Thursday, 25 February 2010

February Reading

I don’t know how Katherine finds time to read books when she’s meant to be working with me on her new series, but it seems you can’t separate an author from her reading! Here's a selection from her bedside table this month...

THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF AWESOME COMIC FANTASY edited by Mike Ashley. This brilliantly funny collection of fantasy stories from different authors makes perfect bedtime reading. Katherine’s favourite stories so far:
“The Caliber of the Sword” by Larry Lawrence. You’ve heard of King Arthur’s famous magic sword Excalibur. But what happened to the lesser-known sword Calibre, made with the same magical powers but a couple of inches too short?
“The Byrds” by Michael Coney. In a not-so-distant future where people have to fill in annual questionnaires to see if their lives are still useful to escape termination, Gran and Gramps use their anti-gravity wings to start a new cult where people act like birds.
And my favourite story: “Dragonet” by Esther Friesner. A unicorn called Helios helps a damsel defeat a dragon - ha!

CASTLE OF SHADOWS by Ellen Renner. This full-length novel by a talented new writer takes place in a shadowy world of atmospheric railways and pigeon post. Princess Charlie’s mother has disappeared in mysterious circumstances, and her eccentric father spends his time building castles out of playing cards while the kingdom disintegrates around his ears. Charlie and her friend Toby, the gardener’s boy, have to negotiate a network of spies and villains to discover what really happened to the queen... the plot twists will keep you guessing to the end! A sequel is on its way later this year, and so far the setting is realistic rather than fantasy, which should appeal to readers who have trouble believing in magic. (The Muse asks couldn’t we add a unicorn? Just one small unicorn…?)

THE TIBETAN ART OF SERENITY (see my January reading post)… told you she’d still be reading this one, didn’t I?!

MSLEXIA issue 44. (Ms=women, lexia=words). This magazine is aimed mostly at women writers, but they’re currently looking for young reviewers for their teen book spot. If you’re a girl under 16 and would like to review for them, go to www.mslexia.co.uk for more details.

What books are you reading this month? Let the Muse know.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Why does it take so long to write a book?

You’re probably all wondering when Katherine’s next book will appear. As I said, I’m not a lazy unicorn so I haven’t been slacking… muses are never idle! But my work is just a small part of bringing out my author's next book. It goes a bit like this:

Year 1 – I find a new idea and bring it out of the enchanted mists. I love this part!
Year 2 – My author writes her new book with my help. This is usually fun, too.
Year 3 – My author works on the book with her editor. I don’t have much to do at this stage so can have a bit of a rest.
Year 4 – The publisher makes the manuscript into a real book. Nothing to do with me.
Year 5 – My author promotes the book with the publisher’s help. I stay well clear, because by then I’m back in the enchanted mists digging around for a new idea...

You don't get to see the book until stage 5, when it (hopefully) reaches the shelves of your local bookshop or library. The reason my author has forgotten the characters’ names by the time she visits your school to talk about it is because she hasn’t visited them for at least a year, and is by then working on stage 1 or 2 of her NEXT book! And that's when everything runs smoothly. If there's a blockage in the system new books can take even longer to appear, and there are quite a few blocks to avoid, such as:

Year 1 – New ideas can hide in the mists, so I only find old and boring ones my author doesn’t like, and then she doesn’t want to turn them into a book.
Year 2 – My author gets “writer’s block”, which is another name for losing confidence in me, her muse. Other blocks at this stage can include divorce, death of a friend, house moving, or lack of money (meaning she has to take time off from writing to earn, beg, borrow or steal some).
Year 3 – A block at this stage is a bit like someone building a dam across the river. You might think your favourite authors just write books and publish them, but sometimes the editor doesn’t like their book when it’s written and doesn’t want to publish it. So we have to go back to stage 1, which is a bit frustrating.
Year 4 – Blocks at the publisher, perhaps a delay in making the manuscript into a book due to illness or lack of staff.
Year 5 – Once the shiny new book exists in a warehouse, there might be a delay in bringing it to the shelves due to problems with booksellers, etc.

So the Muse apologises for the apparent lack of new books from Katherine’s pen, but assures you that new ones DO exist, and will be made available in some form or another just as soon as these blocks are overcome. If you're curious, we currently have three books stuck at stage 3... more details here soon!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Riddles with a sphinx in the snow


My author’s so deep into website building at the moment instead of creating new stories, I’ve got nothing to do. But I’m not a lazy unicorn. Rather than sit around twiddling my golden hooves, I went for a trot in the park at the weekend and saw a sphinx – yes, that sort of thing happens to unicorns all the time! You might think you see just a boring old park with dogs chasing balls and squirrels running up trees, but then you trot around a corner and see a creature you’re not expecting. Magic is always just around corner. You only have to look for it.

Actually there are four sphinxes in this park. Most people think they’re just statues, but I know better. In fact my author’s already put a sphinx into one of her books (“The Great Pyramid Robbery”, if you’re interested), though that one’s ghostly and male. This is a lady sphinx, as you can see. She reclines on a plinth with her great paws folded, contemplating the distant sea over the roofs of the town. She’s a bit dirty and covered in leaves and snow, but she’s not cold because she wears a tasselled cloth. She also wears earrings, and her curly mane is piled on top of her head, so she was obviously quite posh once.

Well, as everybody knows, besides being half lion (or half lioness), sphinxes love riddles. If you can't guess them, they won't let you pass. When she spied me coming, she gave me this one:

Out of the snow
Bravely we grow,
First of the year
Like frozen tears.

Guessed it yet?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Katherine's new website

My author has got web-envy! After seeing my blog, she has started building a fancy new website of her own. She’s already got a website, of course… the link is over there on the right… but now she wants a “more creative” one, whatever that means in human terms. Anyway, she’s building it in a secret place so you can’t see it yet. And I reckon she’s finding it harder than she thought, which isn’t surprising because she’s using some little pixie called Mr Site instead of me, her muse.

I suppose I’d better get over there soon and have a snoop around, make sure she includes me somewhere. We muses can’t have our authors going off alone and building their own sites, can we? Next thing you know, they’ll be selling their own books in e-format… ooops, me and my big mouth!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Castle of Shadows launch party

Last Saturday, my author tried to go to a party without me! I had to gallop very fast to keep up with the train, and my golden hooves got wet since the track runs right beside the sea. Fortunately, their magic is not affected by salt water, so I eventually caught up with her in Exeter at the brilliant central library, where I found her gossiping with a group of author friends.

Everyone had wine or apple juice and crisps and biscuits, then got to hear author Ellen Renner read from her first novel “Castle of Shadows”, which has already won a prize in the WOW Cornerstones competition so it must be pretty good. (It’s just joined the pile of books on Katherine's bedside table, so at the end of the month you’ll get to hear a bit more about it.) That's Ellen in the photo, looking very glamorous. The Muse approves of her jacket.

And here's my author (looking guilty on the left) with Lynne Benton and Luisa Plaja. Sue Purkiss had to help me take the photo, since hooves are not good with cameras - thanks, Sue!


I had fun eating up all the leftovers while everyone was in the other room listening to the reading, though I accidentally burst one of the balloons with my horn which made some people jump! Sometimes I forget how sharp it is. I then had to make a quick getaway so I could gallop home before my author missed me. It was a cold day, but the weather was beautifully sunny, the sea sparkled in the winter sunshine, and we didn't have to travel very far so we both arrived home before dark.

The Muse thinks there should be more book launches outside London… what do you think?

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