Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Almost the end of 2011, and I hear some people say it has been a bad year. But my mother used to always say at the end of each year. ' You're alive and well, what more can you ask for?' Well, I am indeed alive and well and have even more than just that to be thankful for.
   Grass won the Royal Mail Scottish Book Award this year, as well as the Red Book Award, and the Grampian, and they were only the awards it won in 2011!  Out of The Depths came out in November, and my publisher took me on a fantastic book tour to promote it.  And in 2011 I have written 6 books! It Walks Among Us which will come out next year. The Dead Teacher,( must get a better title.) the third in the Tyler Lawless series, The Football Shirt which comes out in January, and Point Danger which comes out later in the year. I also wrote a short book for the French market, Harry at Hastings. And  also the fourth in the Tyler Lawless series, Scarred to Death. Isn't that a great title. Okay, I don't even have a contract for that, but that book will be published. I'm going to make sure of it. It's the book I wrote in November, for that book in a month thing. It actually took me almost two months to finish, but it is definitely a great way to get you started. And you know what they say. Something begun, is half done.  Now none of these books are great tomes.The longest is around 50,000 words, but I am very proud of them anyway.
  I have also travelled a lot in 2011. My daughter Katie took me to Madrid in March. It was her Christmas present to me. What a fabulous time we had. I was in Spain with Katie again in July with her family, and Spain again in August with my daughter Sarah and her family. ( As you can see, my family can't get rid of me!) Then in September I sailed on the Queen Mary, from Greenock to New York. How fabulous is that! Stepping onto a the world's greatest liner in your own home town, and stepping off in sight of the Statue of Liberty!
   I'm breathless with all the wonderful things that happened for me in 2011, but it hasn't all been good.
   Another of my beloved sisters died in July. Belle, the eldest of us died just six months after the youngest, Teresa. I still can't believe they've gone. Miss them every day.
  But, in spite of that tragedy, how can I say that this year hasn't been a good one for me?  As my mother taught me, I am alive and well, and with so many plans and goals for 2012. If anything the loss of my sisters has taught me that you must live for the day. Make the most of every moment.
   This is something I keep on my fridge, read it every day. Believe in it completely. It is a Sanskrit proverb.
   I hope you like it too.

   Look to this day, for it is life
   The very life of life
   In its brief course lie all the realities and verities of existence,
   The bliss of growth,
   The splendour of action,
   The glory of power,
   For yesterday is but a dream
   And tomorrow is only a vision,
   But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,
   and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
   Look well therefore to this day.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The Book Tour!

When I first became a published writer, going on a book tour was something I dreamed of. It sounded glamorous, exciting, a sign of a real author! I've been on a few now, and I still find them exciting! Mind you, I still don't think of myself as a real author. Someone is going to spot soon I don't deserve to be here!I don't ever want to get blase about those book tours. I visited so many schools last week, stayed at so many hotels, and travelled on so many trains it is all a blur, but a wonderful blur.  Emma from Bloomsbury was with me at the beginning of the week and  St. Bede's and Oasis Brightstowe Academy were the first schools I went to, and they gave me such a wonderful welcome. And at Oasis I did my very first powerpoint demonstration...and it worked! Mind you, I haven't used it since. Dinner that night, and isn't it amazing how interesting people's lives are. I actually had dinner with a woman who had been Margaret Thatcher's bodyguard ! and she said she was a very nice woman, considerate and someone who always remembered people's names and the names of their children too. Doesn't sound like the Margaret Thatcher usually represented, does it? Tuesday and we headed to Hilperton and then Melksham Manor School, and another wonderful welcome. After that we left for London and that gave me a chance to meet my agent and stay in another lovely hotel. Only trouble with hotels is you don't get enough channels on their televisions. The only channels they seemed to have only had food programmes on them. Not a sign of  The Walking Dead! Lucky I brought a good book!
On Wednesday, Ian from Bloomsbury took over from Emma( was I too much for her, I wonder) but it gave Ian and I a chance to catch up on Doctor Who. They're making a film soon, and we were wondering what monsters they would have in it. Don't you just love monsters? Off again on Wednesday to Coventry and Whitmore Park school, then right on to Birmingham for an evening event. I loved that one too! Ros Bartlett organised it and we had parents and young people there. Including, April who said Another Me is her favourite book and she even has the cover as her screen saver!  Next day I was on to Wolverhampton and two terrific schools there, Colton Hills Community School and Wednesfield High School.  You would think by that time you might feel mentally exhausted, talking about stories, creating stories, but I find it stimulating. It helps me when I come to writing mine. Finally on Friday it was Southampton and the Sholing Technology College. A full on week, but I met so many fans, and sold lots of books too. Hope lots of them enter the video trailer competition for Out of the Depths. Thank you all for the wonderful welcomes you gave me!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Out Of The Depths

