The Lion of Sole Bay is LoveReading4Kids December Book of the Month for the 11+ age group and has a wonderful write-up from Julia Eccleshare "One hell of a thriller", she says. Peter Willis also gives it a generous review in the latest issue of Sam Llewellyn's Marine Quarterly.
A Ravelled Flag will be electronically-cheap over Christmas as part of the Authors Electric promotion.
The Oaken Heart has a lovely appreciation from journalist Veronica Horwell which will be posted on the Crime Readers Association website on Dec 15th. The website has been redesigned and re-launched by the CWA and is really very attractive.
and finally ... Saxmundham Free School have asked me (Julia) to organise a writing workshop on the last day of term - are they mad or am I? Only one way to find out ...
October was a month for primary and secondary school work and visits. Some undertaken on behalf of Essex Book Festival, others for Frinton Literary Festival and a Ghost-writing session at Pakefield High School near Lowestoft because the Kessingland children go there. All enjoyable in many different ways - but the most memorable day by far was with the Y6 children from Wix & Wrabness. I wrote about it afterwards for Authors Electric
The Lion of Sole Bay is the book that turns the Strong Winds trilogy into a series. Its central character is not Donny but the younger, more imaginative, less obviously competent, Luke. Luke has been longing for an adventure of his own ever since Donny told him the story of Treasure Island two years ago in The Salt-Stained Book. Here he has one - for real. Does he like it? I'm not so sure. He's joined by Angel, who needs friends and Helen who simply wants to go home.
Claudia Myatt and I had a happy day deciding on the original cover design for A Ravelled Flag. We were on board Peter Duck and sailing through Harwich harbour in a wind so strong that I even put a reef in before we went out to sea. Anyone who has sailed on dear steady Peter Duck knowns how rarely I do that. We looked across at the 'Hispaniola' lying motionless and sinister off Shotley and said "We must have the flags" on the new book's cover. If you've read The Salt-Stained Book you'll know at once which flags I mean. If not, just look at the cover. So that's what Claudia produced, cursing as she struggled with the intricacy of the double-headed dragon. But for some reason the background turned calm. We were thinking of still, icy, winter days yet the final impression was tranquillity - far away from the turmoil of the story itself. (You can see the old cover on the ARF page). Finally the first edition has sold out and a reprint offered Claudia and designer Megan a chance to rough things up a bit. Oh YES! I'd take a double reef down if I was out in that lot.
The Golden Duck this month looks slightly shocked at the lolling attitudes of Francis, Dottie (spaniel) and Dottie's flattened green familar. However, such superciliousness should be tempered by the knowledge that Francis has been nobly proof-reading The Lion of Sole Bay (as has kind Peter Dowden in New Zealand) and might well be knocked back exhausted after the storm of Facebook controversy (not to mention domestic discord) aroused by his insistence that the word fo'c'sle should have at least two apostrophes...
There were those who wimpily pleaded for one (or none) and there were those who argued that anything less than three would sap the grammatical backbone of the nation. "Backbone" - ah yes - that's why Dottie feels it necessary to come between Francis and the unbending yellow duck - Francis is currently recovering (we hope) from his third spine operation. Meanwhile the offending f- word has been silently deleted and Julia's new novel The Lion of Sole Bay remains on track for publication in October.
For some people the highlight of summer 2013 could be the Ashes series.
For others it might be a trip to Lowestoft in Peter Duck, the hospitality of the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club and the friendship of Y6 pupils from Kessingland Primary School. A memorable day for 28 children and their teachers, began at Ness Point (the 'easternmost point' in A Ravelled Flag) and continued with new words for old shanties, pilotage lessons from Judy and Nicola of the Nancy Blackett Trust, a coat of arms worthy of an old sailor's kitbag (Ransome's 'Peter Duck'), a treasure hunt with teachers turned to goddesses and much happy scrambling on board the boat
Exciting times took a different turn with a meeting of the Crime Writers Association and the Margery Allingham Society - of which more later.
Two long day's sailing north then south across Sole Bay have left Julia eager to get back to work on the final draft of her next adventure story. Illustrator Claudia Myatt has meanwhile been sailing down from Inverness to Ipswich, sketch book in hand.
Children from Frobisher Primary School in Jaywick. Thank you for your 'meet and greet' policy that immediately made me welcome. Thank you Y5 for your hard work and friendliness. I've really enjoyed reading your stories. JJ
Children from Alton Park Junior School. Well done. You are the first to have your work in the children's section. I hope there's more to come and I'm excited to see what you'll produce. JJ
Essex Book Festival. Thank you for sending me to these schools as part of your all-the-year-round activity. JJ
Between the Lines: New Bookshop in Great Bardfield, Essex OPENED JUNE 22nd 2013 CONGRATULATIONS!
Children at Alton Park Junior and Kessingland Primary Schools offered a wonderful range of comments on the feelings inspired by this warlike object. They didn't know it was a lion -- several guessed it might be a Chinese dragon - cf Authors Electric blog post June 9th 2013.
One group of the Kessingland Y6 children also offered a range of great suggestions for the new book's title. Thank you all.
A Ravelled Flag was published 24.11.2011. "The themes are darker", says Peter Willis, "but the page turning impetus is just as strong."
The Oaken Heart was launched on Thursday March 3rd 2011 at the opening ceremony of the Essex Book Festival. Ronald Blythe finds the book "astonishing". Read his foreword now - and a marvellous appreciation by Simon Heffer in the Sunday Telegraph.
Jackie Wilkin, literary editor of the WI Life magazine, made The Oaken Heart her 'Book of the Year'.