Sunday, 11 March 2018

World Book Day 2018

Had a great day on our postponed World Book Day at school last week. We were closed due to the snow on the real World Book Day, but that wasn't going to stop us - besides, if parents have been good enough to pay for costumes or put the effort in to make costumes, then how could we let it go?

It's fabulous to see so many children dressed up as their favourite book characters, and great to hear them talk about books they love. Sharing experiences of favourite books is a big part of the day - after all, there is a point to World Book Day. We have a lot of children with reading ages much lower than their peers, and peer excitement can be a great motivator to make them want to learn, so we make a big deal of giving them time to talk to each other about what it is that makes their favourite book so fantastic.

We invited Class 5 to come down and pair up with our Class 2 kids and read to each other. 

In the afternoon, one of the Year 2 girls read out a book she had written and illustrated all by herself. This inspired everyone to make their own books, so I handed out blank booklets I'd prepared earlier and everyone got to work. 

We finished the day with the last couple of chapters of Buttercup Sunshine. Class 2 are the only class IN THE ENTIRE WORLD to have been an audience for it, and they loved it! I'm pretty chuffed about that - it was a real buzz to read my own story to the kids I work with. Just awesome.   

As you can see below, things got quite animated. Being attacked by a zombie Harry Potter has got to be the highlight of the day. 

That's not my real hair! I'm in disguise.

Being attacked by a zombie Harry Potter

Photos courtesy of the school's Twitter feed.

Colin Mulhern

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Buttercup Sunshine - two book deal with Maverick

Delighted to shout from the rooftops that 
Buttercup Sunshine and the Zombies of DOOOOOM! 
will be released in September by Maverick Childern's Books. 
They snapped it up, two days after submission and offered a two book deal.

I've been dying to reveal this cover. I absolutely love it.

If you've been following the story of Buttercup on this blog, from development to submission, you might know the story behind the book, and what inspired it - which makes me extra proud. Plus, I was given the opportunity to illustrate it. So it's my first book for younger readers and my first illustrated book all in one.

Book 2, Buttercup Sunshine and the House on Hangman's Hill comes out April next year.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Morrissey at Newcastle Arena

I got a bit of a surprise on Christmas morning when my wife told me, "I've got tickets for you and Dean to go to a concert in Newcastle." - Dean is my brother-in-law.

"Great. Who are we going to see?"


Me, confused: "Morrissey?"

"You do like him, don't you?"

All of my life I've listened to punk, thrash metal and goth. But I have got a Smiths album somewhere, and once had a girlfriend who had a poster of Morrissey on her bedroom ceiling. Does that count?

"Erm... yeah. Love him. Great."

I met up with Dean a few days later. "Here, was this your idea? Morrissey?"

He gave me the same confused look. "Morrissey? I think I've got a Smiths album somewhere."

It soon became clear that the present was more the night out than the actual gig, but I wanted to get the most out of it so I started out on a diet of nothing but Morrissey for the next few weeks. Every time I got in the car - Morrissey. Every time I walked the dog - Morrissey. Lunchtimes - YouTube. I started singing the songs in my sleep. I even got his new album. By time the gig came round, I was well primed.

A few drinks in Newcastle meant we missed the support act - unless the archve footage of Ramones, James Brown, New York Dolls and a few others was it. Our tickets were for the Standing section, so we got a good view of the show - until we heard the opening chords to Suedehead and everyone went crazy and Dean spilled his beer all over my head.

The one thing that really hit me was how good his voice was. The sound in general was superb. I'm used to seeing bands that play so loud, all you can hear is distortion. But his voice... just incredible.

So there you go. I now listen to thrash metal, punk and goth... and Morrissey. Good night out. Good Christmas prezzie.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Entering the Author Twilight Zone

The Author Twilight Zone - that's something they don't tell you about in those writing manuals. It's a special little place where time stands still and frustration grows like an itch you can't possibly scratch.

For anyone who has followed this blog, in particular the development of Buttercup, you might have the idea that things in publishing run slowly. Actually, in the case of Buttercup, it's racing along at top belt. Bearing in mind that this time last year, I hadn't even started on the first draft. Often it takes more than a year to just place a manuscript, never mind all the edits and other stuff.

One of the hardest things is keeping the major details under wraps. I've blogged about the process: the pitch, meeting an agent, working on edits, sketches and illustrations - because I think that's interesting to anyone who wants to write and go through this process. But I've avoided giving any official details of the book, the publisher, release date and other things. The reason is simple enough: the publisher has made the investment, the book is their product, so it's only right that they get to make the announcement first.

