Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Week in Wales

If you're wondering why the unicorn has been silent all week, that's because I have a new book out. (In case you haven't heard me shouting about it online all last month, it's over there on the right.) That means I need to tell people. And the best people to tell are those readers who might enjoy it, so I've been visiting Welsh schools to meet some of them.

Wales, a favourite Arthurian location.
My tour started in Monmouth last Tuesday with a day at the lovely Haberdashers School for Girls, where I spoke to two groups of Year 7 and signed copies of "Sword of Light" in the library at lunchtime. The unicorn thought this school very impressive with its large building on the hill and cool walkway over the main road.

book signing in the library at Haberdashers School

From Monmouth we travelled to Barry (Y Barri), and after a small detour following a satnav that took us into the middle of a housing estate (Muse: never trust a satnav!) we arrived at Bro Morgannwg school, where I spoke to a large group of Year 7 in their hall and also a reporter from the local paper. I was very impressed that the children at this school have all their lessons in Welsh... though thankfully, after introducing me in Welsh, their teacher let me do my talk in English.

I stayed that night at the lovely Holm House hotel in Penarth...

view from my hotel room looking out over Cardiff bay
...which had the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. (Muse: that's 49 years of uncomfortable beds for my poor author!)

Refreshed by a good night's sleep and chocolate truffles delivered to my room on a pretty plate at bedtime, our next school was Stanwell School just around the corner in Penarth, where I spoke to two groups of Year 7 and a group of Year 12 creative writing students in their very impressive new lecture theatre.

showing the picture of Prince Elphin... can you spot his six fingers?
Since we were there all day, Stanwell School kindly provided us with lunch in the 6th form cafeteria. Following the afternoon session, I had to leave sunny Penarth and return to Monmouth, where I checked back into the less-said-the-better Riverside to prepare for my final day.

On Friday we drove to Caerleon in an atmospheric mist, where I spoke to Year 7 and Year 9 in the lovely library at Caerleon Comprehensive, and also met several of their keen readers over breaktime.

Don't panic, that's not a real sword!

To wind down on Friday afternoon I went sightseeing in Caerleon, one of the possible locations of Camelot, and found this statue of King Arthur fighting Prince Mordred in the Ffwrwm (which means forum, or meeting place, Caerleon being full of Roman remains).

Author "research" at the Battle of Camlann
 Finally, with thoughts of the M5 on a Friday afternoon awaiting me, I bought myself a publication treat, which is something I have done for all of my books so far. It has to be something that will remind me of the book forever. This time it was a picture I discovered in a Celtic giftshop, which to me perfectly sums up the mood of the Dark Ages behind my Pendragon Legacy series... in fact, that could almost be Rhianna riding her white mare Alba!

image copyright Steve Roberts
Many thanks to all the dedicated librarians and English teachers who were involved in organising my visits, and special thanks to my publisher's PR freelance Nic Wilkinson who, despite being baby-challenged, valiantly hauled around boxes of "Sword of Light" all week... fortunately, no ambulances were required!

Nic Wilkinson holding two Swords of Light.

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