Friday, 9 December 2011

December Swoops In

I've been quite quiet since my last blog post, partly because I have two stories competing for attention in my brain and partly because life in general has cranked up a gear and become hectic, leaving less time for sitting down and catching up with things.

So far this month, I've been experimenting in the kitchen (which is always a scary time, because I can't bake anything without it looking as if a small floury bomb has detonated nearby) and in the spirit of the festive season, I had a go at making chocolates for the first time.

Here's a sample of the chocolatey goodness.


And I made some fudge.

Next stop, sweet mince pies and biscuits. The kitchen won't be safe until at least 2012.





Book Signing.
I'm not out and about much this month, but if you live in the Darlington area and you fancy braving the shops in town on Christmas Eve, I'll be signing books in Waterstone's from 11am-3pm, so maybe I'll see you there!

For now, I shall leave you with a slice of festive joy to warm your cockles this wintry eve.



Happy December!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Wintercraft: Legacy - Unveiled!

Set your watches, mark your calendars.

Wintercraft: Legacy is coming to the UK on 10th May 2012.
And here is its beautiful cover.


Silas and Kate are about to find themselves on opposite sides during Albion's darkest night.

Will you join them?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

November Sketchbook

Lots of you have sent in beautiful pieces of Wintercraftian artwork over the past couple of weeks, and you've all chosen to draw either Silas or Kate!

Here are two of my favourites chosen from a fantastic selection.

The first is by Colleen, who drew this (rather handsome) picture of Silas after reading Shadowcry.


Thanks, Colleen!

The second picture was drawn by Sophie, who lives in my home town.  She decided to draw a beautiful portrait of Kate in a manga style.


Thank you, Sophie!

Thanks to everyone who has sent in drawings.  At this rate, the wall of my writing room will be covered in your wonderful art.

Keep your pictures coming!  I love every single one.

(ps. So far, no one has tried to draw Silas's crow and I think it is feeling a little left out.  Are you up to the challenge?)

Monday, 31 October 2011

A Hallowe'en Visitor.

There's a mysterious visitor lurking in my house tonight...


Don't step too close now.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Octoberness

Hello!

October is once again living up to its reputation as my busiest month.  My desk is being overrun by the Blackwatch manuscript while I get it ready for America.  Its pages are jostling for space next to the first drafts of two new stories that I absolutely love, and I'm expecting the UK copy edits of Wintercraft 3 to arrive any day now.  I'm also catching up on blog requests, so I haven't had much time to write here.  But! I wanted to share two things with you today.

Number 1:

I've had lots of questions about Wintercraft 3.  Its title, release date, cover, etc. and I can officially announce that the third book in the Wintercraft series will be called Wintercraft: Legacy.   It will be unleashed on 10th May 2012 in the UK and Commonwealth countries, so if you haven't read Blackwatch yet, grab a copy from a friend and get ready for Legacy!

I can't reveal anything about the cover design because I haven't seen it myself yet (but from conversations I've had with my editor, it sounds very promising!) If you use Goodreads, you can find Legacy's page here, or if you use Amazon, seek it out here.

Number 2:

The second thing I want to share came to me from a reader in America.  Her name is Brittany, she's in the ninth grade, and she has sent me a fantastic drawing featuring the main characters who live in Kate and Silas's world.
Brittany has kindly allowed me to share her art with you, so here it is! (Click on the image for a closer look.)

I love Silas and his crow, and the dastardly Da'ru, complete with her green glass dagger.  They're all fantastic, and Kalen looks particulary gruesome, right after Edgar has delivered a bar stool to his face.
Thanks, Brittany!

If you'd like to send me any of your Wintercraftian pictures, you can email them to me, or post them to the address in my contact details and I'll feature some of my favourites here on the blog on the run up to Christmas.

Until next time... farewell.

Monday, 12 September 2011

A New Addition!

The Wintercraft family gained a new brother today.

One freshly printed manuscript, finished and ready to go!
 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

When Technology Goes Bad.

August.  The month technology turned against me.

I have had my share of typical technological troubles over the years (printers that regurgitate chewed up paper, that sort of thing) but this month, my electronic gremlins have upped their game and my writing space has come under all out attack.

Firstly, I was locked out of my email account thanks to hackers breaking their way in and using it for nefarious purposes.  I still haven't managed to fight my way back in, so if you have tried to contact me via the email button in the sidebar, I will not have received your message. (I've taken the email link down until I get things sorted out, but you can leave me a comment if you'd like to get in touch.)

