Seawigs in Edinburgh

Sarah McIntyre and I will be doing a whole bunch of events this autumn to promote our new book Oliver and the Seawigs...

 Tickets have just gone on sale for our first show, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. It's an appropriate venue, because that's where I first met Sarah, back in 2009, little suspecting that we would end up working together.  Edinburgh is a great festival, and there will be loads of other writers and illustrators to see there as well as us, so check out the full programme. (But we'll be THE BEST, of course! )

Godshawk's Head by Diego de la Guardia

A while back I did a post about Diego de la Guardia and the superb model of the Mortal Engines Engineerium which he made as part of his BA (Hons) Film and TV Production Design course at the University of Glamorgan.  Now he's turned his attention to Fever Crumb, and produced a design for Godshawk's Head, the giant, abandoned statue in which the first generation of Engineers make their home. I think it's an improvement on the version in the book in several ways.  For instance, Diego has the hot air balloon being constructed inside somewhere, and then floating out through an opening in the top, rather than taking off from the roof as I imagined. That's much better! Why didn't I think of that? I suppose because I'm not a set designer.

You can see the Head in all its considerable glory here on Diego's website, but I've swiped the image above and one of the technical drawings to give you a flavour of it. many thanks to Diego for letting them use them here - and wishing him a long and successful career!

Seawigs in Lyme Regis, Arthur in Wistman's Wood

Lyme Regis


 It was a lovely day here on Wednesday, and Sarah McIntyre and I were off to the seaside. We persuaded my wife Sarah to drive us to Lyme Regis, delightful Dorset seaside resort famed for Mary Anning, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and thingy falling off the Cobb in that Jane Austen book, you know the one.

It's only about an hour's drive from Dartmoor to Lyme, but I'm afraid McIntyre still got very bored in the back of the car...

But we weren't just going to the seaside for a jolly, OH NO. We were visiting the Woodroffe School.  Head teacher Richard Steward had asked us to talk to the to year seven pupils about our work.  This is a bit of a strange time, because our first joint book, Oliver and the Seawigs, isn't published yet, but it's coming soon, and we'll be touring the festivals with it this autumn, so it's nice to have a chance to talk about it in advance, and to show people some of Sarah's fabulous illustrations.  And Sarah showed everyone how to draw sea monkeys, which is a very useful skill.

Afterwards, I talked to a group who have been doing some work on Mortal Engines. It's nice that it's still finding new readers after these years, and they'd produced these posters for an imaginary Mortal Engines movie, and some pamphlets for Magnus Crome's re-election campaign. Would you buy a used Traction City from this man?

We even had our photo taken in front of one of the school's amazing murals (and behind some of its amazing pupils) for the local paper...

...though I prefer this picture.

And as we were leaving we met a human whoopee cushion, which rounded the morning off nicely.

Then we strode down the steep hill into the centre of town, met Sarah (who had been pottering about taking photographs and looking for ichthyosaurs) and had lunch at a nice cafe on the sea front, before walking out along the Cobb, as every visitor to Lyme must, especially the ones who have just bought fancy new hats and want their photos taken.

It was pretty much a perfect day...

Wistman's Wood

By Thursday, normality had been restored: it was raining again.  But we set out anyway for Wistman's Wood, in the company of Joyce Herbeck, her colleague Kim, and their students from Montana State University, who are on a whistlestop tour of Britain's literary sites. They'd been at Tintagel the day before, and met me to talk about Here Lies Arthur, among other things. Joyce makes this trip every other year, and when she got in touch last time round to ask if we could meet up  I suggested a quick detour to Wistman's Wood, which is only a short way from the road along a fairly easy track, and looks like the perfect fairytale/fantasy forest. Last time the weather was rather better, but I hope this year's students enjoyed it despite the fog, drizzle and gnats. More on the McIntyreblog, as always. 

Afterwards Joyce bought us lunch at the Two Bridges Hotel, and kindly gave McIntyre and I a lift part of the way home. I think the students were a bit surprised when we got Vince the coach driver to drop us off near Bennet's Cross, on an absolutely featureless stretch of fog-bound heather. (We know how to make a dramatic exit.) We waved them off on their way to their next stop (Stonehenge), and hiked home through the old mining gullies of Heathercombe.

This writing lark is fun, and you get to meet the nicest people! Except that, now and then, you actually have to sit down and do some writing. That's what I shall be doing for the next few weeks - there are a lot of Goblins clamouring for my attention...

Home Again


Sarah, Sam and I have been in Menorca for the past week, and very nice it was too: they have SUN there and everything (also giant beach onion things, see pic above).

What they didn't have (or I didn't, at least) was internet access. It was very nice to be unplugged for a week, (and I still haven't properly got back on to Twitter or Facebook, so apologies if you've left comments or queries there) but it did mean that I haven't had a chance yet to post links to all these nice things...

Oi! Superheroes! NO!
First, a short piece what I wrote about Geekery for Laura Heath's 'Sister Spooky' blog. It was part of a whole 'Week of Geek' guest posts on the same subject, so make sure you check out the others too. Many thanks to Laura for asking me to take part.

Second, here is an interview I did recently with Laini Bostian for Cynsations, a very good YA literature blog run by Cynthia Leitich Smith, the author of the Tantalize bookss and many others.  It touches on subjects like gender and romance in the Mortal Engines series, Larklight, and Here Lies Arthur.  I'm very grateful to Laini for doing the interview and to Cynthia for finding room for it on Cynsations. The photos of me looking mysterious on the moor and trying not to laugh are by Sarah McIntyre.  And I've just found out that Laini is starting her own blog, Made Up Librarian.

