… author of Escape From Furnace, The Fury, The Inventors, and the brand new Devil's Engine series

US Tour Part 3: Cavalcade of Awesomeness!!!!!!! :-)

The Cavalcade of Authors, in the Tri-Cities, is the reason I’m over here in the States. It’s an amazing event, created and run by a wonderful woman called Michelle Lane. The idea is to bring together twelve authors and a load of schools for a day of talks, creative writing workshops and author panels. Genius! Michelle got in touch with me last year and asked if I’d like to come over for it, as the Furnace books were popular in the schools. And of course I said yes!!

Read For Life!! That's an order! 🙂

So I flew out of Seattle on Tuesday night after my school events, and got picked up from Pasco airport by Lisa, one of the volunteers. She was incredibly enthusiastic, and a perfect introduction to the remarkable energy and excitement of the week. The Cavalcade itself wasn’t until Friday, but I had four school events scheduled before then. The first was at the Southside United Protestant Sanctuary, and it was inside a chapel! It was cool, although I felt a little weird talking about monsters and gore and shooting cow pats in there. The audience, which came from a few different schools, was great, and didn’t seem to mind the setting at all (although I got a few funny looks from the staff when I was talking about my first novel, the one about the man-eating angels)!

After that I headed over the state line into Oregon to talk to the students at the Clara Brownell Middle School in Umatilla. These guys were so awesome!! The event started in the coffee shop across the street from the school, where I met with forty of their keenest readers. We had a great chat about books and writing over coffee, and one student even bought me my first ever Hershey’s bar – thanks again for that!! It was great to be amongst such bright and enthusiastic kids!

Umatilla!

Afterwards we all headed back to Clara Brownell and I gave my talk to the whole school. And the best thing was that they presented me with this ENORMOUS thank you card before I left, which was so awesomely cool!! Thanks so much to everyone at the school! Thanks also to Paula and Carol for doing all the driving!

It's almost as big as I am!!!!

There’s a newspaper article about it here, but you have to be signed up to read it. I’ll post a copy!

The day wasn’t over yet. I travelled north again into Washington State to do an evening event at Richland Library, which is a fantastic place. There was a great crowd, full of enthusiastic writers and readers, and it was loads of fun. Thanks to Gavin for inviting me, and to everyone for coming!! To top off a perfect day, I even got to ride in Terry’s bright red Ford Mustang to and from the library. I have always wanted to take a trip in one of these! I was so excited I forgot to take a photo. Thanks Terry!

On Thursday I went to speak at Enterprise Middle School, which was brilliant! To begin with I was interviewed by a student called Andrew, and we had a long chat about writing and books. There was a reporter there too, and his article about the morning can be found here! There are also some photos here!

The Enterprise reaction to my exploding cow poo story, courtesy of the Tri-City Herald!

Afterwards, Michelle and Leslie, the two organisers of Cavalcade, took me out to lunch. I had the choice of pretty much any restaurant, but I think I horrified them by asking to go to Taco Bell. What?! We don’t have them in England!!! It was delicious! Following that, we drove over to Kamiakin High School for my last talk of the week. I spoke to hundreds of students in the main auditorium, and they were an awesome bunch! Afterwards Steve, a librarian and teacher there, presented me with some thank you prizes, including a very rare Kamiakin Chiefs pin, so I was very honoured! He also gave me his hat, emblazoned with the logo of the biker gang he belongs to (the Bad Teachers). He wanted to take me back to the hotel on his motorbike, which would have been great, but he was told not to! I was so disappointed!! But we have now made plans to travel to Sturgis next time I’m in the country, and hang out with bikers all weekend. It will be great! And I did get to try on his cut later in the day! Thanks Steve!

Biker Gordy!!

On Thursday evening the Cavalcade officially began, and I got to meet the other eleven authors. They were (deep breath)… Robin Wasserman (who I met earlier in the week in Seattle), Frank BeddorBlake NelsonRoyce BuckinghamRidley PearsonJanet Lee CareyAlex FlinnVivian Vande VeldePete HautmanColleen Houck and Jim Whiting. I have nothing but amazing things to say about all of them, but if I did then this blog would never end. Suffice to say they were a brilliant bunch, and fascinating to talk to. Read their books!! The authors and event organisers all went to Olive Garden for a meal, and a chance to get to know each other. Then we all went over to Barnes and Noble for a mass signing. Twelve authors all in a row signing books… I think we were all nervously comparing the size of everybody’s lines. But I’m happy to say that there were loads of people there with copies of the Furnace books! It was a truly smashing evening.

