Saturday, 23 March 2013

What do your characters look like?

Seeing pictures of the characters you've created for a book is always interesting. When my cover artist Scott Altmann sent pictures of the four main characters in my Pendragon Legacy books, I fell instantly in love with two of them - Arianrhod and Squire Cai.


But I was a bit surprised by Rhianna, who appeared far tougher than I had imagined her to be when I started writing the first book Sword of Light!

Rhianna Pendragon by Scott Altmann
Thinking about it, I realised this was because she was the only character I had actually drawn myself before starting to write... I sometimes do this to get me "in the mood" for a book, after I've written a chapter or two and need something to keep me going.

Rhianna riding Alba by Katherine Roberts
My publisher had requested the tougher version, which obviously matches the story better. And then of course, Scott's picture of Rhianna (which I pinned to the notice board above my computer) influenced me as I wrote the second, third and fourth books. So, by the end of the series, Rhianna becomes less my romantic vision of her when I started, and more of a real character.

In the end, Prince Elphin was the character who caused the most discussion. He's not human, so he needed a few non-human differences. Scott, upon being told that he (Elphin, not Scott!) was a fairy from the enchanted island of Avalon, promptly drew an elf-like figure complete with what looked like a quiver of arrows on his back, thin features, green clothing, and pointy ears. I balked at the pointy ears, pointing out that Rhianna's "elf prince" played a harp and should probably look a bit more romantic and handsome. So Scott added some lovely dark curls to cover the ears and made the quiver into a harp, leaving just a couple of subtle differences to make Elphin non-human. One of these is his purple eyes, which change colour whenever he gets emotional. The other difference is... can you spot it?

Prince Elphin by Scott Altmann
Those who have heard me talk about these books will know by now that Elphin (like all Avalonians) has six fingers on each hand, all the better to play his harp with. It's surprising how long people can take to spot this, though - everyone looks for the pointy ears first! Tolkien has a lot to answer for.

Prince Elphin by Alzrith

I haven't drawn Elphin myself because I find people difficult and would much rather draw his horse Evenstar. But to finish, here is a lovely romantic version of our prince by Alzrith, whose other colourful artwork can be seen over at deviantart 

(I think there might be an extra finger hidden up that sleeve somewhere...)

Thank you to everyone who has drawn characters from my books. And if you haven't yet, but would like to try, then don't let the unicorn stop you... it can be fun!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Pendragon Girl's Amazing World Book Week Tour - Stourbridge

All good things have to come to an end. We checked out of our hotel on a drizzly Friday morning and headed to our final event of the week in the little town of Kinver near Stourbridge, where Brindley Heath Junior School had invited back Year 7 pupils from the nearby senior school to join Year 6 in their hall to hear Katherine's talk.

Everyone waited very quietly for Year 6 to carry in their own chairs from assembly - thank you - and after a lot of interesting questions Katherine finished off with a reading from her new book "Crown of Dreams", Book 3 of the Pendragon series. There followed some more book signing with Waterstones Wolverhampton back on the case, during which we handed out the final bookmarks from Stourport High (see them on the table in green and pink?)

still smiling...

A quick cup of tea, and then a taxi arrived to take me and Katherine through the fog to Birmingham New Street station to catch the train home to Devon.

The train carried us out of the fog around Bristol into a sunny west country spring day. Back home, we went for a walk along the beach to work off the stiffness from the journey... though only the dogs were swimming. It is still March, after all.

Not as warm as it looks...
The unicorn hopes that everyone who heard Katherine talk during the week enjoyed listening. Do visit her website and sign the guest book, and if you enjoyed the first book in the Pendragon series then Waterstones should be able to order you a copy of the next one!

Here they all are again:

Sword of Light
Lance of Truth
Crown of Dreams

Grail of Stars

With thanks to:
Brindley Heath Junior School
Waterstones Wolverhampton
Nic Wilkinson, PR
my dad (for giving me a lift home from the station).   

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Pendragon Girl's Amazing World Book Week Tour - Stourport and Nottingham

It's a bright and early start for Day 4 of our tour... well, it's a wet and gloomy one weatherwise with rain bouncing from the cars in the hotel car park, but that doesn't dampen a unicorn's spirits on World Book Day!

