Monday, 27 June 2011

A Mystic Afternoon in the Library

How could a unicorn resist? As part of the Independent Booksellers Week organised by the Torbay Bookshop, a group of mystics came to talk about their work in our fabulous (new!) library, just opened last year:


The afternoon covered past life regression, totem animals, and astrology. All very different ideas, yet all connected by their authors’ belief in the spirit world that lies behind our reality.

The most interesting of the three talks for me was, obviously, the one about totem animals. My author needed no convincing, having already found me, her unicorn muse.

Celia Gunn, who introduced everyone to the idea of totem animals, had spent time living with the Native American Navaho tribe, where she had a vision of a white wolf, the tribe’s totem spirit. (She had some cool Native American boots, too!) After returning home, she wrote Simply Totem Animals, published by mind, blody and spirit publisher Zambezi to help people find their own animal spirit.


The idea is that everyone has a totem animal, and your animal’s characteristics will match your own. For example, unicorns are very magical but very shy, and can only be lured out of the enchanted mists by a pure and gentle maiden. See this post for Katherine's view of me. Other authors have also blogged here about their muses... and, yes, a surprising number of those are animals! There’s already a ferret, a spaniel and a unicorn, and we hope to bring you more soon. You can find these posts by following the links from the Muse Monday page above.

Have you met your own totem animal yet? Or is it like one of Philip Pullman’s daemons in His Dark Materials trilogy, and still “settling”?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Short Story Cover Challenge

The Unicorn is tearing out his mane! Usually Katherine’s publishers design beautiful covers for her books, and all she has to do is look at the artwork and say if she likes them (or not). Sometimes they let her suggest changes... which is not always a good idea, since she doesn’t know very much about marketing books. But now she is putting together a collection of short stories for you to read on Kindle, and it needs a cover image, so she has asked me to design one from scratch.

Believe me, even though I am a muse, this is a lot more difficult than it looks! First of all it's an e-book cover, so it must work well at small “thumbnail” (or hoof) size. On a Kindle it will only display in black and white, so the contrast has to be good, although it’ll show in colour on most other devices so needs to look good on them, too. And, as if that wasn't difficult enough, there are seven different stories in the book and the design has to give a general idea of all of them.

Here are a few clues. The stories all contain some fantasy/magic, ranging from historical settings to purely imaginary worlds. They all have heroines and some gentle romance. Two of them are about death. The Muse thinks this book will appeal mainly to teenage girls, though the stories were originally published for adults in fantasy genre magazines. (If this book were a film, it would probably be cert 12A.)

So think MAGIC, HEROINES, ROMANCE, DEATH.

The title of the collection will be either Death Singer or Rubies (both of these stories are in the book). Which title do you like best?

Here are some covers I’ve done for DEATH SINGER:


and one that looks a bit different...



And here are a couple for RUBIES:



Which cover would inspire you to click on the book and download a sample?
Please help the unicorn! Or my lovely mane will soon be in tatters…

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Circle of Legends

The Muse has been trotting up the Wye Valley along the border of England and Wales. It’s the kind of place you might meet a unicorn in the woods on a misty morning, so it was no surprise to discover King Arthur Pendragon huddled in conference around a standing stone with King Offa, King Tewdrig, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Eleanor of Provence and the fish-tailed water sprite Hafren.

A rather strange mix of characters, you might think, until you realise they are all local heroes and heroines. Offa was a Saxon chief who built the famous Offa’s Dyke to mark the frontier of his kingdom and keep out the Welsh, and King Tewdrig was a 6th century Welsh chieftain who may have been the grandfather of the real King Arthur. Eleanor married Henry III and influenced local architecture with her French style, while Geoffrey of nearby Monmouth wrote many fantastic stories including one about Hafren, a local girl who was drowned in the river and became a water goddess, giving her name to the River Severn.

All six characters are life-sized wood carvings (five made from oak and one from sweet chestnut), created by sculptors Neil Gow and John Hobbs in 2003. Known as the Circle of Legends, they stand under the trees near the old Tintern station, hidden from the road, with the river flowing past them as it would have done when they walked the land.

What do you think they are talking about? Is Offa making a peace treaty with King Tewdrig? Has Arthur Pendragon just pulled Excalibur out of that stone? Could Eleanor be having a secret love affair with one of our heroes? How long can Hafren stay out of the water before she has to return? What story is Geoffrey writing? (Something about time travel, perhaps?)

The interesting thing about this Circle of Legends is the mixture of legendary and real historical characters, which is the kind of mix you’ll find in Katherine’s books. Some books set in modern times use the same idea – for example, a vampire or werewolf interacting with human characters.

