Tag Archives: Scotland

10 Ways To Get A Great Publishing Deal ;)

Hobnob With Celebs: Remember that celebrity author you bumped into once at Waitrose/Aldi? (They probably won’t remember you.) Simply stand in the same spot and hope that lightning strikes twice. If it does – hand over your manuscript and wait for their agent to call.

Milk Your Contacts: Ask your best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law who knows someone who works in publishing…to ask her best mate’s friend’s aunt’s mother’s cousin’s sister in law if she would ask someone who works in publishing to publish your book.

How to get a publishing deal

Do Something Unusual: Go around the world on a unicycle while Juggling scorpions.* You’ll probably fall off & require medical attention – which will get you media attention…a book deal, 2 minutes on Oprah, etc.

Do Something Dull: Some YouTubers simply unwrap stuff and get millions of online visitors. Why not fix a camera above your desk and let people see every word as you write it. You’ll be amazed at how folk will love watching you write. And love commenting about your grammar and punctuation.

Get A Pal To Nominate You For ‘The Nobel Prize In Literature’ [In The Hope It Will Get You Noticed]: According to Wikipedia, ‘Each year the Swedish Academy sends out requests for nominations of candidates for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Members of the Academy, members of literature academies and societies, professors of literature and language, former Nobel literature laureates, and the presidents of writers’ organizations are all allowed to nominate a candidate. However, it is not permitted to nominate oneself.’

Marry Into The Royal Family: Then write tales about a helicopter.

Become Famous: To get a great publishing deal, make sure you first get a gold at an Olympic sport. Or present on national TV, play football for a major club. Or sing in a band…

Streak At A High Profile Sporting Event [With Your First Chapter Tattooed On Your Bottom]:  How much you’ll get noticed really depends on the size of your bum.

Go Small:  Write your book on a pinhead and get it into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Send a publisher a big dollop of Porridge: A quirky Scottish cat who once fell in a tin of tartan paint. Hang on, I’ve just done that. Better try one of the other suggestions…

Click the link if you wish to have a peek at or download Loch Ness Mess

*NO SCORPIONS WERE HURT IN THE MAKING OF THIS BLOG POST

Porridge the Tartan Cat books launched purr-fectly

The first two stories in my Porridge the Tartan Cat  (6 book) series were launched last week.

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

Brawsome Bagpipes, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, childrens books, humour

A large group of eager readers gathered at West Kilbride Library in Ayrshire, Scotland to discover more about a terrific tartan cat called Porridge, who lives with the McFun family in Tattiebogle Town.

Staff from Edinburgh-based Floris Books (recently named Scottish Publisher Of The Year) were on hand to provide drinks and nibbles. I brought various activities and a tub of homemade fishy biscuits, Porridge’s favourite treat. Me-yum!

homemade biscuits, fishy, biscuits, porridge, tartan, cat, alan, dapre, Floris, scotland

The guests were entertained by an informative introductory speech about the series from Floris editor Lois, and then it was my turn. Cue lots of purr-fectly bad puns and a-mew-sing jokes from the author.

I discussed how the books came about, way back in 2011. (I wanted to do a series about a family with secrets – a Grandad with awesome gadgets, a Gran who was once a groovy singer, etc).

Then I talked about the characters and the way names had changed. For instance, Mini Mum was once Dinky Dad! And the name Porridge was originally used for a character called Doris Porridge.

I read out an extract from Brawsome Bagpipes and got everyone joining in with terrific tongue-twisters, e.g., ‘The dastardly Dug o Doom did a devious deed indeed!’

Later, I was joined by my daughter Isla – who features as a character in the series and has her own big adventure in one of the six books (where she turns invisible! You’ll see one day, or maybe you won’t…?)

[Btw, to get the look of the character Isla right, the series illustrator Yuliya Simona was given some pics of Isla and asked to draw a girl with glasses, a bob and a big smile. She did a brilliant job]

Isla, Ross, McFun, Dapre, Porridge, The Tartan Cat, tartan, cat, Floris, brawsome bagpipes, brawsome, bash, crash, ding,

Another child and his mum – who is an excellent actress – also helped out with a reading from Bash-Crash-Ding! It was lovely to hear my words come to life in front of everyone.

