A Crown of Dragons

Very excited to be able to put this cover artwork for A Crown of Dragons up on the blog today.  My US editor thinks this is the best of the three covers, and I fully agree.  I think we also share the opinion that Crown of Dragons is the best of the stories as well, but I don’t want to say too much about the theme of the book here.  We’ll wait until nearer publication for that.

So far, on the whole, I’ve faintly preferred the British covers to the American ones, but this is a real eye-catcher, I think.  I love the colour.  Purple.  My favourite.  Publishers have their reasons for the artwork they develop.  They know the market place better than authors, for a start.  Ideally, you want everyone who sees the image to go ‘Wow!’   You can’t please everyone all the time, of course, but this one I am delighted with.

More on the story and that intriguing title later.  For now, enjoy the imagery.

front cover

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Alexander’s Army in the UK

Any followers of this blog are probably already aware that Alexander’s Army is now officially available from all good bookshops etc. in the UK.  Visitors: you now know what the followers know!  Do have a read of Alexander.  I personally think it’s a better book than A Dark Inheritance.  It doesn’t answer all the mysteries about UNICORNE and Michael’s father or Michael’s extraordinary power, but it does give you some clues.  Plus there’s a very scary invisible army in it too.  What’s not to like?  The artwork for UFiles #3 should be arriving soon.  That could be spectacular on both sides of the Atlantic.  Until then, happy reading.

Alexander's Army - UK

Published June 4th in the UK

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Book birthday!

I’m very happy to announce that the wonderful ALEXANDER’S ARMY is published in America tomorrow, May 26th.  I can’t imagine that fans of A Dark Inheritance won’t be gripped by this one.  Like ADI it has a very steady build up, but get ready for a lot of strange twists by the time you get to the dramatic sequences!

As well as being a UFile in its own right, Alexander marks the second instalment of the overall story arc concerning Michael’s father.  You will get some answers in this book, but the real revelations are still to be unleashed in the third and final part of the series, A CROWN OF DRAGONS, which will be out sometime in 2016.  Expect a cliffhanger, is what I’m saying!  Shouldn’t be too long before we have cover artwork for ACOD.  It will go up here as soon as it’s available.  In the meantime, enjoy Alexander and his very scary army of invisible men…

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To Hull and Back

Last Wednesday, April 29th, I’m delighted to announce that A Dark Inheritance won the KS3 category of the James Reckitt Book Award, which was sponsored by Hull Libraries.  Here’s a picture of me with my prize.  I’m standing beside a display of the shortlisted authors.  More on them in a moment.

Hull Book Award 1

It’s a long time since I’ve been involved in any sort of award.  Prior to this I’d been highly-commended for the prestigious Carnegie Medal – but that was 15 years ago – and despite been shortlisted for several local awards I’ve only ever won one – in Rotherham, 13 years ago!  So you can understand how thrilled I was not just to be involved in an award again, but to actually win it.  Look at my face.  That tells you everything!

What was particularly pleasing was that the award should come for the first book of The UNICORNE Files.  My career will always be defined by The Last Dragon Chronicles, so I wasn’t sure when I began the UFiles if anything new I produced would ever be able to compete with the dragon books.  It seems I was wrong.  A Dark Inheritance has stood up well.  Judging by the comments I’ve had about it from some of the 109 children who voted on the awards, and some of the organisers too, I may have underestimated the book’s potential.  I hope so, because I’ve really grown into the series lately and was particularly pleased by my editor’s reaction to the third book, A Crown of Dragons,  which I delivered a couple of weeks ago.  She said: “Congratulations on this utterly astounding and marvelous achievement. I loved the book and can’t stop marveling at how you wove such a beautiful, sad, moving, thrilling, totally suspenseful and cool story with such panache and skill and grace.”  Great praise indeed.

Back to the awards.

Hull is a long, long way from my South Devon home.  So it seemed sensible to stay in the area for a few days and do some school visits.  I managed six in two days and spoke to many enthusiastic young readers, a lot of whom were at the voting ceremony.  What a wonderful thing it is for a children’s author to have more than a hundred book-devouring students together in one room.  You could feel the buzz, right from the start.  We, the shortlisted, sat behind tables on a small raised stage at one end of the room, nervously wondering how our books were doing, while the children were gathered around a cluster of tables discussing the merits of paranormal fantasy, empathising with zombies, and worrying over the chilling use of donkeys during the Gallipoli conflict in World War One – to draw upon the themes of just three of the books.  I’ve judged competitions myself in the past and I didn’t envy the children their job.  One of them summed it up perfectly, saying, “The trouble is, I like something in all five books. How do you choose?” How indeed?