Last week, my little laptop coughed out its last beep, despite being only 18 months old, and today the portable hard drive I use to store all of my work decided to corrupt without warning.  Fortunately, I make sure I have back ups of everything, so no real harm was done, but the drive is now useless.  (If you store anything on a computer, always make back ups, just in case the gremlins get you too.)

Technology and I are clearly not friends this month. 

Despite all of these shenanigans, I am about to finish edits of Wintercraft 3 - which I am very excited about! - and I am also working on something new... something that has been brewing here in my writing cave for a while.

Following my last blog post (and before my email troubles began) I've heard from lots of 'Crows' who are out there, lurking on the branches of the internet tree.  Fly well, my feathered friends.  I salute you all. ;)

For now, I have gremlins to tackle, a book to polish and exciting plans to concoct.

Until next time...

Thursday, 4 August 2011

How To Make A Writer Smile

One of the highlights of my week arrived in the form of an email that really made my day.

It came from a reader who read Wintercraft/Shadowcry last month and passed it around his friends.  Some of them are reading Blackwatch right now and while they wait for each other to catch up, these fans of the series have given themselves a name.


Most of them picked Silas as their favourite character, so they have chosen a symbol of loyalty and companionship; the one character who always stands at Silas's side without question.

They call themselves 'The Crows'.
I think that's a brilliant idea!

They have many theories about what's going to happen next (they are definitely in for a few surprises...) and they have already started a countdown to the next book's release!

It's great to hear from people who are excited and talking to each other about the books.  If you're enjoying them, do let me know.

I am proud to call myself a 'Crow'.  How about you?


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Window To The Past

Last week, Wintercraft and I were invited to our first awards ceremony at the Master Stationers' Hall in London.  The hall itself is literally a stone's throw away from St Paul's Cathedral, and while Wintercraft may not have come away with the prize on the night, it did give me the chance to tick off one of my travelling goals the next morning...

Firstly, the awards night.  

The dinner and prizes were both served in the Master Stationers' meeting hall, which had some fantastic stained glass windows.  The hall dates back to the 1600s and I heard some people comparing it to the Great Hall at Hogwarts throughout the evening.  Here are some photos so you can judge for yourself.  


I went along with my wonderful editor, Hannah Sheppard from Headline, and we got to meet some lovely authors including Mike Lancaster, author of the YA novel 0.4, who gave us a sneaky preview of the cover of his next book (which looks and sounds brilliant).  We also met Frederick Forsyth, who was there to give out one of the awards, and there was a general buzz of nerves and excitement around the hall as the winners were announced.

A huge storm cloud lurked over the hall and threatened to burst as Hannah and I walked through the London streets afterwards: her heading home and me heading back to my hotel.  But I had unfinished business...

I could see the dome of St Paul's Cathedral from my hotel room, and I had come so close to it during the awards night that I had to go back there the next morning.  

I completely blame Mary Poppins for this.  
 
I took some photos outside, humming 'feed the birds, tuppence a bag' to myself, and spotted one lonely pigeon on the cathedral steps.  
One. 


Ah well.  He seemed happy enough having all that space to himself.

I may have had a mad dash ahead of me to make it to Kings Cross in time for my train, but I've always wanted to visit the cathedral.  It's been on my travelling wish list for years, so I couldn't resist buying a ticket and heading inside.

There weren't many people there at that time of the morning and I got to stand undisturbed right under the dome.  The paintings were beautiful.  Someone moved a chair while I was there and the sound resonated around the building in quite a spectacular way.  It must be amazing to hear people singing inside.
After that, I headed down into the crypt, which I had completely to myself, and wandered around the tombs alone.

I was tempted towards the gift shop (my one weakness in any place that I visit), but I had a train to catch.  I left the cathedral and its watchful statues behind and headed for home. 

Thanks for a great time, London.  As always, I will be back.

Monday, 4 July 2011

The Fourth Of July

Shadowcry has been out in the wild for just a couple of weeks now.  Huge thanks to everyone who has bought a copy and to all those who have emailed me to say hello. (I always reply to emails and it is lovely to hear from everyone.) 

If you have enjoyed the book, please go out and spread the word.  And if you haven't read it yet, Silas Dane is out there waiting for you to hunt him down...

Today is my birthday and, as promised, three copies of Shadowcry have been tamed and signed, ready to go out to the winners of my blog giveaway!

As a quick reminder... the top prize pack is:
  • A signed/dedicated hardback copy of Shadowcry.
  • A Scruffy Crow mug.
  • A Moleskine notebook with a crow cover design.
Two more names drawn will each win:
  • A signed/dedicated hardback copy of Shadowcry.