But the further along the process you get, the tougher it is to keep all this news to yourself. I've seen the cover go from roughs to final artwork, I've seen the promotional flyers - I've got a date for release, another date for the promotional launch... I've even seen the ISBN number (nerd central, right there!). I am so close to the finish line that I can almost taste it.

But I can't say a word. Not for another week and a bit.

That's the Author Twilight Zone. And it's itching like mad.

Colin Mulhern

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

My Secret Dog by Tom Alexandar

I love this book. Love it. It's short, simple and funny. Kid wants a dog - kid finds a dog and keeps it secret.

I work with reluctant readers, so something accessible, entertaining and short enough to get through in a couple of sessions is a great find, but I also liked it for what it is - just a great little story.

The illustrations are deceptively simple, just stick figures and line work, but they work. What's more, it gives another great message to kids because they are easy enough to copy, showing that you don't need to be a brilliant artist to tell a fantastic story.

Brilliant. I'd give it six stars if I could!.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 roundup and goals for 2018

Quite odd that at the start of the year I decided to quit writing, and at the end I find myself in a stronger position than ever - certainly a situation I never would have imagined back in March.

Personal stuff.

There was a good deal of personal difficulty at the start of the year. My brother-in-law and friend for almost twenty years had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in August of 2016. He went through treatment and seemed to be doing very well, but as we moved into 2017 it was clear things weren't going well. At the same time, we were approaching March, which would mark the second anniversary of Matthew's death. On that particular day, and that particular time, I know where I should be, but that was also the date of a consultation for my brother-in-law. We thought it was just going to be a question of getting his pain under control, but ended up driving through to a palliative care hospice in Sunderland where he died a couple of weeks later. What shocked everyone was how fast the cancer destroyed him. Horrible. 


With March being such an emotionally difficult time, the rejection of a book I'd invested the last of my YA skills in tipped the balance. I wasn't up to writing another YA book, so I decided to put that YA novel out on KDP as Here in the Poison Garden and draw a line under it. 

I needed a big change. As I work in a primary school, I thought I try the lower Middle Grade audience (approx age: 7-10) - something quirky and silly with a horror slant. My agent wasn't confident in pitching books for this audience, and I had no intention of writing any more YA books, so I left the agency and decided to just write for fun. No more agents. No more publishers. No more stress. 

But once you have a finished book, it's hard just to leave it. So, during the half term break, I had a moment of madness and sent this MG book directly to three publishers. A few days later, one requested the full script and offered to publish. On the back of that I contacted my dream agency. I went down to London, met Agent F, I pitched to do my own illustrations and Buttercup became a two-book deal. 

At the end of the year, I'm in a situation where I have a top agent who really knows the younger market and I have a load of Middle Grade ideas bouncing around in my head. The first Buttercup book is going to proof in the new year and the second book is already written.

Goals for 2018

The illustrations for Buttercup #2 don't really count as a goal because they're something I have to do - and I can't wait to get started. Goals are something I want to achieve that I don't have to do. Something to work towards. So here are a few.

  • To write a new MG title. Something very different from Buttercup.
  • To write twelve book pitches over three months - three sample chapters and a pitch for each. 
  • To read more. Much more.
  • To write and illustrate a picture book - a few ideas bouncing around for that.
And that's it. So here's to 2018. Let's give it a go and see what happens.

Monday, 4 December 2017


Quick Buttercup update. Two weeks back, I met Steve from Maverick. Before he became a publisher, he used to have his own photography business, so he wanted to do some promo shots.

We spent a stunning, but cold, Sunday morning flying around North East landmarks including The Angel of the North, some strange statues in South Shields, Stadium of Light and Penshaw Monument.

The best shots are going to be used for press releases early next year, but this one makes me smile. When we went to the Angel, it was early so there weren't many people about. The same in South Shields. There were a few learner drivers in the car park of the Stadium of Light, but by the time we took this one, at Penshaw, there were people walking past giving us some strange looks while I staggered down the slope, zombie style.

All part of the fun of being an author-superstar.

On the illustration side, things are going well. The drawings are taking much longer than I thought. I draw directly onto a computer, so I knock out a first sketch, then zoom in and do a more detailed drawing, then zoom right in and draw the final outlines. It means each image takes about an hour but it has the advantage that when it comes to editing them, I can change things quite easily.