Dirty Laundry

3… 2… 1…. UK Book Launch: UK Tour Days 11, 12, 13, and 14

The following represents my Cliff Notes (or York Notes, for my UK readers) version for the grande finale of my spectacular UK book tour. Once again I will attempt to keep things brief, but as we’ve learned over the course of my last several blogs, this might prove difficult.

But guess what, if you’re really good and you make it all the way through this blog you will be rewarded with a wondrous photo essay of Hay on Wye. So, really, it will all be worth it.

Now, let’s get started:

Wednesday, May 25th, Day 11: Having braved ash clouds, disgruntled travellers, and delayed rail service I arrived back at my hotel in London and had a good night’s sleep. In the morning it was breakfast in “The Carvery” which included hard boiled eggs, fruit, coffee, and more hard boiled eggs. I was then driven to Liverpool Station so I could take a train out to Chelmsford. My train ride was uneventful, just the way one likes it.

I was met at the Chelmsford station by Kathleen Robb from Just Imagine Story Centre. Kathleen was kind enough to chauffeur me around for the day. Taking me to my two school visits and for a visit to Just Imagine.

Our first stop was Hylands School to meet up with librarian Carolyn Smith. Finding the entrance to Hylands School was a bit of a puzzle as we drove down several streets that looked like they would lead to the parking lot only to be confronted by an unyielding fence each time. After many failed attempts, Kathleen found the lucky street and we managed to enter the parking lot. Unfortunately, cars were double and triple parked and so we had to exit the hard-won parking lot to try to find a spot on the street.

Once inside we met Carolyn and she showed us to the gymnasium where we were to sell the books during the break. Following this we moved on to the drama room. The students were ushered in and we had a packed house. The lucky earlier arriving teens got chairs, the late arrivals had to make due with the floor.

Apparently, Hylands School has a farm. This seemed very quaint when I first arrived but became decidedly less quaint once I started my reading. If ever you have the chance to try to talk over a honking goose… don’t. The goose wins every time. It’s the long neck, you see. It channels the sound and amplifies it. Still, I soldiered on. There was laughing, though I don’t know if it was Swim the Fly they were laughing at or the upstaging goose. I’ve never been a fan of the gamey tasting goose, but I just might have to cook one next Christmas so I can exact a measure of revenge.

Following Hylands, Kathleen took me for a lunch and chat with Georgia at Just Imagine. The bookstore is very sweet and they host all sorts of wonderful events there. Book-themed birthday parties, Crafternoons, writing workshops, and book clubs.

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After lunch it was off to Boswells School. Librarian Amanda Wilson showed us into their new auditorium complete with three hundred seats, television monitors, a stage, and a giant projection screen. It was very impressive to say the least. We set up my book trailer and a microphone and before I knew it the place with packed with students. I did my reading, and talk, and showed the trailer and had to leave right after the session in order to get my train back to London. There wasn’t much wiggle room as I had to return for the big book launch which was only a few hours away!

I got back to the hotel and had just enough time to take a quick shower, iron my clothes, and get dressed.

Philippa Perry from Templar picked me up at the hotel and walked me over to The Covent Garden Hotel. The room at the Covent Garden was beautifully decked out with Swim the Fly books, and flickering fairy candles, and posters of my big bald head, The evening began at 6:30 with some blue-colored cocktails (like pool water, get it?) and chatting with all the wonderful booksellers, and bloggers, and editors, and publicists, and sales reps, and journalists. My friends Diana and Richard Napper showed up and were very understanding as I made my way around the room to try to talk to everyone. I have to say, I was truly awed by the incredible event that Templar put on to launch the book. Not only was there tasty wine, and cocktails, and canapes (Mushroom risotto in parmesan cones, anyone! Tiny burgers! Mini fish and chips!) but they’d reserved the little theatre next to our party room so they could show my book trailer and then have journalist/YA author (Life, Interrupted) Damian Kelleher interview me.

Damian was the perfect host, making me feel very comfortable, and asking me some great questions. He ended the session by asking me if I’d do a short reading from the book, which I did. Thanks to my fabulous wife (and reading coach) I was able to pull this off with great success.

I really can’t express just how moved I was by all of this. It was a magical evening and one I will never forget. Of course, I didn’t bring my camera, and even if I did I wouldn’t have used it, so I’ve nicked the pictures off the Templar website to post here.

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After the book launch, my good friends Diana and Richard took me out to a late French dinner just across the street where we got to catch up. It was a nice way to wind down after the excitement of the evening. It also didn’t hurt to hear how wonderful they thought the book launch was!