Katherine is determined to dress up, despite having left half of her wardrobe at home. Encouraged by a question from St Stephen's School earlier in the week "Why are you dressed up?" (when she wasn't really, except for the plastic crown), she digs a long purple dress out of her case and adds the sparkly belt that must have triggered yesterday's question. She gets a few strange looks at breakfast in the hotel from grumpy businessmen in their sober suits, and forgets to add her pink hair extensions, but that doesn't really matter since she's still got the crown...

Stourport High School - book signing
The morning event at Stourport High was for Year 7, who were obviously getting a bit old for dressing up (though not as old as Katherine, I have to say!) and wore their smart uniforms instead. The school provided a beautiful bunch of tulips and a theatre for her talk, which although dimly lit and drill-challenged for the first few minutes - the unicorn soon sorted out the builders with the help of the teachers! - meant her long purple gown did not look too out of place.

After book signing and posing for the paparazzi in the school foyer (see picture above), we devoured a huge chocolate cake provided as a treat by the Worcester Children's Book Group. The cake was so good I didn't even get a photo of it before it turned into chocolate crumbs, but I'm sure you can use your imagination...


A quick dash back through the rain to the car, and we headed up the motorway to Nottingham through a less-than-enchanted mist sprayed up from the road by all the lorries. Well done to Nic, who not only had the difficult job of driving hundreds of miles through this spray, but also finding the way to the next school while Katherine tried to pretend she hadn't eaten too much chocolate cake and wasn't really travel sick, honest.

A quick lunch of sandwiches devoured in the car park of the local Tesco Express, and then we drove around the impressive building of Nottingham High School a few times looking for an open gate into their beautiful grounds. With the car safely tucked into a courtyard, we climbed the sweeping front steps to find a large and elegant building with the sort of antique wooden-panelled lifts you have to close the doors yourself every time you get in and out. I tried not to think about how antique the lift mechanism might be, but it worked very smoothly and nobody got stuck between floors with a box of books.

Here is the library (only half of it - there were two entrances like this) with Katherine and Nic posing in the archways:

Katherine (in purple) and Nic (a "muggle") in the library at Nottingham High School
Katherine spoke to the Year 6 boys and visiting Year 6 girls in another theatre-style hall. Here is the signing queue, taken from the seating area, showing the girls (and their teachers) in fancy dress as their favourite characters for World Book Day... well done, the girls! The boys were still in uniform - and very smart it was, too.

book signing at Nottingham High School
Stourport School had made bookmarks advertising Katherine's books and kindly donated the surplus so we could give them out at our remaining events, which proved very useful because by now Katherine was running out of publicity material.

signing books for "Bart Simpson" and a long-haired "witch"

Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, other young readers were busy dressing up as Rhianna Pendragon and her friends:

(Did YOUR school dress up for the day? Anyone else go as Rhianna?)

After leaving Nottingham, another rather wet and misty drive took us back to Stourport, where Katherine worked off the miles by taking a swim in the hotel pool while I played happily with the bubbles in the jacuzzi - what fun! Good thing they had a hairdryer, though... my tail will never be the same again.

Next post: the final day of the tour!

Also see:
Day 1 - Devon
Day 2/3 - Coventry and Wolverhampton

With thanks to:
Stourport High School
Julie Benkwitz, Worcester Children's Book Group
Waterstones, Worcester
Nottingham High School
The Bookcase, Nottingham
Nic Wilkinson, PR
Everyone who dressed up as a character from one of my books!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Pendragon Girl's Amazing World Book Week Tour - Coventry and Wolverhampton

My publisher sent me to Coventry! Yes, really! But it's not as bad as it sounds. A smooth train journey on a beautifully sunny day got me and Katherine there via. a random platform change at Birmingham New Street station. Here's the view from the 5th floor of the Ramada hotel (take note of it, because it's the last you'll see of that gorgeous sunshine for some time).

Coventry isn't exactly a beauty spot, the unicorn has to admit, and the next day dawned grey and damp, which made it seem even less pretty. But the morning event at Christ the King Primary School was colourful and warm and welcoming, and turned out to be one of the best events of the whole tour.

