I had all my creative hats on during a variety of ESA Open Studios events over the past four days: artist, illustrator, writer, workshop leader and even ‘advisor’. It all kicked off on Thursday night with the launch party for ‘Cache’, a small exhibition with four other artists curated by Mexico at Union 105, a studio building not far from my own building. I was really pleased to have had a painting selected and it has helped me feel more like a ‘local’ Yorkshire-based artist. I also met quite a few of my studio colleagues, who are a lively crew.
On Friday morning an enthusiastic group of Year 4 pupils and their teachers visited Patrick Studios and we took them on a tour/treasure hunt of the building. Afterwards the children made fabulous treasure maps and we talked about all the artworks in the studios that had inspired them. It was wonderful to have a primary school group visit us for the first time.
The main event took place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Children and their families explored the studios using my treasure hunt clue sheet and there were lots of grown-ups who popped into my studio to have a look. I had a number of interesting conversations with students attending art programmes at several Leeds colleges and universities, with graduates working on their career plans and with folks interested in publishing. It made me realise how many people are either interested in having their story published or know someone who is. Everyone was friendly and polite, asked good questions and seemed genuinely excited by what they had seen in all the studios.
This morning I put my display away and got back down to business. Next week I’ll be heading to the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton but before I can even think about that, I have quite a lot of a new book to write!
A rollicking ride around Australia with motorcyclist Jill Maden.
I’ll remember the summer of 2013 as one of the more hectic in my adult life. Not only have I been busy talking about my new book, The Shadow Lantern, to audiences from Inverness to Yorkshire, but I moved to a new home and studio. With so much going on, reading became a fantastic escape from the giant list of things I had to do. If I had to choose my ultimate grown-up ‘escape’ book of this summer, it was my friend Jill Maden’s Excess Baggage, because it transported me all the way to the back roads of Australia.
I know very little about motorbiking and not much about Australia’s geography. I’ve ridden nervously on the back of a couple of bikes in Asia, but wouldn’t dare learn to ride one. Jill, on the other hand, knows how to fly a plane and ride a motorbike. This makes her extremely cool already, and when she told me she was publishing the story of her 2011 trip across Australia on her bike, I expected tales of derring-do. Excess Baggage features tales of Jill’s races against extreme weather, late night arrivals in small town hostels, friendship and loneliness, and – above all – her entertaining struggles with a mountain of excess baggage. She writes in a humorous and, at times, self-deprecating way which kept her story moving along enjoyably – and I say this not just because I know Jill. I would have liked this book if I had not known her at all.
Jill has been raising money for charity by doing rides around Scotland and blogging about it on her website. If motorbike adventures interest you, check it out.
I’m writing this from my new studio in Leeds, West Yorkshire. Yes, Leeds! After many happy years in Scotland, we took the plunge and moved the whole kit and caboodle to lovely Yorkshire, including all these fabulous stones and shells I’ve collected in my travels. It meant saying goodbye to many friends and leaving one of the most stunning landscapes in the world, but we’re settling in another friendly city in a beautiful county. It will take me a while to get used to a completely new accent and local culture, but the prospect is exciting. I’ll be sharing photos and thoughts about my new life as I go along, but if you’d like to know what I thought of Leeds the first time I ever visited here, take a look at this archived post from 2011. At the time I had no clue that I’d ever come back here, but life takes interesting turns sometimes!
I’m really pleased to post the winners of Whitburn Academy’s S1 Art Challenge! In May I spoke to all the first year pupils about The Blackhope Enigma after they had read the first four chapters in class. I was asked to set them an art challenge that day and I proposed an illustration inspired by the book. I was invited back in June to see the work in progress and when all the images were done, I helped choose the winner and three runners-up.
It was hard to choose one but I really liked the bird’s eye perspective on this one, as well as the cool texture on the raven’s feathers, so ‘Anonymous’ (a bit shy) is the winner.