And the winners are...

The first name out of the hat, and winner of the top prize pack is: Sab H!

And the two signed copy winners are: Wendy Jo and Pearl!

Congratulations, everyone!
Please use the 'Email Jenna' button on the sidebar to let me know your details.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.  My dog, Nella, helped pick the winners out of the hat and she is keen to give it another go, so watch out for another Wintercraftian giveaway coming your way over the summer.

Bye for now!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Book Prize News

The results of the seasonal heats of The People's Book Prize 2010-2011 are in and Wintercraft has made it through to the final!

Silas and Kate now get to battle it out against eleven fantastic finalists in the children's section.  The winners will be announced on the 20th of July, and voting is now open.

There are no judges; the winners are decided completely by readers.  So, if you enjoyed Wintercraft please spread the word about the award and take a few moments to cast your vote in the final.

You can see a full list of short-listed children's books and find out how to vote here.

(And don't forget, to celebrate Wintercraft's US release, the prize giveaway is still open. If you'd like to enter the draw to win signed copies of Shadowcry and some extra goodies, please add your name to the comments box of my previous post.) 

Bye for now!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Hello, America!

There are just a few days to go until Shadowcry makes its way over the Atlantic to America!

As a special hello to all my American readers, I think it's time for a giveaway...


The top prize for the first name drawn will be:
  • A signed/dedicated hardback copy of Shadowcry.
  • A Scruffy Crow mug. (I have one of these myself.)
  • A Moleskine notebook with a crow cover design.
Second and third place will each win:
  • A signed/dedicated hardback copy of Shadowcry


To enter the draw, leave a comment at the bottom of this post and I'll draw three names at random on the closing date.

The closing date is my birthday, the 4th of July - American Independence Day.


This giveaway is open to everyone.

Good luck!

UPDATE:
The winners of the giveaway have now been drawn. Please check my July 4th post to see if you have won.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Month Of May

May was definitely a rollercoaster of a month, but the best part of it had to be the Blackwatch Book Tour.

During the second week of May I caught the train to London to spend the week with my publicist Maura, zipping to and from the capital, visiting schools, libraries and bookshops around southern England.

One of the towns we visited was Worthing on the south coast, where we met this dapper fellow. 

An absolutely enormous seagull!

We were having lunch at a cafe called Parklife (you should go there if you can - their paninis are delicious) when this great feathered beast swooped down looking for a snack.  He managed to grab something from the table beside us before being ousted by the local gull patrol.

This little girl certainly takes her job seriously.

This is me standing on Worthing pier on a rather blustery day.  You can't quite see him in the water behind me, but there was a heroic swimmer out there, braving the cold for an afternoon swim.  Whoever you are, sir, I salute you.

The school groups I spoke to were all fantastic.  (I think Silas may have picked up a few new fans.  I'm not sure what he'd think about that!) The tour days zipped by in a blur of train journeys, gorgeous countryside and London bustle and the week ended with the Headline Bloggers Party!

Here is the view of London from the Headline offices where the party was held.

To get there, I travelled up in the fantastic glass elevator, which is definitely the best way to zoom up the side of building.

I met some lovely people at the party.  I chatted with Rhys from Thirst For Fiction.  Vivienne from Serendipity. Darren from Bart's Bookshelf. Sarah from Feeling Fictional. Michelle from Clover Hill Book Reviews.  Darren from The Book Zone.  Liz and Sarah from My Favourite Books, and more!

I also got to meet the fabulous author and illustrator Cathy Brett, who drew this sketch of me on the day.


If you haven't read her books yet, seek them out, book fans!
It was a brilliant end to a busy week.

The next day I was back on the train home to Darlington, ready to start work on a brand new story.  May was a month of madness, but now I have new pens, new characters and a new world to create. My travelling shoes must rest for a while.
It's time to get back to the desk!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

In Memory Of A Friend

I'm sorry that things have been a little quiet on the blog recently. 

As some of you may already know, one of my dogs, Belle, died a short while ago.  She was my furry writing buddy.  She always laid beside me while I was working and my room now feels empty without her. 

I miss her, and I wish she was still here.

I will never forget my beautiful girl.

Belle. 13th August 2001 - 19th May 2011

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Farewell London

Just a quick post to say that I'm back home after a week of school & library events on the Blackwatch UK Book Tour!

I want to to give a big hello to all of the fantastic pupils, teachers, librarians, Waterstone's booksellers, book bloggers and library goers I've met this week.  It was wonderful to meet you all!  Thank you for making me feel so welcome in your schools, libraries and shops. And an extra big thank you to my publicist, Maura, who is mistress of train timetables and managed to get me everywhere on time and in one piece.

