Archive for the Book news Category

Meet the new Johnny Mackintosh

Posted in Battle for Earth, Book news, eBooks, star blaze with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by keithmansfield

Spirit-of-London-eBook-(webStar-Blaze-eBook-(web)Battle-for-Earth-high-(web)

With the kindle version of Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London topping the Amazon children’s chart (across all media) recently, I was horrified to realize I’ve not announced the existence of the eBooks on the site. They were published in December 2012 and I think they look gorgeous.

Each time one of the print books was published I thought the cover superb, but my favourite is probably Battle for Earth. It’s tremendous now to have a standard look that clearly identifies the series to date, even if that’s only for the eBooks at present, and I’m delighted Quercus picked JMB4E as the model.

Of course eBooks exist in myriad different formats for all the various devices. I’ve had to make a choice here, so if you click a cover it will take you directly to the Kindle store. If anyone from Kobo/Nook/etc wants to email me and request I switch the links to a different eReader for a while, I’d be happy to do that.

Top of the Pops

Posted in Book news with tags , , on May 8, 2013 by keithmansfield

Top of the Pops

Johnny Mackintosh at number oneHow exciting. As I write, Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London is, for the second day, the number one title on Amazon’s list of Children’s book bestsellers, having displaced Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay from The Hunger Games series. Further down we find Percy Jackson, The Hobbit, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and even Key Stage Three Mathematics Revision Guide. No photoshopping has been done on this screenshot (honest!).

One of the biggest hurdles for many writers is showing their work to others. When I’ve been in writing workshops, a point I sometimes make to shy authors is that, if you want to be published, your work will be read. People will begin to comment on it, and it stops being your personal story, instead being owned by your readers. That’s tough because there’s no more personal, individual work of art than a book. Compared with a movie where hundreds of people can be responsible for the creative vision, with a book it’s a single person.

But we write because we love telling stories – we can’t help it –  and most authors want their work to be read by as many people as possible, even if it’s a little humbling and daunting. It’s great that more readers are being introduced to Johnny’s story, and encourages me to get moving on book four!

Amazon UK Kindle deal of the day

Posted in Book news with tags , , on May 6, 2013 by keithmansfield

Hurrah! It’s great that all three books are now available on Kindle and now, for one day only (May 7th 2013), Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London is one of five books on Amazon UK’s deal of the day. Buy the book before 11.59pm tonight and you get it for a bargain 99p.

As an author, you want your stories to reach as many people as possible, so this is a terrific opportunity for that to happen. Feel free to spread the word and, if you enjoy this story, remember the next two in the series are already published.

Johnny Mackintosh lands on Mars

Posted in Battle for Earth, Book news, History, Science, Space with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2012 by keithmansfield

This morning at 6.31 am (British Summer Time), Johnny and Clara Mackintosh (and their Old English sheepdog, Bentley) made history: thanks to NASA and its Mars Curiosity rover, they became the first literary heroes to literally land on another world. And all broadcast live in Times Square – wow!

Johnny, Clara and Bentley, lowered to the Martian surface on the back of Curiosity (courtesy JPL)

The descent was scary (I wrote a piece about it for Bookzone4Boys) – even NASA had described it as “seven minutes of terror”. Eventually the Mars Science Laboratory landed by “skycrane” in Gale Crater, a perfect location to examine millions of years of Martian geology in one go. Onboard was a microchip onto which had been etched the names of some of the people of Earth, the very first ambassadors to land on another planet. And among those names were:

  • Johnny Mackintosh
  • Clara Mackintosh
  • Bentley Mackintosh

I confess I’m delighted to say “Keith Mansfield” was also included.

Some great fictional stories have been set on Mars, but the paper or celluloid that tells them remains firmly grounded here on our island Earth. John Carter may have disappointed in cinemas lately, but Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series of “Barsoom” books are classics. A film that brought the red planet properly to life saw the now-Governator of California star as Doug Quaid in Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s 1990  masterpiece, Total Recall. Why anyone feels the need to remake a movie that was originally so stunning is a mystery, but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve seen Len Wiseman’s remake.

As a child I grew up reading the late, great Ray Bradbury, whose thoughtful Martian Chronicles helped inspire the stories I’ve written. In the first two Johnny Mackintosh books there are mentions of Mars and Johnny and Clara always intend to go there, yet somehow they never quite get round to it. In Battle for Earth they finally make the trip (I won’t spoil it for future readers by saying whether or not they find Martians).

David Bowie famously sang “Is there life on Mars?” and in a fun Doctor Who tribute, Steven Moffat christened the first fictional human settlement “Bowie Base One”. I’ve written a few pieces on whether or not there’s life of some kind on the red planet over at my Keith Mansfield website.