So finally Friday rolled around, with a 5.30am wake-up call!! I got picked up an hour later by Lisa, my host for the day, and headed out to Columbia Basin College. Events started at 8, and consisted of four forty-minute long workshops. In order to attend Cavalcade, each student had to have read at least four books from the authors, so everyone there was a dedicated reader! The workshops all went brilliantly, with over a hundred kids in each one! We talked about horror, and how to come up with scary ideas based on our own worst fears, and some of the story ideas you guys came up with were truly chilling! There were some excellent writers in the audience, and I know we’ll be hearing about them in the future. Just remember what I said: never give up on your dreams!!! After the workshops was an author panel, where we answered questions from the huge audience. There were over 600 kids there, which is (I think) the largest group I have ever spoken to!

I was going to get everyone to shout something cool about Furnace, but I didn't get the chance!!

To finish things off there was a signing, which went on for well over an hour – there were still people queueing for books as the school buses were pulling away (I hope no-one got left behind)! I was enjoying it so much that my special red-inked Furnace stamp exploded (I was stamping a little too enthusiastically), making it look like there was blood all over my table (very fitting). Oh, and I spotted a little mistake on my signing sign:

I don't mind, but Darren might!!! 🙂

Prizes for guessing which of my favourite authors that is!

The event wrapped up shortly after two, which was a shame as I was up for doing it all over again! It really was such a brilliant day, and just amazing to see so much enthusiasm for books and for reading. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people share such a passion for stories under one roof! I want to say a GINORMOUS THANKS to everyone who attended Cavalcade, especially the students. You guys were all so great!! Good luck with your writing, and remember if you write some scary stories send them to me, I’d love to read them! Oh and extra special congratulations to the short story prize winners!!!!!

I got to hand out the prizes for creative writing, a HUGE congratulations to the winners, I'm looking forward to buying your books in the future!

Also extra special thanks to Lisa, who was my bodyguard during the day (you should have seen her fighting a path through the hordes so I could grab some lunch), to Leslie and Carol and Paula and Steve and the other Cavalcade staff (too many to mention here, sorry, but you were all amazing), and of course Michelle, without who none of this would have happened. Best. Day. Ever!!!!

Oh, and I know loads of pictures were being taken at the Cavalcade itself, but I have no idea where to find them. I’ll add them as soon as I can!

Later that evening a few of us went to dinner, which was fun. On Saturday I had a day off (yay!) and met up with lovely Leslie and her brilliant daughters Madisson and Hailey for a tour of the local shops (including the best chocolate shop ever!!!), then we went for a wine tasting with Lisa, Elaine and John (delicious, although I couldn’t tell the difference between any of the wines), and finally we went back to Leslie’s for my first ever traditional US barbecue, which was awesome. I had a wonderful evening, and made some great new friends!

New Friends!

I was truly sorry to fly out on Sunday, because it really was a super week – like I said, one of those weeks that makes me realise how insanely lucky I am to do what I do. Michelle, invite me back to Cavalcade soon!!!!

There was no time to rest, though, as I was heading straight over to San Francisco for Part 4 of the tour!!

😀

US Tour Part 2: Space Cars and Zee Puppies!

Wow, what a week it’s been! There are certain times in an author’s life when you are just so thankful you do what you do, and this week really is one of those!! I honestly do have the best job in the world, and it’s all down to the awesome people who read my books!

So my tour events began on Monday in Seattle, and what a way to kick things off! I was doing an event at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, just north of the city. It was a joint event, alongside the fantastically lovely Robin Wasserman, whose book Frozen (which I am currently reading) is truly brilliant. We met in my hotel for dinner and a chat, then headed over to the book store together. Now usually when I travel to events I either get a taxi, or just walk. But my publisher sent a car to pick us up. It was huge, and silent, and it felt like riding in an Imperial Shuttle out of Star Wars. It even had my name on it!! So cool!

I felt like Dark Vader getting picked up for work!!

The space car whizzed us both up to the shop, which is a really cool place. There was already a small crowd waiting, including two of my most awesome fans EVER, Elise and Jillian! They were wearing Furnace shirts, and Elise had even bought me a birthday present of a Seattle mug full of chocolates (yay!) and a photo of her puppy, who is called ZEE! Yes, she named her dog after Zee in the books, which is truly the coolest thing ever!! I even had a chance to meet Zee after the show. He is so cute!!! I have never met two such dedicated, enthusiastic fans, and feel totally honoured that they love the books so much!!