Porridge, tartan, cat, alan dapre, scotland, tartan cat, porridge the tartan cat, floors, childrens book, tattiebogle town, date

Reading aloud from Bash-Crash-Ding

We ended with some more joining in activities and a signing session, while the children did table-top tasks and had a go at Pin The Tail On The Porridge.

Here are some pics of the night’s events:

Porridge the Tartan Cat, tartan, cat, porridge, launch, books, alan dapre, alan, dapre, humour, floris

Signing Porridge books at my launch

porridge the tartan cat, alan dapre, book signing, Floris, scotland , author, childrens author

More signing

tartan cat, porridge, alan dapre, author, scotland, floris books, glasgow,

This is what it’s all about. Brawsome stories for kids.

alan dapre, porridge the tartan cat, tartan cat, floors, books, childrens, scotland, story

Reading an extract from Porridge

porridge, tartan cat, alan dapre, Floris, brawsome bagpipes, books, bash crash ding, scotland

Porridge with his tartan cat books

Books are available in-store and online with waterstones,  amazon,  w h smith and Floris Books. Plus other reputable sellers.

G is for Garden and Guilt

This week I’ve been looking at the garden. It is much improved with a new decking area (relocated and rebuilt over two weeks) and a new fence. The fence was meant to be an easy job – just me moving it back a few metres so my daughter could have a place for her bike riding. I  planned to reuse the wood and fix in new posts. The wood was however rotten and full of rusty nails so I had to buy loads more planks – in the end there were just 4 original ones out of 50.

Fence - before & after  ©Alan Dapre

Fence – before & after
©Alan Dapre

The decking is now halfway down the garden, most of it reused. It was a slow job to get the nails out and the decking rebuilt and repainted. (The patio by the house still needs to be done but that’s a job for the professionals.)

Decking - before & after ©Alan Dapre

Decking – before & after
©Alan Dapre

You’re seeing the garden on a sunny day – it rained all the time I was working outside. It was so wet I managed to get chilblains and the doctor described my manky toes as an early stage of trench foot. Nice. Not something my wife cares to talk about.

Oh, don’t mention the pebbles either. Each one was lifted, washed, transported and relaid… a job of doom!

After all my DIY I gave up with the garden to concentrate on my writing and illustrating – but the weeds kept on nagging me, waving silently through the window. I vowed I’d get outside on the next sunny day – hoping that it wouldn’t be for a month.

The next morning it was glorious sunshine. 🙁 So for the past three days I’ve been outside weeding, chopping back the lawn and putting in new edging. That was just the left side of the garden.

Today I started on the right side, battling Mare’s Tail (an evil prehistoric plant that goes down ten foot and spreads like the plague. One tiny piece will replicate Borg-like. The only way to kill it is a nuclear attack. Actually, I have been pinching its stem with my nail and crushing the waxy leaves, then spraying with glyphosate. Seems to work. Other people suggest wearing a sock over a plastic glove and wetting the sock in weedkiller then crushing the leaves. Both ways take ages!)

I came in feeling virtuous but I’m left with the nagging guilt that the straggly grass needs mowing. A neat, trimmed lawn lessens the chances of our dog leaving cow-pat sized booby-traps all over the place – ready to explode as the mower blade spins over them.

Our lawn is a big unforgiving sprawl of grass, dandelions, daisies, creeping buttercup and moss. I am trying to contain the spread of mare’s tail & some unknown ramrod straight plant that spikes upwards from deep underground at warp speed. Our last house had a garden a quarter of the size and in the house before that it was a postage stamp. I had that one licked.

Coming up to Scotland, we chose a larger garden because we had a child on the way. Yes, the garden is great for kids. Not great for someone who prefers the call of the great indoors. In some ways I do like the garden. You could say this Summer it’s growing on me. But does it have to grow so fast? I suppose that’s what comes from living in rainy Ayrshire on the West coast of Scotland. Och, everything is lush and green.

Ah well, it’s a lovely evening…

Hang on – what’s that dog doing?

 BOOM!

UPDATE: Just got back in from mowing the lawn. Guilt is such a terrible thing.
Hmm – so is dog poo.

Authors I’ve NOT seen – Oliver Jeffers.

I popped over to Oliver Jeffers’ website which is full of his fantastic illustrations. He is a master illustrator with a deft touch and writer of surreal, yet captivating stories.

