Friday, 16 January 2015

Celebrating Rock Cake Day and the Great Readers in Our Lives!

In our house, January 16th is Rock Cake Day!

My nan would have been ninety-four today, and each year we mark her birthday by baking a batch of Rock Cakes, using the closely guarded secret recipe (don't even ask!) she developed and passed on to us.

At this point some of you may be thinking—“Hang on a minute! I thought this blog was about books and writing and stuff? Why’s this bloke babbling on about buns?” 
Let me explain …

Apart from her legendary baking skills, my Nan was also a great reader. (She is the only person I have ever met who managed to read the entire works of Charles Dickens—twice!) Her love of books started when she caught whooping cough as a child and had to spend long periods of time in hospital. Her dad was a big reader and, worried that his daughter might be missing out, took books in for her. When she got home, my nan still wasn’t strong enough to play outside, but found plenty of adventure and excitement in the stories she'd discovered.

Her first job, aged 16, was as a seamstress with a small firm in Birmingham in the 1930s. Keen that her workforce of young, sometimes poorly-educated, girls should find further enrichment, the owner started a tradition of reading aloud during the lunch break. My nan told me how they worked their way through the Old and New Testament of the Bible, before moving onto Dickens and Shakespeare—a bit different to Radio One blasting away in the staff canteen!

As I little kid, I remember Nan as always having a book on the go. It made me think that there might be something in this reading business—so I copied her, and started carrying A Bear Called Paddington around with me! I’ll admit that to begin with I didn’t open it that often, but after a while I gave it a go—and of course, I was hooked.

As I got older, I began recommending what I was reading to her. I’m not sure how much she actually enjoyed The Three Investigators series, but she read them, and we talked about how great they were. In turn, she lent me The Wind in the Willows and Watership Down (the first book to make me cry, sitting up in bed at 2am, sobbing by torchlight!) But the greatest passion we shared was Robert Westall. We were on a mission to collect and read his entire works. Sadly, my Nan died before we could complete the quest, but we did a pretty good job. I am now keeper of the collection—still guarded by the pig bookends she used to keep them in place.

Readers need each other—just as much as writers need readers, and readers need writers! I suspect that human beings have an innate need to share the things we like. (Have a quick look at Facebook or Twitter if you don't believe me.) We see a fantastic film, hear a great record or read a brilliant book, but it’s as though the process isn’t complete until we can tell somebody about it—and stories are meant for sharing 

So, to all the great readers I have known and talked books with—but especially my nan—Happy Rock Cake Day! And if there is one special person who first introduced you to this wonderful world of books, why not give them a call—find out what they're reading, or meet up and share stories over a brew and a rock cake! You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

"Waiting for Gonzo" — The Music Videos! Part Two: Sunglasses.

When I was making up fictional bands for Oz – the narrator of Waiting for Gonzo – I was simply having fun, trying to build a fully three-dimensional character. I never imagined that one of those imaginary songs by a band that didn't exist would be released as a single …

If you like the song, you can download it here and help raise money for Bliss – the charity that provides care and support for premature babies and their families. The track costs 79p on iTunes, but you can download it from most online music sites. (Prices may vary, but all proceeds go to Bliss.)

Click here, to find out more about how and why Cyclops Dog and the rest of Oz's favourite bands were brought to life.

Waiting for Gonzo is out now in the United States and Canada, published by Flux.

A UK edition (published by Oxford University Press) and audiobook are also available.

To read the story in Italian or Polish, please click on the links for San Paolo, Italy and YA! Poland. A German edition will be coming out in November.

Monday, 12 January 2015

"Waiting for Gonzo" — The Music Videos! Part One: Cigarette UFO.

I know, I know … How do you start by writing a book, then end up making a soundtrack album and accompanying music videos? Well, you know how you get an idea and think "that'll be fun, shouldn't take too long"? Then thirty-six hours later you find yourself up at 3am clutching a torch and a fishing rod while attempting to animate a tin-foil alien spaceship? 
Just me then. 
OK, well … if you've ever wondered what a writer does on his weekends off, here is the result of one of mine. I hope you enjoy it.

To find out how (and perhaps, more importantly, why) we ended up writing and recording an album of imaginary songs by bands that don't exist, just so you could listen to Oz's favourite music, I attempt an explanation here.

