Saturday, 30 June 2012

Video Witter

A couple of months ago the lovely people at Heffers Book Shop in Cambridge asked me if I'd like to go in and do a video interview about the Adventure Island books. This is the result! You can also find this video on the Blackwells website as part of their series of podcasts and videos of authors talking about their books.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Story Competition

Hurry, hurry, hurry, last few days!

I know there are lots of enthusiastic young writers out there (I've met some really inspiring ones on my school visits lately) so wanted to tell you about this great competition I just came across - it's only five days until the deadline of June 30th, but if you are under 13 and have a story of 500 words or less that you are proud of, you could enter it into this great competition at Print Express and have the chance to win £150 in Amazon vouchers. Wow! Wouldn't that be great, £150 to spend all on books! Your story can be on any topic at all, there's no entry fee and you can send by email - what are you waiting for???
Go to the Print Express website for all the details.

For more writing competitions, have a look at the Young Writers page - I've listed some more there . . .

Happy Writing and Good Luck!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Walking and Plotting

When I'm not at my desk concocting dastardly deeds and murky mysteries for Scott, Jack, Emily and Drift to sort out, one of my favourite things to do is  to go walking in the countryside with my dogs, Storm and Maia.

Not only does walking stop my legs shrivelling up completely and falling off from all those hours hunched over my computer, but it's great for hatching plots and working out clues.   Somehow walking and thinking go really well together. So do walking and talking. Which is why it's always fun to go for a walk with a friend or two (and their dogs).  

And now I've discovered a nifty new app for  called Everytrail that lets me plot my walks on the map, uploading photos as I go - all using my phone.  I can share my walking routes with friends, and also look up new walks that other people have uploaded.  This is  now my favourite new toy. It even tells me exactly how far I've walked, how long it took me and my average speed. And I can add a little story to  accompany the walk too. 

So this morning when I set off during a rare break in the rain for a lovely walk with my friend Karen and her dog Pip, I plotted it all in Everytrail - and share it with you here.

(You might notice the family resemblance - Pip is the sister of Storm and Maia - they were all born in the same litter, just over six years ago - they love going for walks together!)


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Drawing Competition Winners Announced

Drift by Holly Bramley
Over on the Special Investigations Team area on the Adventure Island website we've been running a competition, asking readers (who are also members of the S.I.T.) to send in their drawings of their favourite Adventure Island characters. After some lengthy debates, Jack, Scott and Emily (with more than a little help from Drift) have picked their winner. This lovely picture of Drift was sent in by Holly Bramley, aged 11, from South Wales (my apologies that it looks a bit grey here due to being photographed and uploaded to computer - the original version on paper is much clearer!). We all loved the energy in this drawing and the way that Holly has captured Drift's fun and lively character.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Operation Diamond Update

If you've checked into this website or the Adventure Island website over the last couple of months you might have noticed we've been jumping up and down about the exciting on-line treasure hunt competition we've been running, with the help of some brilliant kids' book websites.

What can you win?

Only the chance to be a character in one of the next Adventure Island books!!!

Oh, and signed books for you and a set for your school too.
And, of course, the satisfaction of knowing you solved the mystery and caught the thief of the jubilee diamond!

In case you thought it was too late to enter, or you've had trouble finding any of the ten guest blog posts now that they are no longer on the home pages of the various websites, I've gathered everything you need to enter, including all ten blog posts and questions and put it all on the Operation Diamond page on this website.

You have until 23rd July 2012 to send in your answer. As Jack would say, 'What are you waiting for???'

Monday, 11 June 2012

As I was going to St Ives . . .

isn't this the cutest logo?
Sitting in my home office this afternoon watching the rain lashing down outside (will it ever stop?) it's almost impossible to imagine that only a few weeks ago it was gloriously sunny (people war actually complaining it was too hot!) I spent a lovely Saturday in the Cambridgeshire town of St Ives (not to be confused with the one in Cornwall) at their first children's book festival - a whole day of book-related events including author and illustrator workshops, story-telling, competitions and much more, taking place in the beautifully refurbished Corn Exchange.

The day was a delight from start (when I got a parking space right outside the back door of the venue!)  to finish (home in time for tea, tired but happy!) - there was such a buzz of activity in the whole building (and that wasn't only due to the valiant chap who spent the entire day dressed in a furry bumble bee costume - although he deserved a medal!)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Latest two Adventure Island books out today . . .

Latest two Adventure Island books out today . . . 

The Mystery of the Smugglers' Wreck

The Mystery of the Invisible Spy


Oxford Bookfeast

nice teeth!
Visiting Oxford to talk about dinosaurs and detectives at the Oxford School's Bookfeast was a treat on so many levels.

