Showing posts from March, 2010

Science Fiction and Fantasy Survey

This book contains two surveys of fantasy and science fiction authors, one carried out by Mexicon in 1989, the other by the British Science Fiction Association in 2009. Each author was asked the same questions under strict interrogation conditions (i.e. bright spotlights in a bar in 1989, email in 2009) and their answers analysed to produce a snapshot of the Muse’s favourite genre. The surveys are particularly interesting to Katherine, since 1989 was the year she began to write short stories for the genre magazines. They didn’t ask me – they must have thought unicorns would be a little bit biased? – but I gave my author a prod with my horn, so she’s quoted a couple of times in the book along with 127 other fantasy/sf authors you might recognise. Here are a few authors in the book Katherine has met: Sarah Ash – met at Fantasycon and wrote one of her favourite books “Moths to a Flame”. Frances Hardinge – fellow Branford Boase Award winner. Mary Hoffman – a friend and secret admirer of t

March reading

Just had my monthly snoop at the books on Katherine’s bedside table. An interesting mix, in the Muse’s opinion… The Ivy Chronicles – Karen Quinn When Ivy Ames loses her job, her husband and her apartment in a single afternoon, she reinvents herself as a private school admissions advisor. The only trouble is her own daughters no longer go to a private school because she can no longer afford the fees… This is an adult read, but very lively and funny, even though it's a bit hard to feel sorry for the rich and spoilt Ivy who thinks the worst thing that can happen to her is moving into a lower class neighbourhood and sending her children to a normal school. The Muse can hardly believe the lengths some people will go to get their children into the top schools, but it is obviously a big problem for you humans. Unicorn foals, fortunately, don’t go to school – at least not that sort of school. GLITTER RATING:3 City of Flowers – Mary Hoffman This is the third book in the fabulous Stravaganza

Gold Cup Day

Katherine is taking the afternoon off to watch the racing on TV, so I thought I’d trot over here to write this. She used to work with racehorses, and it’s Cheltenham Gold Cup day (the most important jump race of the season) so I’ll forgive her for abandoning me – though I can’t help thinking it would be more exciting if unicorns were allowed to race! I’d soon see off that favourite Kauto Star with my golden hooves. Anyway, I'll tell you a secret. My author used to look after a horse called Third in Line who won at Cheltenham. She’s got a photo on her bookshelf showing her leading him into the winner’s enclosure. He wouldn’t have been good enough to win the Gold Cup, but the trainer she used to work for – Venetia Williams – has got a runner in the race today called Mon Mome, who won last year’s Grand National. He’s 100-1 in the betting, which the Muse thinks is brilliantly good odds since it is now raining and the ground is getting heavy. So don't tell anyone, but I'm just o

Tales from the Border

Trotting back from Hadrian’s Wall, my horn sparkled with ideas. Mostly these are still shadows of ghosts in the torchlight, so it may be a while before I help my author put them into books. But many other muses have been inspired by borders because that's where some of the most interesting stories happen, being a place where two cultures clash - often violently. My author used to live on the Welsh border, and even today if you drive across it you will see road signs in two languages and find yourself in a different world where the towns have unpronounceable names and it rains a lot. Here are a few of Katherine's favourite border books: The Sterkarm Handshake – Susan Price The Sterkarms live in the Scottish borders and are forever fighting rival clans. Their handshake is deadly, since they are left handed and can sink a blade between the ribs of their enemy while shaking hands with their right. This brilliant book travels in time between the violent age of the Sterkarms and our

Raising ghosts at Hadrian's Wall

I’m hoping to see the ghost of Emperor Hadrian tonight. He’s been dead for nearly two thousand years, but in the enchanted mists anything is possible. That’s part of the fun of being a Muse – I can travel through time and space, while my author stays at home waiting for me to report back and tell her what I saw. So where am I going? If you live anywhere near Northumberland I expect you’ve already guessed, because the great wall Hadrian built across Britain to mark the northern boundary of the Roman Empire is going to be illuminated by fire tonight for the first time since Roman soldiers trod its stones. There’s going to be a torchlit procession in Carlisle and another event at Segundum Fort. Although the wall is mostly in ruins now, you can still see the foundations of the watchtowers and fortresses the Romans built to keep out the wild northern tribes… if you go, be sure to keep an eye out for unicorns, too, because I plan to stable myself in one of the towers to spy on things. My aut

Nasty unicorn!

There are some unicorns you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night. Here’s one of them… avenging plastic unicorn . It comes with little dolls you can impale on its horn. One of them is meant to be your boss, or maybe a teacher if you haven’t got a boss yet. One looks like a clown. The other one is a new age lady who looks a bit like Katherine! Well, if that nasty plastic unicorn comes anywhere NEAR my author, it’ll discover my horn is more powerful than its horn… doesn’t it realize blood destroys the very enchantments that make us strong? The First Law of the Enchanted Mists says that if a muse uses their power to harm or destroy, they will only end up harming themselves. I have to keep reminding my author of this whenever she asks me to write something that has no spirit or might do harm to her readers. Yes, I have a sharp horn with magical powers. But I use it only in self-defence to make sure nobody messes with me while I get on with my muse-work. It’s sad but the world outside the


My horn glitters today! I saw myself on TV last night – in “Stardust”, a refreshingly thoughtful fantasy film based on one of Neil Gaiman’s books. The plot follows Tristan, who lives in a village called Wall next to a long stone wall that separates England from a fantasy kingdom where magic works. Tristan is descended from the royal family of the fantasy kingdom, though he doesn’t know it until he crosses the wall in search of a fallen star to bring back for the girl he loves. This might sound familiar to fantasy lovers, except the fallen star turns out to be a beautiful young woman whose heart bestows the gift of eternal youth. Various witches and princes are after her for their own ends (youth and power), though Tristan finds her first and becomes hunted, too. As they flee across the fantasy land towards England, a tender love affair blossoms between the star and our hero, which nearly ends in tragedy when he realizes she will turn to dust if she crosses the wall. Fortunately, he rec

Ten Tips for New Authors

All the bloggers are doing their “ten rules for writers” at the moment. It’s the Guardian’s fault for publishing their tips from famous authors last week. They didn’t ask my author, but if they did she would have given them Philip Pullman’s first rule -“say no to things like this that stop me doing my real work" - and passed them on to me. So I bring you the Muse’s ten tips the Guardian missed: 1. Find your muse (he/she doesn’t have to be a unicorn, of course, but it helps). 2. Feed your muse with plenty of books by lots of different authors. We need a balanced diet to stay healthy, just like you do. Some books are like ice cream – good fun but can make you sick if that’s all you read. Others are like spinach – good for you but taste disgusting. Life’s too short to read the spinach (unless you happen to be Popeye), but there’s plenty of other stuff inbetween. 3. Learn how to spell... and I mean text, not TXT! 4. Write about what really interests you, not what someone else tells yo

The Author Hotline

Today the UK celebrates World Book Day, so many authors are out and about visiting schools or doing other bookish events. This means of course that they are not at their computers creating new stories, so you’ll be pleased to hear that Katherine is doing her proper author-work and working quietly on her new series. I had to put my horn at her throat to keep her in her chair, but she saw my point. (Horn… point… get it? Sorry!) Anyway, the point of this post is that some authors are like unicorns and can be difficult to lure out of the enchanted mists. But there is now a place on the internet where you can find out a bit more about these authors, link to their websites, and get in touch to ask where their next book is. It’s called THE AUTHOR HOTLINE and it’s launching TODAY. To celebrate the launch, there’s an exciting “opening lines” competition to win a set of signed books for your school, and the six children’s laureates have provided some fabulous laureate-level story openings to giv