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Showing posts from May, 2010

Hay on Wye Festival

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I have been doing a bit of unicorn snooping at the Hay-on-Wye book festival, which takes place at the historic town of Hay on the Welsh border every year during the spring bank holiday week. A few days beforehand, an entire tented village magically appears on a (often muddy) field a short walk from the real town. In these grand white tents, famous writers talk about their books, give readings and sign them, while the rest of us laze around in the sun reading and drinking coffee. Here is a picture of a naked lady showing how it is done: No, she’s not real… she’s just one of the lovely statues decorating the site! But if you saw a unicorn it might well have been me, because the sun was making my horn glitter so much I had a hard time staying invisible. The real town is famous for its second hand bookshops, which meant there were plenty of BOOKS around. My author kept having to be dragged away from them: This is the honesty bookshop in the castle grounds... if you take a book, you ha

May Reading

My author’s bedside table this month shows more non-fiction than novels, which is a sure sign her head is full of a novel of her own at the moment (that would be Genghis Khan's demolished book, now half rebuilt without a roof and looking like a building site surrounded by its piles of broken paragraphs). But she made an exception for… The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness Todd, the last boy in Prentisstown, is on the run except he doesn’t know why. And he doesn’t know why the girl he finds hiding outside town has silent thoughts he cannot hear, or even that she is a girl at first, because in Prentisstown all the men have Noisy thoughts and there are no girls or women. Apart from Viola (the silent girl), Todd takes only a knife and his dead mother’s book, which he cannot read. So begins a long (500-page) chase across country to seek the town of Haven, where Todd believes he and Viola will be safe. The setting feels vaguely American, so at first it is not clear this is act

Why publish?

The Muse is wondering why people want to publish books? My author – impatient as ever – says I’d better help her write something publishable soon or she’ll starve and her house will be repossessed. But Muses don’t need to buy food. We don’t have mortgages. Debt collectors don’t chase us if we can’t pay the bills. Muses only have to worry about story, and stories come in many shapes and sizes, not all of them suitable for publishing... 1. Stories that are very personal. These are written only for the author and friends/family and would interest nobody else, so there’s not much point in publishing them. Best to create a few hand-bound copies. 2. Stories that come out flawed or damaged in some way. These should not be published. They should be thrown into an enchanted pool so they can dissolve back into the mists and maybe one day inspire more stories. 3. Stories that are very similar to something their author (or, worse, other authors) have written before. These are probably publishabl

Judging the Song Quest cover contest

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This week, my author had the honour of judging the Bookette’s cover contest to find a new look for “Song Quest”. So I am handing over my glittery Muse-horn to Katherine, who has this to say about the entries… Authors don’t often get the chance to choose their covers, so it was a real treat to pick the winner of this fabulous competition, though a difficult task to choose just one out of such a varied and talented entry. Professional publishers spend a lot of time, energy and money to find the right “look” for a book, yet even they don’t always get it right. Sometimes a brilliant cover looks great on its own but can get lost in a shop, either because it looks too much like all the other books, or looks too different so people don’t recognize the type of book and walk past assuming they won’t like it. I think a good cover should: 1) Make a reader want to pick up the book (most important!). 2) Say something about the story. 3) If part of a series, have the same “look” as the other cover

Poetry Post - Hung Parliament

While the Muse has been busy demolishing Genghis Khan’s book, my author and her fellow countrymen have been busy demolishing their government… and it seems putting the government back together again is proving as much of a headache as restructuring our book! Katherine has been rather distracted by it all, so here is a poem she wrote to make sense of things: Number 10 is full of boxes. Moving in, moving out, Squabbling over seats in Commons And common people’s lives. We are without government, Without agreement, Without majority Or single strong party. But one thing we have kept Is our National Debt. © Katherine Roberts

Demolishing a book

In my author’s guest book , Sara was curious to see what I am working on. Katherine says her website is really for her published books, but if I want to then I can blog about my muse-work here. So this post is for you, Sara, and anyone else out there who might be interested in what writers and their muses really do all day. The truth is a writer at work is not very interesting to watch, because a lot of muse-work is invisible and happens inside their head. You know how famous authors in movies are always ripping sheets of paper out of their typewriters? They scrunch them up and throw them across the room with a curse, and then five minutes later you see them type THE END, and in the next scene piles of their books appear in the shops and in the hands of eager readers? Well, these days most writers simply hit the delete key on their computer rather than scrunch up bits of paper, and this can happen rather a lot when a book isn’t going well, which is even more boring to watch! But I’ll

Blessing of the Horse

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Today my author took me to a Blessing of the Horse at Cockington Court , where she used to go riding as a girl. Back in those days there was a riding stable in the village (now closed with its barns converted into houses) and hundreds of horses would come to the Blessing, filling the green. Today just a handful turned up, mostly the heavy horses who pull the carriages to give tourists rides through the park. But the tradition continues. The horses were a bit frisky because – unlike most humans – they can see unicorns, and I think I startled them a bit with my horn glittering in the spring sunshine. The vicar came out of the church in his splendid robes and held the service in the open air. There were hymns, a reading from the Book of Numbers about a donkey with a cruel owner, and a special Horse's Prayer that might equally apply to all who serve others… muses included! The original author of this prayer is unknown (an unknown horse?) and there are several variations. To thee, O

Dancing in the May

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Summer is a-coming in and winter’s gone away... my horn is glittering even though it’s raining here in the enchanted mists, because today is the time to dance around ancient stones and celebrate the end of winter. On this day in ancient times, the Celts celebrated their fire festival of Beltane . They would build a great bonfire on the night of April 30th and dance through until dawn. May Day celebrations still happen all around the country with the traditional crowning of a May Queen (a maiden representing purity and beauty) and a May King (associated with the Green Man, a symbol of regrowth and fertility). The crown is usually made of flowers and leaves. Often there is a maypole as well with a traditional dance to entwine the ribbons and then untangle them again. It makes a pretty plait unless somebody goes the wrong way, in which case you just get a tangled knot. And if you're up early enough, you can forget expensive face creams because rinsing your face in the dew on May morn