Not only did I get to visit this beautiful city in the sunshine and have a little wander among the dreaming spires, recalling my own student days here many, many years ago  (glimpsing grim-faced students heading in and out of the exam schools in their gowns and black and white 'sub fusc' sent a jolt of nerves through my stomach even now!) but I also got to speak in the magnificent venue of the Oxford Natural History museum - a soaring glass-ceilinged cathedral of a building, stuffed with amazing exhibits - including dinosaurs like this superb T-Rex.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Operation Diamond - The Final Clue!!!

Adventure Island Book Ten
The Mystery of the Invisible Spy
Reading Between The Lines

At last! Emily has been dying to uncover an enemy spy and finally it seems that she has her chance. The strange man with the binoculars is definitely spying on something and she’s pretty sure it’s not the larks nesting on the sand dunes. But, as always in Castle Key, nothing is quite as it seems. There are some big surprises for Scott, Jack, Emily and Drift in The Mystery of the Invisible Spy.

For Emily one of the most exciting parts about this investigation is that she gets to use some secret codes. Emily is an expert on cryptography – that is, the use of codes and ciphers (ten million super-brain points if you know the difference between a code and a cipher. A cipher is where you replace the original message letter by letter, whereas a code is where you replace word by word. People often use the word code to mean both, though).

Codes have been used to communicate secret messages throughout history. One of the most famous examples led to the death of Mary Queen of Scots.
If you remember your Tudor history you’ll know that Elizabeth I kept her cousin Mary Queen of Scots under house arrest for many years. Mary’s supporters believed she should rightfully be on the throne of England, and they sent coded letters to her, discussing a plot to overthrow Elizabeth. But the letters were intercepted by Elizabeth’s spymaster  - with the help of a carefully placed double agent or two. The code was soon cracked, the plot was discovered, and Mary was beheaded.

a snippet of the message sent by Mary Queen of Scots – can you decipher it using the key?

Mary’s code was quite easy to crack (even if you didn’t have the key on the same page!) because was each letter was replaced by a symbol. The codebreakers could look at the text and see which symbol came up the most often – they knew that almost certainly represented the letter E, which is the most frequently used in English. With a bit of effort you can soon crack the whole code using this kind of ‘frequency analysis.’ Elizabeth’s spies certainly did.

Another problem with messages like this is that they are obviously in code so they immediately attract attention.  If you came across a message that looked like this, GRDE XNY PZYIG  you might not be able to read it, but you’d know that someone was UP TO SOMETHING and sending TOP SECRET INFORMATION (either that, or they were trying to type while eating a hot dog and watching a really exciting Cup Final match!)

One way round this problem is to use steganography rather than cryptography. Steganography means concealed writing. You conceal your secret message within something perfectly innocent-looking like a shopping list. Then, if it falls into enemy hands, they have no reason to be suspicious. If Mary had disguised her messages as orders to her dressmaker for some new gloves, for example, she might not have met her terrible fate.

So, how do you conceal a message? The Ancient Greeks apparently tattooed messages onto the shaved heads of messengers, who then let their hair grow back to conceal the words! Or you can use invisible ink to write between the lines of a ‘cover text’ (if you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘reading between the lines’ you now know where it comes from).

the problem with invisible ink is that you can’t see what you’re writing, so it’s easy to make mistakes – can you spot the letter I’ve missed?

But these days, steganography is more often used to send coded messages over computer networks, where information can easily be hidden large data files, such as ordinary looking digital photographs.

Do you know of any other kinds of code?  How about devising your own code and sending some messages to your friends?

                OPERATION DIAMOND

Question 10: Go back to the message in code used by Mary Queen of Scots and decipher it using the given key. Where does Mary want her supporters to meet her?

Top tip! In the Tudor alphabet the letters "u" and "v" were the same letters.

In the field (I)
On the beach (N)

And that’s it! You should now have all ten letters you need to reveal the culprit and enter the competition to star in the next Adventure Island book.

You will need to unscramble your letters to crack the mystery.
So, whodunnit? Was it:


(If you want more information about the mystery and the suspects you will find it all here: 

Email: with the subject line ‘OPERATION DIAMOND’ and the name of the thief in the email, along with your name, age and address.


If you missed a day, couldn't find one of the posts or just need to go back to check any answers, you will find all of the posts below.

Even if you haven't started the treasure hunt yet, there's still time to go back and find the clues because the closing date for entries isn't until July 23rd, 2012!

These are the direct links to the blog posts

This competition ends on Monday 23 July 2012 and is open only to entrants in the UK and Eire.