Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Dancing Christmas Pony

When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted for Christmas was a real live pony. Now I'm a fantasy author I want a real live unicorn, which is a bit trickier (so I probably won't get one of those, either!)

I do, however, still have my virtual unicorn muse, who has done some digging over at YouTube with his glittery horn and returned with this cute dancing Christmas pony... if you visit the site, you can even create gift ponies for your friends. Enjoy!


Monday, 16 December 2013

Tamora Pierce and Me

It's amazing what you can discover online, years after the event itself. Browsing my profile in Goodreads recently to see if any stray "Katherine Roberts" books had been added to it by mistake (there are at least four different authors with books published under my name), I discovered this book listed:

Actually not a book, but a sampler that my American publishers must have produced to cross-promote my titles back when they still published me. I knew nothing about it at the time, which just proves how much publishers do that authors are not aware of... a belated thank you, Scholastic!

If I had known about it, I'd have been quite flattered as a new author to be compared to the queen of young US fantasy writing Tamora Pierce (still am, if the truth be known!). But this sampler is now a small piece of history, and my two books listed in it - Song Quest and Spellfall - have moved on to a new stage of their life after going out of print at Scholastic/Chicken House a few years ago.

Song Quest is now available in paperback from Catnip Books, with an ebook promised soon.

Spellfall is available as an ebook from Amazon, Apple, Kobo or Nook.

And in case you're disappointed you've missed the free books mentioned in the sampler, the unicorn is running a free ebook offer for the Christmas period over at my website, where it already seems to be snowing: www.katherineroberts.co.uk

The years might have passed, but the stories remain. So wrap up warm, grab your e-reader, and enjoy!

Monday, 9 December 2013

MUSE MONDAY - The Trolls of Rosen Trevithick

This week the unicorn welcomes Cornish author Rosen Trevithick to tell us about her unusual muse. (WARNING: Do not read this post if you are eating, unless you have an unusually strong stomach!)

Rosen Trevithick

Who (or what) is your muse?

Rosen: My muse is a troll called Loodrip Stinkleboss, and she has lived in my toilet since I was ten years old.

When did you first meet?

Rosen: I first met Loodrip on Devoran Quay. I was strolling around on the shingle shore when I spotted a creature stuck in the mud. Real trolls aren’t like the ones you read about in fairy tales – they look much more human. She has big, scruffy hair that covers her horns. So, at first, I thought she was a person. I began to dig her out.

Just as I was freeing her pudgy legs, she declared her desire to gobble me for lunch. I had to think on my feet, so I explained to her that I was still growing. I said, if she ate me, I might grow in her belly causing her to pop. She thanked me for the warning and decided not to eat me.

However, after getting stuck in the mud, she developed a fear of the great outdoors and decided to follow me home and live in my toilet.

Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?

Rosen: Loodrip herself is too disgusting to appear in any of my books. I don’t wish to terrify children. However, she has inspired many troll characters such as Gunkfreak, The Ogre of Uggle and Wilfred Whiffwizard. She reads all my books to check for factual inaccuracies before I publish them. She’s anxious for trolls to be properly represented. 

Lavinia Loopywits by Katie W Stewart

(NOTE: Loodrip is too vile to share. However, this is an illustration of the character Lavinia Loopywits, depicted by Katie W. Stewart. Lavinia is partially based on Loodrip.)

If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?

Rosen: I’d like to build Smelly Troll World. It would be an imagination theme park where children would go to be inspired. There would be exhibits and the occasional ride featuring characters from the book, but most of the park would consist of interactive features where children could create monsters, storyboard and even put on plays.

Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?

Rosen: Do unicorns do bottom burps, and if so, what do they smell like?

Well, of course - though ours smell like roses on Midsummer's Eve and sound like the soft sighs of a maiden in love. (I am not sure unicorns would be welcome in Smelly Troll World!)

More about Rosen

Rosen was born in Cornwall. She studied psychology at Oxford before moving back to the West Country. She now lives on the south coast of Devon with two imaginary cats, fantasising about getting a real one.

