Monday, 25 February 2013

Hybrid authors - curiosity or the future?

"Zonkey" - a zebra/donkey hybrid

I am what is known as a "hybrid" author - sounds painful doesn't it? But it just means I am using two types of publishing to bring my books to readers. 

1. The traditional route for my Pendragon Legacy series with children's publisher Templar, who have produced these books as beautiful shimmery hardcovers that are not too big and not too small, containing pretty maps and attractive fonts. They have also produced eye-catching paperback versions, as well as slightly cheaper ebook editions of each.

paperback of Book 1 - see how the title catches the light?

Shimmery proof cover for the hardback of Book 2

showing the draft back and front cover spread for  Book 3

There is no way I could produce such lovely editions of these books on my own - at least not unless I won the lottery! And quite aside from the production and printing of the actual books, Templar have a team of editors and publicists and marketing people and artists and designers, all working on various parts of the process of bringing my words to readers... so a big thank you, Templar team!



2. The independent (or "indie") route for my out-of-print backlist, currently only available as ebooks for Kindle via amazon. I am able to bring you these books because they've gone out of print and rights have reverted back to me from their original publishers. They have all undergone the same process of professional editing at their publishers (thank you, original editors!) though I am now responsible for the covers, layout and marketing etc. It's a strange experience for an author to be involved in these things, and yet I'm finding it quite refreshing to have some control over the part of the process that authors once surrendered entirely to others. It's a bit scary, too... oh, and a lot more work, of course.

e-cover for I am the Great Horse

Hybrid in biology means the offspring of two different creatures, like the "zonkey" above. I hope that means I will develop the strengths of both, even though I might not look exactly like Traditional Author or exactly like Indie Author. At the moment I feel a bit like the poor zonkey that doesn't belong in either herd, since there are still many Traditional purebreds rightfully proud of their stripes, as well as a growing herd of Indies roaming the wild plains. These are both essentially the same species (Author), yet they mix only warily.

In future hybrid authors might become more common, as some books suit the traditional publishing model and others suit the indie model, both reaching readers in the most efficient way for that particular book.

Or should a unicorn remain a unicorn? I'd love to know what you think!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Muse Monday - the robots of Charlotte Haptie

Normally an author would write a guest post for this spot, but since this is a robot post, and robots exist to help people, I'm doing it for her. (Just don't go thinking I'm a robot unicorn, because as everyone knows there's no such creature.)

Anyway, to get back to Charlotte's current muse... after the well-received Ice Angel and Otto books, Charlotte Haptie's latest series is a fun robot-filled read for 7-9 year olds.


Meet Granny Grabbers, an early model designed to look after children of busy parents. Delilah Smart is the little girl in question, and she's delighted to discover that Granny Grabbers (due to a fortunate malfunction) has emotions, can talk and do magic tricks... well, sort of.

Delilah also gets a brain-building bear-robot called Sir Isaac Newton, who is so brainy he has his own Twitter account @SirIsaacNBear... follow him if you want a brain boost, too!

The robotics factory is continually churning out new models, which are so well-described in the books that you can almost see these inventive robots clanking and marching out of the pages to clean and polish your house (I wish!) But when Mr and Mrs Smart want to upgrade Granny Grabbers to the deluxe Nanny model, Delilah and her robot friends fight all the way to the humorous ending.

There are two books in this series published so far, with a third book in the making. So if you've a young robot fan in the family, be sure to point them in the right direction...




You can catch up with Charlotte at www.charlottehaptie.co.uk  where your school has an amazing opportunity to adopt her as "your" author for a term. (If several schools want her, perhaps she'll even send you a robot-author...?)

Monday, 11 February 2013

A Nerdy Look at Numbers...

Library loans in this case, which are always interesting since they apply to books long out of print and mostly forgotten by the shops, i.e. those titles that get no current promotion and are presumably picked off the shelf just because they look like they might be an enjoyable read.

Of course, over the years older copies on library shelves eventually fall to pieces and cannot be replaced. (Possibly popular books that are borrowed a lot wear out even faster than those that sit on the shelf for months on end, though I am not sure about this... any librarians out there enlighten the unicorn?) But assuming a book survives years of being carried home in the rain, scanned electronically many times over, read while someone is eating spaghetti bolognaise and/or chocolate, being chewed by various dogs and cats, and getting eaten by giant bookworms, etc, how many people can be expected to borrow and read it?

These were Katherine's five most popular books borrowed from UK libraries last year:

*1. The Cleopatra Curse - 952 loans (weird, since this book was her lowest-selling title)
2. I am the Great Horse - 759 loans
3. Sword of Light - 649 loans (only published in last half of library year, doubling this figure would put it at no.1*)
4. The Olympic Conspiracy - 624 loans
5. The Great Pyramid Robbery - 603 loans

In total, her books had a total of 5,235 loans - a  modest number that reflects the fact only two of them on last year's list - Sword of Light and Song Quest - are currently in print (the others are available as ebooks only). This compares to her most popular year of 42,207 loans in 2004, when most of her earlier books were still in the shops... the no1. borrowed title that year was The Great Pyramid Robbery at 13,670 loans!


A short survey:
Do you go to libraries to find out of print books?
Have you ever had trouble finding Katherine's books in a library near you?
Would you ever borrow an ebook - either from a library or from Amazon?