Christ the King School
The lovely Joy Court from the Youth Libraries Group had organised things at the Coventry end, and children from several different primary schools joined the pupils at Christ the King to hear Katherine talk in their atmospheric school hall, watched over by dramatic pictures of Jesus on the cross. It seemed exactly the right place to speak about the Grail of Stars (aka the Holy Grail), although that final book of the series does not come out until October so here's the draft cover:

Book 4 - coming in October

 Then Katherine read from Sword of Light and took some questions from the floor...

...after which she signed books... and signed books... and signed books... until the huge pile on Waterstone's table RAN OUT!!!
The signing queue stretched all the way around the hall.
Several eager young readers had to order books on the day and got Katherine to sign their book plates instead. The unicorn is really sorry if you 're one of those who had to wait - I hope everyone's books have arrived now, and that you are all enjoying them!

In fact, Katherine was having such fun and signing so many books that we were a little bit late leaving Coventry. Then we got lost on the misty motorway network around Birmingham and arrived late for our afternoon event in Wolverhampton. We found everyone (children, visitors, teachers and booksellers) waiting patiently in the hall at St Stephen's School - the unicorn thanks everyone for being so patient!

I kicked all the books and pictures out of Katherine's sparkly bag, while she launched straight into her talk...

Fortunately, by now, she knows it off by heart.

And if my legs were a little bit crossed inside her sparkly pink bag, that's because there wasn't time to go to the bathroom until afterwards, although we did manage to eat our sandwiches on route so at least she didn't faint from hunger halfway through.

Some more book signing to finish the afternoon, and then we drove on to our second hotel in the (rather prettier than Coventry) west midlands town of Stourport-on-Severn, where award-winning fantasy author Susan Price popped in for a chat by the fireside - and the evening vanished like time does when you are with friends.

Next post: see who dressed up for World Book Day (and who didn't)!

More about Pendragon Girl's Amazing World Book Week Tour: Day 1 in Devon.

With thanks to:
Joy Court, Coventry YLG
Christ the King Primary School
St Stephens C of E School
Waterstones (Coventry and Wolverhampton branches)
Nicola Wilkinson, PR

Monday, 11 March 2013

Pendragon Girl's Amazing World Book Week Tour - Day 1 Devon

The unicorn spent most of last week hiding in Katherine's sparkly bag, while she toured the country introducing young readers to Rhianna Pendragon and friends...

Rhianna, Elphin, Cai, Arianrhod

Believe me, it was a bit squashed in that bag along with a jewelled crown (lookalike gold), King Arthur's sword Excalibur (plastic version), three published Pendragon Legacy books (Sword of Light, Lance of Truth, Crown of Dreams), the fourth book Grail of Stars draft cover, two mist horses (Rhianna's mare Alba and Prince Elphin's Evenstar), various bookmarks, plus poster-sized portraits of Rhianna Pendragon, Prince Elphin, Squire Cai, and Maid Arianrhod. Good thing Katherine also carried emergency water and muesli bars, or I'd be a very hungry unicorn by now.

Our tour started early on Monday morning with a misty drive across Dartmoor to Tavistock Community College, who welcomed Katherine to their comfortable "octagon" where she spoke to Year 7:

First event of the week at Tavistock Community College
The morning finished with squash, cakes and biscuits in the library, where readers (and their teachers) had a chance to quiz Katherine about writing the Pendragon books and owning a unicorn.

The lovely Tavistock College library
The sun had come out by the time we left the school, so we stopped on the way back across the moor, where the car was mobbed by ponies as Katherine tried to share her sandwiches with me...

Greedy ponies!

Fighting off the ponies, we headed into Plymouth where (after performing a few U-turns and enlisting the help of a local resident rather than a SatNav), we found Montpelier Primary School waiting to welcome us with a cup of tea and an offer of yet more food.

Katherine spoke to Years 5 and 6 in their bright school hall, where it turned out a dragon was lurking behind the curtains the whole time, left behind by Cressida Cowell on a previous author visit... good thing the beast didn't show its big green snout around me! (I kept a low profile in Katherine's bag during that talk so she wouldn't accidentally leave me behind with the dragon, hence no photos.)

An after-school signing session followed, with several unsuspecting parents dragged in by young fans to get their books signed.

Things were even more squashed for me on the drive back, since Katherine came home with a lovely thank-you begonia from Tavistock College, shown here with the crown and the sword. Just as well they didn't give her one of their (live) chickens too...