If you enjoyed the video you may want to check back here on Wednesday …

Waiting for Gonzo—the book that started all of this—is out now in the US and Canada, published by Flux.

A UK edition (published by Oxford University Press) and audiobook are also available.

To read the story in Italian or Polish, please click on the links for San Paolo, Italy and YA! Poland. A German edition will be coming out in November.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Download the "Waiting for Gonzo" Soundtrack — for FREE!

To celebrate the publication of Waiting for Gonzo in the United States and Canada, I'm posting a FREE download link for the soundtrack album that goes with the book.

"What's that?" you say. "A book with a soundtrack? Did I miss something?" 

The following video may help to explain …

So … now you can read the book AND hear the music playing in Oz's world as he makes his way through the story.

Ten original songs by some of Oz's favourite bands, including Dead Frank's Supersonic Milkfloat, Cyclops Dog, Cigarette UFO and Prayer for Halo—yours to download for FREE. Includes printable CD artwork with full lyrics booklet. 

DOWNLOAD HERE Did I mention it was FREE?

By the way, I'll be posting a couple more Waiting for Gonzo extras next week, so watch this space …

Waiting for Gonzo, is available now in the US and Canada, published by Flux.
A UK edition (published by Oxford University Press) and audiobook are also available. To read the story in Italian or Polish, please click on the links for San Paolo, Italy and YA! Poland. A German edition will be coming out in November.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

"Waiting for Gonzo" Out Now in the United States and Canada!

Waiting for Gonzo hits the shelves in book stores all over the United States and Canada today! 

For a quick introduction to the story (and a bit about me) here's a video by some strange looking bloke with a moustache! (It was made when the book first came out in the UK so don't be confused by the yellow cover!)

To celebrate publication, I'll be posting a few Waiting for Gonzo 'extras' over the next few days. 
Check back tomorrow for some free download goodies!

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few of the nice things people have been saying about Waiting for Gonzo:

"Cousins follows up his debut … with another tightly woven, heartwarming story of the ups and downs in the life of a teenager and his family."
Kirkus Reviews

"In a darkly comic story … Cousins offers a vibrant, highly visual account of teen angst and backfiring schemes. (Oz) makes more than a few mistakes at school and at home, but readers will never doubt that his heart is in the right place."
—Publishers Weekly

"Dave Cousins has created a distinctive narrator in Oz, as well as a hugely believable cast of supporting characters in this heart-warming and humorous novel. Dealing with some serious issues, Waiting for Gonzo manages to be simultaneously funny and thought-provoking."

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Edinburgh International Book Festival & Inheritance Books on Radio 4 Extra

Well—it's all happening this week!

On Thursday I'll be on the radio. The 4 O'Clock Show on BBC Radio 4 Extra invited me along to talk about Charlie Merrick's Misfits and some of my favourite stories, as part of their Inheritance Books series. Of course, I made it as difficult as possible, and decided to talk about a comic strip and a graphic novel—not the ideal medium for radio! If you want to find out how I got on, you can catch the broadcast at 4pm (Thurs 21 Aug) or Listen Again here

Next, I'm off to Scotland for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. On Friday I'll be visiting libraries in Dundee to meet students from local schools as part of the EIBF Schools Outreach Programme. Then, on Saturday, I'll be back in Edinburgh for a 1:30 event at the festival site. Maybe see you there! 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

St Saviour's School Dream Football Kit Designs

The Charlie Merrick's Misfits tour kicked off with two fixtures in East London yesterday. Berger Primary in E9 hosted the morning event for years  3 to 6, who came up with some fantastic questions that got us talking about writing, our favourite books, and football! 

A quick trip on the Docklands Light Railway and we arrived in E14 for the afternoon session at St. Saviour's. After the talk, year six downloaded the Charlie Merrick Activity Pack and designed some great dream football kits. They kindly allowed me to share them here.















Thanks to all the staff and students at Berger Primary and St. Saviour's for a very enjoyable and entertaining start to the tour. Also, huge thanks to Joanna at Victoria Park Books for supplying copies of Charlie Merrick, and to Rose for her book selling, AV skills, and company on the road!

If you would like to design your own dream kit, make a comic or some stat cards for your football team, you can download the pack for FREE here.