Let the unicorn know, and maybe I'll wave my magic horn to help you find these elusive titles.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

King Arthur's Crown?

The third book of the Pendragon Legacy series features a magical crown, which a dragon stole from King Arthur as he lay dying after his final battle with Mordred. This Crown of Dreams contains powerful jewels that store the secrets of the Pendragons, including the ancient skill of dragon riding.

Here's my author, trying it out...



(She looks a bit fed up, because it's not working yet!)

Of course, her crown is just plastic so that's probably why no dragon has come to answer her call (which is just as well, since I don't fancy sharing my blog with a dragon!). Or maybe it's the wrong sort of crown...

To find out what kind of crown the real King Arthur would have worn, see Katherine's post over on the History Girls blog today.


Friday, 1 February 2013

The Hobbit meets Rhianna Pendragon


I finally managed to persuade my author to take me to see The Hobbit! They don’t have seats in cinemas for unicorns, of course, so I had to lurk in the aisle (which might explain why people kept stumbling over me in the dark when they crept out part way through the three-hour showing to use the bathroom.)

Now, you might think that three hours would be enough to cover the whole story of a short book like The Hobbit (at least, it’s short compared to the Lord of the Rings!). But no, it seems there are going to be two more Hobbit films to finish the story (hooray!) And since the story is shorter, and the films just as long, this means the pace is  slower than LOTR, which makes room for some of the gentle humour in the original book.

This first episode begins with a prologue that ties the story cleverly to the earlier Lord of the Rings film trilogy, opening with aging hobbit Bilbo Baggins writing his memoirs. Then we have a “60 years earlier” time shift, which magically turns old grumpy Bilbo into a younger but much less adventurous Bilbo, who is as house proud as a fussy old woman… until a bunch of dwarves arrive on his doorstep, and present him with a contract and an invitation to join them as a "burglar" on their quest to regain their mountain home from the fearsome dragon Smaug. Poor Bilbo is horrified, especially when they start throwing all his best crockery around and scoffing all his food. But when the dwarves finally leave, he has second thoughts and runs after them to help. That’s hobbits for you.

As a unicorn, I especially liked the ponies ridden by the dwarves. How brave they were when the trolls picked them up and carried them off to cook pony stew! Luckily no animals were harmed in the filming, and so the ponies (and the dwarves) are soon rescued by brave Bilbo, with a little help from Gandalf the Grey, everyone’s favourite wizard from LOTR - who does not look a day younger, let alone 60 years younger, but that's wizards for you.

Bilbo is no great warrior despite his little elf-blade that glows blue when evil is around, but he uses his clever tongue to get himself and his companions out of trouble. The climax of the film is the famous riddle game from the book, where we meet the pathetic but scary creature Gollum, and Bilbo picks up the ring that gets his nephew Frodo into so much trouble later on... Gollum’s “precioussss”. This magic ring proves very useful for a burglar, because it makes its wearer invisible so Bilbo is all set to make himself useful to the dwarves in the next episode.

Which brings me to the girls. There aren’t any in the Hobbit, until we meet the elf queen Lady Galadriel, who first appears glowing very unicorn-like on a cliff against a deep blue evening sky with a crescent moon shining over her shoulder. (If I were not already Katherine’s muse, I would be Galadriel’s any day…shh, don’t tell my author!) Galadriel is lovely, but she’s very much your regal queen-type, and not the sort of girl to get her hands dirty fighting dragons. This is a shame. Even if the hero Bilbo had to be a boy, a few dwarf girls might have been interesting.

Rhianna Pendragon
I'll tell you a secret. My author did not really like "The Hobbit" when she first read the book at school. She loved the magical story, but identifying with the hero/ine is important when you are younger, and she found it difficult to identify with Bilbo Baggins.

So she started writing about girls who have adventures, like the heroine of her new series Rhianna Pendragon, who does battle dragons, and who gets her hands (and hair and clothes) dirty on regular occasions. Rhianna is King Arthur’s daughter, and so has nothing much to do with hobbits as a rule, but if you’re observant you’ll spot a surprising number of things from the Hobbit and LOTR that have found their way into Rhianna’s quests!

Dragons.
Hobbit: Smaug, the firedrake.
Rhianna: The ice-beathing shadrake.

A significant hill.
Hobbit: The Lonely Mountain.
Rhianna: The Lonely Tor (today known as Glastonbury Tor.)

Elves.
Hobbit: Lord Elrond’s people, who live in a magical valley.
Rhianna P: Prince Elphin from the Isle of Avalon, who has six fingers on each hand and violet eyes.

A wizard.
Hobbit: Gandalf the Grey.
Rhianna: Merlin, King Arthur’s enchanter, whose spirit takes over a merlin falcon when Morgan Le Fay destroys his man’s body.

Magical horses.
Hobbit: Gandalf’s horse, Shadowfax.
Rhianna: Telepathic fairy horses from Avalon.

A witch.
Hobbit: Lady Galadriel
Rhianna: Morgan Le Fay

Did you spot any more? And do you think Rhianna Pendragon’s quests should be made into films to give the girls a chance to have some fun?

***

Book 1 Sword of Light and Book 2 Lance of Truth are available in hardcover, paperback and ebook.

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