NEW BOOK – THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS – ALAN HOWARD (OUT NOW)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Post-Frankfurt

At Frankfurt Raven’s Quill exhibited on the IPG (Independent Publishers Guild) stand with a UKTI grant and while Emily (Henderson, RQ rights and marketing director) manned? the stand I scurried round all the halls looking for editors’ contact details if not the editors themselves.
Less of a jamboree this year, many publishers sent only their rights people, but we are attracting more publishers from abroad and Emily met representatives from our two of our agents, Big Apple Tuttle-Mori and Ilustrata. Several publishers asked to see pdfs of the book (and the first of RQs other books, ‘The Flight of Birds’).
I don’t know whether I mentioned we had already sold translation rights to a South Korean publisher via our other agent, Amo Agency.
I am currently, when I can get time out from fulfilling my Penguin illustration contracts, trying to organise as many signings as I can get between now and Christmas to try raise our sales from the current 4,000-odd to as close to 6,000 as possible (we aim to clear 6,000 by the end of the Easter hols!)
Also from Frankfurt, Osprey and Casemate will hopefully become my graphics clients, to add to The Penguin Group, Hachette Partworks, Brown Reference Group, the Ivy Group and others (no point in not plugging my graphics work – just in case anyone reads this).
Ditto here’s the Lovereading website stuff on Curd: www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/book/3991
(nothing funny in that blog, ed.)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

After summer tour - Bath Childrens Lit Festival (18-28 Sept)!

Sales of “The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and Us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond” now up to 3,700!
Anyone reading this who has bought one could help me reach our target of 6,000 by Christmas by telling all your friends (assuming, of course, that you liked it).

I will be signing from Fri 25th to Mon 28th,during the Bath Children’s Literary Festival (18-28 Sept) in the Waterstone’s store in Milsom Street, Bath. If you are going (or know anyone going) pay me a visit.
(Details later).

Raven’s Quill will be represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair on the IPG (Independent Publishers’ Guild) stand A934/937 in Hall 8.0, (14-18 Oct).

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

The Lion’s tour of England (24 Jul – 29 Aug, 2009)

Rugby was neither game nor venue on this Lion’s Tour.

Just me, a classic car (Peugeot 205 1.9Gti), a tent (4all seasons), books, boards, the odd change of clothing and my Amazing Adventures in search of a broach (into the heady vat of success).

I left 31 towns* gawping after my little red devil along with 800-odd buyers (the number, not the people) clutching my tome, signed and dedicated, hopefully to pass on the word by mouth or email. For the record, I averaged 25 a day (quite chuffed).

Incidentally, to any who may have found their way here (this blog), I would like to add (-vertise) that anyone may buy a signed copy direct from my publisher’s website, www.ravensquill.com, at the same full price of £14.99 (the publisher bears the postage cost).

Leaving home on July 24th and returning late on August 29th, I spent 23 nights under canvas (going through 2 tents - a pole broke on the first) in Somerset, Devon, Yorkshire and Worcestershire, and with relatives in Devon, Cheshire and Durham.
Being a man of cautious wit, I brought two tents, a sleeping bag and duvet, two inflatable beds and a sleeping mat (the last time I went with my boys, two out three inflatables suddenly deflated).

My amiable hosts in most towns were the staffs of Waterstone’s stores, with three Border’s for good measure. (N.B. The whole signing tour was kindly arranged with the help of Waterstone’s Central Children’s Buyer and Events Organizer.)

Though my stomach rebelled as I headed north (I think it was the transition from alkaline to acid water, my back (missing disc) bore up under the enormous bending strains of crawling in and out of my petite walkers’ tent after sampling the curry houses of several parts of the country (no - I have eliminated the curry houses as the cause of that rebellion - merely guilty of fomenting the great gales that ravaged my tent all through some weary nights).

