one everyone laughed at? Well, next time something goes bump in the night, just pray he remembers you!     

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

And the winner is...

Kate! The scribbling sea serpent:-)
Sorry it took a couple of days to get the Haunters draw organised – I’ve been away – but the hat has spoken. Well done, Kate, and thanks to everyone who left a comment, spooky or otherwise. Kate, I’ll be in touch through twitter for a postal address and the name of your cat…
Kate’s excellent writing blog is one to follow too.