Monday, 24 October 2016

Souls Disturbed - an interview with Kath Middleton

No, not the Duchess... this Kath Middleton writes books, and the unicorn is delighted to welcome her to this blog to talk about her seriously spooky new title Souls Disturbed.




KR: Is this your first venture into the dark side of fiction, or has this book grown out of earlier work?

KM: It’s my first real trip over to The Dark Side, although my first book, Ravenfold, was thought to be quite dark, though not in the spooky sense. I’ve not explored the supernatural in previous work and I found myself ‘on a roll’ you might say. Souls Disturbed is a collection of three novellas and later this year I’ll be publishing a short story on a similar haunting theme. I think I’ve probably got it out of my system now.

another spooky title from Kath Middleton

KR: Hmm, I like that 'probably'... though be warned, once you've gone over to the dark side, it can be difficult to escape! Who is your favourite horror writer, and do you think he/she has had any influence on your writing?

KM: I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz but that was in my younger days. More recently I’ve enjoyed the work of David Haynes. I don’t think they have influenced me, however. I don’t like to read that authors write ‘in the style of’ anyone else. I think it’s important to find your own voice.


KR: I agree - though I don't think I meant style, as such, but perhaps themes? Much of my own writing has grown out of what I read as a teenager, which included a lot of fantasy and science fiction together with Mary Renault's historical books, whereas your books seem to cover a wide range of genres. Do you find they attract different groups of readers, or are people happy to follow you from book to book?

KM: Interesting question. I think some people follow authors and some follow genres. I have readers who read most of my work so they’re obviously author-led. However, unless people leave reviews or contact you, you never really know who is reading your work. As long as someone is, I’m happy!

KR: That tends to make my unicorn happy, too! I especially like the cover for your comedy novel Top Banana, but that obviously wouldn't work so well for a book like Souls Disturbed or Ravenfold. How do you come up with your different cover designs? 

KM: I’m extremely lucky to have the talented Jonathan Hill as a friend. Often, I find a photograph I like on a stock photos website and he will turn it into a cover for me. For a couple of my books, including my latest, he’s worked his magic on a photograph of my own. With three novellas in one book, I wanted something abstract for Souls Disturbed. I took a very dark photo of one of my Lenten hellebores and shook the camera as I did, and Jonathan added extra shake! Purple is the colour of mourning and is used in funeral services, so I thought it carried the theme. As for Top Banana – I was having trouble getting a photo of the right kind of spider. If you specify one type in the text, you can’t have a different one on the cover. So he went for text and a cartoon spider. And I agreed with him.


KR: Yes, they are obviously quite different books. Publishers like to keep authors in genre boxes, but publishing indie seems to give you a lot of freedom... what can we expect to see next?

KM: Next is a ghost story. At twelve thousand words, it’s technically a novelette but I’m going for the term short story in my description. Stir-up Sunday is its title and it’ll be out towards the end of November – on Stir-up Sunday, in fact. That’s the traditional day for making your Christmas pudding.

Haunted xmas pudding? Mmm, my unicorn is licking his lips already! And another ghost story? See, the dark side is difficult to escape...


Kindle

Souls Disturbed is on special offer all this week... download the Kindle ebook for the magical price of only 99p/99c until October 31st.


Find out more about Kath Middleton and her books at www.kathmiddletonbooks.com

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Treat for Halloween

It's that time of the year again... the time of tricks and treats, when my Halloween title Spellfall is on special offer for half term. Until October 31st, you can download the ebook (for Kindle, Nook, Apple or Kobo) for only 99c/99p:


If you prefer to read a 'real' book, or would like to buy Spellfall as a gift, there is now a brand new paperback edition (which will get you the ebook for free if you buy it from amazon).

And the treats don't stop there!

If you have already enjoyed Spellfall, the long-awaited sequel Spell Spring is now out in both ebook and paperback, picking up the story six months later when Natalie is summoned to Earthaven to take her mother's seat on the Council of Oq:




Please spread the word!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Farewell to the Great Big Rhinos!