I fell into bed some time after midnight, filled up with all the smiles, laughter, and conversation of an amazing night.

Thursday, May 26th, Day 12: I got to sleep in today and I needed it. When I woke up I had to pack my bags to get ready for my trip to Hay on Wye. Then, it was a quick cup of coffee and a muffin before meeting YA author (Kai-ro, Mean Streets, Snatched) and journalist Graham Marks for an article he will be writing for Books for Keeps. Graham was a true professional, conducting the interview as a casual conversation. If I could choose who would interview me from now on I would definitely take Damian or Graham any day of the week. Both interviews felt easy and relaxed, like I was talking to an old friend.

Following the interview it was back up to my room to grab my things and catch my car to Paddington Station. As soon as I stepped outside the skies opened up and it began to pour. No big deal, though. My car was on it’s way, or so the text on my phone said.

When the car didn’t show up on time I was not worried. I had forty-five minutes to get to Paddington station and I figured I had plenty of time.

I was wrong. The car was only ten minutes late but traffic was miserable. My driver decided to take a roundabout route to avoid mid-town but this did not help matters. We pulled up to the station at exactly 12:15 which, coincidentally, was the same time my train was set to leave.

I ran like a crazy person in hopes that my train was running a little late. Why not, right? It’s not like when I wanted the trains to run smoothly they were on time. But of course, as luck would have it, my train had literally left the station. I was very lucky to get an extremely kind customer service rep at the booth and she stamped my ticket allowing me to take the next train out. Whatever the London train system is not, they DO have very nice people to help you when you need it.

And so, I got the next train and things went pretty smoothly from there. Made my connection in Newport and it was onto Hay where a car was waiting to pick me up.

My driver was pretty laconic and the girl who was sharing the ride with me was not very talkative either so I promptly fell asleep. When I woke up, forty minutes later, I felt refreshed but with a bit of a sore throat. Which meant I must have been snoring. Thankfully, my driving companions did not mention it, though they may have been quietly laughing all the way into town.

I checked into my accommodations (George House) and met Shirley and Malcolm Smith. Shirley and Malcolm run a B&B only during the Hay Festival but if they wanted to they could run a very successful one year-round. They were very lovely hosts and Malcolm cooked a mean breakfast. I’ve stayed in a lot of B&Bs and I would say that Shirley and Malcolm could give some of the best a run for their money.

Dinner was a nice pub affair with Emma O’Donovan and her sweet husband Brendan. Then it was off to sleep in a very comfy bed with nice soft sheets.

Friday, May 27th, Day 13: A tasty breakfast of fried eggs, smoked bacon, toast, orange juice, coffee, and granola. Brendan and Emma picked me up at 10 and we drove down to where the festival was being held. Emma took me to the authors green room where she introduced me to Orion publicist Nina Douglas and YA author Marcus Sedgwick. Then, it was off to the Starlight tent for my Hay Festival event. Around 150 students filed into the tent and Sophie Lording gave me a very nice introduction.

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The reading and talk went absolutely brilliantly. I couldn’t have asked for a better grand finale. Lots of laughs and some really good (and different) questions. I’ve never been asked what my favorite animal was before but it made a nice lead in to my book trailer (which stars my very favorite animal, Scooter). After the talk it was off to the signing tent where many books were sold and autographed. Emma, Nina, Marcus and I retired to the food tent and had lunch.

I bid adieu to Emma and Brendan and then, since the weather was good, I strolled through Hay on Wye snapping a billion pictures (the best of which you will get to see shortly).

Saturday, May 28th, Day 14: Another London train debacle as we got delayed at one of the stops for an hour and so I missed my connection in Newport. No worries, though. Another train to London could be caught, however it, too, was running a half hour late and so I didn’t arrive into the city until three-thirty. Thirty minutes after I was supposed to meet Lesley Preston from Bounce so that we could walk over to Foyles to do some stock signing. Lesley was quite kind about the whole thing and met me at the hotel at four instead of three. We trotted over to Foyles where we met Jo and Sam in the children’s department. They had stacks and stacks of Swim the Fly ready for me to sign. Both Sam and Jo are really enthusiastic booksellers and it was great chatting with them as I autographed the books.

Lesley walked me back to my hotel, we said goodbye, and then…

That was that. The end of my UK book tour. It seemed like it was going to be such a long time but it really flew by.

I’ve already thanked everyone at Templar Publishing and Bounce Marketing but I am going to do so again here. Because I simply can’t thank them enough for all they have done to get the word out about Swim the Fly. It was a whirlwind tour and I felt incredibly well taken care of. Everything was planned perfectly, and even the train mishaps made for some good laughs and blogging time.

