Door Art

Courtesy of Blast-Off Books

So I walked into Linlithgow Bridge Primary School last week and what did I find but amazing The Blackhope Enigma ‘door art’ made by the P6 class I was visiting. The children were pretty humble about it, but I know the effort they must have made to create this for my visit. I was and am truly touched.

It made me think about how we didn’t really do things like this when I was in school. Hmm, why didn’t we? Probably because authors didn’t come to my school. To be honest, in those days there was a pretty good chance the authors of books you liked weren’t even alive. Or if they were, it seemed like they existed on some lofty celestial plane that didn’t involve visiting schools. I’m sure they did, but I never met any.

So, thanks again, P6 – you made my day!

Blackhope Enigma Events, Past and Future

On the road with mazes and monsters…

I am stopping to take a breath after a number of days out in schools and libraries talking to children and their families about The Blackhope Enigma and what I do.

I had a rollicking two days over Hallowe’en with The Works Festival in North Lanarkshire. The librarians at Bellshill Library were in full costume – and put me to shame, since I was not!

One young artist gave me her maze drawing, complete with dangers and enemies drawn in. I was so taken with this zombie, I thought it should go up on the blog.

Then it was off up to Moray in the northeast of Scotland to tour about with Yeadon’s Bookshop. Their branch in Elgin is wonderful, with not only a great selection of books for all ages, but a stationery section with lovely writing paper, scented inks and wonderful cards. We visited schools in Buckie, Cullen and did events at Elgin Library. It was a lot of fun, as always.

Yesterday I did a day trip to Linlithgow with the excellent Blast-Off Books and we visited two local primary schools. The classes were very well prepared (in Moray too!) and the children asked a lot of very good questions.

The next stop on my “road show” is the Lennoxlove Book Festival on November 20th. More about that soon!

On the road again

The Blackhope Enigma roadshow is on the move again! This weekend I’ll be Halloweening it at the Works Festival in North Lanarkshire, then next week I’ll have a couple of days up in Moray, near Inverness. I’ll be doing lots of speaking, showing, reading aloud and a bit of drawing, with an emphasis on skeletons, eerie castles and monster mazes.

In the in-between days, I keep trying to cull a lot of extraneous stuff in my studio, do a bit of planning for new projects and general other stuff. There are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to!

Cheltenham Literary Festival

When last you heard from me, I was gunning to finish the draft of The Next Book. I had built up a head of steam, and was bearing down on the dénouement, when I was felled by my mortal enemies: sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and coughing. It was a whopper, by my lurgie standards, but I know from previous experience that I can keep on writing through these things.The Blackhope Enigma was born while I was home ill with a similar ailment, as was another novel I began last year, which is waiting in the queue while The Next Book is wrapped up. (Hmmm…do I see a pattern here?)

At any rate, last week my lovely editor granted me a bit of extra time to finish the draft and I promptly collapsed, briefly, into a heap. However, there were exciting things afoot, namely the Cheltenham Literary Festival. I managed to pull my stuffed-up brain together and get on that train south last Friday.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, this being my first big literary festival. Reader, I loved it. From everything I’d heard, Cheltenham is one of the best organised of them all, and I can verify that. Very friendly staff, great hospitality and a pleasant town to boot (plus good weather – not to be sneezed at). As an illustrator used to doing a lot of DIY events (setting up the space myself, cleaning up, etc.), I have to say that it was amazing to have the support of staff to do all that, plus Waterstone’s dealing with the book selling area, plus Templar’s super PR lady on hand, as well as my super agent.

My event went really well – great crowd, full house and lots of friendly faces in the book signing queue afterwards. Of course, it was too short to do lots of drawing (we were drawing monsters in mazes, as you do), but enough for a taster.

Later that day we were trundling north again, heads in a spin, tired but happy. And then, somehow, magically, The Next Book draft has finished itself over the last couple of days. (Okay, I had something to do with it, but honestly, it seems odd how it happened.)

I am sitting here in the studio. The printer has just coughed out the last few pages of it. I have my Red Pen at the ready. There will be a word cull before my editor even sees this draft. And there will be much more red ink to come over the next few months. When we are done with this baby, it will be as gleaming and shiny as possible.

And did I mention illustrations? Yes, I will be making those, too. The Artpen is warming up.

The Blackhope Enigma Book Launch

Debut book, debut book launch!

Well, The Blackhope Enigma has set sail, launched last Thursday by a wonderful crowd of well-wishers who enjoyed a glass of bubbly and a slice of “Corvo cake” (dark chocolate-raspberry amazingness) named after the Renaissance painter in my book, Fausto Corvo, aka the Raven. It’s astonishing what you can achieve with a simple cardboard cut-out and some confectioner’s sugar.