Chill winds from the sea have sent waves crashing over the promenade this week, and the dogs are back on the beach... all signs that summer is over, and so is my Great Big Rhino hunt.

I tracked down my final rhino at Exeter's Bernaville Nurseries on my third attempt to access the west side of the city... who would have thought a few extra miles would prove so complicated? The first time, I tried to catch a bus from the city centre but waited at the wrong stop... or maybe the bus was stuck in traffic... and had to dash back to the station for my train home. My second attempt to drive my mum out for lunch at the garden centre ended in failure when we met a massive traffic jam into the city, where apparently an accident had blocked the road. Lunch would have stopped serving by the time we got there, so we turned around and went somewhere else. The third time I chose a Sunday (hoping for less traffic - ha!) and put up with a slow crawl around the ring road to reach the garden centre, where I finally found summery Blossom, who looked the happiest of all the Exeter rhinos standing on her sheltered plinth surrounded by fragrant plants.

Blossom basking in the late summer sunshine.

The tranquil setting even left time for some flower-spotting. These are the blooms I found on Blossom's floral hide:

Can anyone identify the pale lemon climbing flower, second on the right?

And here are the results of the rhino-colouring competition Bernaville Nurseries ran for children over the summer:

Rhino competition winners!

The Great Big Rhino Trail officially ended earlier this week, when George and Badak returned from their posts at Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads to take up position outside Paignton Zoo, welcoming people for the Great Big Rhinos Farewell. Buying a ticket for the zoo this weekend will get you in to see all 40 of the Trail rhinos lined up along the main path in all their painted glory. Unfortunately, the zoo entrance fee is rather out of my rhino-hunting budget and you can't see them from the ticket hall, so here are the travelling two:

Badak - his name means "rhino" in Indonesian.
George -  named after 'Father of the Railways' George Stephenson.  

Both of these rhinos were painted with scenes inspired by 1950s tourist posters. George is named after George Stephenson, whereas Badak is Indonesian for rhino, which apparently means "gift from god". That seems a good place to end my blog mini-series about our endangered real-life unicorns, the rhinoceroses.

If you've taken a fancy to any of the Great Big Rhinos (and have a couple of thousand pounds to spare), you can buy your favourite at auction on Thursday 3rd November... in my fantasy world, I'd like Cath for my library, Blossom in my rose garden, and Sir Richard the Rhinoheart guarding the gates of my castle.

For those with more modest budgets, next week the unicorn will be back to tell you about some spooky ebooks on special offer for Halloween!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

A rhino-eye's view of Exeter

Usually my unicorn is the only horned creature allowed to post on this blog. But, just for this week, he's allowed his real-world cousins the rhinos to take over...

So why are we all here in Exeter? Well, it's the last few days of Paignton Zoo's Great Big Rhinos Trail, and we're actually quite glad we're city rhinos with the cold winds blowing in from the coast today. There are 16 of us altogether, making 40 along with our brothers and sisters down in Torbay, though we're one short now because poor Paladin could not return to his post in front of Exeter Central station after getting knocked off his plinth by some high-spirited students last week.

We've been very popular with visitors, especially children, so maybe it's no surprise some famous children's authors visited us too. Here they are posing with Finding Faru in Southernhay Gardens... yes, they spotted little Faru!

CJ Busby and Sandra Greaves... looking for Faru
Found him!

One of them even claims to have translated the Latin on neighbouring rhino Cath's scrolls... we'll be giving you a test later!

Katherine Roberts with scholarly, golden-horned Cath.
Quite a few of us have been sponsored by businesses and given plinths in Exeter's shopping centres, where we've been made to feel at home despite the artificial environment:

'All Creatures Great and Small' surrounded by palm trees in Harlequin's shopping centre.

Glimpses waiting for a lift in the Guildhall shopping centre
... and doesn't he have the perfect colour scheme?
You'll also find a couple of us busy shopping outside in Princesshay, and on the corner of Fore Street and Market Street.

Symbiosis showing the ox-pecker bird, which keeps our real-life cousins clean.

AquamaRhino (net side)

AquamaRhino (free side)... which side of me do you like best?

