Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Seven Fabulous Wonders Competition Update

Hello, it’s the unicorn again! I apologise for my long absence from my own blog, but slave driver Katherine Roberts has had me chained to her desk finishing Book 2 of the Pendragon Legacy for delivery to her editor, who will be the first person in the entire world to read it apart from me. Meanwhile Mati the Tygrine cat has been here holding the enchanted mists open for me, and he’s told me you are all wondering what I’ve been up to...

Well, apart from working on the new book, I’ve been talking to my author about the reviewing competition she is running for her Seven Fabulous Wonders e-books. As you will know if you’ve been following this blog, the paperbacks are now out of print, but she is re-launching the whole series as e-books between now and February - details here. (If you are VERY quick, you might still be able to get the first book The Cleopatra Curse for the bargain price of 86p… this price will rise on 1st September.)

So far there has been one brilliant review posted on amazon.co.uk and although it has not been officially entered for the competition I can tell you that it is a definite WINNER (So "Alexandra P", if you would like your prize please email the unicorn to select your book from the list below and tell me where you'd like me to send it).

However, my author has been wondering why there were not more entries… she says surely not everyone has been spending their entire summer holiday chained to a desk like the poor unicorn? Well, I could have told her! Obviously if someone has already read the book in order to give it a review, they might not want that exact same book as a prize... duh. So I’ve given her a prod with my sparkly horn, and she has agreed to extend the competition to make it a bit more appealing.

Now you can post a review of either The Cleopatra Curse or The Colossus Crisis (both of which are currently available as low-priced e-books), and if your review wins you can choose as your prize a signed paperback copy of any one of the following books by Katherine Roberts:

signed copy of  "The Cleopatra Curse"
signed copy of  "The Colossus Crisis"
signed copy of  "Spellfall"

This obviously means you can choose a different book as your prize from the one you chose to review.

As before, there will be one prize for the best review on amazon.co.uk, and one for the best review on amazon.com. And to give you a chance to read the book of your choice and post your review, the closing date of the competition will be extended until 31st October 2011, giving you two months to get your horn (I mean your head) around it.

How fair is that?

Remember, to enter your review for a prize you must email the unicorn (unicorn AT katherineroberts.co.uk) and tell him which one is yours. Good luck.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Exclusive interview with the Tygrine Cat!

The unicorn would like to introduce you to Mati, the Tygrine Cat, who has come over to this blog today to give his first ever interview… that’s him on the cover of his book, glowing a little (he does that sometimes).

As you can probably tell, Mati is no ordinary cat. He is of an ancient bloodline that dates back to a legendary Egyptian queen who gave birth to two magical kittens. The spotted Sa and the red-coated Abyssinian Tygrine have been at each other’s throats ever since, and Mati is the last of his kind. Sent across the sea to England by his mother as a young catling for his own safety, he finds a home of sorts at Cressida Lock market with a gang of feral cats and wise old Sparrow. He also makes a friend of nervous stray Jess, who used to live with a human (called a ‘hind’) but cannot find her way home.

The feral cats are wary of any cat who is different from them, and when the marketplace is flooded they blame Mati, even though it was the work of the Sa assassin sent to kill him. Only by entering the cat-version of the enchanted mists, a place called Fiåney (Muse: the little circle over the ‘a’ is VERY important – don’t ask me why, I think it’s a cat thing) can Mati hope to defeat his ancient enemy.

The unicorn caught up with Mati as he was returning to the world, and is delighted to bring you this exclusive interview:

Muse: What was it like growing up a prince among kittens?

Mati: When I arrived at Cressida Lock I could recall very little of my previous life, but shards of memory have returned to me. I remember a long winding river where I used to watch water birds gather noisily, the scent of pine needles and the call of nightjars piercing the silence of the desert. I can hardly remember how the other cats treated me, but I was always happy and well-fed. Most of all, I remember my amma, the Queen of the Tygrine Cats. I miss her... It hurts to remember.

Muse: Does it hurt when you glow?

Mati: It causes me no pain - I am scarcely aware of it happening, it's as though some greater force takes hold of me. I hear voices of spirits, feel the heat of Fiåney, and an incredible light glows inside me, tingles my fur, coursing through my whiskers.

Muse: Are you rich?

Mati: I do not really understand what this means. I know, from Jess, that hinds like to accumulate possessions. This means nothing in the world of cats. If I have a warm, safe bed in the catacombs, and my friends around me, I am rich in spirit.

Muse: Is Jess your girlfriend?

Mati: Jess... Oh... Miaow! Jess is a friend, a good, dear friend... [My agent promised that no one would ask this question!]

Muse: Would you like to have kittens of your own one day?

Mati: It seems unreal but yes, I suppose I would like kittens. But such thoughts are far from my mind. I'm still not entirely sure where kittens come from. I'll ask Sparrow.

Muse: How do you get to Fiåney?