Readers have downloaded over 245,000 copies of Rosen's books. Several titles have broken into the Amazon charts, including a number 1 humorous fiction bestseller.

Visit her website for more about her books for children and adults
The Troll Trap : Book 1 in the Smelly Trolls series.

Rufus Sebbleford is the only boy in the world to have ever seen a real troll. So, when he finds out that trolls plan to attack Sludgeside School, he must stop them with the help of his good friend Polly.

Meanwhile, the Super-Troll-Knobbly-Foot family decide to turn their backs on smelly bottoms and eating children. They don't want to be bad any more. So, they paint themselves orange and try to live like humans. However, being enormous, horned and slimy makes it difficult to blend in.

Will Sludgeside ever be safe from the disgusting bad trolls and their horrifying leader, The Ogre of Uggle?

A stinky, squelchy adventure packed with secret dens, tree climbing, troll traps and lots and lots of revolting smells!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tower Hamlets Book Award 2013

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the finale of the Tower Hamlets Book Award at Swanlea School in East London. My book Sword of Light had been shortlisted, and I was one of three authors invited along to judge the book presentations performed by the children of eight local schools.

Tower Hamlets Book Award shortlist 2013

This event is organised annually by the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, and it's obvious a great deal of energy and enthusiasm had gone into the afternoon.

Gillian Harris, head of Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, kicks things off

Meet the authors...

Sam Gayton and Katherine Roberts (me!) judging the presentations

Sarwat Chadda and Sam Gayton signing books
Then came the performances, which I had been looking forward to very much. Two schools performed my book Sword of Light - Swanlea Secondary and John Scurr Primary - taking quite different approaches to the story.

John Scurr's presentation was so enjoyable I took a video clip (which to protect the children taking part I am not allowed to publish here). But it was like a film, with three scenes, great costumes, and a perfect feisty, red-haired "Rhianna" - Hollywood, take note! The children performed the capture of Rhianna and her friends by Prince Mordred's Bloodbeards and their subsequent escape from the Saxon Camp (chapter 6 of the book), using a number of realistic props including some fearsome-looking slave collars and a magic harp complete with silver strings, which must have been great fun to make.

"This land belongs to King Arthur!"

We had special effects from Blue Gate Fields Junior School, who performed Frank Cotterell Boyce's The Unforgiven Coat, and rivers of blood (in the guise of red silk) from Cayley Primary, who gave a short but spirited presentation of Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress. The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brockett was a good excuse for some balloons and a cute black and white dog, and I am sure there must have been a few of Philip Reeve's Goblins lurking somewhere in the shadows grumbling about not being properly represented.

A perfomance of Wonder
RJ Palacio's Wonder was clearly a popular book, with two different schools presenting a version of the story. But it was St Pauls Primary School's performance of Wonder that really stood out, with impressive singing from the whole cast and its effective use of technology, where two of the characters sit with laptops and send each other messages after acting out the bullying scene. After much deliberation that took longer than our allotted time slot (sorry, Gillian!), the judges awarded St Pauls the prize.

There were drinks, delicious cakes and healthy grapes on offer, as well as quizzes and postcard and tweet competitions to break up the afternoon. All three of the authors were kept busy signing bookmarks and copies of their books for their fans and the school libraries.

Then it was the turn of the children to vote for the shortlisted books. All the votes disappeared into a big box and nobody knew the winner until they were counted up at the end.

Sword of Light came third (Muse: I demand a recount!)

Wonder was second, and the winner was...

Sam Gayton's book The Snow Merchant.

Which was lovely, since Sam was actually there in person to pick up his award (that's his hand in the picture), and although there can only be one prize, all three authors were given a lovely bunch of flowers to take home.

Sarwat Chadda - orange for the boys.

Me with my pink roses back in Devon (they survived the train home!)

Thank you to all the Tower Hamlets schools, children, and librarians for a very inspiring day.