With a certain irony, it was in the three towns closest to where my little Adventure is set (at Brimham Rocks in the Yorkshire Dales), York, Harrogate and Leeds, that Waterstone’s branches declined my request to sign.
Borders, however, kindly and eagerly adopted Curd and helped me pass on some 82 copies to the citizens of York (2 visits) and Leeds! Good on you!
Hearty thanks to all those to put up with me (hosting and listening) and especially all those who bought my book. I hope none are disappointed.


* In order of appearance (at): Dorchester, Bridport, Yeovil, Bath, Newton Abbot, Torquay, Plymouth, Exeter, Wells, Weston-Super-Mare, Oxford, Trowbridge, Swindon, Bath (again), Chester, Knutsford, Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Altrincham, York & Leeds (Borders), Manchester Trafford Centre, Northallerton, Darlington, Durham, Middlesborough, York (Borders again), Witney, Banbury, Stratford-upon-Avon, Worcester, Cheltenham and finally Bristol Galleries.

Friday, 12 June 2009

First Translation rights sale!

To a South Korean publisher who apparently normally goes for award-winning foreign books and has asked for all my future work to consider!

Library Information Show

This irregular blogger went there this week, exhibiting on the IPG (Independent Publishers Guild) stand in my first attempt to draw librarians into awareness of my book.
I hope that my cunning ploy of allowing them to read half the book on CD will engage them to the extent that they feel they really really must read the rest (and buy for their libraries!).
It seemed to generate a lot of interest and I was very pleased when a librarian from a London School came to tell me she had bought the book last week and had not been able to lay her hands on the book since putting it in the library because it was always being read together by a huddle of kids on the floor. Ace!
I would like to thank all those who have taken the trouble to send me reviews, but would love lots more.
Librarians please give your kids the chance to discover Curd and his friends? Come on, you Re-eads!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

New reviews and apology for website glitch

Firstly, I would like to apologize to anyone who tried to post a review during the Easter Holidays. Due to a glitch on the review form’s ‘send’ button, no reviews were received.
I invite anyone who tried to re-send their reviews and I will put them up here and then move them to the ‘reader review’ set on the website by my colleague.

Here are a few new reviews:

Elizabeth
I bought 2 copies of the book as a present – but read it first and really enjoyed it – can recommend it for young and old!

Ethan
I read this book over along period of time: I don’t have four hours free in my average week. I met Alan in Waterstone’s, Tunbridge Wells on 17th April and I was just going to buy the second book in a series I have been reading and bumped into him on the second floor. He told me about the book and I decided to buy it as well as the other book.
A few days later, I have lost interest in the book I actually went in for, and have finally finished Curd the lion.
This witty tale was very confusing to me at first but I settled down to it as I read more. This is a great book. I am very happy to have a signed copy of this book, thank you.
Star rating /5 = *****- Excellent!

Penny
I thought, well, it was the best book I had ever read! The Minorbore was very funny: he looked extremely funny without his helmet on! I liked the way he tried to axe Sweeney and O'Flattery. And Curd was always puzzled!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

new reviews

I have been out and about solidly doing signings for the last week: Woking, Bracknell, Basingstoke, Salisbury, Poole, Winchester and Farnham.
Here are some of my latest reader reviews:
Emily Sanders, Dorset.
The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion and us is fab. I can’t wait to read the story of The Ineffable Emperor. I read the book in about three hours! It is really tricky to put the book down and I can’t wait to read it again and again and again. I started last night and finshed it this morning! The day is Good Friday the tenth of April 2009.
I bought the book from Alan Gilliland himself after he had told me about the amazing story. I couldn’t wait to get home and read it. Also it sounded so fabulous that mum got my best friend called Genevieve one. I absolutely loved it. I know Genevieve will like it. I don’t know of another author that can do really great stories and illustrate their story in such a fantastic way. GET THE BOOK, IT’S GREAT!!!


Simone Gilson (student).
Your book detailing Curd’s adventures I could read again and again! The way in which it crosses the boundaries of childhood and adulthood imagination was truly inspiring – a magical tour de force through the imagination, that reminds you of what it was to dream as a child and to comprehend as an adult!
The illustrations are amazing and all who I have shared the book with have commented likewise. They captured many of the images I had in my head from the days of reading Lewis Carroll and Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree! Plus as someone attempting her own poetry and looking for new ways of reading, the linguistics used within your book were very inspirational. I have also found myself puzzling over and working out the riddles.