I will be writing up a big blog post about the week very soon, but for now I have giddy dogs to pat and a big comfy chair that I may flop down in and not get up from for at least a week. 

Until next time, book fiends...

Bye for now!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Blog Tour Round Up


The Blackwatch Blog Tour train has made its final stop, bringing its trundlings around the internet to an end.  The train is now safely parked just behind this blog post, resting its wheels until the day it is called upon again.
 
For those who missed its journey, here are links to all the stops it visited along with way.

Day 1 - Q&As at The Book Zone for Boys.
Day 2 - Article about Silas Dane at I Want To Read That.
Day 3 - Q&As at Serendipity.
             Goodreads Book Giveaway.
             Blackwatch Book Giveaway.
Day 4 - Article about Kate Winters at Clover Hill Book Reviews plus
             Blackwatch Signed Book Giveaway.
Day 5 - Article about Good Guys & Bad Guys at Wondrous Reads.
Day 6 - Q&As at Bart's Bookshelf.

The bloggers who took part in the tour are all lovely people and their blogs are little shining gems of bookishness.  I recommend having a good snoop around while you are there.  And don't forget to enter the giveaways!  There are plenty of prizes up for grabs.

Toot Toot!

(Photo Credit - A1 Steam)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Blackwatch Are Loose

April 14th has arrived, the boxes have been opened, and Wintercraft: Blackwatch is out in the world!

I want to send a huge hello to everyone who has sent me publication day messages and good wishes.  You are all wonderful!

You may have noticed a new addition to the sidebar today ----------->
Blackwatch and I are going on a blog tour!

Take a look at the fantastic UK book blogs and bloggers who are taking part, and pop over to their websites over the next week to sample a little extra Blackwatchian deliciousness in the form of interviews, character insights and giveways!

I hope you will join Blackwatch on its journey across the blogosphere!

Out in the ink and papery world of bookshops, Blackwatch has also started to make its presence known.  This photograph was taken by Gemma Laws, a fabulous bookseller who works at Waterstone's in Durham City.



Wintercraft and Blackwatch together at last. A pair of dark and sinister friends...

If you've spotted Blackwatch out in the wild, do let me know. In the meantime, I'll be heading out and about on the first of my bookshop visits to sign copies of both books.

First stop: Durham Waterstone's on Saturday 16th April at 1pm.

Maybe I'll see you there...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Blackwatch Publication Week

We are now moving swiftly into publication week and Blackwatch is ready and raring to go.

A few copies may have already sneaked out of their boxes and deviously taken their places in bookshops around the UK, but they are just being keen.   

Blackwatch is Lovereading.co.uk's 'New Gen Book Of The Month' for April (Hurrah!). I've had messages from readers who have already read the book and enjoyed it (Thanks for getting in touch!), and I'll be setting off on my first burst of bookshop signings later this week.

Thursday the 14th is the official publication day so, until then, I will leave you with a photograph of Nella enjoying the spring sunshine.


I hope it's sunny where you are!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Genre For Japan

Would you like the opportunity to bid on some fantastic sci-fi, horror and fantasy items in aid of a great cause?  Then read on...

A group of fabulous people have got together to create Genre For Japan: an online charity auction where all proceeds are donated to the Red Cross Tsunami Appeal to help the relief effort following Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The lots include rare books, signed books, comic art, one of a kind items, story critiques, and you can even bid to have your name used as a character in a writer's next novel.  There are items from authors such as Will Hill, Joe Abercrombie, Neil Gaiman, Peter V. Brett, and many more.

The website is well worth a browse and there is bound to be something you are interested in.

For Wintercraft readers, I've donated signed copies of Wintercraft and Wintercraft: Blackwatch - lot 119.  The starting price for the pair is just £5.00, so if you'd like your own signed copies (both paperback first editions) then please, get bidding!

The auctions begin on Monday 28th March and bidding closes on Sunday night.
Full details of how to bid can be found here.

Good luck if you do decide to take part, and let's hope lots of money is raised for this excellent cause.

UPDATE:
The auction is now over!
The official total raised by all the lots comes to...  £11, 139.36!

Huge thanks to everyone who placed a bid!

Genre For Japan is organised by:
Amanda Rutter: reviewer and webmistress at Floor to Ceiling Books
Jenni Hill: editor for science fiction, fantasy and horror publishers Solaris Books
Louise Morgan: author and interviewer for the British Fantasy Society
Ro Smith: writer and reviewer; blogger at In Search of the Happiness Max
Alasdair Stuart is the editor of Hub magazine.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Counting Down...