Monday, 2 December 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Nicola Morgan and her great outdoor muse

This Monday the unicorn is delighted to welcome author and and publishing guru Nicola Morgan, whose muse is rather large and sometimes a bit scary...

Nicola Morgan
Who, or what, is your muse?

Nicola: My muse is an outdoor empty space. It is silent, apart from wind, or running water, or birdsong. It asks nothing of me. I can go where I want in it and no one else is ever there. There are trees in parts of it, solid ancient trees with gnarled trunks and twisting branches and holes for owls and secrets. It’s quite scary because things can hide behind the trees and there are deep shadows and dark possibilities, but the pleasure of coming through the woods into the sunlight and minty air and clear blue spaces is worth it.

sunlight, minty air and clear blue space

When did you first meet?

Nicola: When I was five. I lived in the country in a life of strange freedoms and risks and miles of open spaces and rafts on rivers and dens in hay and treehouses and tunnels and hideaways and woods with danger of forest fires. But in those days I didn’t know it as a muse of writing, just a muse of thinking and making believe in my head.

Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?

woods - perfect for an author's den?

Nicola: My first novel, Mondays are Red, is full of those spaces, with woods and fires. In The Passionflower Massacre, Matilda needs such spaces and she’s trying to find them. In Sleepwalking, there are no open spaces. They are destroyed.

If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?

Nicola: I don’t think money would buy me artistic freedom. Except in one sense: that I could stop all the things I do that aren’t writing but which are necessary to my career, such as events, blogging, Facebook etc, and which stop me writing. And I’d like to pay someone to handle all the admin stuff. Then I’d spend more time wandering in open spaces chasing ideas, and less time fretting about whether I’ve sold enough books to justify my publishers’ costs. I’d be healthier and I’d write more. I think my writing would be better. I’d write a dark, gothic fantasy which would make readers shiver.

Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?

Be careful what you believe.

Thank you, Nicola - a wise message, I suspect!

More about Nicola

Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, mostly for and about teenagers. She is also a blogger and public-speaker on the teenage brain and stress, the reading brain and all aspects of writing and publishing. She lives in Edinburgh but travels widely. She loves shoes and chocolate.

The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking
Two novels published in one ebook.

These two YA thrillers were originally published by Hodder and attracted excellent reviews, with Sleepwalking winning the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year. Both are coming of age novels, infused with passion and anger, danger and hope. The Passionflower Massacre was inspired by the Jonestown Massacre and features an emotionally-damaged girl desperate for freedom who becomes embroiled in a sinister religious cult. We also see inside the head of the even more damaged cult leader. Sleepwalking is set in a dystopian future where language is dying and ambition is almost dead; four teenagers must find the courage to enter the terrifying Tower to discover the secret and destroy the government.

The ebook is published TODAY! See here for details.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Catching Fire - a review

Ever since I downloaded the free sample chapters on my Kindle, I’ve been a fan of the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The sample grabbed me by the throat, so even though I am about 35 years older than the target readership I ordered all three paperbacks and read them back to back. I saw the first Hunger Games film last year shortly after reading the book, and while I enjoyed it, I remember a bit of a flat feeling afterwards because the book (of course) is better than the film almost every time... or maybe I just remembered the plot too well so there were no surprises?

Now, a year later, I’ve just seen the second film Catching Fire – and I'm happy to say yes, it delivers! Obviously having a year between reading the book and watching the film helps, because although I had a vague memory of the plot, it was not enough to mean I spent my two and a half hours in the cinema comparing the screen version with the book. Also, I think the second story is more powerful.

Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of the Hunger Games, has become a symbol to the hungry people who live in the outlying Districts that service the Capitol… for which read people living and working in the small towns of any large Western economy whose capital sucks the resources out of the entire country. (OK so maybe we are not quite in Hunger Games territory yet, but the parallels in these books are obvious, and I am sure it is no accident that the set pieces complete with their horse-drawn chariots are reminiscent of Rome at the height of its Empire, i.e. just before its fall.) Katniss has also learned to act. Some of the emotional scenes are quite harrowing, and the mind-games the Capitol plays with its victors makes Katniss’ terror of the Arena disturbing to watch particularly in the early part of the film.

