Tuesday, 31 January 2012

10 things Premier League Reading Stars could have done for me

I've done a blog on the National Literacy Trust website - about the ten things Premier League Reading Stars could have done for me, age 10. Here's the link: PLRS blog.

It's a great scheme. Find out more at http://www.premierleaguereadingstars.com/.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Danger Academy

I have written a special story for the National Literacy Trust's reading scheme, Premier League Reading Stars.

It features Danny Harte from my Foul Play series. In this story, Danny investigates a suspicious football academy that is taking players from all over the UK - who then disappear...

Read The Danger Academy for free here. And feel free to pass it on.

Friday, 27 January 2012

When Theo met Camilla

I had a brilliant time yesterday with Theo Walcott and HRH Duchess of Cornwall... Well, I was near them...

We were all at Arsenal's magnificent Emirates Stadium (my second visit this month: the first was to watch Leeds in the FA cup) to launch Premier League Reading Stars, the scheme that works with well-known footballers to encourage children to read for pleasure.

I've been involved with PLRS for nine years now, visiting libraries and schools taking part. This year I worked with top teacher, Diane Baker, to create the tactics book, a set of ten classroom activities. And with my wife, to choose some of the books, magazines, newspapers and websites that the scheme highlights.

PLRS is amazing. It's kind of what my mum did for me when I was 16. Nudging me towards becoming a more confident reader through my need to know more about football.

Everyone at the National Literacy Trust deserves great credit for the launch and the scheme.

And credit should go to Theo and the Duchess too. They weren't both there just to look pretty: they were both articulate and clearly passionate about reading.

And both very nice people, as I did speak to them both... briefly.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Am I enjoying a fantasy book?

I do not read fantasy books. Books with goblins and nymphs and all that. They are not for me. I like books about reality, books about normal people.

So why am I enjoying the first Percy Jackson book? And why am I loving it?

If you've not read Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief... it's about a boy who is struggling in school. He's been expelled from six in six years.

But it turns out Percy is no ordinary boy. As it says on the back of the book, he is half boy, half god.

Yes, that's where I switched off when told about it a few years ago.

But, here I am, reading it and loving it.

It's written in a normal first person fourteen-year-old boy's voice. Very convincing. He is confused about a lot of things - like a lot of fourteen year old boys (and forty-four year old men, frankly).

As his demigod-ness becomes clearer, a lot of strange (and fantasy-style) things happen to him.

But they're great things, not stupid.

I thought fantasy fiction was rubbish.

I was wrong.*

* I used to think that crime fiction was a waste of time, too. But now I write crime fiction for children.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Squad: White Fear

I have - at last - finished the second book in the Squad series, White Fear.

I delivered it last night.

It is the story of an English youth football team that tour the world to play in tournaments. But, secretly, five of them are spies.

In White Fear they take on oil drillers and global warming deniers in the Arctic Circle. Before WW3 breaks out.

It's a nice feeling, finishing a book. Now, for a while, I can catch up with some other things, not obsess on how to cram writing hours into busy days.

However, it's not really over. In a couple of weeks I am expecting a strong edit from Puffin.

I've already had a couple of thoughts about what its weaknesses are...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

From Burton Albion to the Emirates

Yesterday I visited two new stadiums.

First, I joined some children in Burton on a trip to the Pirelli Stadium, Burton Albion's home ground.

We were there to research ideas for a story we are writing together.

It was wonderful. What a club! All the staff - including three really interesting (and interested) players - made it a joy.

There is a large well in the corner of the Pirelli Stadium. They draw water from the well to water the pitch. The pitch is built on the old Pirelli factory sports fields.

Interesting, eh?

I think so. That well is a gift for writing a mystery story.

Later in the day I found myself at the Emirates. I was there to watch the heroics of plucky Championship side, Leeds United, against the profligate millionnaires of Arsenal.

Without six first choice players, Leeds held on for 80 minutes, until an Arsenal striker scored a handy goal.

Well done to Arsenal for such a resounding victory against a team that cost one-hundredth of what their team cost.

Here I am at the Emirates. I'm not bitter.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Night Running

I'm just back from my first night run, using the head torch I got for Christmas.

This is what Todmorden looks like from 1000 feet up.

I ran from a pub called the Shepherd's Rest up the hill to a small reservoir called Gaddings Dam.

Two and a half miles there and back. Not much. But it was slow going. I had to be sure to get my footfall right in the blackness. Also, I kept stopping to write notes.

To be honest, it wasn't as thrilling as I thought it'd be. But I think I need to build my confidence and do longer runs through the woods up there and round the larger reservoir. There are deer and all sorts up there.

I didn't feel in danger, running in the dark. But there was a strange sense that I shouldn't stop, that I should always be on the move.