Novel 5 gets a code name

British Black Arrow Rocket Engines

Ahhhhhhhhh… after a week of working flat out on Space Race, doing a front cover illustration for my Dad’s new book (title still unknown to me, but it’s on Dreadnaught battleships), and the plot for my new book, I’ve given in and had a tidy up. Yep, my desk contents are no longer overflowing onto the floor.

Exciting news. Book 5 now has a new title (to be announced after any future deal is done – sorry!). I brainstormed the naming issue to a point where I wasn’t really getting anywhere, then by chance saw a poster advertising a concert…  giving me a clue… tee-dum-tee-dee… then after a few more hours chewing pencils and gazing at the flood damaged walls and ceilings (my flat has been flooded countless times this year for reasons so excruciatingly dull I won’t bother to explain)  I hit upon it. Perfect. All without having to resort to sitting on a Routemaster Bus (see previous posts). With so much Swine Fever about, probably a more healthy way to work.

I had a cup of tea with my agent Clare yesterday morning. She had a few excellent thoughts on the new book’s plot. She didn’t like my first title – General Titus – hence the recent weeks of agony, but loves the new one. I’ll call it by the codename DS until any deal deal is done. So from GT (General Titus) to DS.

Meanwhile, work on the Space Race illustration is well underway. I’ve been scribbling away and photoshopping pages together. All good fun. I was hoping to get down to Canterbury to see the man about the rocket nosecones this week, but fate has kept us apart so far. Looking good for next week, however.

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The Great Space Race – my next book

UK's 'Black Arrow' rocket

‘So what’s next?’ I keep being asked.

Well the happy answer is The Great Space Race. This will be my fourth novel, and it is has nothing to do with the Guild Trilogy. Yep, it’s something entirely new. I’m letting Becca, Doug, Liberty and the gang rest for a bit after their exhausting adventures in the deserts of China.

Step forward new hero Ace Crankshaw – rocketeer guitarist.

My new book is set in the present day and is about a bunch of kids who buy a secondhand British space rocket from an internet auction site for £5 (that’s about 8 US bucks, I reckon). Their plan is to enter a competition – The Great Space Race, no less – to be the first amateurs to land a probe on the Moon. If they get there first, they’ll win $10m, and save their hopeless inventor father from total financial disaster. Along the way they unearth a sinister plot, and discover the race isn’t all it seems. In fact, they end up saving the world with their rubbish 1970s British space rocket, called The Ginger Streak, but I don’t want to give too much away.

The novel will be published by Walker Books in the UK next year. We are still so early in the process that I have no idea about US publication yet; I hope very much that it will be out with Candlewick Press, who are Walker Books’ sister company. As soon as I know any news, I’ll post it here.

Errr… a British space rocket from the 1970s, I hear you ask? YES! We had a British Space Programme (rather than an American Space Program, spelling fans). The UK is the only country in history to have designed, developed and launched satellites successfully using indigenous technology (i.e. we invented the stuff ourselves) and then to have GIVEN UP on it! D’oh!

People often ask ‘Where do you get your ideas from’, and in this case I can give a fairly definite answer: I came up with the germ of the idea for the book when I was passing through the space section of London’s Science Museum. I’d been upstairs researching the engine for Operation Typhoon Shore’s Fighting Dragon/FE2Q Spotter Seaplane cutaway. I saw the Black Arrow rocket hanging from the ceiling and became utterly intrigued (see pic above… is it a giant alien lobster claw?  No, it’s a satellite delivery system!)

The book is a fast-paced adventure story, and will have lots of illustrations in it, just like the trilogy. I’m building lots of stuff, too. A robot monkey toy called Barry is almost complete, and I’m about to begin construction of my ‘Ginger Streak’ rocket for photographic purposes. I’ll be posting loads more on all this soon. I think the illustration will take about 3 months to complete.

Ready for blast off!

Here are a few links about the British Space Programme:

Film 1

Film 2

Film 3

Portraits from St Malo

Aldo Sperber, the talented photographer who shot some portraits of me at the ‘Etonnants Voyageurs’ International Book and Film Festival, St Malo, France (see previous blog entry, June 3rd) has been in touch.

You can see the results HERE.

If you click the slideshow button the pics get bigger, but you don’t get the captions. I’m numbers 3 and 4. There are some great portraits of the other speakers at the festival. Particularly like the ones of Marc Vella, Patrick Gale and Claudie Gallay.

Great work Aldo!

End of holidays!

No computers – for two whole weeks! Just sun and sailing in Devon. Superb. It only rained for two days, and that, my friends, is good going for an English summer.

I’m back at my desk in London and looking at a whole heap of work. Hmmmhh… I remember why I needed a holiday in the first place!

But things have been hatching while I’ve been away tacking and gybing (or jibing, if you prefer) aboard my lil’ boat, Pelican. I have just looked through The Great Space Race layout PDFs sent to me by art director Ben, the creative genius behind the Guild Trilogy.

While I’ve been away he has transformed the script into a book… a metamorphosis no less. It now looks like a real, proper thing you might buy in a shop rather than page after page of ink-jetted A4, although there are many, many blank pages and spaces for me to fill with illustrations. Very exciting. I can’t wait to get started on the final stage.

First part of the final stage is to finish off the blueprint designs for ‘Ginger Streak’ – the main rocket in the book. Construction timetabled for next week so I need to get a move on. I’ll keep you posted with pictures, etc…

As for the elusive title of my next book project, (still living with the woeful title of ‘Novel Five’) I’ve narrowed it down to about 10 possible ideas, none of which are quite right. The search continues.

On a slightly broader point, anyone who has read my China retro-blogs might be interested in the latest news from Urumqi, Xinjiang (Sinkiang) province, where I stayed while researching Operation Storm City. The BBC is reporting 140 killed and 800 people injured in protests there. The news reports seem to be filmed outside what looks suspiciously like the hotel I stayed in.