Me, looking a bit squashed.
After the photo session, it was back in the bag for me ready for Tuesday's trip to Coventry... but more about that next time!

Katherine and Excalibur

A bright and enjoyable start to the tour in Devon.

With thanks to:
Kathy Worrall, Tavistock Community College
Danielle Jones, Montpelier Primary School
Libby Allman, Waterstones Plymouth

Friday, 1 March 2013

Happy St David's Day!

King Arthur's daughter Rhianna Pendragon would like to wish all her readers a very happy St David's Day!

The third book in the Pendragon Legacy series takes Rhianna and her friends on a quest to Dragonland (Wales), where her cousin Mordred has just discovered the third magical Light, the Crown of Dreams, in a dragon's lair. Not only has he found the Pendragon Crown, he's also found the body of his witch-mother Morgan Le Fay, who was wearing it when she died...

They emerged in a vast cavern, which stank of dragon. Jewelled daggers, rusty swords and dented shields were piled around the walls, along with what looked suspiciously like human bones. One of the piles had avalanched, and his bloodbeard captain lay groaning underneath it. His men hurried over to help.
    “Leave him,” Mordred snapped, seeing that the man was still breathing. “Find the crown, you fools! Quickly, before the shadrake comes back.”
     While his men searched through the dragon’s hoard, Mordred rode his horse slowly around the cavern, prodding at the treasure with his spear. “Where is it, Mother?” he whispered.

    “Here, my son,” whispered a woman’s voice from the shadows.
     Mordred froze. His mother’s spirit lived in the underworld of Annwn now, and until today he’d always needed her dark mirror to speak to her. “Where?” he said warily.
    “Right under your feet, you foolish boy,” the witch hissed. “What do you think is making the light in here?”
     Mordred’s horse stopped dead and threw up its head, banging him on the nose. He looked down and sucked in his breath.
     His mother’s body lay half buried under the treasure, her dress torn and stained. A crown encircled her dark hair, glittering with coloured jewels. As his horse’s hooves dislodged the pile, he saw that one of these – a large green stone at her forehead – was glowing eerily. There wasn’t a mark on her, and for a wild moment he thought she wasn’t dead. Then he saw her spirit rippling in the green light.
Dark magic.
     His gaze fastened greedily on the crown. He slid clumsily out of his saddle and fell to his knees beside her. He tugged at her dress with his left hand, pushing the dragon’s treasure off her body with the stump of his right wrist. “Help me, then!” he yelled at his bloodbeards.
     They came running.
     “Morgan Le Fay!” the captain breathed, still looking a bit dazed. “So this is where she ended up. I always wondered how she died.”

The bloodbeards assume the dragon killed her, but they are wrong. There are quite a few dragons living in Dragonland when this story takes place, and Rhianna and her friends soon meet a pair of red ones who try to steal her sword Excalibur. Also, the shadrake who stole the Crown from King Arthur is still around. But Morgan Le Fay died by magic, the way she lived.

Her ghost warns Mordred not to put on the Crown, because one of the jewels is missing. This is King Arthur's stone, containing the king's secrets, which Merlin warned Arthur to take out of the Crown before he met Mordred in their final battle. Arthur gave the jewel to his queen Guinevere with instructions to give it to Rhianna if he was killed in the fighting. Mordred did manage to kill Arthur, but while the king's jewel is safe he cannot use the Crown to take the throne of Camelot.

Is there a jewel missing?

Whoever gets hold of the jewel and restores it to the Crown will discover the ancient secret of dragon riding, as well as the location of the fourth Light, the Grail of Stars, which has the power to bring King Arthur back from the dead. So if you enjoy stories about dragons (particularly red ones like the dragon on the Welsh flag), why not dust off your armour, saddle up your horse, and celebrate St David's Day by joining Rhianna on her third quest!

The Pendragon Legacy quartet is available from Templar in hardback, paperback and ebook.
Book 4: GRAIL OF STARS (coming in October)

The unicorn suggests you read this series in order starting with Book 1, but if you would like a taste of Rhianna's adventures and can't wait, the Lance of Truth Kindle ebook is currently on special offer for only 99p until the end of March 2013 (remember to check the price before downloading!)


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