This opportunity, offered to me by a boy named Kit at a school talk in Nelson, sums up why I write for kids. They have no fear and no filters. Their heads aren’t clogged with mortgages, work woes or what to cook for dinner. So they’re not allowed ice cream for dinner, or to stay up past ‘X-Factor,’ but nothing tops climbing trees, licking the bowl or having a fist fight with your best mate.

For the past ten years I’d focused on writing non-fiction travel (UK on a G-StringBowling Through India) as well as humour (Kiwi SpeakRugby Speak). In truth, I wanted to write middle-grade fiction, like my hero Roald Dahl. But first I had to meet someone who knew what they were doing. That someone was Joy Cowley, who I accosted one day at the Story Lines festival in Auckland. A few days later – when she’d read my stories – she agreed to be my ‘Yoda.’ She is a very generous and smart lady.

Then one day I had the idea for Shot, Boom, Score! It came while on the sideline at my daughters’ soccer match. Like many kids, sport played a major role in my childhood. As did rewards for doing well. Many a parent has bribed their kids with a ‘pie for a try’ or ‘movie tickets for a wicket.’ With Toby in Shot, Boom, Score! I wanted to take this theme to a new level. Here is a boy who struggles with school, but excels at sport. When his father sets him the GameBox V3 Challenge Toby thinks he’s hit the jackpot. Sadly, he hasn’t accounted for class bully Malcolm McGarvy – who does his best to ruin the party.

Kids can be ruthless critics. If something stinks they’ll let you know. So it was with a certain amount of relief when my nine-year-old daughter Sophie (who was having Shot, Boom, Score! read to her class) came home and said, ‘Dad, even the bullies love this story – and they never share their feelings!’ Here’s hoping many other kids enjoy the book.

P.S. I did end up dedicating a novel to Kit, but as of yet haven’t seen any money.

Bowling Through India was a was one of those trips where something happened almost every five minutes. Which of course became perfect fodder for a travel book. Stephen Singh of Birmingham wrote to me today and asked: ‘Have you ever feared for your life during any of your travel writing stints?’

There was the car crash in the game reserve in Namibia. (Our car had to be lifted from rocks by 15 burly locals.) And I seriously thought I’d end up in A and E boogie boarding down the Zambezi River.

This question, however, took me to the place where many others had lost their lives: a cemetery in Varanasi, India. Our cricket team, consisting of five New Zealanders, decided to challenge the local village to a game. It was a bizarre, beautiful experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

During our life-changing journey that became the bestselling book Bowling Through India, it was somewhat ironic the Black Craps (as our five man cricket side was known) should end up playing cricket in a cemetery in Varanasi, otherwise known as the City of Life. The tombstones were used as stumps and a Catholic caretaker tried his best to keep games to a minimum – until we turned up. Thanks to The VC and photographer Brendon O’Hagan for providing this slideshow of our unforgettable match.

Bowling Through India - for free

For the next five days you can grab my travel memoir ‘Bowling Through India’ for NOTHING from Amazon. Don’t panic if you’re not into sport. Here are one reader’s comments: ‘Fantastic story of friendship male bonding and cricket. Far from your typical travel book you learn as much about the ways group of men treat each other as you will about India. Highly recommended.’

So get to it – and enjoy!

Life's what gets in the way when you're busy making other plans

It’s been a busy time and I’ve been slack with the blog. Still, here we are, finally. I’ve been having a lot of fun doing school talks all over Auckland. The kids are brilliantly funny and ask memorable questions. Some schools, like Mt Eden, even send you hand drawn covers of your book (pictured.) Thank you! Otherwise, I have been head down bum up working on a new novel which I’ve been told is too scary for adults, but just right for kids. Also, my first travel book ‘UK on a G-String’ will soon be available on Kindle. Will keep you in the loop. Happy weekend wherever you are.

Bestseller Bowling Through India - for free

The story: Five Kiwi blokes choose to drive across India and play cricket with street kids who ultimately whip their ass. They are, after all, The Black Craps. I’m pleased to announce that Bowling Through India is now an ebook and is free for five days (until July 14th.) Just click on the pic and you’ll be taken to Amazon. Go for it – and please leave a review!