Inspiration from space

This is a truly wonderful film from NASA (see link below). I love it. Alas, we’re all so used to seeing special effects in films, it somehow looks entirely fake to begin with. Then you realize what it is, and that it’s very real, and the clip begins to inspire and fascinate.

Technical matters – it’s a massive 150 mb HD movie clip so there’s no denying it will take a fair old time to download. I suggest you click on the link, switch on the kettle for a cheeky cup of tea, make tea, poke about in the cupboard for a biscuit or two, then return to your computer and with a bit of luck it will have downloaded. If you watch the clip to the end it is a curiously calming experience. How pretty the earth looks! How fast those astronauts are flying as they circle the earth every 90mins.

Click HERE for the 150mb HD version

If you’re short of time, or your internet connection isn’t so hot, then there’s the 20mb option. It’s not quite so impressive, and the link isn’t so easy to set up.

Click HERE for the not quite so inspiring 20mb option, then click on the ‘View Now’ link on the NASA page. This will also take a bit of time to download.



Operation Storm City review

I’ve just seen this very generous review of Opration Storm City on the Guys Lit Wire blog. It has even got some good scans of some of the fold out illustrations etc…

Final drafts, publication dates and monkey fur

Here’s a bit of a roundup of what I’m up to at the moment.

It’s getting quite confusing with book 3 of my trilogy, ‘Operation Storm City’, already published in the UK and France (autumn ’08), but still only poised to launch in America this May. Why? I have no idea, as these decisions are out of my hands.

Last week, I delivered a final script for ‘The Great Space Race’. This is my next book for Walker Books, but please note this is not connected to the Guild of Specialists series. Nope, it’s something new. The story is set in the present day and is a one off. It has been really good fun to write and I’ve now made the step change and moved into the illustration phase, so I’m making progress. At the moment I can’t give you a publication date, but I hope it’ll be next year (2010).

The first illustration job for Space race has been to build a life-size robot chimpanzee called Barry. That took up most of last week, and required the destruction of an old computer from the late 1990s to provide donor parts for his innards. Barry (now almost complete) is quite a character and is sitting in the chair opposite me apparently watching the tv with his webcam eyes – although the tv is switched off (I can’t write with too many distractions). My dear mother managed to source 7 types of monkey fur in Canterbury, for which I am extremely grateful. I didn’t think Canterbury was renowned for such things, but there you are. We believe the fur is fake. No animals were injured in the making of Barry, although an old Apple Mac most definitely was. More of Barry another time.

So what else? Yesterday, in amongst all the monkey fur and pieces of circuit board littering my flat, I managed to deliver the black and white versions of Operation Storm City’s artwork for the upcoming UK paperback version, publishing in June. Here’s a link if you fancy seeing the cover:

This was like old times! Converting colour photographs and illustrations to black and white and ‘balancing them up’ so they print is exactly what I did for my first proper job at The Mail on Sunday newspaper back in ’94.

So my old black and white Photoshop skills have been pressed into service to make the edition look sharp and lovely… and there I was thinking those early years in the newspaper industry had been a bit of a waste of time.

Finally, the internet.

For someone who has spent all their working life using computers, it has taken me a surprising amount of time – an eon in fact – to sort out my web presence. Here it is at long last. A blog. Yep. Steady on, there.

First off, I’d like to say a huge big thank you to the lovely people at Leicester’s Culture Exchanges festival, who looked after me superbly when I shambled up there recently. De Montford University runs the festival once a year, and it is well worth searching out. I was asked to give an hour long talk on the general trickiness of writing, and trying to publish, children’s books. A storm raged outside as I tried my best to explain. It seemed to go down quite well with no one walking out (as someone did at my last talk – it’s possible he pushed off for a coffee, but who can tell?). And with the magic of ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ here are some of their blog-arama reactions and comments:

They also snapped a publicity pic of me with De Montford University’s Evie Manuel, member of the festival’s planning team, just before I went on stage.

I’m the one wearing the rather smashing blue jumper:













Anyhow, I think that’ll do for a start off. Now how do I publish this message…. errr… oh yes… I think it’s that button just there.