On a personal level, one of the things I like about this kind of jaunt is meeting the other authors.  Writing is a solitary business and I’ve never met an author yet who doesn’t like hooking up with other writers to talk about…what else? writing!  I had never met Martyn Bedford, Sam Angus, Jeff Norton or Chelsey Flood – last year’s winner, who was the event MC – before (sadly, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald couldn’t be there) but the warmth they showed toward me, toward the children and to each other was great to see.  I don’t think I will ever forget the sight of a roomful of people acting like zombies during Jeff Norton’s hilarious presentation of his book.  Here are the authors getting involved!

Hull Book Award 5

Lastly, I want to thank everyone in the Hull Library Service who helped in putting this award together.  It was quite a feat of organisation, which as far as I can tell went without a hitch.  Guys, you were fantastic.  In the style of my opening presentation: Mwah! Mwah!

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Happy Easter!

I promise I’m not simply posting these messages by the seasons or the equinoxes.  It may seem an inordinate amount of time since I last put anything up, but that’s because I only tend to do it when I have something to say.  To be perfectly honest, there isn’t an awful lot to say right now, though I did finish the third and final UFiles book, A CROWN OF DRAGONS, at precisely 0.00 hours on March 31st  – or is it that counted as April 1st, strictly?  If it’s March, I hit my deadline; if it’s April, I was late!

A Crown of Dragons is different again from A Dark Inheritance and Alexander’s Army.  I had no clear idea when I began the series of what the three books would be about, other than they would be a faint echo of the kind of thing you might see on The X-Files, the TV program that inspired them. (By the way, any younger readers unfamiliar with The X-Files might like to note that the series is being revived soon, with six brand new episodes.)  In the end I was very pleased to have three divergent story lines that all fell neatly under the general arc of ‘What happened to Michael’s father?’  That question is partially answered in Alexander’s Army, and completely rounded off in the third book, where you also get to learn how Michael got his power to alter reality.  Not surprisingly, it has something to do with dragons – but more on that in a later post.

It’s too early for a cover yet, but as soon as I see finished artwork it will go up here.  In the meantime, look out for Alexander’s Army in your shops and stores – May 2015 for the USA, June 2015 the UK.  If you liked ADI, Alexander will really grab you.  Overall, it’s probably my favourite of the series – and you don’t hear me say that too often when one of the books on offer has the word ‘dragon’ in its title.  Till next time.  Happy reading.

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Happy Christmas

My very best wishes to anyone following this blog.  I’m guessing most people use it as a resource to find out more about The UNICORNE Files, but if you’re here, I hope you have a happy Christmas and a productive New Year anyway.

Just to bring things up to date, the second book in the series, ALEXANDER’S ARMY, will be out in America in May 2015 and in the UK in June.  Alexander is MUCH scarier than the first book and is probably my favourite overall.  At present, I’m halfway through writing the third and final book, A CROWN OF DRAGONS, which is certainly an intriguing story, but doesn’t have the dramatic punch that Alexander does – at present.  Here, as a Christmas treat, is the UK cover for Alexander’s Army.  See you in the New Year.

Alexander's Army - UK

Alexander’s Army – UK

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The army is on the march…

It’s been a while, I know, since I posted anything up here, but in many respects this was never meant to be a full-on blog, more a resource for anyone interested in discovering more about The UNICORNE Files.

So I tend to post when there’s something interesting to see or say.  This is one of those moments.  Here is the US cover of ALEXANDER’S ARMY, due out in hardback in the States in May next year.

Alexander's Army cover      tree of life

It’s loosely based (and I do mean loosely) on a famous painting by the artist Gustav Klimt.  A print of this image hangs in Michael Malone’s home, in what used to be his father’s study.  Note the single bird among the branches.  I’m not sure what type of bird it is in Klimt’s painting, but in Alexander it’s a crow.  Those of you who’ve read A Dark Inheritance will know by now that the character Amadeus Klimt was named after Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) and Gustav Klimt.  But he was originally going to be called Amadeus KLINT.  It was Jay who persuaded me to change it, a decision which has ultimately flourished as this cover.

If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have used the tree.  I don’t dislike it.  In fact I think it’s strong and intriguing and it does reflect an important element of the story.  But when you read the book you might wonder how it would have looked with a faceless soldier on the front.  That’s right, a faceless soldier.  I’ll say more about that in future posts.  For now, I’ll just leave you to wallow in this lovely design.  When the UK cover comes in, I’ll put that up as well.


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