Juliette Stuart , 11.
I loved your Book about Curd the Lion so much! As soon as I got home I read it and I didn't stop until I had finished. I think I read it in about 4 hours flat! My favourite character was Pilgrim Crow and also King Ziggu. Please do the second book quickly. I can't wait until the second book comes out.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Kids reviews – are the best!

A personal thanks to those kids who have been kind enough to send reviews. Some you can view now on www.lovereading4kids.com where my book is being promoted this month!

And my latest – too late to appear there – here you are too!

Dear Alan Gilliland,
I am writing to you because I love your book. It was brilliant I have a couple of questions to ask you.Where do you live? and what is your favourite animal? and what your favourite food?
My favourite animal in the book is the hyena. and in real life it is a tiger My second favourite animal is a penguin.
I hope you make more books soon,
Yours sincerely,
Henry Alden (Burpham, Guildford)

Henry. In my letter back I forgot to answer your questions. Apologies.
My favourite animal is that tiger, wherever he is, who wouldn’t dream of eating me if he got the chance.
My favourite food might be the meat of the shark that never got the chance. Otherwise it could be prawns (only sometimes they give me anaphylactic shock - which could be their way of saying I shouldn’t have tried eating them). My brother got botulism poisoning from eating tinned pineapple once. I ate it too but luckily was immediate sick. And that doesn’t make you sick of the subject of food, I’ll eat my hat!
Oh, and if you ever meet that tiger, say ‘hello’ from me.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Potted blog biog: part three – schooldays fondly remembered

Upon my recovery after several months, the residual cranial weakness (I am left with, as I recently discovered a half- by one-inch hole in my skull, covered only by scar-tissue) condemned me, at my next, private, public school, to excel at sport only in the swimming pool. What torture!
You might think me cynical, given my amphibious upbringing – not so. The outdoor pool, the exclusive preserve in the early season of the swimming squad, had no heating and we started training soon after ice-melt, it seemed to us. On the other hand, in high summer we were positively Germanic in our determination to bagsy with our towels the sunniest out-of-wind poolside spots on which we recovered between aqueous exertions while watching the sun traverse the heavens, beating off any sweaty cricketers who dared tread upon our preserve.
And so blissful years passed, swimming in summer and avoiding rugby in winter. It seemed the school was unaware of my frailty and only my instinct for self-preservation kept me on the wing in the lower leagues, avoiding the clumsy embraces of oafish forwards with darting runs, sometimes to the try-line even, but not so often that I be promoted.
A new joy discovered was the game of fives (Rugby, not Eton) in which one hit a leather-covered golf-ball around a concrete court with one’s gloved hands. Both hands are used, the rules are crudely similar to squash, the ball travels very fast, and one’s hands feel the size of boxing gloves for several weeks at the season’s start.
My first disgrace was to, after passing through the CCF (army cadets) qualifications with distinction, refusing to join the Cadre, the officer-training squad from which most school monitors (prefects) were eventually drawn, and joining the engineering section where we could build rope bridges and suchlike rather than endlessly drilling. My punishment was to be placed at front of class in the French lessons, directly in the firing line of the spluttering Colonel Bourne, head of the CCF.
After the routine of collecting O’levels like postage-stamps and discarding, like a torn stamp, Latin, I finally reached the pinnacle of my academic career, achieved by only a handful, if that, of all the boys passing through the halls of this educational system of ours: I was expelled for revising for my Art A’level exam.
To be expelled for taking a day off lessons to revise for the next morning’s exam may seem illogical to those of you not brought up in the Great Tradition of the English Public School, but let me assure you there was a greater force at work here: discipline.
It was not that I had taken the day off lessons to revise (this exam was a month ahead of the main batch, during which all time between exams was set aside for revision); it was that I had been intemperate enough to go to my headmaster and ask permission to take a day off to revise; permission denied. My headmaster may not have been privy to my knowledge that the circumstance was indeed extenuating, to wit, that, having done no serious work up to that point, at least one day’s strenuous effort was imperative to avoid total failure.
But this calling into play of an appeal to common sense, arguing that revising was essential to my success and the school’s reputation, counted for nothing beside the unforgivable breach of discipline in the act of ‘deliberately going against the express order of your headmaster.’
So ended my academic ambition, with my one-day-art-history dragging my A-grade down to a B, expelled and reinstated but disillusioned, I stuttered on through awful Maths and Physics to the prospect of Art School.
After an acceptance by two top London Art Schools was stymied by my local authority’s insistence on a pre-diploma year at their own local academy first, I went to study Photography and Film in London having been granted, on presentation of my portfolio, an exemption from that pre-diploma year by the same local college!
After a year of photography, it was movie-time! I launched with enthusiasm into the prospect of producing unadulterated fiction. I co-directed and edited a short film, ‘Mummy, mummy,’ with a fellow-student, John Beech. This film won the Southampton student film festival in its category, was honourably mentioned at the Mons Film Festival, France, I am told, and won both the Don Quixote and Best Foreign Short Film categories at the Cracow Film Festival in Poland.
I then gained the singular accolade of writing, producing and directing the only film commissioned by the infant Race Relations Board to be banned by the Race Relations Board (something to do with a mismatch of humours, I am told).
My venture into fictional film making was cut short at the end of the year by my failure in the film chemistry exam and my refusal to retake it; a decision partially influenced by that fact that I had also lost my folio of potential scripts for the final year in a Wimpy Bar – that was the burger bar that had an apparently ‘addictive’ tomato ketchup.
(next week… ketchup, sauce of embarrassment)
To the odd reader who may mark my words – a week can be an awfully long time here.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Potted Blog Biog: Part two – off to Merrie England!