On their Victory Tour (which is a carefully-orchestrated public relations exercise - reminding me a bit of an author's tour on publication of a new book!), Katniss and Peeta are pampered and costumed so they can do their job of distracting people from their real hardships. But despite their best efforts to do this, the Tour deteriorates into flare-ups of rebellion in the Districts that result in executions and floggings, including a graphic scene where Katniss’ hometown love Gale is dragged into the market place and whipped half to death for trying to stop a stormtrooper from beating an old woman. (I'm calling the so-called peace keepers that, since in their white armour they reminded me of the Empire’s storm-troopers in "Star Wars” - another rebellion story.)

Increasingly terrified of revolution, President Snow orders a special Hunger Games – a “Quarter Quell” – where the tributes are to be drawn from the victors of previous Games. This means Katniss, as the only surviving female victor from District 12, must return to the Arena - a place that gives her nightmares. The male tribute accompanying her will either be her fellow victor and screen-love Peeta, or their drunken mentor Haymitch. Of course it turns out to be Peeta, who volunteers when Haymitch’s name is picked so that he can protect Katniss in the Arena.

So far so Hunger Games. But things are different now. This Game is not just for the entertainment of the masses (if any game where teenagers are expected to kill one another for sport can be considered entertainment – see my post over at the History Girls.) The Quarter Quell Games are still deadly serious in the Arena, where President Snow and his minions try their hardest to discredit Katniss as well as killing her in as nasty a way as possible – but it is even more serious outside of it, where Katniss’ and Peeta’s families are held to ransom in a final effort to squash the brewing rebellion before it can get out of hand.

I won’t spoil the story for those who have not read the book, but the film ends on a cliff hanger just like the book… with the result that Catching Fire did not feel properly finished to me. The first Hunger Games film had a satisfactory ending, but in this case I found myself wanting to watch the third film right afterwards – which is probably the whole idea, but cruel to unicorns! Though, of course, if you are really fired up at the end, you can always re-read the third book Mockingjay while you're waiting.

Katniss enters the Arena for the second time.

In Catching Fire, “May the odds be always in your favour.” is replaced by “The odds are NEVER in our favour.” That is dangerous stuff for anyone’s subconscious to chew over, so I just hope the third film is not too long in coming!

Have you seen this film yet? What did you think?

(Images copyright: fair use for purpose of review.)

Monday, 11 November 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Ann Turnbull's bird-on-the-head

Today the unicorn welcomes author Ann Turnbull to tell you about her wonderful muse!

Ann Turnbull

Who (or what) is your muse?

Ann: My muse is a small ceramic figure of a woman with a bird on her head. She was made in Cornwall by Shelagh Spear. As soon as I saw this figure I knew she was a goddess and would be my muse. You can see her in the photo, surrounded by the clutter on my desk (she doesn’t really have quite such a short lower body – that’s the camera angle). Unfortunately she is rather easily knocked over and her bird has lost its beak. I hope this doesn’t affect her powers.

The bird on the head of Ann's muse (No beak = less tweeting, more writing?)

When did you first meet?
Ann: A few years ago. My sister gave her to me as a birthday present.

Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?
Ann: I think she may be one of the many goddesses and nymphs who appear in my Greek Myths. And she could well have a role in a new YA novel I’m thinking about at the moment – but that’s a secret!

If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?

Ann: Probably much the same as now, but I’d take longer over it and do more thinking and research. Whether that would make it better is anyone’s guess.

Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?

Be wary of prowling cats and clumsy authors or you might lose the tip of your horn.

Oh yes, I have tripped over the cat a few times already! And once she fell asleep on the stairs, and I trod on her and we both fell down them... though fortunately my horn didn't break, so I still feed her.