And last but not least, illustrator Thomas Fummo has taken Sam's inspired casting suggestion for Doctor Who (as mentioned in my previous post) and made it the starting point for a whole set of Doctors (I'm not sure what the collective noun for Doctors Who is?). You can see the ones he's drawn so far on his blog.

Laureates and Time Lords

New Children's Laureate!

Malorie Blackman,
Photo: Clara Molden
I was pleased to see that Malorie Blackman has been chosen to be the new Children's Laureate. I've never met her, but everyone who has says that she's lovely, and she's a very good writer. There's a nice piece about her by Martin Chilton, here.  And here's a word from the outgoing Laureate, Julia Donaldson, in which she talks eloquently about the lack of coverage which children's books receive in the press and media - one in four book sales, but only a fortieth of the coverage in the mainstream press.  Which is a bit rubbish, isn't it? It's been nice to see all the coverage of Malorie Blackman's appointment, but it would be nicer still if the media could pay a bit more attention to children's books when there isn't such an obvious hook to hang their stories on.

New Doctor Who...

Somewhat less important than a new Children's Laureate is the news that the search is on for a new Doctor Who. All over the internets people are suggesting the actors they'd like to see in the role. I hadn't planned to join in with this merriment, because, frankly, I'm not sure we really need another Dr Who. I lost interest in the new version of the show a while back. Instead of a new Doctor I'd like to see a whole new sci-fi/fantasy show commissioned - maybe one which doesn't carry fifty years of baggage.

At least, that's what I thought until I discussed it with my son Sam. To my surprise, when I asked him who the new Doctor should be he instantly said, 'Tom Waits'. Which, of course, completely convinced me.

From the cover of the album 'Mule Variations'
I love Tom Waits's music. It always makes me feel as I'm waking up with a hangover in a cheap hotel room where someone is playing polkas on a clapped-out old radiogram while a mad tramp sings along in the street outside (but in a good way). His lyrics are superb too (and he's the author of the only bit of 'writing advice' I've ever heeded: 'Sometimes you write a song and the only thing it's any good for is to chop up and use as bait so you can catch other songs'). He's also a pretty good actor in the right role. Here he is as the Devil in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus...

...and here he's playing Renfield in the Francis Ford Coppola version of Dracula:

(Incidentally, I don't think any Tom Waits song would make it anywhere near Sam's personal top ten nowadays - he's more into hip-hop and such -  but Tom Waits was probably the first musician he was ever aware of. At a very young age he came across a picture of TW singing - as is his wont - through a bullhorn, and assumed that he was something to do with the emergency services. He made himself his own bullhorn out of Duplo and went stomping around the house bellowing a Tom Waits-ish song of his own invention which went, "SOME-ONE'S IN TROUBLE IN A BIG STORM OF RAIN". To this day it remains the best pastiche Tom Waits lyric I've ever heard.)

So anyway, if I were in charge of Doctor Who, Matt Smith would be regenerating into Tom Waits as soon as contractually possible. Not only would Waits play the Doctor, he would record a new version of the theme tune, featuring a wheezing harmonium over a percussion section of hobos banging dustbins. The interior of the TARDIS would look like the lower decks of an ancient tramp steamer, and it would materialise and de-materialise with a sound like a broken accordion. The Doctor's current assistant would be so appalled by his smoking, whisky consumption and greasy hat that she would flee, to be replaced by someone a bit more interesting.

After that it would be pretty much business as usual: the Doctor visiting a bunch of planets and seeing off marauding aliens with his trademark ruined growl and battered umbrella.  The settings would be seedier than we are used to: abandoned farm buildings, rusty freighters and low-end spaceport bars would feature prominently. A few familiar villains would turn up so that they could say, "So, Doctor, we meet again,", but there would be no 'story arcs'. All the stories would end bleakly.

Viewing figures would plummet, of course, and the show would be abruptly cancelled half way through the season, never to return. But it would be WORTH IT, dammit.

Tom Waits for Doctor Who. You know it makes sense.

A Letter from Turkey


A protestor reads to the riot police. Image borrowed
from a great album of similar photos here.

It would be impertinent for me to comment on the situation in Turkey, because I know very little about it, apart from a few news reports.  But it seems more immediate to me than other recent world events because I've been corresponding with my Turkish publishers and translator about Mortal Engines, which is soon to be published there.  I've been wondering how the troubles in Istanbul were affecting them. Today I had this message from my publisher, which I think is worth sharing.

Dear Mr. Reeve,

We’re having strange days, in Turkey, sometimes dark ones, sometimes even terrifying ones (as tonight), but our vigilance and common sense will lead us somewhere good, we believe. Maybe you’ve heard; many demonstrations all around Turkey against the government is getting louder and louder each day. For more and comprehensive information: 

We are highly concentrated on spreading the information nationally and internationally because our mainstream media is silenced and censored. There are no information whatsoever in any channel except three or four independent ones. So, the social media became our “real media” and each user, blogger, web journalist and activist (on the field) is a source or carrier of information.

Visibility and being heard is Turkey’s upmost priority, right now. Because the government does not yet consider to step back and order the police to retreat. Many provocateurs, disguised as resisters or not, are helping them by attacking “real” resisters (which, believe me are extremely vigilant, peaceful and sober) and by ravaging bus stops, political party buildings etc. So the police create pretexts to re-attack. So, there are some moments where the movement becomes chaotic. This is why we need to press the government nationally and internationally -if possible- to take their forces back immediately. So any help will be highly and gratefully welcome.

Thank you, a lot,

Sincerely yours


Edit: Here's another blog about the situation which gives some useful background information. PR