I was rudely inducted into the native (as opposed to colonial) English way of life when, having arrived after a six-week voyage round the Cape of Good Hope (Suez Crisis) with my tan wan from Yellow Fever, post-recovery I was packed off to another boarding school near Battle, East Sussex.
Here I discovered, among other things, the meaning of the cane and the other use for the cricket bat, before settling into a routine of overt compliance with the many regulations that ensure the smooth running of an hundred or more boys.
Loyalty to one’s ‘House’ was instilled by naming them after the warring city-tribes of ancient Greece and tested on the playing fields below. I was a Corinthian, blue, and certainly more elevated (we had our own columns, after all) than the warlike Spartans (red) or wet Athenians (green).
Naturally, we learned Greek as well as Latin, the better to learn English and for the sheer discipline, through good offices of our Latin, and Head-, Master, the redoubtable Mr. “Shere” Kahn (correct – not Khan) and a well-aimed chalk or board rubber.
There the obligatory midnight feasts under the floorboards of the gym were hosted by those Epicurians whose fathers smuggled bottled chicken and pickles in the boots of their Bentleys to instil in their offspring early the art of entrepreneurial domination through largesse and favouritism. In the weekly tuck-shop grab we all queued eagerly craning our necks to see as our lockers containing a half-term’s supply were opened, one by one, under the eagle eye of the moustachioed Matron Crabtree, and their rationed treasures extracted, followed by the inevitable bartering sessions in which we discovered the relative value of different confections and altered our holiday orders to secure the maximum exchange-rate-benefits the following term.
Whether officially sanctioned or not, I fail to remember, but we boys brought to school mementoes of our, or other, former lives and other cultural treasures, for many and varied were our origins. My collection included World War One German field-glasses (later cunningly disassembled by my brother to access the lenses and prisms), my grandfather’s World War One brass army compass, a parang (Malay jungle knife), Kukri (Ghurka knife), Kris (Malay ceremonial execution knife) and a jungle saw (two loops and a sawed wire which one tensed across a knotched stick bent over like a bow) to complete the ‘jungle-shelter’ building equipment for use on ‘frees’ deep in the four hundred acre woods. But my pride was the six-foot long Semang (or Sakai, I forget which of the indigenous peoples gave this to my father) blowpipe with its bamboo darts that could penetrate solid wood.
Our inspirational Maths master, the (seemly) eighty-year-old Colonel “Pepperpot” Pearson, with his shiny freckled pate and white Nietzschean moustache tinged with tobacco-juices, and his “have a Mintoe, boy” response to every correct answer, could often be seen out of school hours galloping full pelt across field and hedge on his huge cavalry charger.
I learned to run (faster), to play rugger (rougher), and cricket (harder) and I was all set on a career as a leg spin bowler (tested by bowling onto an hand-kerchief, moved ever further from the stumps) for the second eleven when an unfortunate accident put paid to my joining the lower ranks of that elite band of demi-gods, the sporting heroes.