If the countdown clock on my sidebar could have a musical accompaniment, it would start to sound a little more intense today, complete with pounding drums and suspenseful violins.

There are only four weeks left until the gates of Fume open again and Wintercraft: Blackwatch strides out to take its place upon bookshop shelves in the UK.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed me over the past few weeks. It's wonderful to hear so many of you are looking forward to Blackwatch! If I haven't replied to you yet, I will catch up very soon.

In the meantime, I'll keep hearing that countdown music every time I look at the clock.

If the rest of this year is anything to go by, April 14th will be here sooner than I think.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Bad News For Welsh Badgers...

Despite long-running oppostition from The Badger Trust, Save Me, animal charities and many other people who respect wildlife across the UK, the killing of badgers has now been given the go-ahead in Wales.

To say this news disappoints me would be an understatement.  A few months ago it appeared that the cull was not going to happen - now that seems to have been only a temporary reprieve.

I am appalled that badgers are being persecuted in this way.  They are are a protected species, yet it appears to have only required the say-so of one minister to sentence thousands of animals to death on very dubious grounds, which may actually make the problem it is meant to solve (the spread of bovine TB) worse.

The coalition government recently delayed their decision on whether or not to have an English badger cull, but following this news from Wales, I'm worried that traps and guns may also be out in force in England soon enough.

If you'd like to learn more, here are some useful links.
(These are all family-friendly links. No gruesomeness or graphic imagery.)

Pembrokeshire Against The Cull (Including addresses to write to)
RSPCA - Badgers & The Law
The Badger Trust
Stop The Cull
BBC video neatly summarising both sides of the argument.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Beautiful Durham

Yesterday I jumped on a train and headed off to my first book signing of 2011.
My destination: Durham.

It's been a few years since I had a wander around Durham, but the main shopping street is fantastic.  I'm not even talking about the shops.  I wasn't looking at them, I was looking at the winding cobbled roads, the wonderful River Wear and the architecture.

On my way to the bookshop, I walked down a short street and onto a bridge crossing the River Wear, where I saw this:


I love old buildings, particularly castles, and I certainly didn't expect to see this great stony dragon of a castle looming down over the riverside right where I was walking.  I will admit it... I stopped and stared and took this picture.

People were walking past, chatting, and acting like having such a wonderful piece of history watching over them was a perfectly normal everyday thing.  Which, of course, it is.  Two people I talked to at the signing admitted that they don't even 'see' the castle anymore.  It has become an invisible part of their everyday life.
I don't think I'd ever get used to seeing a view like that.

Once I remembered I actually had somewhere to go, I set off towards the market square and up Saddler Street where the bookshop sits.

The signing went brilliantly.  The staff in Durham Waterstones are lovely and I would recommend their shop to anyone wanting to pop in for a browse.  I spoke to lots of readers and writers, and even discussed Shakespeare with a lovely lady who put my knowledge to shame.

After that, I did a little book shopping of my own, and I was back in awed tourist mode.  Here a picture of Saddler Street looking back the way I came:

 

It is a steep and cobbled street with buildings that press in on both sides, making people look very small indeed.  (If you click on the photo you can just see someone walking beneath the black sign.  Doesn't he look small?)  There are lanterns, mismatched buildings and I even spotted a tiny lane - barely wide enough for someone to walk down - where two people were locked in whispered conversation.

My imagination runs wild in places like this.  It feels like walking through the past... and at the top of the street, was this:

Hello, Durham Cathedral.

Gemma at Waterstones told me that parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there, and I can see why.  It's a Norman cathedral and parts of it have been there since 1093.  Isn't it spectacular?

I wouldn't have even taken this next picture if I didn't see someone on the grass clicking away at something behind me.


It's part of Durham Castle, and it's huge! But I would have missed it - quietly sitting there watching time happen around it - if I hadn't turned around.

As you can tell, I am a huge fan of Durham.  I only live a train ride away and I will have to go back soon.  Next time, however, I will be prepared.  I had forgotten how steep everything is... the sloping cobbles and the steps.  The countless steps!  People who walk them all the time must have thighs of steel.

I didn't take this photo, but here are just a few of the steps right outside the station, which I had to face after climbing at least five thousand* others just moments before.

 
Next time I visit Durham I will know what to expect.
I will be ready.
I will plan to spend more time exploring the wonderful old city, and I will attack those steps Rocky-style. 


*A slight exaggeration, but that's what it felt like to my weary legs.