Yes, at last! Tyler Lawless is here!The first book in the series, Out Of The Depths doesn't officially come out until next week, but today we had a pre publication launch at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. 400 fantastic pupils from schools all over Glasgow, and almost all of my family were there too. It made it a really special day for me. I've used so many in the family in my books I'm surprised any of them are still talking to me. There's Katie, my daughter,who began it all.  She got bullied at school,went through an awful time...but it was such a great story it was a shame to waste it, so I wrote Run Zan Run, the book that began my whole career in writing for young people! I mean, it's not that I'm not an understanding mum, but I have said to Katie that I know it was the worst thing that ever happened to her....but it was the best thing that ever happened to me She said, ' Mother, you are a sick woman!'
    Sarah, my other daughter, she was there today too. She got herself a job in Glasgow when she was just twenty one. I thought her boss was a thoughtful, wonderful man. Then his body was found in a shallow grave with a bullet in his head. Turned out he was such a villain, they didn't know if the Chinese Triads had murdered him or the iRA, or the Clumbian Drug Lords, or one of the Glasgow gangsters were responsible for killing him. The number of suspects could have filled a bus. ( Not much of a judge of character, am I?) However, you have to admit, how could I not use a story like that! And the book that came from that? Bad Company. Can I help it if all these exciting things happen to my children?
    But they forgave me, and they all came today. And as if having my family there, including my gorgeous grandchildren, as if that wasn't enough, the real Tyler Lawless came too. She was as excited as I was to be there, a beautiful, bright girl and for her sake too I want the Tyler Lawless series to be a big success.
It has been a perfect day!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

new ideas

I have spent the last two weeks, travelling, between school visits and  family parties. It always excites me that no matter where I go, I see something, hear something that triggers off an idea for a story...or even a character. Do you ever notice the great place names there are in Britain? I've seen such fabulous ones,have them all written down in my notebook, but on my way up to Elgin a couple of weeks ago I passed a sign for LAGGAN WOLFTRAX. Laggan Wolftrax, I thought, what a great name for a character. And next day when I  was talking to my first class at Lossiemouth I threw the name at the pupils. Can you picture him? What does he look like? What is he wearing? Is he a good guy, or a bad guy, and why has he come into the story?  I was amazed at the character they came up with, the story they created from that character. It was the same in the next school, at Buckie High ( always love going to Buckie High!), though the character was different and so was the story. Next day, it was a completely different story and character again when I used the name at Kemnay Primary. That's what I really enjoy about school visits, to see the fantastic ideas a word, a name, a title can generate. And helping them to free their imaginations seems to unlock mine too. I came away with my mind bubbling with ideas.  And don't think Laggan Wolftrax isn't going to appear in a story of mine!
   Last week I was back up north again, always love that drive, we live in such a beautiful country. This time I was at Turriff, another favourite. It was Turriff Book Fortnight, loads of authors up there, met the lovely Tom Palmer and his family. Honestly, the work school librarians do to promote reading is amazing. It all culminated with the Grampian Book Award. What a wonderful event. Nicola Morgan, Cathy Cassidy and myself were the only three of the shortlisted authors who were there, and I have to admit, I wanted one of us to win. Does that sound awful? Well, it wasn't just for our sake, but for the pupils who had all been bussed in to Aberdeen University for the ceremony and who had read and voted for the books. It's good I think if the author they voted for is there, for them to talk to, to sign their books. I know it's not always possible, there have been times when I haven't been able to make it either.But I was keeping my fingers crossed it would be one of our names that would come out of the envelope!  I honestly thought that we didn't stand a chance. Against Charlie Higson and a zombie book! Who can beat zombies! So you can imagine how excited I was when a joint winner was announced, and I was one of the joints! Zombies and me! I'm still on a high about it.  
   Home again, and just finishing the third in the Tyler Lawless series, and I have a week at home to do it.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Up North

I always seem to be away when anything really big, something that is going to change history, is happening! For instance, at 9/11 I was way up in Stornaway, doing school visits. I caught the news in a staff room, fleeting images on a small television. I remember I was out that night and ate mussels and was so sick, and had to fly out next morning. I've never eaten mussels since.  Piper Alpha? Do you remember that terrible disaster? I was on holiday in Buckie when it happened. In a caravan with my family and no television at all. Same with the raid on Entebbe.When the Israelis flew in and rescued all those airline passengers whose plane had been hijacked.  And now, Osama Bin Laden is killed and where am I? Away again. In a hotel with a television that can't even get BBC1. Dying to hear the details and not being able to. Maybe I should stay at home more often.  Yet, perhaps being in these places will make me remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of these historic events.
    I bet too, even as I write this, Hollywood moguls are casting the film version. I think Will Smith would have to play Obama. What do you think? Maybe Bruce Willis could be the cigar chewing head of military operations. The soldiers dropped into the compound would have to be some of the top young actors of today. Shia Le Bouef Perhaps?  And what about Osama Bin Laden himself? Poor old Art Malik comes to mind. Brilliant actor and soooo good lookiing, but permanently cast as the Asian bad guy. My son and daughter in law and I had great fun casting the film, and who is to say we're wrong. It would make great cinema.
     Now I am up in Elgin, beginning a mini tour of the North of Scotland, I'm going to Buckie again tomorrow to give out prizes, I always love going there.  But maybe I better get back home soon before something else happens!