It was the Easter of my final year there when a group of doughty lads set out to climb a local chalk quarry under the vigilant gaze of my neighbour, a doctor. (Easter and accidents go together in my life: apart from this accident, it was Easter when, after leaving the Daily Telegraph, I collapsed with a catastrophic bacterial spinal infection; it was Easter when my unfortunate mother conceived a baby who shocked her, after being extracted with a pair of tongs, with its tadpole-like long body and large head, flat on one side, a facet explained away by the doctor as merely a consequence of my cork-like extraction.)
I succeeded in climbing the walls of this quarry and descending again first. I was busy minding my own business, gloating at my prowess, some ten feet away from and with my back to the base of the cliff while watching the barbecue preparations and waiting for the sluggard above to complete his ascent, when, as if reading my thoughts, the swine triggered an avalanche of pebbles skittering down the face.
One particularly large and athletic rock outleaped his fellows and bounced, with a dull squelch, upon my skulltop. I watched him leap away in triumph as I felt a slick stickiness where my smooth hair used to be, followed by trickling sensation down my left temple and a queer heaving sensation in my stomach.
Walking slowly, whether casually or groggily I don’t remember, over to the doctor in charge, I unnecessarily showed him my bloody hand. Taking stock of the wound, he took out a pocket-handkerchief (before tissues became common), laid it upon my head and tied it gently under my chin.
In this disguise (a Russian peasant-girl) I sat and waited patiently in the car as the barbecue party got under way, ran its course, sputtered out and packed itself away, kicking out its embers some three hours later. I sat and waited as our troop drove happily home. I sat and waited as the doctor’s mother made to swab my cut before sending me across the fence, home.
My sudden attempt to disappear under the kitchen table alerted the doctor to new possibilities in my wound and we set off for the local hospital, 15 miles away, for an x-ray. My being sick all over the dashboard confirmed his tentative diagnosis, and I passed through the x-ray room straight into an ambulance for the fifty-mile dash to the Atkinson-Morley Head hospital in Wimbledon.
I arrived just in time to wave hello to Stirling Moss, who beat me to Casualty by minutes after his big Easter crash at Goodwood, and goodbye to my blood, most of which seemed to have deserted me, prefering the starched white covers of the ambulance bed.
My next memory of this Easter was that of the voice of a swarthy matron, “Be quiet! Stop making such a fuss. You’re disturbing the other patients.” After drifting between coma and complaint for several m and sucking hot Bovril through a straw while laid on my good side, it was finally time for a dressing change.
Whimpering as she unbuckled the nappy-pin with which my voluminous head-bandages were fastened, I selfish made more noise as she placed her hand on my head and tugged, drawing the hefty pin through the layers of bandages sandwiching my right ear. With the sudden flowering of that pink rose it dawned on her that she had been forcing me to sleep on my pierced ear!
(next week - more boarding, more boredom)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Potted Biog Blog: part one –the Tropic of Capricorn