So it was rather surreal to see on his site that he was in NZ and Australia when I was about to see him in Edinburgh. Looking again, I realised that the post was dated May which meant he was probably back by now. Checking his blog I could see he was in London and therefore much closer to home. My home.

Happy to get out of the house and get to see a proper writer for a change (rather than seeing myself in the mirror) I handed my daughter over to my wife at work – after getting lost in Glasgow again – and set off for the train station. People are really friendly and helpful in Glasgow and a passerby saw me wheeling in circles, dithering away, and showed me where to go. Finally I jumped on a train to Waverley station.

One hour later I arrived with half an hour to spare. I sauntered towards the National Galleries and admired the posters of past Olympic sporting greats. After twenty minutes of pottering about I headed for the Garden entrance – which was closed. At six o’clock I took a walk round the whole stone edifice and discovered it was shut for the night.

Taking out my invitation e-mail I found the organiser’s telephone number and gave it a bell. Someone answered who wasn’t too sure of the event and he seemed to think it was taking place elsewhere. That explained the problem of the missing Oliver.

Only it didn’t – the organiser chipped in to say that Oliver Jeffers was due to start at 6.30 at The National Galleries … on Wednesday the 13th of June.

My heart sank – it was approaching 6.30 … but on Tuesday the 12th of June. I was a day early. I had arranged Gran to come over and babysit, my wife to leave work, and my sister-in-law to put me up for the night. And for what? To wander around a huge stone building and admire the blooming great Olympic rings on the hill beyond.

I shuffled away in embarrassment.

And now, as I write tonight, Oliver Jeffers – illustrator par excellence – is in Edinburgh and I am at home unable to make the event. There was so much I wanted to say, so many books I wanted him to sign.

Another day, perhaps.
Guess when you’re as disorganised as me, it’s always another day…

***

If you wish to have a peek at or download Cuddle Muddle, please click one of the links below
Cuddle Muddle‘ – available on kindle now (UK link)
Cuddle Muddle‘ – interactive iPad version with movies  (UK Link)

Alan Dapré blogs on ‘Toddler Playdar’

There we were last week – driving through Stirling to look at toddler beds and discounted Denbyware (like you do) – when a voice pipes up. ‘Oooooh – look. A playground. I have never seen that one before. Is it new? I must go to it. Now. Stop the car!’

Please bear in mind that our daughter had already spent two hours in Kings Park, having a picnic and a great time on the wooden play equipment. Needless to say, we carried on and the air was filled with plaintive cries. A sip of my Irn-Bru quietened things but left me with a should I have done that? ‘bad dad’ feeling. Still, at least it was sugar-free.

Further on, there was a curious squeak from the back, and an excited voice cooed, ‘Ooooooh what’s that? A different playground?’ True enough, but this one was miles away down in a dip and virtually hidden by trees. She could barely see out the window but still managed to spot it.

Since that day, our wee human radar has demonstrated an uncanny knack of spotting playgrounds. Once, as we trundled through Dalry, she exclaimed, ‘Aha. Over there. A n-e-w playground. I must play on it.’

I exchanged a glance with Mum and we counted silently.
‘I must go to that playground,’ our wee girl added, in her bossiest voice.
‘And we must go to the big shops,’ Mum said quietly.
‘We don’t neeeeed to go to the big shops.’
‘Okay? What do we neeeeed to do?’ I asked, stirring a bit.
‘Go back to my lovely new playground.’

It didn’t happen. Instead there was a short burst of the grumps and silence.

Yesterday we passed through Fairlie. A small, rather insignificant play park was up ahead, a short walk from the main road. Would it be spotted? Isla had never commented on it before. Three. Two. One.

‘What’s that Daddy?’
‘What’s what?’
‘That playground. I have never seen that one ever.’
‘It’s been there a while.’
‘I need to play on it.’
‘Why don’t you wait until we get home and you can play on the one near our house.’
‘But I’ve been on that one, already!’

So there you have it. Our daughter is a human Playdar. She operates with 100% accuracy at a range of two hundred metres. I am not sure how this incredible skill can be utilised for the benefit of Planet Earth. Maybe it can’t. But it shows that three year olds possess super observational skills and fantastic memories. And I am sure they have other powers too, like X-Ray Vision. Every time I try and smuggle a packet of Maltesers into the house it is instantly detected by Isla.

