Thursday, 23 December 2010

Launch of Enchantment of the Black Dog, December 2010

Thanks to everyone who came along to the launch, it was great to see so many people and it was good to talk to about Portland history. I met a member of the Durston family, related to the poet/stonemason Skylark, whose story about the black dog inspired and intrigued me.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Thursday, 7 October 2010


I feel better about the whole cat thing now. I've added a cat rescue sanctuary to Portland Pirates (book 3) so perhaps they will be happy with this! The run up to Halloween is a strange time of year as the dark nights seem to draw in so suddenly. I took this photo of the full moon over Portland a week or two ago.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Strange Days

Enchantment of the Black Dog is in the final production stages. Domini, the artist has completed the map for the book and the cover - it looks amazing. I'm sort of between books now. The third book of the series is starting to take shape but I can see there's a lot of work to do on Portland Pirates. Everything feels a bit in-between at the moment, a strange time. I was woken on Saturday by a cat jumping off the bed. I heard its paws hit the floor, it ran to the bedroom door and miaowed. Of course, I don't have a cat! There was no cat there at all! Later that morning, I saw a huge black cat crossing the road in Radipole, bigger than a fox, with a long curving tail! My daughter, stood next to me, didn't see a thing...

Strange days.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Artwork - Enchantment of the Black Dog

Domini Deane has finished the artwork for the cover of Book 2, very exciting to see the characters come to life. I really like the way Domini has depicted the Giant's head, a real Portland feature from the east coast. Here's a preview from the cover.

Heading into St Augustine's school, Weymouth, this week to talk to some younger children. I'm looking forward to the visit.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


Saw at least 3 Gregor collie dogs at the Cricket Club fair, bounding over the jumps and dashing through the tunnel. The twins kept a close eye on me, in case I spoke to any of the owners and said something embarrassing. It was good to see friendly faces there, despite the drizzle. And the majorettes were fantastic as always. It does feel like life imitates art, I wonder why this is? Or how?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Final Proofs

Read through the proofs yesterday on line. The story seems to read differently once it's set into pages - in some ways it reads faster, if that makes sense. Will have hard copies today and expect those will feel different again. Easier to write than the first book in the series; once the characters were established the story told itself.

My favourite character at the moment is Ryder, the surf dude, whose helping the mermaid ("Mer-babe") look for the black dog. She's hidden his Kangaroo designer surf board to blackmail him into helping her, after he ran over her tail on a surfboard.

We are at the Red Triangle club fair today... which is a bit weird as Mrs Groves in my story is planning to show her hopeless, badly behaved dog Gregor at the show dogs event. I keep saying to the children, "Yes, we'll have to make sure we see Gregor". They don't say anything. I think they just feel sorry for me.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Watch Out, Scooby Doo!

Writing some blurb for the back cover for Enchantment of the Black Dog today. I drafted some thoughts yesterday but it reads too slowly. Too much information I think. There's something there at the back of my mind but it's not on the page.... When I close my eyes I can see Shaggy shouting at Scooby Doo, "Watch out, Scooby!" I wonder what that's all about! Writing's a strange thing....

Saturday, 4 September 2010

WH Smiths Book Signing, August 2010

These photos were taken at the book signing at WH Smiths, Weymouth in August. Very busy and lots of interest from people wandering through from the beach as well as people who came along to see us.

A photo on the left is Gary Biltcliffe, author of The Spirit of Portland.

Also a photo of me and Jasmine.

