Event at Heffers in Cambridge.

Years and years ago, when I first left art college, I worked for a short time at Heffers, the famous Cambridge bookshop.  I'll be going back there on 11th May to take part in a Science Fiction and Fantasy Evening which they're hosting.  It will also be a chance to meet China Mieville, Steven Erikson, Trudi Canavan, Peter F. Hamilton, Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell, Alex Scarrow, Moira Young, Ian Whates and Jasper Kent.  Tickets are £5 for adults (or just £2.50 if you're under 16).  Bargain!  So if you're in the Cambridge area please come along - it will be embarrassing if I'm the only one without a signing queue.  There are more details here.

Fever's World

This is the map which appears in the front of Scrivener's Moon, showing the UK and bits of western Europe as they appear in the era of the Fever Crumb books.  It should serve for the Mortal Engines books too, although the ice sheets expands and contracts a bit over the centuries, and by the time of Mortal Engines all the cities marked here will have rolled away or been eaten.  I pushed my amateur photoshop skills to the limit this afternoon piling on various souvenirs of Fever's Scrivener's Moon journey, including an ominous BLOODSTAIN... but whose blood is it?  (Quite a lot of the stuff is spilled or sprayed about in Scrivener's Moon, so there are several possible candidates!)

Click on the map for a full-size version.

Fever Crumb Audiobook

The Audiobook of Fever Crumb which I recorded last autumn is available now: here are links to the CD version on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (although other booksellers are available, and I see that Amazon UK are quoting 'one to two months' as a dispatch estimate - surely some mistake?).  It can also be downloaded from such places as the i-tunes store, which might be rather quicker.

Anyway, whether you plump for the CD or some sort of databurp you get the whole book, complete and unabridged, and I put all my college comedy experience to good use by coming up with voices for the various characters (Bagman Creech was particularly hard on the voice box).  The Audiobook of A Web of Air is currently being recorded too - and by someone who will read it rather better than I could; more on this soon, I hope.

Luddite versus Levett

There was an interesting article about the rise of e-books in Publishers Weekly last week;  interesting partly for it's abject feeble-mindedness (yes, there are people in the publishing industry who are still wandering around whimpering, "I don't like these new-fangled e-reader thingies; they'll never catch on,") but mainly for the ease and elegance with which friend-of- the-WoME Jeremy Levett obliterates it in the 'comments' section.  Actually, Jeremy's tightly-argued demolition job made me feel quite sorry for the hapless PW hack - it's like watching an angry caveman taken out by laser-guided missiles.  You can read the whole thing here.

Big Daddy versus Giant Haystacks

If you're anywhere Brighton on Thursday 26th - Sat 28th of May, you'll definitely want to get yourself along to The Old Courtroom to watch the premiere of this new work by my favourite playwrights, Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon
At 4pm every Saturday, from 1976 to 1988, millions of Britons were in the grip of an extraordinary sports phenomenon: watching two fat men pretend to fight each other. This is their story...

The Story Museum

Oxford has a better claim than most cities to be the home of English children's fiction.  Here Lewis Carrol wrote Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Tolkien dreamed up Middle Earth, CS Lewis invented Narnia and and Philip Pullman devised His Dark Materials.  So it seems fitting that a building within stone's throw of Lewis Carroll's old rooms at Christchurch College will soon be home to the Story Museum, full of exhibitions and events which will celebrate and trace the history of children's stories.

The Story Museum won't be opening until 2014, but co-director Kim Pickin very kindly invited Sarah McIntyre and myself to have a look around the site after our events at the Oxford Festival last Sunday.  

From outside in Pembroke Street the future museum looks quite small.  There is a 'shop window', displaying such useful objects as Borrower Traps and Invisibility Cloak Repair Kits (sadly for sale only to 'Oxford's fictional community' as yet) and a street door with this curious lamp above it...

...and some hungry looking door-bells.

Once inside, however, you find yourself in a labyrinth, for the building connects with others behind it, surrounding a central courtyard (well, when I say 'courtyard' I mean 'car park'.  But I'm sure it will be a courtyard quite soon.)  There are vaults and garrets and a confusing number of stairways, and an abandoned staff canteen on the top floor.  The whole complex used to house Oxford's first telephone exchange (so quite a few stories have been heard there already) and you can read more about its history here. While I rather liked it in its present state of picturesque decay, it was exciting to hear Kim describe the plans which are afoot to turn these empty, paint-peeling rooms into magical spaces where tales will be told and plays performed.  I think it's going to be a wonderful place, and I hope whole generations of children will be able to visit and come away inspired to read and to tell stories of their own.

Here are some photos that we took while Kim was showing us around.  I'm already looking forward to going back in 2014 to see it all transformed... 

In the garret...

Eek!  A Dinosaur!

Kim and Sarah

Doing Time in Oxford.

Me, Candy Gourlay, and Sarah McIntyre.  It has been SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN
that Book Festivals are 87% More Fun when McIntyre is there.  She also took most
of the photos on this post. (Not this one, though. This one was taken by Alice Swan.)
Well, I never thought writing children's books would land me in PRISON, but that's where I ended up on Saturday night in Oxford.  Luckily it wasn't a working prison but a decommissioned one which has been transformed into the snazzy Malmaison Hotel, with top-notch accommodation behind every cell door.  The main hall, however, still retains something of that Porridge vibe, though I don't think Officer McKay would approve of all that carpet and the fancy little sofas.

I was in Oxford to do a Blue Peter event at the Sunday Times Literary Festival.  A Web of Air was on the shortlist for this year's Blue Peter book prize, along with Candy Gourlay's Tall Story and Deadmans Cove by Lauren St John (which wasn't just shortlisted - it won!).  So the three of us were summoned to the hall of Christchurch college (as seen in the Harry Potter films, apparently), to talk about our books, read extracts, and answer questions from the audience.  Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood was there to keep us in line, and of course I completely forgot to ask him for his autograph, so I'm in Sam's black books now.  On the other hand I did remember to ask whether there will be another series of Bear Behaving Badly now that Barney's been elevated to the rank of BP presenter, and apparently there will, so that's a relief.

Anyway, we all did our little bits: Candy had anecdotes about earthquakes and Lauren talked about nearly being strangled by a python, and there was clearly no way I could compete with any of that so I just read my little bit of Web of Air.  Then there were lots of good questions from the floor, and some book-signing, and that was that.  Like all the best events it seemed to have lasted about 0.3 seconds.  

The panel in Hogwarts Christchurch Hall (Alice Swan again).

Barney Harwood looks on while I cleverly obscure my fellow authors. 
I do some signing while Candy ponders where to go for lunch...

Afterwards I got to have lunch with Candy and family (I've been looking forward to meeting her for ages) and then I sat in on Sarah McIntyre's event, which was built around one of the picture books she illustrated, When Titus Took The Train, and kept a crowd of small children entertained for a whole hour, which is a long time if you're a small child.  She had them making up board games based on train journeys, with some spectacular results - my favourite one started in a rabbit hole and finished at 'The Forests of Saturn'. 

Then there was gin & tonic in the green room (you see how sophisticated we authors are?), after which Sarah led me across the road to the mysterious Oxford Story Museum, where Kim Pickin was waiting to show us round.  More about what we found there in my next post... 

You can read Candy Gourlay's account of all this mularkey one her own blog, here, and Sarah's version of events is here.