They do say that each successive generation has thousands more neurone links in the brain and therefore will be cleverer than the last, as this conversation shows.

‘Can I go to the playground?’
‘It’s raining.’
‘But it’s always raining.’
‘You’re in scotland.’
‘But I will never go to a playground again.’
‘You will – just wait til it is sunny.’
‘It is sunny at the playground.’
”Is it?’
‘Yes. Let’s go there and you will see.’

So not only can she detect playgrounds, she detects weather patterns over them too.
The mind boggles.

Pandering to a cold? Not likely.

Two years ago on this day I felt unwell and ended up in hospital on a drip with suspected swine flu and meningitis symptoms. Took me until Feb to recover. Today I have a head cold and I’m ordering myself not to mope as it could be a lot worse. Kate was down with nasty flu symptoms all last week and I’m certainly not in that league. Still, I don’t usually feel like lounging in bed all day. Instead I am lounging in front of this computer while Isla is given free rein of the tv remote – Maisy Mouse, Kipper – who cares as long as I can slob about and not think too hard.

We have just been at the nursery school to watch the two year olds perform – singing three Christmas songs (after an exhausting party session which involved a bouncy castle). For some reason Isla decided to put on a panda mask – actually it makes sense as we were at Edinburgh Zoo on Monday watching pandas lounge about while the penguins rained down poo from their enclosure. The mask went on as she started to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, stayed on for When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney and was removed during Jingle Bells. So the video won’t feature that much of her singing. I am impressed however that we are allowed to take video/pics – as long as it doesn’t get onto the net. This is a really sensible approach. Personally, anyone other than Granny, Isla or her parents would probably be bored rigid if they saw what I’d shot. There is only so much pandering to a child one can take.

Isla received a musical toy from Mrs Claus, which freaked Isla out as she looked suspiciously like Isla’s friend John’s nana who she sees regularly. The fact it was her is beside the point. I explained to Isla that Santa is very busy this time of year and enlists the locals to help out. Our wee daughter is not comfortable with adults dressing up – the Easter Bunny sent her screaming from the room. Two years ago she saw another local helper – Mrs Christmas – and Isla burst into tears – Mrs Christmas was however wearing trainers and speaking in a broad Ayrshire accent – ‘I hope all youse wains have been good!’

We were last to leave the hall as Isla decided to have a last bounce on the castle even though it was deflated. One splat later and she was in my arms and only consoled by her teacher giving out some reindeer dust to sprinkle in the garden on Christmas Eve. Now we do get rabbits, the odd fox and lots of squirrels, plus evils crows that have a penchant for scattering our dog’s poos. No reindeer though. Maybe it will work – let’s look on the bright side. Santa will come and give Isla her toys and me a cure for the common cold. We can but hope.

Merry Christmas!

Rock On Tommy

Our last concert was The Wiggles.

Last night Motley Crue played at Glasgow along with Spinal tap act-a-likes Steel Panther and a rather slick, bland Def Leppard. Motley Crue came on second but the night was theirs – or rather it belonged to the drummer Tommy Lee and his incredible gravity defying rollercoasting drum kit. Not content with playing drums the right way up he played them a full 360 degrees without missing a beat or dropping a stick. Here was a band back to their best, with a taste of US grunge rock guitar licks. They played to the gallery, asked if Glasgow was ok after the hurricane winds (it was) and got the crowd rocking – all around, greasy hair swished – and my wrinkly bald head winked in the laser beams like a disco ball.

As the set exploded into manic rhythms and fire-throwing excess I vowed from now on to play my daughter Isla as much rock music as I could. Kate is the expert but her CDs are all over the house, wedged under cupboards and in skirting boards. Recently I set up a way to stream my mp3 files to our DVD player and TV speakers so there is now no way Isla will miss out on her Rock School Education. As caring and thoughtful parents we have agreed that Isla must go along to a Rock Festival – ie Donnington – before she is ten. Before she sees her parents as an embarrassment. Before she gains a taste in dull music riddled with teenage angst.

We left, feeling that Def Leppard were slick, glossily eighties and dramatic in a cheesy rock ballad way but out of touch. Certainly, filling their huge video screens with a Union Flag was not the best idea as they waited to run out for their encore. The boos were not on though. Interestingly, their lead singer complained when soaked by a pint of beer while Motley Crue actively encouraged such audience participation.