Just reading excerpts from Holinshed's Chronicles - written around the end of the 16th century, The Chronicles take a detailed look at the history of Britain and are mainly known as Shakespeare's source for plays such as MacBeth. The history starts with the flood, after which Noah ruled over the land and the Chronicles follow history from this point. Intriguing and colourful! I'm not sure where this research is going! Although I am fascinated by the idea of a race of giants (son of Neptune, Albion) inhabiting the Kingdom and I think I will be returning to this again soon.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Season of mists

It feels like Autumn is creeping in today. The light on Portland is very bright and clear, but different from summer. School is looming for the kids. I still haven't got all the uniform... and can't find any pencils. Perhaps the seagulls have eaten them.
Enchantment of the Black Dog, the next book in the Chronicles, has gone to the typesetter and Domini is working on the illustrations for the cover. The roughs look fantastic, it will be great to see Church Ope cove on the cover. And the mermaid. And the Southwell fairy. Not to mention the Black Dog of Portland himself.
I've spent so much time over the last couple of years thinking about the black dog and who or what he may be. The research by Dr Simon Sherwood at CSAPP, University of Northampton, has been v enlightening. And thought provoking. But I'll write more about this another time.

There have been so many things happening this summer. I enjoyed the talks at Swanage and Weymouth libraries, and meeting children and grown ups who enjoy The Portland Sea Dragon. I loved meeting Margaret who grew up on Portland and is a fan of the book. I won't try to guess when she lived at the cottages at underhill! I wish we'd had more time to talk.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Big Groves Summer Festival

It was hot! The children who came to the Island Play tent worked on a fantastic collage of the mermaid, who looks very slightly sinister (just as she should be!). I am hoping to take her with me to the Book signing event with Gary Biltcliff on Saturday at WH Smiths in Weymouth. It's the last week of the school year, a sad week for parents! and a happy one for kids!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Portland Museum Event 2 May 2010

The Portland Museum event on 2 May went v well, it was nice to have an opportunity to chat to people about the book. Of course the Portland lamb stole the show, v beautiful! Not to mention the baby goats. Glad to hear lots of grown ups are reading the book too!!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Portland Sheep are Coming Along

We can't get anything done here - too excited about seeing the sheep at the Portland Museum tomorrow. Last night, I dreamt a herd of sheep came and rounded me up for the event but I forgot my shoes.... If the weather is not too bad Soozy is bringing along a lamb... can't wait.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Words Etcetera, Dorchester

Portland Museum

Everyone here is getting very excited about the Portland Museum event/book signing on Sunday 2 May. Even the Portland sheep have said they may like to come along! Baaa! I met Kate Wheller from the Museum last week and talked about arrangements for the day. We will be putting up posters around Weymouth, Portland and south Dorset this week. Have also arranged a talk at Budmouth school for July, which I am really looking forward to.
Took some pictures of the Dorchester bookshop that's featuring the Portland Sea Dragon and if I ever work out how I will display them on here!
Over the weekend I finally sat down and summarised the plot again for book 2, the Enchantment of the Black Dog. It's a good way to see if the plot and sub-plots hold together. Had to re-write a chapter to keep the mermaid and black dog apart till the end, and it works better. Funnily enough I wrote a bit about the Portland sheep too. V important part of Portland, we love them. (Jazzy wants to keep one in the garden).

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Visiting All Saints C of E School

Really enjoyed talking to Year 7 students at All Saints C of E school in Weymouth today. They asked some great questions - how many people does it take to produce a book? what inspired me to write about a sea dragon? who proofreads my work? and lots of other good questions - made me think hard.... We also talked a lot about the process of producing a book and looked at how the editor makes changes to a manuscript and how long the process of editing and rewriting takes.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Dog Training

My friends Mrs Groves and Mrs Greychurch have just popped in with a poster. Mrs Groves feels that over Easter dog behaviour has gone downhill. So she has brought a poster, featuring a list of dog training tips that she would like to see displayed on my blog. In fact, she has insisted. As Gregor, her black and white collie, is sitting on my foot and panting at me, I have agreed. Mrs Greychurch is in the lounge re-arranging the cushions on the sofa. I know she would like to have a quick hoover around. Anyway I've told them I have to go out in a minute.

I am always pleased to see them but also a bit relieved when they go home.

As promised, here is Mrs Groves' Guide to Dog Care

Biscuits are an important part of training your dog. Make sure you have plenty in a tin and lots of sizes and colours, or your dog may become bored of them. Custard creams are always popular.