We’ve always found Martian exploration difficult. On page 3 of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth we read:

“Johnny and Clara had been planing their first ever visit to Mars, with Johnny telling his sister about all the probes scientists had sent to the red planet, but which had mysteriously failed to arrive.”

and then, a little later on page 61:

“Early space probes had taken intriguing but inconclusive photographs of the Martian surface, showing what were called the Pyramids of Elysium, next to what appeared to be a gigantic human face gazing upward. Johnny had always meant to visit and see for himself. For his part, Alf was curious to hear about the probes that had gone missing, so Johnny repeated the conversation he’d had with Clara, in a little more detail. Given the great expense of space exploration, the failure rate for Mars was unusually high. It wasn’t only Beagle 2 that had bitten the dust as it neared the planet. Over the years, around half the missions launched had failed for one reason or another.”

Of course the “giant face” is no more than an optical illusion, but sometimes you can’t let details like that get in the way of a good story. I first came across the pyramids through Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and these don’t only feature in Johnny Mackintosh – Total Recall also centred around the mysterious “pyramid mine”.

Nowadays we know a huge amount about this near neighbour, not least because there are actually three satellites in permanent orbit around the red planet. In the 1970s we sent the twin Viking landers to search for life (you can see a third in the Smithsonain Air and Space Museum in Washington DC). These tantalized, but also frustrated. Given the track record of previous Mars missions, this one played it relatively safe so the spacecraft set down in what proved rather dull areas – and that’s where they remained. The great thing about Curiosity is that it’s mobile.

Mars rover family portrait showing Sojourner, one of Spirit/Opportunity and then Curiosity (courtesy NASA)

We’ve come a long way in a short space of time with Mars rovers. The first was Sojourner, a little add on to the Pathfinder mission that landed in 1997. It was the size of a remote-controlled child’s toy and could only travel a few metres from the main landing station, getting up close and personal with a few interesting nearby rocks. Sojourner started the ball rolling, and the momentum was magnificently maintained by another pair of twin landers, the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which set down early in 2004.

Mars panorama using composite images from Opportunity, showing the rover’s own tyre tracks (courtesy NASA)

Larger, more independent and mobile, it was hoped these two would function for around 90 days. Spirit lasted fully five years, becoming immobile on 2009 and finally ceasing communication in 2010. Opportunity is still going! These two have shown that we are more than capable, not just of landing on Mars, but traversing its surface.

Curiosity being put through its paces on Earth (courtesy of JPL)

Curiosity is in a different league altogether. Weighing nearly a tonne, it’s around the size of a small car. It doesn’t move quite as fast, travelling at what’s almost literally a snail’s pace, but wherever it goes, Johnny, Clara and Bentley will go with it. I hope they and I are able to move across the surface of this faraway world for many years to come.

Buy the first book in the series, Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London.

Buy the third book in the series, Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth in which Johnny and Clara visit Mars.

Not long until the Battle for Earth

Posted in Battle for Earth, Book news, Influences with tags , , , on August 14, 2011 by keithmansfield

Thanks to everyone for their patience and enthusiasm for the third book in Johnny’s (and Clara’s) adventures. If you live in Europe, Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth publishes on Thursday 1st September 2011.

If you’re in North America you may have to wait a little longer. I was just in Canada where the pub date was being announced as 1st December 2011 and it’s the same in the United States. Perhaps I’ll combine a Christmas shopping trip to New York with a book launch?

If you want to pre-order the book (or buy any of the earlier ones) click on the three covers together to go to the buy the books page or support your local bookshop by going in and ordering direct.

In the run up to publication I’ll be publishing a series of posts about the influences on Johnny Mackintosh and tweeting about the new book using the #JMB4E hashtag. And I do plan to have a London launch but I’ve been so busy it’s not likely to happen until late September or early October. Watch this space!

Cover preview of Johnny Mackintosh: Battle for Earth

Posted in Battle for Earth, Book news with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2011 by keithmansfield

Here’s a sneak preview of what you have to look forward to later in 2011:

I’ve been lucky to have had three absolutely fabulous cover designs so far, each striking but different. They all have their strengths, but what this one does is tie the story to Earth in the here and now, which is always something I’ve been very keen on. When books are branded “science fiction” it can suggest “a long time ago in a galaxy faraway” and immediately exclude 95% of your potential audience. Of course I love the genre, but have always tried to write for a general readership.

I do like that bold, slanted text, which I’ve not seen on other books. Perhaps, as word of Johnny Mackintosh spreads, we’ll be able to re-cover all the books so they match and we can establish a series identity.

Happy New Year!

Timeslip Tuesday Review from America

Posted in Book news, New York, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by keithmansfield

Some of my favourite stories include the possibility of time travel. From Hermione’s time turner to Clare Abshire being forever left behind, it’s a theme that can lead to engrossing books. So it was exciting to discover a whole review section of Charlotte’s Library (a book site for kids and teenagers) called Timeslip Tuesdays.