Thursday, 31 March 2011

school visits

I don't know why I enjoy school visits so much. I always think I get more out of them, than the pupils I speak to. I think it's the best research in the world for a children's writer. You see how your readers dress, how they speak, to each other and to their teachers. You can observe how they behave, how they wear their hair. And I can't remember the number of times a school  visit has sparked off a book. I used to tell stories about the funny wee men I would see around my home town, and let's face it, in Scotland we have an endless supply of funny wee men. Whenever I told these stories they would say, " you should write a book about them." And I did. I wrote Catch Us If You Can."  Recently, I've been talking about a football shirt I had seen pinned on a tree as a tribute to a boy who had died there in an accident. Told them how I would build a story from that. "Are you going to write that book," they would say. So I did.
    One thing about me, if they ask me to write a certain kind of story, then I will. When I was writing Underworld, I asked at one school. " What would you like to find in a story like that." And, almost as one, they said. " a monster!" Now, I don't normally do monsters. But there is a monster in Underworld.
     I can find characters at my school visits too. The boy at one school who insisted we swap autographs, because his would be worth a fortune one day on Ebay! And last year in Exeter a line of pupils waited for me to sign books and one girl stepped to the front. " There's a queue!" they all shouted. and she said. " The queue starts behind me."  and with hardly a word, they all formed a line behind her. How can you not use that in a story!
   The biggest benefit is meeting your readers. They make writing so worthwhile. The boy at Mearns Academy who said Grass was the best book he had ever read. The girl at Rothes who stood with her pile of my books, so excited, waiting for me to sign them. Did she know I was the one who was really excited? I hope so.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

world Book Week

I had such a good week last week, first I visited Pitlochry. I am invited there every year, and I love going to that school. I am always so impressed by the amount of work they do around my books. This year there was artwork based around The Beast Within, the second book in the Nemesis series. Such imaginative beasts they came up with! There was also artwork based on the opening chapter of Into The Shadows. The science department were doing forensic work around this book too, and some of the classes were making an animated comic strip based on the first chapter. The work they do, and have always done, takes my breath away. I remember the first time I visited the school a life size wigwam had been erected in the hall! I wonder if anyone knows which book of mine inspired that!
  The next day I was in Edinburgh, first at Stewart Melville's school where I received such a warm welcome and met a lovely fan, Juan, from Columbia, who loved my Nemesis series. Okay, I can't help it .I love compliments. Then it was a mad dash to my next school, also n Edinburgh, Mary Erskine's, I loved that visit too. When you step in front of an audience and see so many of them clutching your books, you know you are in for a good event.
  I finished the week at Dunfermline High School, where I was greeted by the librarian, dressed as a witch. The teacher who brought the class in was dressed as the harridan of a teacher from Matilda. I love how librarians and teachers get so involved in the World Book Week events.
  Home at last, and I had hoped to go to the cinema...what am I doing calling it the cinema? It will always be the pictures to me. Didn't get, not this week, but I do love the movies. What would we do without stories ?
  Tomorrow I am off to the Aye Write Festival in Glasgow, and four hundred pupils. I've already had e mails from young people who are going to be there to hear me. Hope I talk sense, and that they enjoy the day as much as I intend to.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Royal Mail Book Award!

