Thursday, 16 July 2020

Is My Teacher a Robot? Video extract

Hi folks,

I hope all is well with you and yours.

Is My Teacher a Robot? – the second story in the 'Robot Babysitter' series came out back in February and I've been meaning to record an extract ever since. 

With schools closed and events cancelled or postponed, I've put the unexpected free time to good use and finally put the above video together.

It's me reading the start of the story accompanied by Catalina Echeverri's excellent illustrations from the book. Those of a certain age will spot that I'm channeling a 1970s Jackanory vibe here with the somewhat shoogly animation! Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. I'm thinking Rhubarb and Custard for the next one …?

Take care and all the best,

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Book at Bedtime? Robot Audiobooks Out Now!

Hi folks,

I hope all is well with you and yours.

I'm currently in self-imposed lockdown in my shed and not allowed out until I've finished my new book! When it's done, this will be the fourth story in the series about twins Jake and Jess and their accident-prone robot. I've had a lot of fun writing these and it's been great to hear that readers are enjoying them too!

I'm very happy to announce that the first two stories are now available as audiobooks, read by the brilliant Peter Kenny. 

It's great hearing someone else read the story – almost like listening to someone else's book! I found myself laughing out loud, which to be honest, feels a bit weird when it's your own stuff – but with someone else reading it … well, I decided it was OK. Anyway, if you're looking for a bedtime story or something to raise a smile on a wet Wednesday afternoon, why not have a listen?

Both audiobooks should be available via your local library. Alternatively you can download from Audible, here:

Oh, and while we're on the subject … the next instalment of robot mayhem – A ROBOT ATE MY GRANDMA! should be out over the summer. Watch this space!

Look after yourselves …
All the best

Monday, 4 May 2020

Writing Prompt – May The Fourth Be With You!

In honour of the day, today's writing prompt challenge is to write a story or draw a comic set in space! 

Anybody who has heard me talk will know that one of my earliest ambitions was to be an astronaut. I even wrote to NASA asking how to join. (They wrote back!) 

My favourite song was Space Oddity by David Bowie and I spent many hours dressed in my makeshift spacesuit and an old crash-helmet, moon-walking round the house. 

Anyway, back to the prompt … This is quite a wide brief – an opportunity for you to boldly go where ever your imagination decides to drag you!

However, if the vast expanse of space leaves you feeling overwhelmed, here are a few ideas that might spark something:

– Your story could be set in a galaxy faraway (like Star Wars, Futurama, Final Space …)

– Imagine it's years into the future – with Earth's resources dwindling, humans have begun the colonisation of another planet (maybe Mars or the Moon*) *Not actually a planet. What would life be like living in one of these new colonies? A different kind of isolation, perhaps? Your current experiences might be useful here.

– Imagine taking one of the first tourist flights into space. Billed as "The experience of a lifetime!" But what if something went wrong?

– If you like scary stories, what about a space monster story? One of my favourite films is about the crew of space ship who find themselves trapped with an alien on board! Or what about an alien invasion? (To give it a twist, what if humans were the aliens doing the invading!)

– Or maybe you get to live my dream and become an astronaut. What would that be like? Again, spending weeks on a space station might have quite a few similarities with your current lockdown isolation – there would certainly be restrictions on going outside!

These are just a few ideas – I'm sure you can think of something much better. There's a LOT of space out there. Have fun with it!

Commencing countdown. 

Monday, 27 April 2020

Writing Prompt (First Line Series #1)

First lines are important. A great first line can hook a reader into a story, so they HAVE to read on and find out what happens.

A good first line can also take a story in many different directions.

This week I'm going to post a series a first line prompts. I won't claim that they're all going to be killer hooks, but I'm hoping they'll spark an idea to get you writing.

So, here we go …

A couple of quick tips:
These six words give you lots to work with. I've mentioned before that asking questions is a great way to spark ideas. For instance, there are four obvious questions that spring to mind here.

1. WHO is delivering the line of dialogue?
2. WHO are they talking to? 
3. WHAT is the "that" being denied entry?
4. WHERE is the "here"?

Just answering those questions should get you started.
There are more questions that naturally follow. For example:

5. WHY is the protagonist (possibly the narrator themselves) trying to take the THING into the PLACE?
6. What will happen if they are denied access? What is at STAKE here?
7. What will happen if they get past the person denying them access, or find another way in?

Once you start writing I'm sure lots more questions will occur. Follow the answers and see where they lead you …

Good luck. Have fun.

PS. I'm going to be working on the next draft of my new book for the next few weeks. I'll keep posting prompts, but it may just be a couple a week as I'm going to be busy wrangling my own words for a while!

Friday, 24 April 2020

Writing Prompt (Title Series #4) – Unexpected Item in Bagging Area

I went to the supermarket for supplies yesterday. As directed, I used one of the automatic checkout machines. I followed the on-screen instructions and everything was going fine.

Please swipe an item. Check.
Place the item in your bag. Check. 

I was getting into it, picking up some speed, getting a good rhythm … and then the following message flashed up on the screen.

I looked at the bunch of bananas I'd just put in my bag. There was still a picture of them on the screen. The robot checkout had just told me to put them in there! How unexpected could they be???!

I won't bore you with what happened next – it's not a great story. BUT IT COULD HAVE BEEN! On the way home I started thinking – what is the most unexpected item you could find in the bagging area? What if you found something REALLY weird? There could be a story in that, I thought.

So this is your challenge for today! Write a story, or a poem, about finding something REALLY UNEXPECTED in the bagging area at your local supermarket. 

What's the weirdest thing you can think of? A baby? An elephant?! A surface-to-air rocket launcher? What's the funniest thing you can imagine finding? What's it doing there and what are you going to do about it?

This one might be good for a cartoon, or a picture. What's the strangest object you can draw, waiting in the bagging area? Design a weird and wonderful object so people have to try and work out what it is, what it's for and how it got there!

OK, I realise I said at the start of the week that I wouldn't give any hints for these prompts – but hey, it's Friday and I'm a generous kind of fella … so you're very welcome.

Have a great weekend. Y'all stay safe now!

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Writing Prompt (Title Series #3) – LOST!

Today's title prompt is LOST!

You could be lost … in the dark, in the woods, in a strange unfamiliar city. Or maybe you've lost something important. What would be the WORST thing you could lose?

Or perhaps something, or someone, that WAS lost is found … by you. What happens next?

P.S. I wanted to do a picture for this one and thought of a lost pet poster – which got me thinking about cats, which of course led me to my favourite cartoon feline – HOBBES, the tiger from Calvin and Hobbes. I attempted the above in respectful homage to the brilliant Bill Watterson. If you've never read any Calvin and Hobbes – seriously, go and check it out. NOW!!!

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Writing Prompt (Title Series #2) – I Laughed So Much I Cried!

When was the last time you did this? Write about something funny that happened, or make up something that might!

Continuing the series of title prompts – just a single word or phrase to spark an idea.

Write a short story, a poem, a song, draw a comic, make a film, weave flowers into an ornate tapestry of hilarity – it's totally up to you. (PS. If anyone does that last one, please post a picture!)

Good luck. See if you can have a laugh with this one …