Me, Elise, Jillian and Zee. HOW CUTE IS THAT DOG!!!!!!! Photo courtesy of Kristina Ebert!

Awesome Furnace Shirts (we need to make one for the puppy too)!

I wanted to take him home!!!

Also at the event was Kristina Ebert, who runs the wonderful Kristina’s World of Books blog. She was kind enough to interview me before my tour (read it here)! Kristina also wrote an article about the event, which is great!! Check it out here! It was great to meet you, Kristina!! There were loads of other amazing fans there too, and it was great to meet so many awesome people! The best thing about the event was that afterwards Robin and I just sat and chatted with everyone for ages (and played with the dog). It’s so nice to be able to do that, rather than being ushered out and on to the next event! I really did have a fantastic time! Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks too to Jennifer and the rest of the staff at Third Place!

Me, Kristina and Robin! Photo courtesy of Kristina Ebert!

On Tuesday my school visits began, and the first stop was at Kellogg Middle School in Shoreline. I absolutely love doing school events in the States because the audiences are always so enthusiastic and fun, and this was no exception! I did my talk and chatted to the students for a bit, then headed over to Eckstein Middle School for an equally brilliant afternoon of talks. You guys were all awesome, and it was so great to see so many keen readers!! There’s a report about my visit to Eckstein over on their school blog, including a link to a video where I talk about puking macaroni cheese all over myself! A huge thanks to the 500+ kids I spoke to today, plus Liz and Jay and all the staff in the libraries, and Jan who kindly drove me around!

I flew out to the Tri-Cities area on Tuesday evening, expecting to see forests and finding myself instead in the desert! It really is beautiful here, though, and the dust in the atmosphere creates the most amazing sunsets – including the most incredible sky I have ever flown through (I would have taken a picture but I worried that if I turned my phone on the plane would fall out of the sky).

And this post is getting so long that I’m going to talk about the CAVALCADE OF AWESOMENESS in the next one!!

🙂

US Tour Part 1: Seattle!!

I flew out to the States a week ago today for my Fugitives tour. Seattle was the first stop, which is cool as I’ve always wanted to visit (being a huge fan of Frasier). It’s a cool city, with way too much to ever fit into a couple of days. So I opted to be adventurous and do the least touristy thing possible… The Space Needle!

Lunch at 500ft!

Not only is it stomach-churningly high up, but the whole restaurant actually rotates, meaning that by the time I got up there the last thing I wanted to do was eat a three-course meal! But I soldiered on and managed to finish it without hurling. I was pretty relieved when I got back to solid ground, though.

After the Needle I discovered quite possibly the coolest museum ever built, which is right next door. It’s called the Experience Music Project, and it’s a museum dedicated to music, science fiction and popular culture. Yes, you heard that right. I won’t tell the story behind it here, check out its official page. But the whole building looks like some huge alien craft, and inside there is so much cool stuff!! I spent hours downstairs in their horror movie exhibition, which included awesome genuine props from some of my favourite movies!!

I'm gonna get ya!

There was also a copy of Bram Stoker’s original Dracula Manuscript, complete with his handwritten notes, which was just amazing to see. Sorry the photo isn’t great, if you used your flash they unleashed the xenomorph.

Dracula!!!

How cool is that!!!! There was also a huge Battlestar Galactica exhibition that I rushed around, and an Avatar exhibition that I didn’t get a chance to see. There was so much stuff about music too, but just not enough time!! I would recommend this place to everyone, it’s so much fun. Oh, and there was this, the weirdest thing ever, which turned your shadow into a monster. This is me:

Monster Me!

I also got a chance to make a pilgrimage over to the Lakeview Cemetery, which has a number of famous graves, including one of my heroes, Bruce Lee. He’s buried there because it’s Linda Lee’s hometown. It was a beautiful place, incredibly peaceful and moving. The inscription on his grave reads: “Your inspiration continues to guide us toward our personal liberation.” And he was such an inspirational guy. Brandon Lee is also buried there, by his side, and he has an inscription on his grave that reads: “Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” So sad  : (

RIP Brucie

I had a good wander around the city, saw Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks, the waterfront and the ferries and some pretty cool buildings, plus I got to ride on the famous Seattle monorail too. It was an awesome weekend, thank you Seattle!

Events started on Monday, and IT WAS THE BEST WEEK OF EVENTS EVER!!!!! I’ll write about it in the next post!

🙂

They make a good cuppa!

How is this building not falling over?!