Speaking of which, if you haven’t caught the first few stops on my UK blog tour, now’s your chance. Just follow the links below:
Jess Hearts Books
Chicklish
Book Zone 4 Boys
Mostly Reading YA
The Crooked Shelf

There’s still five more stops on the blog tour so check out the On Tour section to see where I’ll be next!

And now, because you’ve been so good and have read every single word of this blog, I give you, HAY ON WYE a photographic essay:

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Newcastle, & Hawick & Peebles, Oh My! UK Tour Days 8, 9, & 10

I’ve wanted to update my blog but I have been going non-stop since my little respite in Edinburgh. I’m afraid I’m going to have to do a quick summary of everything that has gone on as I just don’t have the time or the finger stamina to lay everything out in all it’s glorious detail.

I’m also afraid this blog is going to be seriously photo-anemic as I bagged my camera and only snapped a few shots with my phone. I’ve been a bad photographer this trip. I must apologize. I’ve had to focus all my energies on my readings and talks. I’m sure you understand. If not, well, then, I give you permission to speed read this entry. It’s only fair, as I will be speed writing it.

DAY 8, Sunday, May 22nd: The promised rain arrived in Edinburgh and so I slept in. Really, I didn’t do very much in the morning and early afternoon but pack and read, and have a pub lunch, and read some more. The day really took a nice turn when Peebles High School Librarian Ruth Fry picked me up from my hotel. I can’t tell you how sweet this was of her. It’s not a short drive to Edinburgh and I was quite moved that she had come all this way to retrieve me.

Ruth’s friend John was doing the driving in the city and the three of us had a nice chat on our way back to Peebles. We spoke of book festivals, and Edinburgh’s history, and how the hotel I was staying at was built on the old Bedlam lunatic asylum.

We dropped John off in a town that I can’t remember the name of and then Ruth took over the driving. She kindly toured me around Peebles and the surrounding area, giving me some local history and telling me all about the famous Beltane Festival where they stampede some 200 horses in a rush of wind and power.

INSERT PICTURE OF QUAINT LITTLE HIGH STREET HERE - PLEASE IMAGINE INDEPENDENTLY OWNED SHOPS LINING THE ROAD WITH A CHURCH AT THE FAR END

Ruth dropped me off at my hotel and then we went out for a great supper of fish and beef pie and pavlova. Then we met publicist Liz Scott in the hotel bar for a nightcap. It was a great introduction to Peebles.

Our hotel did not have internet and so I felt like an astronaut who’d been untethered from his space capsule. Luckily, I had my books to keep me company.

DAY 9, Monday, May 23rd: Woke up (thank God) and had a quick spot of breakfast with Liz and then it was off to Peebles High School. There we met Sarah Wright from Bounce (she’d driven all the way out from Edinburgh to make sure everything went smoothly) as well as Rosamund de la Hey from Mainstreet Trading Company.

The wind and rain decided to show up in great force today and so we hurried inside once we arrived. Ruth met us at the front door and ushered us into the dining hall where I was scheduled to give my talk. The library had been commandeered for testing and so this was what was available.

Now, I’m not going to lie here. When I stepped into the dining hall I was a little worried. It was high-ceilinged with tables spread far apart and lunch ladies clanking pots and plates in the background. Voices echoed and bounced off the walls like ping pong balls. This did not look promising, to say the least.

MISSING PHOTO OF DINING HALL WITH SCATTERED BITS OF FOOD ON THE FLOOR, CHAIRS OVERTURNED, AND LUNCH LADIES IN HAIRNETS

I felt very bad for Ruth because she was obviously flustered by this. And she had been so sweet and so excited about my visit, fighting tooth and nail to get me there. She even went head-to-head with a very insistent Health teacher who had scheduled a “health walk” for that day and was demanding Ruth cancel my visit. But Ruth was not to be dissuaded.

But the show must go on and go on it did. Liz scouted out the quietest part of the dining hall and we set up chairs in a corner as far away from the kitchen as possible.

What happened next just blew me away. The students were brought in and got settled. I was introduced and then began my talk. I read a bit and the students laughed like crazy. I opened it up for questions and hands shot up. They had a ton of them. Finally, we had to end the talk and the students clamoured to buy books and get them signed. It was amazing!

INSERT SHOT OF ME SMILING HUGELY AND SIGNING LOTS OF BOOKS

Next up was a visit to librarian Thomas Clark and his students at Hawick High School. There I addressed a lecture hall filled with 120 students. It was a nice session with many laughs and several questions about whether or not I’d ever gone to the Oscars and if I owned a massive house in America.