So what next? We have a wish list – I want to see ACDC and Kate hankers after Bon Jovi. At the moment CBeebies Live beckons next year.
Rock On!

Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Da-aaaa-d!!!

The first word my daughter said at nine months was MUMMY.
Then DUCK.
DADDY was third on the list.

Since then her vocab has exploded and I am thrilled to be able to engage in meaningful conversations over who should eat the last chocolate button (not me), what DVD should be on (probably Fireman Sam), where her right sock is (under the dog), what time we are going out (when there are puddles), why the dog’s bottom is blue (curiosity + washable pen) ect.

Having a chat with such a quirky, chaotic and loving kid with a mind to match is amazing – all sorts of things pop out. My wee girl loves to bang out music on a metal ‘Islaphone’. She wants me to ‘turn the dark off’ and then barges in each morning with a sunny ‘I’m awake!!! I neeeeeeed to go downstairs and have supper.'(supper = a bowl of cereal which she also likes to have at night).

Of course, language problems are often popping up these days. Such as when I say I’m going to cut her finger nails and Isla thinks she’s going to lose her fingers too. Actually there are issues whenever I say or do something. At the moment I am the silliest Dad alive. There’s a lot of ‘Silly old Daddy’ and frowning when I’m chopping up food too small, forgetting to do up her buttons in the right order, or putting her Bob The Builder toy in bed on the wrong side. And ‘No Daddy – that bit goes THERE!’ is belted out with a sigh whenever we do jigsaws or Lego.

This week has included lots of ‘Dad. Dad. Dad.’ This mantra often comes from another room and, if I stay put, it becomes ‘Da-aaaa-d’. Before long I will hear tiny feet and get a huge look of pity, mixed with more exasperation. You see, I have recently discovered that ‘Da-aaaa-d’ means many things:

‘Go away, Dad, you’re being silly.’
‘Dad, you’re not doing it quickly enough’
‘Dad, Mum could do it better’
‘Dad I need it yesterday, where are you?’
‘Dad, listen, I can say Dad and it’s really cool because it means I say something and you will obey … ‘

But, for me, the best ‘Da-aaaa-d’ is the one I hear last thing at night when Isla is in bed. She leans over and sleepily wants me to tell her a story:
‘Da-aaaa-d I want an Isla story …’
‘What about?’
‘Mmmm. About a big girl called Isla and little red motorbike, and a – mmmm – I’m thinking – mmmm – a aminal – I know! A rhinoceros, mmmm maybe an elephant.’
‘What about a shark?’ I say.
‘Silly Daddy. Not a shark.’
‘Am I in the story?’
‘Da-aaaa-d.’
‘Not even a little bit?’
‘DA-AAAA-AD.’

Yes, sorry, silly Daddy.

Pre-packed? Hardly.

The last few hectic days before a holiday leave me needing a holiday … Luckily the deadlines for my book have been met and now all I need to do is pack. But a few ideas have been bubbling around my head for new stories (for 7 to 10 year olds) and I am trying to get them down in some sort of order so I can work on them when I get back. Before my daughter came along I’d happily write over the holiday, be it in Norway, Italy or Margate. Now I am determined to have a genuine family break. Where we are going – a pretty gruelling six hour drive north of Glasgow – there will be plenty of sand, rain, farm animals, more rain, and scones. Fruit scones … mmm. I am an expert on them and secretly judge each one on its merits – dryness, number of raisins, size and taste. Pre-packed scones from a supermarket café are always too small, dry and tasteless. The best have come from unexpected quarters: a café in our nearby cheapo discount store, and a garden centre near Kilmarnock. As I type I am wishing I was pre-packed. There is a growing heap of my two year old’s clothes, toys, nappies, snacks, Fireman Sam helmet, collapsible football goal etc on the bed and I haven’t even started on my stuff. Still, my old laptop will be left at home for the burglars to trip over so that’s one less thing to take. The only stories I’ll spout will be the ones we tell at night … which always have to start with ‘Once Upon a Time there was a little girl called Isla’ …and must include a little red motorbike plus assorted cameos from dolphins, whales and penguins (in need of snow). I am determined to do no writing. Well, perhaps a little. I mean, this blog won’t write itself. And it will probably, definitely, rain!