I have had the most perfect day. Shortlisted for this wonderful award , The Royal Mail Scottish Childrens Book Award, was great enough, but winning it. That was fantastic. The whole day had a circus theme, and I almost fell over a girl on stilts when I walked into the Tramway Theatre in Glasgow. Everyone was in circus mode. Children were dressed up, and so were the staff of the Book Trust. The bearded lady looked so authentic I almost pulled her beard just to make sure.I half expected the authors to be fired from the cannon to get us into the auditorium.  I so hope the young people who were there, and a lot of them had travelled a long way to get to Glasgow, enjoyed the day as much as I did.
     I have come home to a fish supper and a glass of champage. High living, eh? But if I had a five star day, then it was only the icing on the cake of a five star weekend. I spent it with Katie in Madrid.( this was her Christmas present to me)  We stayed in a lovely hotel on the Gran Via, a perfect location, and on Friday night we had tapas in a little Spanish bar. We had planned to go back to the hotel and change to go out again. Instead we found a restaurant with a bay window looking out over the street. We could people watch to our hearts' content there. The young couple who couldn't stop kissing, until they realised we were watching them, and then they giggled and waved and moved on. The other couple who parked their car halfway on the street, with the hazard lights flashing. He got out of the car, a poor soul, walked with a limp. He took the cases out of the boot while his girlfriend haughtily lit a cigaretter and made a call on her mobile phone.Then he dragged and lifted the cases towards a hotel further up the street. She totally ignored him. Too busy on her moblie, while he kept having to stop for a rest, shifting the weight of the cases before he moved on. She was still on the phone, and with her fag in her mouth when he returned. We expected, hoped I think, he would snatch the cigarette crush it underfoot. But he didn't. Instead, they both began walking towards the hotel. Then, suddenly, the worm turned. He said something, she snapped back and the next thing, she was striding away from him. and he was walking in the opposite direction. Only thing was, she was heading for the hotel, and he was going back to the car. We will never know the end of that story. But that is the wonderful thing about people watching. You can make up your own ending. And, did I really see Danny Boyle, the Greenock scriptwriter, walking with his wife? I could have sworn I did.
    Moments like these made up the weekend.  But the best of all was what happened on the way to the airport on Sunday. I looked out of the taxi window as we were stopped at traffic lights, and there on the top of a tourist bus going in the opposie direction.,was a young boy. When he saw me he smiled, and I smiled back and waved. The lights changed, and as we moved away from each other we waved again.
   Ships passing in the night, as they say? Not a bit of it. At Liverpool airport as we were waiting to go through customs, a boy in front turned to me. " Did I see you in Madrid today?" He asked. The same boy.His name was Sam, a lovely boy, on holdiay with his family for half term. Imagine remembering my face in a taxi window?
   Another small moment that made the weekend. And a big moment, to make my day today!

Monday, 7 February 2011

catching up

Ages since I wrote in here. No excuse, just couldn't get in to actually post a blog. Another resolution, learn more about technology! But here I am, have had such a wonderful January, I didn't win the Southern Schools Book Award, but I met such lovely people there. I love meeting other writers, hearing how they go about writing, where they get their ideas, asking all the questions that seem to annoy people because they get asked them so much! I did, however, win the Red Book Award. They really know how to host an awards celebration. Everyone has to wear something red. My daughter Sarah bought me a lovely red flowy top, just right for the was my birthday the day before, so winning was just about the best birthday present I could get. It was such a fun day. Then, I was off to Liverpool and my daughter Katie and her family. I love driving and listening to the radio as I go. Heard a great play on the way home, a dramatisation of The Big Sleep, seems Radio 4 are doing a Raymond Chandler season. All the time I listened I was sure I knew the actor's voice who was playing Philip Marlowe. The play was almost finished when it came to me. It was the detective out of Medium. The news came on just after it finished. There was an item about a sex offender in Carstairs who took his case ot the European Court. He was being fed a healthy diet and said it was against his human rights, because he wanted junk food....and he won! Law and Order UK, eh?  But, it gave me an idea for a story. Schools are making sure pupils are eating a healthy diet, aren't they? What if they, en masse, started protesting, they want their chips. Took their case to the European Court, would they win too? Why shouldn't they? We might have protests like the ones wer'e seeing in Cairo!
   January over already. It's February, and I have so much to look forward to this month too.  

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Southern Schools Book Award

I was shortlisted for this award two years ago, and never got to the award ceremony, not that I won, but I was so looking forward to going. Hurricane like winds stopped me, and the trains, but maybe everything happens for a reason. I had got as far as Preston, when we were all taken off the train and onto buses for the next part of the journey. I sat beside an American, who turned out to be one of the most interesting men I have ever met. I was writing the Nemesis series at the time, and as we talked he began to tell me of his most interesting life. He was involved with US homeland security, so he gave me lots of tips about the conspiracy I was writing about in the series. He was also a writer himself,  had plays produced, loved writing, but at the moment his other career had taken over. Though it was hard to give writing up. Writing is a drug, he told me. In fact, he told me so much I was sure he must have been making half of it up, so I Googled him as soon as I got home, and actually he had been really modest. He's very well known, well thought of, and think I am going to tell you his name. Forget it, he is my Dark Man. We still keep in touch, now and then.
   So who knows who I might meet on my journey to Brighton tomorrow? I am so looking forward to going, meeting the other shortlisted authors and the readers too. My son says you should fill your life with 5star days, I am going to make tomorrow one of them.