DEEP WATER by Ann Turnbull

Jon should never have skipped school with his friend Ryan - never have taken that boat. Now Ryan is in danger - and only Jon can save him. But Jon is scared. The police are knocking on his door. They know he's lying. Is it too late to tell the truth?

A short, fast-paced thriller for children aged around 9-14.

This new edition of Deep Water was published in October 2013 by SilverWood Books and is available in paperback from Amazon and selected bookstores.

Find out more about Ann and her books at www.annturnbull.com

Friday, 8 November 2013

World Fantasy Convention 2013

Normally at Halloween I turn off the lights, hide behind the sofa, and keep a bowl of exploding chocolate eyeballs beside the front door in case my house gets mobbed by gangs of trick-or-treaters. But this year, I got to party myself... in Brighton with several other fantasy/horror genre authors, all of us attending the World Fantasy Convention (the first time it has graced British shores in 16 years, so how could an author with a unicorn muse possibly miss such a great event?).

Teresa Flavin, C J Busby, and me
The weekend kicked off on Thursday night with a children's fringe event at the Book Nook in Hove, organised by my publisher Templar, where three of us who write for younger readers dressed up ready for a spooky evening in the shop. Here I am at my 'magical station' ready to show prospective young knights of the Round Table how to decorate their shields with heraldic symbols:

Arthurian shield-making
CJ Busby hosted some spell making, which obviously had an effect on the weather, since it was a wild and stormy night with rain and wind rattling the window of my fourth-floor room in one of Brighton's regency guest houses.

But we survived until Friday morning, when we ventured into the huge Hilton Metropole hotel to brave all the dragons plus several hundred authors, artists, editors and agents who work in the fantasy genre.

dealers' room at the World Fantasy Convention 2013
There were books galore, an art show with fabulous fantasy paintings on display, and a feast of panels and interviews with guests of honour such as Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Joanne Harris, Tanith Lee, and many other heroes and heroines of the fantasy genre. Yes, I know I promised you a fangirl photo...

Neil Gaiman (interviewed by editor Jo Fletcher)

... I forgot to say it was dark and I didn't get a seat in the front row!

There were three streams of programming over the weekend, so it wasn't possible to go to everything, but a few panels I enjoyed were Cover Art in the Digital Age, A Book by any Other Name (ebooks), and Are Agents Redundant? (no). There was also a panel called Broads with Swords, which I wish I'd been part of since obviously Rhianna Pendragon would have had something to say about that. But I came away with two agent names for possible approach to replace my agent Maggie Noach, sadly no longer with us, who was also a great fan of the fantasy/sf genre. (I especially liked the agent who, when asked "is 57 too old?", replied with an emphatic "no!" ... that gives me a few years breathing space, then.)

Many panellists mentioned ebooks, with either enthusiasm or regret, and Amazon hosted one of the evening parties in the bar with a chance to quiz the team in "we love authors" T-shirts about self-publishing via. their kdp and Createspace. Seems I'm already doing most of this, but they did suggest considering some print-on-demand paperbacks of my books, which I might do once all the secondhand copies at 1p each have vanished from Amazon's Marketplace.

I caught up with Sarah Ash, author of one of my favourite fantasy titles Moths to a Flame (of which I own an original paperback signed edition).
some of Sarah Ash's beautiful fantasy books
I also bumped into New York Times bestseller Tim Lebbon (we once collaborated on a horror novella - bet you didn't know that), seen here with his friend Gavin Williams, who is now involved with independent films.

Gavin Williams and Tim Lebbon (hope that's just cola, Tim!)

On Friday evening, there was a mass signing event where you could get your favourite authors to sign copies of books and/or autograph your programme. I collected several friendly signatures from the Fantasy for Children table...

...while everybody else queued for two hours to get Neil Gaiman's.

CJ Busby, Linda Strachan, Gillian Philip (Neil Gaiman's signing queue in the background)

On Sunday, I enjoyed reading in the atmospheric 'reading cafe', where the prologue of Sword of Light formed part of a Fantasy for Children showcase with nine other authors who write for YA and younger.

