Monday, 15 February 2010

Want to join the Watchmen Academy?

This coming Saturday (Feb 20th) my local paper The Sunderland Echo will be running a Super Maxwell competition with Chipper (that's him in the hat). As well as winning a signed copy of the book the winner and four runners up will win the chance to appear as a character in Super Maxwell and the Isle of the Dead.
To enter either pick up a copy of the Echo or go to: Sunderland Echo Chipper Club download page

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Clockers home planet discovered

Here is a video about the discovery of a new planet, Gliese 581 c, which scientists believe may harbour life. If you have read Super Maxwell and the Burning Boys you will have no doubt that it does (or did) have its own peculiar, and deadly, inhabitants - the Clockers. Scientists here on Earth are considering sending probes there. They might want to reconsider unless they would like a visit from psychotic clockwork pirates!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Signed off!

Thank you to everyone who came along to my book signing on Saturday (Feb 6) and sold out Super Maxwell and the Burning Boys (and, I think left 1 copy of Super Maxwell and the Last Heroes!). I am doing some talks at schools/libraries, but hopefully will be doing some more signings soon...Meanwhile here is a pic of my nephew Ben and me at the signing (I'm the one on the right)

Friday, 5 February 2010

24 hours to go...

...until Super Maxwell hits the road again. The first signing will be at Waterstones Sunderland tomorrow from 12noon - more to come soon, with a bit of luck a few outside of the North East. As well as signing the book I will also be giving away limited edition (VERY limited edition) bookmarks - so if you're around pop in to see me - and I guarentee I will NOT give anything away about what happens in Super Maxwell and the Isle of the Dead - but I might tell you about my plans for a Maxwell Christmas treat ... Trevor and the Dragon.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Far, far away, in another universe...

As a bit of a side project while I try to work out how to save the universe in 300 pages for Maxwell 3 I am doing a little work on a story I never finished, but always intended to, called The Tell-Tale Boy.

This almost, but not quite, made it on CBBC last year as a series, and as I'm working on it you can read bits and bobs on Twitter (@virporta).

So, for the first time ever anywhere here is the opening to The Tell-Tale Boys - fingers crossed, this year I might finish it!

The Tell-Tale Boy


The mirror stood in the corner of the bedroom, almost completely hidden by a chipped and oily wardrobe. The mirror's frame was a black wood that had been turned grey by years of dust, fashioned into the shape of a dragon, which began and ended at the mirror's crest, where a goggle-eyed dragon bit deep into its own dusty tail.

If Danny stood a certain way, with his toes touching a battered tin hat with WRP painted on the front, and looked into the mirror he saw his dad, the bed, the machines and bottles, and Mr Parrish.

Danny could not see himself in the mirror if he stood in this exact spot, and he liked it just fine that way. Danny did not want to be here with the machines and the hissing bottles and the ghastly, crumpled, yellowed old man. But if he stood in this exact spot every Sunday looking in the only mirror in this awful old house, Danny would disappear.

His dad stood beside the bed, he would never sit, and he would never stray too close to the bed. It was almost as if Mr. Parrish was surrounded by a pocket of poisoned air that his dad could not penetrate. His dad would listen to Mr Parrish's whispering voice, nodding occasionally, but rarely speaking himself, and Danny, invisibly watching their reflections, wondered why his dad never took off his coat, or leaned forward to better hear Mr. Parrish.

And Danny wondered if, perhaps, he really was invisible to his father and grandfather.


Jake remembered quite clearly the day his dad disappeared. He remembered it very well indeed, because on the day his dad disappeared Jake saw his first Waking Man.

It was seven-thirty, and the village had emptied the tide of miners from their cottages to fill the mine at the bottom of the hill, and Jake was tackling the hardest part of his daily paper round - cycling home.

Every morning he started his round at the top of the village with a heavy satchel that tugged him to the bottom of the hill where the streets and windowsills were always wreathed in delicate ribbons of coal dust.

Jake's dad was a teacher, not a miner, and so they lived at the top of the hill where the 'posh' people lived. Though on days like today, straining to climb the hill through a wind gritted with coal dust, Jake felt anything but posh.

The fact that Jake didn't see the man was hardly surprising at all - he had his eyes squinted almost closed against the stinging wind, and the low sun blazed red in his eyes - no, it wasn't surprising he hadn't seen the man.

It wasn't as if he had just appeared out of thin air.

One minute Jake had been cycling up the street - a decidedly empty street - and the next there had been a whirl of black cloth and Jake had landed on his back on the cobblestones, his bike hitting the ground beside him with an almighty clatter.

Jake sat up and saw, lying on the cobbles, what looked to be a heap of ragged black cloth. But before the relieved though that he had tangled in someone's washing had a chance to properly form in his mind a bare foot shot out from the heap, and struck the ground where it lay, motionless.

'Oh no,' Jake murmured, feeling his heart leap sickeningly. 'Mister?' Jake clambered to his feet and took a step forward, afraid to get too close to what might lie broken there. 'Mister?' Jake glanced at his bike. It lay in the gutter with one wheel still turning, but seemed undamaged. He turned back. 'Mr, are you…?'

Jake's words stopped as he stared at the empty cobbles. Then, looking up, not believing anyone could have moved so fast, and yet so relieved that they could move at all, Jake saw his first Waking Man.

He stood a hundred yards away - an impossible distance for him to have travelled in the seconds it had taken Jake to glance at his bicycle - but the oily rags in which he was dressed from chin to ankle were unmistakable. His feet were bare, and shone like bones on the grimy cobbles, and his face was covered entirely in grey, stained bandages, without a hole for his mouth or eyes.

But Jake did not doubt for a moment that the man was looking at him, was seeing him, was marking him.

And then, in a blink, he was gone. Down the street and up the nearest alley in swirl of sooty black, dirty grey and bone white, leaving Jake standing and staring, wondering if what he had seen had been real at all.

Because it was obvious to Jake that the man did not belong in here, he was not just a stranger to the village, he was a stranger to this world, and he belonged here no more than a meteor.

More soon at Twitter...

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Signed by me...

The first official Super Maxwell and the Burning Boys takes place at Waterstone's, Sunderland, this Saturday (Feb 6) from 12noon. I say "official" as I've been signing them willy-nilly all over the place, but it worth coming along on Saturday as I will be giving away free limited edition bookmarks - whoo-hoo! - and drinking coffee as well as signing books. Multi-tasking at its best.
If you have read Burning Boys and are going bananas wondering what happens next you can follow me at Twitter @Virporta ... Not that I'll give much away! You'll have to just wait for Super Maxwell and the Isle of the Dead for that!