Mati: Every cat passes through Fiåney as they close their eyes and sink from wakefulness - it is the passage that weaves between dreams. As a Tygrine, I have the ability to enter the spirit world at a time of my choosing, though learning how to do this took me some time. I must empty my mind of my worries and enter a trance. It sometimes helps to repeat a chant. I have become quite good at entering Fiåney. It is escaping that is proving more difficult...

Ah yes, the unicorn understands that! The enchanted mists are very similar. Thank you very much, Mati.

The excellent and exciting book words in The Tygrine Cat were written by Mati's author Inbali Iserles (cats are far too busy with other things to write their own book words). So if you always wondered where cats disappear to when they’re not rubbing themselves around your ankles in the hope of another meal, then get hold of this book to find out more! Mati’s adventures continue with The Tygrine Cat on the Run.

Watch the official trailer HERE 

Please leave a comment for Mati!

Monday, 8 August 2011

MUSE MONDAY - Italy "the leg-shaped country" by Mary Hoffman

This Monday the unicorn is delighted to welcome Mary Hoffman, prize-winning author of over 90 books - that's a LOT of writing! Here she talks about her muse and the inspiration for her latest novel David. Over to you,  Mary...

I never thought of myself as having a Muse at all until Katherine's unicorn gave me the opportunity to visit his blog on a Monday. And I was asked to talk to Mariella Frostrup on Radio 4's Open Book recently, with another writer, about the muses of Renaissance artists. That got me thinking.

My muse is not an animal, real or mythical, nor yet is it a human source of inspiration like those 19th century women that were were models for the Pre-Raphaelite painters, like Elizabeth Siddall.

My muse is a country.

"The leg-shaped country"

It began as a youthful crush when I was fourteen and met my Muse for the first time, matured into a full-blown love affair when I was twenty, and has been going strong for decades since.

Il Bel Paese (penalty points if your first thoughts were of cheese!) means "the beautiful country" and is what Italians call Italy. In our family it is known as "the leg-shaped country" (TLSC) and referred to a great deal because everyone knows how much I would like to have a place to live there. It's not an affordable reality, just a dream - but what a beautiful dream.

And it was a place of great attraction for all educated and wealthy travellers in the 19th century, part of The Grand Tour. For its art, its music, its literature, the language, the charms of its many different landscapes, its climate and its cuisine and wine. All the things that charm me, in fact. I don't recall anyone ever saying they wanted to go to Italy for the ease of driving and parking, the bureaucracy, the carabinieri or the efficiency of its airport systems.

spice shop in Venice

The job of a muse is to inspire and Italy does that for me in spades. I find it impossible to be in TLSC and NOT have ideas for books.

My first ever published book was a long teenage novel called White Magic (published by Rex Collings in 1975) and it was set in an imaginary place on the Adriatic coast. Coincidentally it featured a unicorn. I'm sorry, RM, but it was THE unicorn! Does that mean it was you? (Muse: well of course... that was before my author needed me, so I was still a single and fancy-free unicorn).

Anyway, here I am 35 years and nearly a hundred books later, with my most recent novel David firmly set in Florence, one of my favourite places in TLSC, just published by Bloomsbury. The one I've just finished writing (Stravaganza: City of Swords) is set in a place based on Lucca and I'm going to Venice this month to revise an adult novel set in - well, let's just say it's not Wigan.

walls of Lucca
So how many books have been inspired by TLSC? I reckon ten YA plus one adult, so that's more than 10% of my output. And there are signs that the percentage will rise in the coming years.

Let me tell you about David, which is in its way all about different kinds of inspiration. The David concerned is the statue commissioned from Michelangelo in 1501 to stand in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence (The one there now is a copy; the original was put in the Accademia in the 19th century).

No-one knows anything about the model for this iconic work of art or even if there WAS a model for it. It was a gift of an idea for a novel: a gift made to me by my Muse, if you like, because I had all the information I could find about the business of sculpting it from the flawed block of marble that had been tripping people up in the Opera del Duomo for forty years, but at the heart of the story was a gap that I could fill.

So, into the city walked Gabriele del Lauro, a handsome eighteen-year-old stonecutter from Settignano. He was the son of Michelangelo's wet nurse and regards the great artist as his older brother - his "milk-brother" as he calls him.

Everything else in David arose from that simple central idea. Gabriele learns a lot about the complicated politics of the city and about love and sex in the three and a half years he spends there. But he also learns about art and meets a lot of artists. One of them is Leonardo da Vinci and Gabriele watches while he paints a rather well known portrait of a gently smiling woman. Not that it was well known then, of course, although its fame quickly spread through the city.

So, models and muses, inspiration and perspiration, the sheer physical slog of wresting a beautiful male figure out of a block of marble, which reminds me of creating a novel from the raw material of the idea. Thank you RM and Katherine for showing me what my muse is.

And thank you, Mary, for visiting the unicorn's humble blog!

David is just back from a mammoth Blog Tour that has lasted over a month. You can read more about the inspiration for the book at any of the 32 spots on the Tour, listed here: http://bookmavenmary.blogspot.com

For more about Mary and her books, check out these sites:


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