Practise shouting. A loud voice is easier for your dog to hear.

Make clear hand signs at your dog.

Remember you can buy new table legs at B&Q, and it’s good for your dog’s teeth to chew wood. (If dogs are upset, they may get hiccups.)

Keep a large supply of blankets, as your dog may eat them.

Your dog will like to sleep in a warm spot. Keep a space by the stove in the kitchen for day time use and a rug on your bed at night.

Dogs often sulk and it’s best to ignore them.

Dogs that are a bit overweight should walk every day, even if there are horses, bicycles, hedgehogs or snails to upset them. That’s right, Gregor, they should walk every day. Then they will be slim and able to perform at the Red Triangle Cricket Field Fair at the end of the summer.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Easter and Pirates

I can't believe it's Easter and still raining. I guess it's best just to be grateful that we have not vanished into a black hole after they fired up the Hadron Collider - I am following the news about this with a great deal of interest, esp Dr Brian Cox....

It's been great to have so much positive feedback about the Portland Sea Dragon, after working on it alone for so long. Thank you to everyone who has been in touch. I know Domini Deane the artist looks at my blog - everyone loves the illustrations for the book and I am being asked what is going to happen next, is it the same characters (esp Gregor) and will Domini illustrate? There is a Portland Sea Dragon page on Facebook where I pick up comments regularly.

I have been working on Book 3 this week, exploring the world of the Portland Pirate! And what happens when a pirate shipwreck rises from the seabed after 400 years. With a survivor... And Mrs Greychurch has acquired a stun-gun from Hmm

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Portland Sea Dragon Book Launch

The Portland Sea Dragon Book Launch was held at Whitestones Cafe in Easton at 2pm on Sunday 21 March. There has been a lot of interest in the book over the last few weeks but we were unprepared for the number of people who came along! Thank you to everyone who came and coped with the crowds! Thanks to Whitestones too!

Children were dressed as dragons, smugglers, mermaids, I think there was a lion in there somewhere. And a pirate. Domini Deane, the artist and illustrator for the book, had dressed up as a Portland Princess!! People had travelled from as far afield as Birmingham and Chandlers Ford. There were some great drawings and pieces of writing completed by the children.

Strange that (hopefully) people are now reading the book. For 3 years I have been the only person who has known these character and now quite a few others are meeting them too.... Strange... I can't smile at border collies any more and think "Ha! That's just like Gregor!"... Well, I will anyway....

Monday, 15 March 2010


I have always been fascinated by spirals and am researching them for The Enchantment of the Black Dog, Book two in the series of The Portland Chronicles. The image keeps finding its way into the story. There is a conch shell with spirals, stars and galaxies spiralling, and time itself which always seems to loop back on itself in a spiral.

I really enjoy the 'Solar System' series with Prof Brian Cox - he's been looking at how the same spiral force which holds together the universe also creates storms like tornadoes, and the whirl when water flows down the plughole... V interesting...

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A Mermaid Attacks

We visited Damers School in Dorchester this week. By we, I mean, me, the twins, a dragon and a mermaid with no teeth. We had an hour divided into four sessions with the theme 'good guys, bad guys' and I read the parts of The Portland Sea Dragon that describe the 'good' dragon and the 'bad' mermaid. In fact, I thought that the children would assume it was to be the other way round, but they guessed accurately as mermaids have a history of being dangerous creatures. The story of the Sirens was mentioned a few times. During the readings, I was attacked by the puppet mermaid, and the dragon simulated flying. I still have a rash where the mermaid bit me. However this was essential to the story.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Imaginary Friends and Portland Frost

It's one of those perfect Portland days. The sky is so blue it hurts your eyes but the wind is so cold! When the wind cuts across Portland from the north-east it makes everything look really sharp, like it's been outlined in black felt tip pen. Maybe Spring will come one day. There was still frost on the garden this morning.