Finally, Liz drove me to Newcastle, violently ignoring her incredibly loud and rude GPS in favor of Rosamund’s slightly out of the way - but quite scenic - route.

Newcastle is very picturesque and if I’d taken my camera out of my bag you would be witness to its beauty at this point in the blog. As it is you will just have to rely on your splendid imagination and picture many bridges, wonderful old architecture, and a large mirrored bubble-shaped building up on a hill just across the river Tyne.

DAY TEN, Tuesday, May 24th: Morning was porridge and fruit with Liz at the hotel. Then it was off in a cab to BBC Radio Newcastle where I was interviewed by the energetic and Disney-loving Jonathan Miles. We discussed e-books, and sophomoric humor, and his love of all things Disney pre-Beauty and the Beast for the pre-recorded segment. I did a short reading whereupon Jonathan spit up with laughter, ruining the recording, and causing me to have to re-read the last portion of the piece presumably so that they could splice out Jonathan’s outburst.

This was followed by a visit to the wondrous Seven Stories children’s book museum and bookstore. If you are ever planning a trip to Newcastle (which I would highly recommend) make it a point to stop by this magical place and take in the very cool exhibition where you can see things like Roald Dahl’s editing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where he crossed out the words Whipple-Scrumpets and changed them to Oompa-Loompas. Imagine how different the world would be today had he not redrafted!

Lorna Duncanson gave us an excellent tour of the entire facilities and I actually did take my phone from my pocket to snap a picture. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the exhibitions but I did manage to get a shot of something very nice on the bookshelves at the store.

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Following the tour Liz and I piled into the Seven Stories van with Steve and headed off to Benfield School. Librarian Melanie Chadwick met us at reception and then brought us into the library where she had created an amazing display for Swim the Fly. I was super impressed at all of the references to things that happened in the book (proving that Melanie, had indeed, read the novel). And look here, I took some more photos. Clever me.

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The event went well and one girl in particular nearly keeled over with laughter at a scene in Beat the Band where Coop tries to fart his way into distancing himself from Helen. It was fun to see. Steve was particularly impressed that a person can make a living writing fart gags. I didn’t want to disappoint him by admitting that this is just not true. You need to be equally good at writing burp gags, cross-dressing gags, and vomit gags.

Then it was back into the Seven Stories van and off to Farrington Community Sport College. Librarian Beverley Hughes had a tasty lunch all ready for us before the event and then 150 boys filed into the gymnasium. It was a lively bunch with lots of laughter and some very original questions including one boy who wanted to know if I’d kept the suit that had been becrapped upon by a flock of birds on my first dinner date with my wife.

Following the Farrington event Liz was kind enough to deposit me at the Newcastle train station where her angry GPS had us zigging and zagging and then quite rudely demanded we turn into a taxi lane.

The train ride home was most interesting. Jayne Roscoe (my incredibly organized publicist from Bristol who had my tour scheduled like clockwork) very kindly reserved me a seat on the train just in case it was crowded. Well, no one could have predicted just HOW crowded the train was going to be thanks to a rogue ash cloud from a belching volcano halfway across the world. The Edinburgh airport was closed and so the train was overflowing with passengers. All bets were off as to reserved seats. The luggage racks were spilling over with bags and I managed to secure a tiny scrap of carpet on the floor in the corner by one of the doors.

In the best tradition of Murphy’s Law, a freight train decided to give up the ghost in front of my train back to London and so my three hour ride turned into a five and a half hour one. But as I am a lemonade from lemons type guy, I whipped out my laptop and knocked out a few blogs and several Q&A’s for my UK blog tour.

I will leave you here and shall get working on writing about the last leg of my tour which includes, of course, a beyond-belief book launch party and a crowning event at the incredible Hay Festival (complete with tons of pictures!!!!)

If you are too impatient to wait, you can read Leonora Mary’s version of the book launch party here. She does capture the spirit of things quite well.

Also, catch the first stop on my UK blog tour here.

Until next time…

To Edinburgh and Beyond: UK Tour Days Five, Six, & Seven

Whence last I wrote to you I had just left Bristol, drooled on the train, and arrived in picturesque Edinburgh. I’d met the spritely Emma O’Donovan for dinner and was off to bed in my lovely hotel room. And now, the story continues:

Thursday, May 19th: Sleep was sporadic. Ghosts in the room? Perhaps. Or just noisy drunk people next door toppling lamps and playing their television too loud? I choose ghosts. The hotel is said to be built on the site of the old asylum and so there must be tortured souls wandering about somewhere. Awoke to the lilting tones of my telephone wake-up call. Breakfast was toast, fruit, and extremely fancy French yogurt served in a tiny clay pot. Then it was off in a cab with Emma to Craigmount High School. There we met Librarian Coral Grant, Teen Title’s editor Cleo Jones, and Blackwell’s bookseller Julie Gamble. Everyone was extremely welcoming. The students were filed in and I presented my book trailer, reading, and talk. All went well as the students had some good questions and one wide-eyed girl just could not believe that I’d come all the way from Canada to visit her school. In fact, she was so astonished, that she had to ask me twice.