The reading cafe with throne

We just had time for a quick farewell lunch in the local chippy, complete with amazing mirrors, before heading back home.

Emma Barnes, Frances Hardinge (plus hat) and CJ Busby

And if you're tempted to try a fantasy convention, there is a British one next year in York run by the British Fantasy Society... see you there?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Dragon Riding and Singing in Spanish

My author spirited me away for the Halloween weekend, partying in Brighton at the World Fantasy Convention - a great place for a unicorn, as you can imagine (although there were rather a lot of dragons to avoid, too). Here are some of the goodies I carried home for her in my unicorn panniers...

World Fantasy Convention 2013 goodies.

She's ordered me to write a couple of blog posts about the convention and what we got up to at Halloween, but first I should explain the title... it seems the moment I turn my back on my computer, a whole rash of guest posts go up which Katherine had conveniently forgotten to tell me about.

Singing in Spanish
First of all, at Halloween while we were busy partying with witches at the Book Nook in Hove, Katherine's virtual self visited Authors Electric to do some Singing in Spanish. This post tells how she came to publish a dual language ebook version (English /Spanish) of the short story that became the seed of her Branford Boase Award winning novel "Song Quest", demonstrating how writers' careers can take unexpected twists and turns... which is sort of what Neil Gaiman said in his interview at the Fantasy Convention (and if you're a swooning fangirl at this stage, I promise you a picture later).

Dragon Riding
Then on Sunday, while we were in the Reading Cafe of the Metropole Hotel taking part in a group 'Fantasy for Children' showcase, Katherine's virtual self indulged in some dragon riding with Anne McCaffrey as part of  Sci-Fi month over at Rinn Reads (though since dragons usually prefer to eat unicorns than let us ride on their backs, I'm rather glad I was in Brighton!)

This obviously proves unicorns have magic, since I can make my author appear in three places at the same time. And while you're busy checking out the two links above, I'll get on with writing my post about what we got up to in Brighton...

Remains of the West Pier in Brighton... not guilty!

Two more places to find Katherine this week (I like to keep her busy!)

The History Girls

Nicola Morgan's Heartsong blog

Monday, 4 November 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Savita Kalhan and her trees.

This week the unicorn welcomes Savita Kalhan, who would like to introduce you to a muse that changes with the seasons.

Savita Kalhan

Who or what is your muse?
Savita: My muse is that most ancient of beings: the mighty tree.

When did you first meet?

Savita: I don’t recall when we first met, possibly in India when my grandfather used to carry me in his arms in the mango tree orchard – the only way to quell my crying. My first readings of The Faraway Tree and the other books in The Enchanted Forest series I remember so clearly. I literally lived in the children’s library, surrounded by the most amazing stories and worlds, but myths and folklore were a favourite and devoured very quickly. The humble tree figured in many.

Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?

Savita: My book, The Long Weekend, is set in a mansion surrounded by woods, with much of the action taking place in the woods. The woods provided both a sanctuary and a hiding place. The tree that was Sam’s hiding place in the book, is based on a tree that I see most days from the room in which I wrote the book. Here are a couple of photographs of it through the seasons.



The manuscript I’m working on at the moment is called Hell Wood, so trees are the setting. Don’t be mistaken – it’s not the trees that are hellish... Walking in the woods where the book is set, I found a tree that appeared to have been hit by lightning. In the book it’s called the twisted tree because it seems to have been split in two and twisted together. Trees provide the backdrop of the book and the mood. A beautiful paradise or a hellish nightmare.

paradise or nightmare?

On holiday in Mallorca in August, I spotted this amazing tree:

I’ve no idea why it’s so warped, why it has such amazing roots, or even what kind of tree it is, but I’m hoping it’ll find its way in somewhere, if not in this book, then in another...

If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?