Had an interview today with Jane Norman from Blackmore Vale Magazine. She took a couple of photos outside by the apple trees. I enjoyed talking to Jane and she has a gentle style of interviewing that immediately puts you at ease. She asked some perceptive questions about why I started writing in the first place, and why I chose to write for children. Jane reflected that my main character Isabel is probably partly me, which I hadn't considered before, and I think she's right. I spent my childhood looking for owls (saw a couple) and I suppose a dragons is just one step further along that road. I had some difficulties describing Isabel for Domini to illustrate, as in the book I looked at the world through her eyes . Isabel was also inspired by my daughter Jasmine's best friend. Jane is going to interview the artist and illustrator Domini Deane in Bournemouth tomorrow about her artwork for the book. I am looking forward to seeing Domini again at the launch.

It still seems strange that all my imaginary friends, Mrs Groves and Mrs Greychurch, Gregor and Isabel, are about to become other people's friends too! How odd. I hope other people like Gregor as much as I do.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Visit to Radipole

I really enjoyed my first visit to a school yesterday. I went to talk to Radipole School's Year 4 class and dragons, myths and legends and they all made me very welcome. The children asked some very good questions about writing the book, research and even editing. They also talked about their own local legend projects and knew a lot about the Black Dog of Portland and the 'Veasta'. So I know where to go for future research on these subjects!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Story in Dorset Echo and Time Travel

The article ran in the Echo on Saturday and lots of people are commenting on it. Laura Kitching who wrote the article made a good job of writing up my waffle to her! You can find it on There is also a piece in the Free Portland News today. I always read this cover to cover so am especially proud to be featured here. I like that the article quotes James (aged 12), my first reviewer - "Not your typical book on dragons. I like the sea dragon because it's mysterious, but not in a scary way, more like an ancient and beautiful way. I also like how it's written in two time periods; you can see how the past evolves into the present." Writing about time travel is difficult - it throws up all kinds of issues and I had to give these a lot of thought. The main issues for me are:
  • People being in two places at one time...
  • Does time go by in the present if Isabel is in 1616?
  • If you change the past, does it change the present?
  • Does time run in a line, or in a circle, or in a spiral?
  • How do people travel across time?
I found some of the answers to these issues, in some fashion, by reading up on Quantum physics. Very small particles of matter can exist in more than one place at a time (protons) and can move from one place to another without having to travel there. They just pop up! In theory, time travel is possible. We just don't know how to do it yet. I am watching the news on the Particle Accelerator in Geneva with interest as it may give some answers to the issues of how these very tiny particles behave....

So anyway I am really pleased that my time travel makes sense to James and that I didn't have to put in a Narnia wardrobe to get Isabel back to the past!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Echo interview

I had my first interview yesterday with the Dorset Echo, which was exciting and hopefully will be in the paper this week. In The Portland Sea Dragon I refer to the fascinating story from the Echo about the recent discovery of pliosaur remains just along the coast from Portland. Quite a coincidence that a sea monster is discovered at the same time that I am writing about one!

The reporter asked about how I researched the book and why I wrote it in the first place. I've researched so much local history, it's hard to say exactly what was significant to the book and what remained as background interest. Reading about how women lived in the seventeenth century was very useful. I enjoyed finding out about the idea of witches and what that might mean to someone who has been called the Island Witch, my character Agnes Maydew. I also read up on the history of smuggling in Dorset, to give Joseph Groves an authentic background. I forgot to say that I also researched Gregor by visiting my parents' dog. This did not involve any reading - just throwing a squeaky duck and feeding biscuits.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

My New Book

Three weeks from now my first book, The Portland Sea Dragon will be published by Roving Press. We have the first copies of the book here and it looks amazing! Domini Deane's artwork captures the spirit of the book and of Portland - I love the details she has included - the pair of eyes under the mermaid's rock! I wonder what it is... Is it a lobster, a bug-eyed fish, or a crab?

There is a lot to organise with the book launch on Sunday 21 March. I am still trying to decide whether to dress as a dragon or not. Some people say I look like one anyway...