Charge... clearly on a mission, heading for the crossroads.

A lot of people come to Exeter for the shopping, obviously, but you'll also find some of us lurking outside the main tourist spots:

Dino Rhino outside the impressive Exeter Cathedral

Castle Seige in the car park at Exeter Castle... seeing double yet?

And if you fancy a short stroll for a drink by the river on a sunny day, there's still poor hornless Hope (see previous post) spreading her message among the boats and the swans down at the Quay:

Hope
Swans (and a few of our other feathered friends) lunching at Exeter Quay

Back up the hill in the city, proving that both authors and students sometimes come into Exeter to study, there's Maximus keeping watch outside the library:

Maximus
(showing nearby Crealy Adventure Park for after you've read all the books!)
with Northernhay Gardens nearby:

No rhinos here. This is the war memorial.
And since most people have to go home eventually, Targeted waits outside Exeter's main St Davids station to see you off:

Targeted - the station rhino looking very patriotic in his red, white and blue.
If you've been counting, you'll notice there's one Exeter rhino missing (apart from poor Paladin!) - our sister Blossom, a bit too far out of the city for an author with girly shoes to see on foot. Also, George and Badak are still away in London and Bristol, so there will be another post soon with the missing rhinos and some of Katherine's favourites to complete the Trail.

See you next week!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

A poem for Paladin - AWOL rhino!

Where's Paladin...?
As you might have guessed by now (see previous two posts), I am busy hunting down all 42 rhinos on Paignton Zoo's Great Big Rhino Trail. Having found the 24 Torbay and district rhinos, I finally made it to Exeter in search of the other 16 currently in Devon... only to be confronted with a big space outside Central station where my first city rhino - Paladin - should have stood:

...gone AWOL!

A spot of amateur sleuthing later (interrogating the unfortunate ticket attendant at the station barrier - sorry! - and later the helpful staff in the tourist office who directed me to a difficult to find rhino in the shopping centre) revealed the sad fact Paladin had suffered an attack last week by students who knocked him off his plinth, and as a consequence has been returned to Paignton Zoo for repair before the auction. I couldn't even find his plinth, though without a rhino standing on it that's merely a concrete slab (plus the code for the draw... shame on whoever attacked this rhino and ruined the Trail for those who might be collecting the codes.)

What is more, it seems Paladin was not the only rhino to be attacked in the city during the Trail. Exeter's roving RhinoBeta3107 had his ear broken off not once, but twice during his journey around the city, and on top of that he was splashed by graffiti and twice returned to Paignton Zoo for repairs. This means RhinoBeta has apparently travelled more than 150 miles over the summer so he is now resting in a quieter countryside location until the end of the Trail. At least you can still see him, if you know where to look...

RhinoBeta - the one-eared rhino, now out to grass...
...and needing a hug.

It's a better view from up here!

So my Exeter rhino hunt started rather sadly, but inspired this poem by my unicorn-muse that I hope Paladin (who is a bit of a poet himself now, it seems) might approve of:

Poor Paladin!
I found a space
where you should have been
standing proud,
and only a crowd
who may not miss you
but I missed you!
My muse left central station
wondering who did this
and why?
Were you not pretty enough?
Were you not strong?
Did your horn offend?
Did your eye stare too long?
Were you too old?
Or too young?
Or simply silent
when others did you wrong?
Your plinth is gone now,
the trail is cold.
What fate the rhino
knighted of old?

Wondering how many other rhinos might have gone AWOL, I headed down the road to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, where thankfully I found a considerably less exposed rhino lurking in the shadows on the way through to the exhibits:

Precious - no flash photos allowed in the museum.
Precious (who is supposed to look as if she's been wrapped in yellow tape) seemed to fit the mood of my city rhino hunt so I'm including her in this sad post - though there were also plenty of lovely colourful rhinos out enjoying the autumn sunshine in Exeter as well, like Hope down at the Quay spreading the message that inspired the Trail:

Hope... "who cares about rhinos?"

Come back next time for a more cheerful rhino's-eye view of the city!

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