Savita: There are thousands of things I would do if I won the lottery, depending on how much I had won! But I’m guessing you don’t mean a £10 win! I plant a tree a year, but that doesn’t seem enough, so I’d like to plant huge swathes of forest the world over, concentrating on areas of the world where over-felling has taken place. One of the most neglected subjects at school is learning about nature and the environment. I would put interactive programmes in place where every child had access to the forest, learnt about every tree, its name and the myths and legends associated with them. I’d still make time to write... and finally explore the epic fantasy trilogy locked away in a drawer.

Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?

My muse would give the Unicorn a key to the many forests of the world.

Thank you, Savita, that is a very special gift for a unicorn!

The Long Weekend is a thriller for teens and young adults, published by Andersen Press.

This book is available from all good bookshops and also online as a paperback or ebook.

Find out more about Savita on her website www.savitakalhan.com

Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Treat for Halloween

Trick or treat?

If you're anything like me, you'd probably prefer a treat!

So, for this weekend only, you can read my Halloween fantasy thriller SPELLFALL on your Kindle for under £1 (or under $1 or under 1 euro, depending on where you live).

Natalie saw the first spell in the supermarket car park. It was floating in a puddle near the recycling bins, glimmering bronze and green in the October drizzle. At first she thought it was a leaf, though as she drew closer it began to look more like a crumpled sweet wrapper – a very interesting sweet wrapper. Pick me up, it seemed to say, glittering intriguingly. Surely I’m worth a closer look?
   She shook her head and hurried past. She was wet and cold and had more things to worry about than picking up someone else’s litter. But the trap had been baited by one who knew a lot more about spells than she did. Before she knew what she was doing, she’d put down her chinking carrier bags and gone back for it. As her hand closed about the wrapper, a voice behind her whispered, “Innocent enough to crawl through the Thrallstone.”
   Natalie pushed her glasses back up her nose and stared round uneasily. Anyone close enough to have spoken was either hurrying to their car with a loaded shopping trolley or still driving in circles like her stepmother and stepbrother, looking for a space to park.
   “Who’s there?” she said sharply.
   Rain danced on the metal roofs of the bins.
   No answer.
   Skin prickling, Natalie stared across the river meadows at the wooded slopes beyond. The car park was on the edge of town and the recycling bins were in the corner furthest from the supermarket. This might have seemed bad planning for an eco-friendly development like Millennium Green, except the original plans showed a housing estate was to have been built on the meadows. The official excuse was that the floods would cost too much to divert but everyone at Natalie’s school knew the truth. People didn’t want to live in the shadow of Unicorn Wood because it was haunted...

Find out who has set a trap for Natalie, and what haunts the woods, in this full-length novel for young readers first published by Chicken House/Scholastic US in 2001.

Spellfall UK
Spellfall US  

Happy Halloween!

Monday, 28 October 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Karen King's Giraffe-Cow

On this autumnal morning, the unicorn welcomes Karen King, whose muse might warm you up a bit...

Karen King with some of her books.

1. Who (or what) is your muse?
Karen: My muse is a soft cuddly baby giraffe. This is a picture of him. He’s a ‘hottie’ actually, which means he has a microwavable bag inside him that can be heated up to keep my hands warm. He sits on my desk and watches me write. Sometimes I tell him my ideas and he always listens very carefully. I also take him on school visits with me.

"Shall I warm your typing fingers for you?"
2. When did you first meet?
Karen: We met a few years ago, a friend of mine gave him me as a present. Only then I thought he was a baby cow! Now I call him 'Giraffe-Cow'.

3. Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?
Karen: No but I did blog about the time I took him on a school visit when I still thought he was a cow. The children soon put me right! Read the full post on Karen's blog.

4. If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?
Karen: I’d write up the TV series I’ve been trying to work on for the past couple of years. It would probably take me a year to write it so it would be lovely to have the time to do that.

5. Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?
Yes, he wants to tell Unicorn that his author Karen King has written a book about a little unicorn called Unicorn Magic and he wants to know if Unicorn can do magic.