Born in January, 1949, in Malaya in the days before independence granted the vote and a penultimate ‘si’, I was brought up on a rubber plantation, strangely named ‘Seafield’, though ten miles inland, near the kampong of Puchong, or “Puddle” as we called it, along with my brother, a twelve inch Michelin rubber-tyre man, my parents, our Amah, the wonderful Siti, her son Kamal, 20 SC’s (Special Constables) and their sandbagged machine-gun post with searchlight, our mongrel, Riko, banana trees, a chicken run, home-made swimming-pool, ground-nuts, a 12ft high barb-wired compound and rubber trees as far as you could see.
It was the ‘Emergency’, that period when the Chinese allies that Britain had funded during WWII to hide out in the Malay jungles and attack the Japanese Imperialists invaders, turned against their benefactors and hid out in the Malay jungles and attacked the British Imperialist invaders. On the estates, ungrateful daytime ‘coolies’ became ‘bandits’ by night, slashing the trees they tended, but all the way round.
A faithful son of Empire, I returned to Great Britain to celebrate the Coronation of the young Elizabeth and join in the cheerful festivities from my high window, feasting on raw egg and ice cream. I, too, played my part, donating selflessly for the greater good, though I was never told why the Crown required my tonsils-and-adenoids.
To convalesce I was placed in a Devon boarding school to enjoy a seemingly endless quarantine after a child contracted polio there, while my parents toured the United Kingdom visiting relatives.
My reward for this sacrifice came on the return flight, in one of those new shiny state-of-the-art jet airliners, the Comet Four, for, as all the passengers slept and dreamed, I was invited to sit with the pilot in the cockpit and handle the controls as we clipped over the magical Himalayan peaks at the end of the day. Bliss. I would like to think I looked down on little Hillary and tiny Tensing waving back at me from their little peak, but sadly it could only have been that wee Jack they left behind, waving forlornly in the icy blast.
I climbed aboard one of these at Duxford air museum recently and was surprised at how it had shrunk over the years. I could barely stand up straight in the centre aisle!
Having seen the advantages of the boarding-school education at first hand, my parents packed me off, fully four and a half, to a school at the proper distance of 250 miles from a change of heart. We travelled by canvas-seated Dakota aeroplane and pencil-shaped Saracen armoured car, up and away from the sweaty jungles of my infancy to breathe the cool pure air of the Cameron Highlands. Here, again, I experienced the joy of being invited up into the ‘cockpit’ gun-turret and peer through its sights into the deepest recesses of the green jungle as my fellow passengers vomited their way to the top in the steel oven below.
My enduring memory of this school was of gazing in awe, for an instant, upon the grey-beige of my kneecap before it drowned in a flood of bright red and then at the culpable stone.
A year later, we were chauffeured, in our personal 1930’s American fast-backed armour-plated car with its driver’s visor-slit, to a beach-side barracks’ school at Port Dickson, commanded by the awesome figure of an ex-army major: “Drum-Tum!”
Discipline here was tough: morning lessons, interrupted only by a fresh coconut milk-and-crunchy break, were followed, after lunch, by swimming and sports on a sweeping white seemingly endless sandy beach. At one end, a small river trickled through a mangrove swamp into the azure ocean while at the other little sampans set out into the Malacca Straits from a fragrant Malay fishing kampong and returned with tiny ikan bilis and huge flat sting-rays flapping across the gunwales.
My enduring memory of this place was of being confined, in a delirium, in the doorless end bay of the barracks that was nominated the ‘sickroom,’ with its view of the coconut trees lining the land drain that bounded our property. Here I saw (as described by Charles Darwin in his Beagle record of 1836) “even a huge land crab… furnished by nature with a curious instinct and form of legs to open and feed upon the same fruit (the coconut)” advancing purposefully out of that great drain, across the few yards to the barrack’s door, and on towards my cot, ever larger, its clicking pincers agape, grinning at me.
It could climb, my delirium assured me, the leg of my little bed with ease and with equal ease split…
I was transferred to the main house and bedded on the first floor, next to the girls’ dorm for the remaining duration of my sickness, where I made my own Darwinian discovery of ‘species’ differentiation.’