For the weekly feature, Charlotte’s reviewed Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London. As far as I know, it’s the very first US review of Johnny’s books and hope it paves the way for more to come. Having lived in the US (I spent some time growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania) and travelling there often for work, it’s a country I’m especially fond of and I hope New York readers of Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze will vouch for the accuracy of Johnny’s escape through the city.

Readers of this blog will know that there was recently a review of Star Blaze from Australia. For an author, it’s an amazing treat to discover people in other countries reading your stories. I’ve also seen reviews from South Africa and heard of people seeing the books on the shelves in Singapore! Sadly, world domination still seems some way off, but it’s good to know that the books are slowly percolating around the globe.

Charlotte’s timeslip review says:

“Lots of action, twists and turns of plot, and a generous dollop of suspense make for a page-turning adventure that is, I think, just the ticket for a sci fi loving upper middle grade reader (and the sort of book an adult reader who’s willing to suspend disbelief and who’s looking for something fun should appreciate as well). The story is told strictly from Johnny’s point of view, so the reader only knows what he does, keeping things very interesting indeed.

“… I’ll be passing this one right over to my ten-year old, and I bet he enjoys it (space ships! computers! aliens! dinosaurs! sinister bad guys!).

“Time travel-wise–the journey of Johnny and Clara back in time leads to interesting sub-plots and intriguing explorations of paradox. It’s a key part of the plot, in a very sci-fi way (as opposed to time-travel for the sake of exploring the past, or for the sake of exploring characters). And as such it works well, adding zest and excitement to a story already full of both.”

For those who want to read more about time travel, take a look at my Science of Johnny Mackintosh page.

Concorde Book Award – Part I

Posted in Book news on September 19, 2010 by keithmansfield

I’m delighted to report I’ve had to update the Prizes and Awards page following the news that Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London has been shortlisted for the 2011 Concorde Book Award. Thanks to everyone who put the book forward. Hopefully there’ll be good news in a future post entitled “Concorde Book Award – Part II”.

Waterstones Camden recommends Johnny

Posted in Book news, Bookshops with tags , , on July 3, 2010 by keithmansfield

One of the lovely staff at Waterstones Camden has recommended Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London. In case you can’t make out the photograph, the card reads:

“THIS BOOK MAKES ME FEEL like I want my own talking computer. Johnny’s computer Kovac detects an extraterrestrial life form and so begins Johnny’s adventure. Full of energy and great characters.”

Thanks to my friend Anna for sending me the picture.

Here come the reviews

Posted in Book news, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by keithmansfield

Naturally, authors never read reviews. It’s purely an accident I have a Google alert set up to tell me when anyone, anywhere writes something about Johnny Mackintosh. It would be madness to pay too much attention as there are bound to be people who don’t like a book – happily, though, this has been a sane week and people have had only lovely things to say about both Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze and also Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London.

The Bookbag has given Star Blaze a whopping five stars and said such nice things that I’m reluctant to repeat them here. Well, go on – you twisted my arm. Their reviewer, Jason Mark Curley, liked Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London except its title and made my year by saying it was “reminiscent of Rowling”, my writing idol. This one he seems to have enjoyed even more.

“it must be hard to write a sequel to a book that was so good and get it right … I enjoyed the first book so much that I didn’t want to spoil it by reading a duffer of a follow up. I really shouldn’t have worried; Star Blaze is everything that its predecessor was and a lot more besides … shades and echoes of those sci-fi novels I used to read as a kid: Asimov, Clarke, Moorcock and Dick. … great characters, action, mystery and adventure … A great read; go get it. And, more please Mr Mansfield.”

I am blushing as I type and will gladly buy anyone claiming to be Jason a beer should they approach me in a pub. Earlier in the week, the Bridgend County Council posted some user reviews of books in their libraries and the second one they showed was Johnnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London. A young reviewer by the name of Master Dylan James Morgan wrote:

“Awesome! The book cover just makes you want to pick it up straight away because it is so colorful and looks exciting. Flying around in a spaceship disguised as the London Gherkin! WOW!!! This is the first Johnny Mackintosh Book and I hope there will be more to come.”

I hope Master Morgan discovers Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze soon!

The first Star Blaze review of the week was from the lovely people at Chicklish. Even though I’d love everyone to read Spirit of London first, I’m delighted Alexandra picked up that you could read the second book independently and still enjoy it as I worked very hard on that. She’s also given a great short summary:

“In Star Blaze, Johnny becomes involved in a deadly plot against the Earth’s sun. Exploding the sun into a supernova should be impossible but intergalactic enemies have found a way. Only Johnny and his sister appear to know what’s happening. Can they save the day? … You can read this novel without having to read the first in the series. Definitely a hit for sci-fi fans.”

Chicklish is a great site run by authors Luisa Plaja and Keris Stainton.

If you like either of the Johnny Mackintosh books, it really helps spread the word if you post reviews online, with Amazon of course being particularly visible. If you hurry, you can be first up for Star Blaze!

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