But of course! My magic is stored in my horn, which is why it glitters so much... though I must admit my author has a fluffy unicorn with a pink horn she sometimes takes on school visits instead of me.

More about Karen

Karen King has been writing children’s books since the mid-eighties. She’s written for many children's magazines too including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh and Thomas the Tank Engine. Some of her short stories were featured on Playdays BBC and some of her poems on the BBC One Potato, Two Potato website. She writes for all ages and in all genres. She's written more than 100 books including picture books, story books and joke books. Her picture book I Don’t Eat Toothpaste Anymore! won the Gold Award for Best Product, and Country Companions: The Birthday Picnic won the Practical Parenting Award.

Her website is www.karenking.net

Karen’s first YA title Perfect Summer was published earlier this year by Astraea Press, USA.

Growing up in a society so obsessed with perfection that the government gives people grants for plastic surgery, 15-year-old Morgan can't help being a bit envious of her best friend Summer.

Summer is beautiful and rich, her father is a top plastic surgeon and her mother is a beauty consultant with a celebrity client list. Her life seems so effortlessly perfect. Whereas Morgan isn't so rich or beautiful and her little brother, Josh, has Down's syndrome - which, according to the Ministry and society in general, is a crime.

Then Josh is kidnapped and the authorities aren't interested so Morgan and Summer decide to investigate. They, along with another teenager, Jamie, whose sister, Holly, has also been kidnapped, uncover a sinister plot involving the kidnapping of disabled children and find themselves in terrible danger. Can they find Josh and Holly before it's too late?

This book is available in paperback or ebook from:
Astraea Press
Barnes and Noble

Friday, 25 October 2013

Full Pendragon Flush

I just wanted to share this lovely photo of all four Pendragon Legacy books in shimmery hardcover format, plus the gorgeous bookmarks my publisher Templar have produced for the series. Here they all are displayed on my own little Round Table in my kitchen:

So if you come to see me talk about these books before they run out, you should be able to pick up a bookmark too! (and if you don't manage to escape quickly enough, I might even sign it for you on the back... see bottom of picture).

I wonder how many other readers have the full hardcover set?

All four titles are now available in hardcover, paperback and ebook (except Grail of Stars paperback, which publishes 1st Feb 2014).

SPECIAL OFFER: Save £6 until October 31st! Sword of Light Kindle ebook only 99p

Monday, 21 October 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Emma Barnes and her Talking Wolf

This Monday, the unicorn welcomes Emma Barnes - and a rather scary muse!

Who (or what) is your muse?

Emma: A wise and witty talking wolf! At least she was for my latest book,'Wolfie'.

Emma Barnes
When did you first meet?

Emma: A few years ago when I was lucky enough to spend some time in the warm sunshine of California...and my imagination strangely started to follow a magical wolf into the winter woods and snow.

Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?
Emma: Yes – she’s in my book 'Wolfie', where her full name is Fang-That-Bites-Sharp-In-The-Forest.

If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?

Emma: I’ve written an epic fantasy, which I haven’t published, simply because it was what I wanted to write. To be honest, it’s hard to predict the market, so why not write what you believe in?

Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?

F-T-B-S-I-T-F: Greetings, fair creature! You are fleet of foot, and your weapon will make me think twice should we meet in the forest.

I must admit my magical horn comes in useful at times, but I would never use it to spear a friend!

About Emma:

Emma Barnes writes humorous stories about contemporary children getting into mischief, having adventures, acquiring pets (sometimes magical!), falling out with their families and generally battling with the silliness and unpredictability of life.  Her latest book 'Wolfie' is a about a girl whose best friend just happens to be...a wolf.  Her next book 'Wild Thing' (out February 2014) is the first in a series about the naughtiest little sister ever.

With its snow and wolves, the unicorn thinks this would make a magical book for a young reader at Christmas!

Published by Strident.

Take a look inside this book at amazon

See Emma’s website www.EmmaBarnes.info for more details.


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