(Next week: the boy from the colonies finds a place in English society)

Sunday, 8 February 2009

A cave, a bone, a tooth and time.

When I started out on this venture (writing my Curd the Lion book – see first post) years ago, a strangely parallel adventure befell us in real life.
I started writing and drawing the first pictures for this story of Curd the Lion and his friends, Pilgrim Crow, Sweeney the Heenie (hyena) and O’Flattery the Snake, when my fourth child, Oliver, was born.
Soon after this I took my eldest two children, Ben and Emily, on a picnic trip. Walking along the rocky bed of a half-dry stream winding through the woods, we noticed a small cliff.
Halfway up it we saw an enticing little cave with a ledge just right for a picnic. We climbed up and sat down to look at the view as we ate our sandwiches ( because children are always hungry), before exploring the cave.
The cave, we could see, went much deeper than we had expected and its lure gobbled up the sandwiches as fast as I could unwrap them.
We walked and stooped and crawled our way way into it as far as we could, discovering side tunnels and old stalactites and -mites and other bumps to bang your head and stub your toes.
Armed with my promise to return with torches and a ball of string (to find our way out again) we returned to the entrance. Scratting about in the mud looking for fossils, one of us picked up a very bone-shaped object. Picking off a little of the limestone coating we saw that it was indeed a bone.
The local museum curator confirmed that we had found, here in England, the metatarsal foot-bone of an hyena from before the last ice-age!
We were all very excited, given that Sweeney the Heenie, Curd’s rival in the story, was an hyena.
Six months later, just as I was finishing the first draft of the story, we returned, armed with hope, torches, string, trowels, a knife to scrape with and a bottle of water to rinse anything we found.
It wasn’t long before we unearthed an object that, upon scraping away the limestone coating, revealed itself to be a huge and pristine enameled tooth.
Of course, it could only be the tooth of a cave-lion just like Curd – a magical end to the story of my story-making.
We were only slightly disappointed when the Natural History Museum confirmed that BOTH foot-bone and tooth belonged to an hyena.
Only a year or two ago I discovered that our ‘secret’ cave was once famous.
Known as the ‘Hyena Cave’, discovered by quarrymen in the early 19th century, it contained a vast quantity of hyena bones, along with various other local Yorkshire creatures, such as elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, bison, giant deer, small mammals and birds.
The study of these bones led eventually to a refutation of the then accepted view that the Great Flood of the Bible had either swept such creatures there (all the way from Africa) or drowned them in situ.
All the animal bones except those of the hyenas, were chewed and broken, and only partial. The cave, it appears, was a den occupied by hyenas for a very long time.
It was the cave that changed time! (from that of a consensual biblical to a scientific perception of pre-history).
Our metatarsal has since taken a walk (perhaps it’s on its way home to Yorkshire) but the great fang still keeps me company in my little shed in West Sussex.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

white stone

Today is marked with a white stone.
This will mean something to some people.
An incredibly nice man has offered to redesign and rebuild my website into a professionally usable and navigable site. This is not to say I do not appreciate what was done for me by another very nice man who built the original and I thank him for that.
I am finding friends and allies I could not have hoped for, not least among the animals.
At my signings I am meeting some really very nice people (I except the elderly lady who blurted loudly; ‘No, I don’t like your cover picture – AT ALL!). I hope all of you who did buy the book enjoy some it at least. Always pleased to hear if you did.
One chap today bought one at ten and returned at twelve for two more. Four bought two. (this sounds like the start of a conundrum) How many were left after four?
None.
Tomorrow. A tale about the tale (and a cave – and some bones).

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Third-and-a-bit


Here is a picture of my mood (see Third, below).

Third. A right plight.

“Nothing.” (answer to last)

Writing this blog, I feel in sympathy with Emily Dickinson’s ‘nobody’ –

“I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!”

…or, as Mr. Frog ’imself might say, “dropping one’s aitches takes the ‘hauteur’ out of ‘auteur’.”

Which means I am, in my solipsism, free to write as I will.

And so, I write, on a similar theme:

The Companion.

