CROSS BONES 1 – Out Now!

WOOF!

This update is all in the headline. My new series launches in Australia TODAY, so if you’re interested in buying 219 pages of fully-illustrated junior fiction, featuring pirates and ships and icebergs and piranhas and a creepy wolverine and a secret spy and SO MANY JOKES, then you can go and do that RIGHT NOW!

Cross Bones has been a joy to work on from start to finish, and I’m so proud of the book that Chris and I are sending out into the world. And, if you want to hear some crazy stories about how we created this crazy book, a crazy man named Ken Williams asked us a bunch of questions about it for his podcast, Reading With a Chance of Tacos! You can search for it wherever you listen to podcasts, or just click that link to go straight there.

And that’s the post! Go grab yourself a copy of this beautiful, funny book, then come back and tell me what you think. (Hurry! I’ll be waiting.)

YARRRR!

Coming Soon: CROSS BONES!

Arrrrr!

I wrote a new book! Heck, I wrote a new series! It’s coming out soon! You can pre-order it now! There aren’t enough exclamation marks in the world to sum up how exciting this is!

Phew. Okay. Let’s take a breath and tackle this as logically as we can. Let’s answer five questions together, one at a time, so that everyone is up to speed:

1. What’s your new book called?

Great question! My new series is called Cross Bones, and the first book in the series is called A Dog’s Breakfast. Hooray!

2. What’s your new series about?

Great question! Cross Bones is a series about five dodgy, doggy pirates, who also happen to be very best friends: Magnus Thunderump (the captain), Daisy Dangerlick (the first mate), Eduardo Muttonchop (the cook), Spot (the cabin boy), and the mysterious Rover Goodpup (the Spymaster). The sea dogs are setting sail on a new adventure in the hope of un-burying some buried treasure — but first they’ll have to survive all the terrible dangers the ocean can throw at them, like a pirate octopus, and a pirate beaver, and an entire sea filled with nasty, gnashing teeth. (Also, just between you and me, that Rover Goodpup seems a bit suspicious. I wonder if we’ll find out why?)

Don’t be too scared, though — for the most part, Cross Bones is a silly pirate caper, filled with jokes and misadventures. It was heaps of fun to write, and I hope it’ll be heaps of fun to read as well.

3. Who drew the pictures?

Great question! Incredibly, the pictures in this book are drawn by Chris Kennett (@crikeyboy), who is one of the most brilliant kid-lit illustrators working in Australia today. Chris has illustrated every single page of this new series, and through his talent and hard work, every character and scene looks even better than I imagined it. Actually, if I’m completely honest, Chris is almost too good to work with, because now I feel bad about making him draw “100 sea monsters” or “1,000 pirate ships” or whatever crazy thing I think of for the sea dogs to do next. (I’m a bit worried I might make him sprain his wrist.)

But really, look at that cover. How lucky am I to work with an artist who can draw a cover like that? (Oops, that’s an extra question — just ignore that one!)

4. Who is your favourite pirate?

Great question! From real life, I always loved the story of Edward Teach (Blackbeard) swinging into battle with fire and smoke pouring out from under his hat. From movies, I loved the swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. But my favourite, favourite pirates are the heroic trio from the Griffin Pirate Stories, a series of school readers written by Sheila K. McCullagh in the 1970s. Roderick the Red, Gregory the Green, and Ben the Blue are the pirates who made me love pirates, and I have the fondest memories of the adventures they shared together: meeting griffins, finding magic candles, and always hunting for even more rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. It is such a delight to me that now, more than 20 years after I read those books, I get to write my very own pirate story too.

5. This all sounds too good to be true! When can I buy your new book?

Great question! The very first Cross Bones book (A Dog’s Breakfast) launches on July 20, 2022 — but you can pre-order that book right now! Click on this link to head to the Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing website, which has a great big list of retailers who’ll help get you the book as soon as possible. Alternatively, swing past your local bookshop and ask them to order the book for you instead!

Pre-ordering this book is an especially good idea because the first print run will feature the special edition die-cut porthole cover! I have absolutely no idea how many of these covers are going to be printed, but pre-ordering the book is the best way to guarantee you end up with one in your mangy paws. Have you ever tried to look at something while reading the first page of a book but had your line of sight blocked by a pesky solid cover? That won’t be a problem with this bad boy, believe me!

That’s it! That’s all the news! But it turns out there are still some exclamation marks left! Thanks for reading, friend — take some of these remaining marks with you, and have a great day!!!!!

The Giant Key – Out Now!

The end is nigh.

And just like that, it was over.

The Witching Hours is a funny old series. The first five books are mostly episodic — which is to say, their stories are self-contained. You can start reading about Anna and Max at book three or book four and you’ll mostly understand what’s going on. But after five huge adventures, it didn’t feel like The Giant Key could be just another episode. It had to tie back to all those previous stories, and address every mystery I’d ever left unsolved. It had to be gigantic.

It could perhaps be said that I took that last part a bit too literally.

The Giant Key is a big, wild, bombastic book. It has several weird, hallucinatory chapters, as well as the most wicked magics that have ever been seen in the series. I’m also pretty sure it has more characters in it than the other five books combined. To research the dastardly enchantments I read Algernon Blackwood’s story The Wendigo, as well as the wonderfully witchy Malleus Maleficarum. Come to think of it, I might have even re-read Roald Dahl’s The Witches while I was writing book six, but I’m sure you won’t notice any scenes inspired by a novel as famous as that.

Looking back, I’m grateful that I got to spend one last book with Anna and Max, in a fairy tale world that existed long before I was born. The folkloric monsters that I used in The Witching Hours feel like toys that have been handed down across generations, and I’m so thrilled that I got the chance to play with the vampire, and the troll, and the genies, and the mermaids, and the dragon, and the giant. I hope I took good care of them.

Anna and Max are fairly archetypal too, but there are little bits of me in both of them, which is why I’m sad to leave them behind. I’ll always kind of know what they did next, and what other monsters they met, but none of those thoughts will ever be published in book form. Maybe if I get nostalgic enough I’ll write a new short story and post it here on an anniversary date, just for myself and whoever else is reading this blog. Who knows!

Luckily for me, those folkloric monsters aren’t the only things I want to play with in the grand toy box of fiction. Now that Anna and Max have reached their happy (?) ending, there are brand new worlds for me to explore, filled with more of the things I loved reading about when I was a kid — and, if I’m completely honest, the things I still love reading about today. I think it’s going to be quite fun.

But you don’t have to worry about that yet. Unless you devoured the whole thing literally today, there is one last book of The Witching Hours to read. Beware the graveyard on page 18. Remember that on page 41, the library wall might not be as secure as you think. And really, the less said about page 92, the better!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, and stay safe. Happy witching!