I also really liked the colours, patterns and purplish organic thorns in Alexandra’s illustration.
Lily’s sunset painting is really atmospheric with its use of silhouettes!
And Eildh’s ominous stained glass window illustration with silhouette works well too.
All the pupils won art supplies and I really hope they have a creative summer of art-making! Thanks to Whitburn Academy pupils, teachers and librarians for hosting me.
It’s official! I have two new websites that are linked under one umbrella – or should I say tree? It’s taken months to get all the materials together for my new author site and to update my illustrator site, but I think it was well worth the effort.
It’s wonderful to have the sites ready in time for the launch of The Shadow Lantern on 1 May. I hope you’ll click here to check out my new landing page and navigate to both sites from there. Comments and suggestions are welcome!
UK readers, it’s only a matter of weeks until The Shadow Lantern is published by Templar Publishing! You can now pre-order the final book in the Blackhope Enigma trilogy online. I’ve made it easier for you by including some links here.
I’m pleased to announce that ace book blogger Serendipity Reviews is the first to reveal The Shadow Lantern‘s cover here. Once again, I’m thrilled with the fine work Tom Sanderson of The Parish has done with the design. I couldn’t have asked for more appropriate and classy covers for all three books!
It’s been a week since I said goodbye to The Shadow Lantern and wished it well on its journey to the printer. The next time I see it, the pile of papers that made up the proof copy will have been transformed into a bound book with another stunning cover. One small part of me feels a bit melancholy about finishing my characters’ stories, but mostly I am excited about the book launch and UK tour later this spring.
It still feels slightly unreal to have created three novels. If anyone had told me seven years ago that I would morph into a novelist, I would have laughed in disbelief. But the sudden urge to start writing The Blackhope Enigma was so strong, I knew I had to go with it. The process was never easy because I had so much to learn (and always will!) about crafting stories, but it was fascinating and fulfilling. Knowing so many young people (and adults) had enjoyed reading it really spurred me on. By the time I began planning The Crimson Shard, I was hooked on my characters and their stories. The sequel grew organically out the first book and as soon as I had finished it, I knew that there would be a third and final story.
I’ve always loved trilogies. There is something about the number three that is quite powerful and complete for me. I feel very proud of all three books and am looking forward to presenting The Shadow Lantern to the world in just a few months.
I just found out that The Crimson Shard, the second novel in the Blackhope Enigma trilogy (published in the US by Candlewick Press), has been nominated for the 2013 Teen Choice Book of the Year in the USA! Needless to say, I am totally thrilled to be on the nominations list with so many fantastic authors. The great thing about this award is that YOU can vote! And not just that, you can vote for your five favourite books of 2012 to be finalists (from the nominations or you can choose a book that isn’t on the list). Then you’ll be able to vote for your favourite of the finalists. Sounds good, yes?
You’ve got until February 13, 2013 to vote on the teenreads.com website. I hope you’ll vote soon!
Two weeks in and 2013 is looking pretty eclectic. Just the way I like it.
There hasn’t been any time for hibernating. I’ve just finished inking the interior illustrations for The Shadow Lantern and, any day now, the typeset script will come back to me for proofreading. By the end of this month, the book will be ready for reproduction and I will begin looking forward to the first of May, its publication date.
I’m also juggling a couple of other projects right now: a downright fun illustration commission that I hope to reveal later this spring and my two new websites. Yes, two. One will be about the writing side of things and the other will be about my art and illustration. Stay tuned for the launch date!
Throughout this year I’ll be presenting at various book festivals as well as leading some exciting writing and illustration workshops for young people and for adults. As each event is announced I’ll post information here and on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
This looks to be a year of rich variety, change and experimentation. One of my favourite bands, I Am Kloot, is bringing out a new album soon and their song, These Days Are Mine, sums up the surge of optimism I’m feeling right now. Consider it my January anthem. (And you can have a free listen to the whole album here.)