Photo by J Jamieson


The venue, a working studio lent to me by a very generous friend, had three rooms. This one served beautifully as a book-selling area and tiny gallery. The excellent Blast-off Books came all the way from Linlithgow to sell books, and to my delight, returned home with very little stock left. I framed a few of the illustrated maps from the book and put them on the mantel. The chilled-out skeleton oversaw book sales (skeletons figure prominently in the story, but you’ll have to read it to learn why).

Photo by J Jamieson

This is a corner of the largest room, before it got crowded, showing one of a collection of ravens I cut out of large black paper as wall art. When I was at art school I enjoyed making work from cut coloured paper, and got pretty good with a scalpel, or x-acto knife, as we called them in the USA. Fairy lights completed the decorations.


While we were celebrating the book, we also celebrated the virtual launch of The Blackhope Enigma website. Not only is it a handsome looking thing, but it has cool features on it, like downloadable wallpaper, a bookmark and some book plates that I drew, and which can only be found on the site. I also contributed an audio clip, produced by Cheer Productions, and a video clip made by Oak’s Bark, with the additional assistance of Pablo the sound man. Thanks to all those gentlemen, as well as Lighthouse Photographics, who took my publicity photo!

Last but not least, you can register to win a visit from me to your school (or your child’s school). So please do check it out!

I would like to thank everyone who came to the launch, especially those who traveled from far afield. They all made it a wonderful success and reminded me what great friends and colleagues I have. And I can’t thank Templar Publishing enough for all their support and hard work in bringing my book to the world!

What’s The Blackhope Enigma About?

A fine question indeed.

The Blackhope Enigma is a historical fantasy-mystery-adventure and it’s suitable for readers age nine and above. Read more about it on the Templar website, including an excerpt.

I just did a guest blog for the Scottish Book Trust about my path to becoming an author, and you can read that here.

I am really delighted that The Blackhope Enigma has been chosen as their July Book of the Month!

Tomorrow is Publication Day! The next couple of days will be busy, busy, but I shall be back with updates and photos forthwith.

More from Independent Booksellers Week 2010

In which The Blackhope Enigma appears at Atkinson-Pryce Books.

We rolled into Biggar (no jokes please, my husband has exhausted them all) last Saturday to introduce The Blackhope Enigma to children at the very lovely and welcoming Atkinson-Pryce Books. It’s a cosy and bright shop that I wish was in my neighbourhood!



Armed with the book, postcards and laptop containing a riveting (I hope) presentation about labyrinths, Renaissance paintings, Venetian galleys and early maps, I had a fine old time introducing the children to some of the story’s background and inspirations. We even did some drawing together (mermaids, monsters and mice) while lying on the carpeted floor. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend an hour on Saturday afternoon. Thanks to all the children for coming and to Atkinson-Pryce Books for arranging my appearance there.

Independent Booksellers Week Events 2010

Support your indie bookseller!

Teresa Flavin at IBW event

Photo by K Ross

Yesterday was a big day. The Blackhope Enigma roadshow took to rail and road with Blast-Off Books in support of Independent Booksellers Week 2010.

I love all book stores but I am particularly fond of indie bookshops like Blast-Off Books, which specialises in children’s books and provides an amazing service to its local community and schools. That’s why I volunteered to participate in IBW events this week.

We headed out into the gorgeous countryside in the sunshine and visited the lovely Dalmeny Primary School, where the pupils were already well into The Blackhope Enigma, being probably the first school on the planet to have had almost half of it read to them by their excellent teacher. That’s me in the photo, showing one of the illustrations inside the book. I was bowled over by their positive response and great questions. Wow, is all I can say.

The roadshow headed next to Torphichen Primary, another lovely school with keen pupils, who are now clued up on all things Blackhope. Again, excellent questions and comments all round.

The roadshow heads out to Biggar on Saturday, stopping in at another indie bookshop, Atkinson-Pryce Bookshop, at 11:30am. I’ll be doing a Blackhope-inspired workshop-talk for children age 9+. It’s free but ticketed, so if you are interested, contact them.

Both Blast-Off Books and Atkinson-Pryce will be stocking The Blackhope Enigma.

Counting Down to July 1st

Things are ramping up big style here at HQ. Only a few weeks till The Blackhope Enigma is released into the wild in the UK, and there is lots to do. I am spinning quite a few plates in the air for the time being, but each of those plates has a mountain of goodies on it. Some of the goodies will be unveiled to all on July 1st, when a certain new website goes live. Needless to say, it’s all very exciting.
I am extremely grateful to my posse of talented friends, who are giving me all sorts of help in getting things off the ground. When the time comes, I will shine a spotlight on each of them for all their good humored assistance!
And the folks at Templar are just great. It is wonderful to work with such a dedicated group of people!