Then, it was off to Broughton School, where I met Librarian Moira Paton and Jasmine Fassl from The Scottish Book Trust. I was then interviewed by three boys for the Teen Titles publication. They had all read the book and were well prepared with a wonderful series of questions. We had a lovely and relaxed conversation about writing, books, and movies. I regaled them with stories of swimming, and movie premieres, and embarrassing bird guano incidents. There was much laughter and the time just flew. I even remembered to break out my camera. Here’s a shot of me and the guys.

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Following the interview, Emma, Jasmine, Julie, and I had a nice lunch at a little cafe. There was much talk of reading, and writing, and little children’s ghost hands reaching for you as you walk through the Scottish graveyards at night. Emma was not too pleased with the talk of ghosts and so I took it upon myself to tell her some very frightening stories of spirits that my wife has come across at various times in her life. She, in turn, changed the subject to Greyfriars Bobby, a little Scottish terrier who apparently slept on the grave of his master every night until the dog passed away himself. It’s a very famous local legend that most Edinburghians seem extremely tired of hearing about.

After lunch we trotted off to The Royal High School where we were warmly greeted by Librarian Evelyn Smith. The students at Royal High were very nice and asked some excellent questions. Some of which I’d never heard before. I’m always pleased when I’m asked a question I don’t immediately have the answer to. It makes for a very interesting conversation. Following the talk, Evelyn was kind enough to give us a ride back into town. She even offered to give us a quick driving tour of Edinburgh but I was too wiped out and needed a nap.

Back at the hotel, I lied down and promptly fell into unconsciousness. When I awoke, I Skyped my wife and beamed at her across the internet. Dinner was a vegetarian affair at a very nice restaurant, though I can’t remember what it was called. It was someone’s name, I think. Danny Banny. Or David Barnes. Or David Bann. Anyway, it was very tasty and there was much chatting, and best of all: there was chocolate souffle.

Friday, May 20th: Better sleep this night. Ghosts must have locked the liquor cabinet. Had to get up early though so Emma and I could meet Julie and Sarah Wright from Bounce at Blackwell’s books. Sarah drove us to Firrhill High School where we were met by Librarian Shauna Dickson. The students were very attentive and really enjoyed the book trailer and the sneak peek at Beat the Band. Once again, I remembered to break out my camera and so I happen to have a picture of some students from Firrhill.

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Lunch was falafel and carrot cake with Emma and Sarah before having to say goodbye to Emma as she trotted off to catch her train. Happily, I will see Emma again at The Hay Festival next week.

Sarah then drove me out to Waterstone’s Livingstone to visit with Children’s Regional Manager Eve Harvey and her son Cole. I have to say that this was a real highlight (amongst so many highlights) of my UK tour so far. Eve was super-sweet and her son was absolutely awesome. I loved how he laughed when he was talking about certain scenes from the novel. It was great talking to both of them about books and writing. Both Eve and Cole are writers. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Eve is a published author in the very near future. I left the shop with a bag full of purchased books (of course) and a big smile on my face.

Here’s Eve, Cole, and me in front of a big display of Swim the Fly (can you find where Waldo is?):

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Following this visit Sarah drove me back to my hotel and along the way we swapped dogs-eating-disgusting-things-like-manure-and-dirty-nappies stories.

Friday afternoon was wandering about town and a pizza at Mamma’s in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh.

Saturday, May 21st: Day off. Slept in a bit, checked the weather forecast, saw it was supposed to rain, looked outside, saw it was only partly cloudy, rushed to get ready to beat the storm and get some picture taking in. The day was filled with Edinburgh Castles, and street wanderings, and Writer’s Museums, and restaurant hunts, and scotch making tours, and National Gallery perusings, and Mosque Kitchen Chicken Curry tastings.

Here are some pics. Cloudy days are good for shooting portraits, not so great for landscapes but you make due.

Let the slide show commence…

The infamous Greyfriars Bobby. Be very careful wandering around the graveyard at night or you might feel the ghostly lick of a terrier tongue on your shins.

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I call this one “Edinburgh: Street”
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No more comments from me. Just some random shots. Enjoy (or not):

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