At the lake’s edge,
A sudden gust.
Caught among the swirling
Skirts of faded petals -
Breeze of another summer -
The faint scent
Of his deep longing.

The children about his feet,
Hungry for the hundred tales
With which his life was leavened,
Are all his mind.

Courting
The trembling minstrelsy of his fingers,
A parliament of birds
Prodigiously dispute the propriety
Of each fibrous knot of memory
Discarded from the crusty fabric
Of his life - till the tale’s end
Scatters these fickle courtiers
To flock homage
Under the aegis of some other king.
.................................
©Alan Gilliland.

This may not quite be nonsense, but it is the way I am feeling today, and my imaginary companion is understanding of the vagaries of my mind.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Second. A mysterious case of thick handedness.

I was signing at Waterstone’s, County Mall, Crawley, yesterday when the back of my right, drawing, hand started to swell and ache badly. I thought I must have banged it playing tennis the day before but, instead of turning into a nice black bruise, it just kept swelling as if from a bite.
I took anti-swelling tablets and cream, called anti-hisstamines - which sound as if they should be good against snake-bites , though I never saw one in the shop - but it just kept on swelling through the night. Today the back of my hand looks like a tumulus (long-barrow - where ancient Brits were buried).
Since it is my best drawing hand and I find it very useful, I would just ask this: “If anyone who bought my book yesterday did bite me, or perhaps had a snake or spider or ancient Brit in their pocket, would they kindly let me know.”

Hercule Poirot might suspect one of the 28 people who bought the book, possibly narrowing it down to one of the seven who shook my hand, four of whom were children. But has anyone heard of a person maliciously buying a book?
I dismiss such a preposterous theory out of hand, preferring instead to thank those people in the hope that one reading this may have a better explanation for thith thudden cathe of thick-handedneth. (the thwelling theemth to have thpread to my mouth!)

Tomorrow: What lies betwixt the lips and lisp?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

First day: Curd the Lion & friends



FACT: I published my first book, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion (and Us!) in the Land at the Back of Beyond’ on 20th October 2008 in the UK. ISBN-9780955548611. FACT: I am publishing my first blog today, 15 January, 2009.

FICTION: Curd the Lion and Pilgrim Crow are Henry’s Animals. Sweeney the Heenie and O’Flattery the Snake are his Henrietta’s. Henry and Henrieta are twins. They live in a cottage below a mill pond whose stream originates high up in the Land at the Back of Beyond.
The Back of Beyond is a place somewhere between Yorkshire and the Land of Nod. The Land of Nod sits in the centre of the Great Sea of Slumber.
The Land of Nod is the realm of the Ineffable Emperor, the Dodongs, with his twin heads and scales instead of feathers, which are magical and so kept hidden on the inside, and hands instead of wings, with which the Dodongs swims gracefully through the Great Sea of Slumber, that is all round us if only we could see it (it is a matter of Density).

(You are probably wondering by now what the Dodongs looks like. Of course, if, like all sensible people, you have read the book, you will know already . If not, I have posted his picture along with lots of others from the book on the website, www.ravensquill.com where they can be found under NEWS. He is also bottom left on the picture at the head of this blog.)

FACT: My name is not well known. I intend to keep those who do know, however, up to date on my stories. Eventually there may be enough readers to make this useful. I have been doing regular book-signings. I will post here, each week, where I am signing next. For instance, this Saturday, 17th Jan., I am signing at Waterstone’s, County Mall, Crawley West Sussex.

FICTION: Why “pencilnotes” when they are obviously typed? Because I have a Magic Pencil that creates whole worlds as long as I hold it upright, sharpen it regularly and make sure I’ve got enough paper to keep it well fed. When it becomes too short, to avoid any argument I go and buy another one. By this simple process I keep a well-tempered pencil that never runs out on me.
I am often asked, “where do your ideas come from?” I have just answered: “Putting my pencil to paper”. Sometimes it draws them out, sometimes describes them in words.
It’s very simple and can be tried by anyone.