Anyone can create a fantasy Circle of Legends, bringing together characters from myth and legend with real characters to spark off a story.

The Muse’s ideal Circle of Legends would be:
Arthur Pendragon
Merlin
Queen Boudicca
A unicorn (naturally!)
The Faerie Queen
A red Welsh dragon

Who (or what) would be in your Circle?

Saturday, 11 June 2011

You can’t tie an author down these days…

You might be wondering why I have not written many posts on this blog lately. Well, that’s because I’ve had my horn – or Horn, since it’s magical? – dug into Katherine’s new series, while she’s been off writing posts for other people’s blogs! And meanwhile, other authors have been over here writing about their muses on THIS blog… just can’t tie an author down these days, can you?

Since I’m a unicorn, I prefer to navigate the enchanted mists with my four golden hooves and my sparkling horn. But my author says the great thing about these blog tours is that she can now travel the world without leaving the comfort of her own home. No delayed flights, no carbon footprint (carbon hoof print?) and no travel sickness.

You’ll probably see quite a bit of Katherine around the blogs next year, when her Pendragon books hit the shelves. So she thought she’d get in a bit of practice this year for her existing books, which she is determined people will still be able to read in e-format, even if her publishers sell out of their printed copies.

Yesterday she was interviewed about the e-book of “Spellfall” HERE

And lovers of more traditional fantasy can still read her fairytale reflection about The Snow Queen over at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, where you'll find a brand new series of fairytale reflections starting this week with a post by Terri Windling.

Blog tours can be fun! If you would like to do a Muse Monday post on this blog, then get in touch with the unicorn:
unicorn AT katherineroberts.co.uk (replace AT with @)

Monday, 6 June 2011

Muse Monday – the Faerie Spirit of Tuscany by Linda Strachan

My muse is an ethereal thing, a spirit of the faerie world I think, often only glimpsed out of the corner of my eye, a blend of whirring fragile wings with a flash of rainbow colours.


For the most part it lives in Tuscany – not that romantic place in Italy, much favoured by writers - but my rather more lowly writing shed, across the other side of my garden. It is a strange thing but my muse seems to have taken up residence there almost as soon as the shed was erected, as if it moved in with the furniture.

As with most spirits of the Faerie world it is often elusive and can be mischievous at times, leading me on, making me think I am doing fine and then disappearing when I need it most. But the atmosphere in Tuscany is such that I can normally summon it up after a short while and I am aware of its presence just behind my right shoulder, or perched on the edge of my chair.

It is a comforting presence, accompanied by a frisson of excitement for the work in progress.

On the occasional times when I have loaned out Tuscany to members of the family for a quiet study space, I have felt a sense of something missing and a desire to turf them out of that precious space where my muse and I work so well together.

The world outside Tuscany rarely intrudes when my muse is there, guarding that special atmosphere, where worlds of imagined people act out their lives for me as the words appear on the screen.

When I started writing Dead Boy Talking I had the title and the first line ‘In 25 minutes I will be dead’, but I had no real idea where it was going and who the characters were. I knew a boy had been stabbed and was all on his own – and that he had heard it took 25 minutes to bleed to death.

I took that out to Tuscany and started writing. It was a scary process because I was literally waiting for the story to unravel, to find out what it was all about, the whys and wherefore. For three weeks I worked solidly and my muse rarely left my side, until the first draft was completed. There were moments when I almost lost faith in it but the sense of that impish creature at my shoulder, urging me on, was all I needed to keep going.

My muse is bad and beautiful, wicked, impish and protective, and I wouldn’t be without it.

Thank you, Linda! Your shed looks like just the sort of place that would make a good unicorn stable... 

You can find out more about Linda's books on her
website: www.lindastrachan.com
and her Bookwords blog www.writingthebookwords.blogspot.com

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Unicorns discovered moonlighting on Kindle!

While I’ve had my horn stuck into the copyedit of my author’s new series (wrestling with queries such as whether “sword” should have a capital letter if it is a magic sword, and dodgy spellings of the Celtic name Arianrhod), it turns out she has been moonlighting on another blog!

Now normally I wouldn’t use my horn to point you over there, as it’s a blog about technological gadgets called Kindles and those new-fangled e-books, which (according to the votes on the right of this blog) 30 out of 35 unicorn fans DO NOT LIKE. But since an e-book is the only way you can now read her book “Spellfall”, which has several unicorns in it, I suppose I’d better give you the link...

Kindle Authors UK

Drop by if and leave her a comment if you must (though don’t encourage her too much), then hurry up back here. The good thing is she’ll only be blogging over there once a month, and the rest of the time she’ll be here with me.

Authors, eh? Can’t live with them, can’t live without them… if you know what a unicorn means.

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