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

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 for more details.

Monday, 14 October 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Lydia Syson, Clio, and Romney Marsh

This week, the unicorn welcomes author Lydia Syson, who has a traditional muse as well as subsidiary muses for her books... 

Lydia Syson

Who (or what) is your muse?

Lydia: I suppose for some time my muse has been one of the actual nine muses: Clio, the muse of history. But the invitation to contribute to Muse Mondays and think about the idea of a muse rather harder than I ever have before, makes me realise that her real importance is in introducing me to other, subsidiary muses, which vary from book to book. For ‘That Burning Summer’ she took me to a most inspiring place: Romney Marsh, in Kent.
Clio, the Muse of History

When did you first meet?

Lydia: Clio and I got to know each other late in life.  I didn’t answer her call until I was in my 30s, and I almost completely failed to listen to her at school. As for Romney Marsh, I encountered it so long ago that I feel it has always been in my head, though it was years before I actually went there and discovered it was a real place rather than some sort of fairy land.  We first met in the poems and stories of Rudyard Kipling, which my father used to read to me, where the Marsh is magical and mysterious – a place of lights appearing and vanishing, spires sitting beside churches, the ‘sea setting above the land’ and ‘dykes’ and ‘water-lets’ which twist the roads about ‘as ravelly as witch-yarn on the spindles’.

Romney Marsh

One of my favourite series of children’s books was set in a barely disguised version of Romney Marsh: Monica Edwards, the author, had grown up there, and many of the events she writes about really did take place in one form or another – such as the terrible lifeboat disaster in ‘Storm Ahead’. Finally, the Marsh and I met in person, in my late twenties, thanks to my partner, and I began to visit regularly.  As soon as our children were old enough, we started to explore this bleakly beautiful part of the world together, taking meandering bicycle rides along the back lanes, listening to the noisy Hungarian frogs, looking at lambs, stopping at pubs and churches, and wondering about the Battle of Britain pilots still buried in the Marsh where they vanished.

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

Lydia: It’s the setting for nearly all of ‘That Burning Summer’, a book which has three main human characters, and Romney Marsh.  I was fascinated by what it must have been like there in the summer of 1940, when you could see occupied France from the shore and hear the guns, when dogfights raged over your head and you were absolutely on the front line.  Most people were convinced that invasion was inevitable.

I’ve also tried to infuse the novel with a sense of the longer, deeper history of the place.  If you go walking on Romney Marsh – never easy, as Kipling points out, because of the waterways (or ‘sewers’ as they’re known) which constantly turn and disorientate you, it’s hard not to be aware that you’re treading on reclaimed land, and that ships once sailed where your feet are now.

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

Lydia: I’d still want to write novels, but I’d be able to spread my wings and go and do all the research I have to do now in libraries and on the internet in person.  I’d go to Timbuktu, and to various Pacific islands, and all sorts of other places – wherever the muse took me!

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

Romney Marsh: Come and explore me – I think you’d feel at home.

Thank you, I'll be there the next moonlit night... and afterwards can I join your author in Timbuktu?

More about Lyida
Twitter @lydiasyson

Lydia's new book That Burning Summer will be published on 3rd October 2013 by Hot Key books

Romney Marsh, July 1940.

When invasion threatens, you have to grow up quickly.

Sixteen-year-old Peggy has been putting on a brave face since the fall of France, not least for the sake of her anxiety-prone younger brother Ernest. But now the enemy is overhead, and the rules are changing all the time. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the rumble of guns, the rumours of spies and the malicious gossip in town. When a young Polish pilot, Henryk, crash-lands on the Marsh, Peggy quickly finds she’s taken on more than she bargained for.

Everything changes in one extraordinary burning summer.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Join the Quest today!

It's here!

The final book of my Pendragon Legacy series about King Arthur's daughter is now in my hands, bringing Rhianna's two year quest - and mine - to an end.

Out in hardcover with a shimmery cover finish that catches the light, the book has lovely endpapers with maps printed on them, like this one of the Grail Castle:


I've dedicated this book to all my readers who are on a quest... is that you?

"For everyone on a Quest"

That little row of numbers at the bottom of the lefthand page mean this is a first printing of the first UK edition - so if yours looks the same, and you can persuade me to sign it for you (I don't need very much persuading) then your book might even be valuable one day!

To celebrate its publication, here's a short video to explain what Rhianna's quest is all about:

Join the quest today!


The Pendragon Legacy series is published by Templar

Monday, 7 October 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Joan Lennon's Quiet Cat

Today, children's author Joan Lennon makes a welcome return visit to this blog...

Joan Lennon and friend (don't tell the cat...!)

Who or what is your muse?
Joan: I've already had the pleasure of hanging out with the unicorn on an earlier Muse Monday which was about ferrets. But nobody said you can't have more than one muse! And all the while I've been writing the Victorian detective series, The Slightly Jones Mysteries,* my old cat Katie has curled up nearby and slept in an inspirational fashion. It's true! A quiet room and a quiet cat help the words to flow.

* The Case of the London Dragonfish, The Case of the Glasgow Ghoul, The Case of the Cambridge Mummy, and just out, The Case of the Hidden City (see below).

A quiet cat helps the words flow...

When did you first meet?
Joan: Katie (the cat) is 17 now, so in human terms we met 84 years ago, when she was a kitten.

Does your muse appear in any of your books and/or artwork?
Joan: Her cousins do! There is an elderly cat called Cleopatra who lives at Limpopo House with Slightly Jones and Granny Tonic and the lodgers. Although Cleopatra is important - every cat is important, obviously - she doesn't actually help Slightly Jones in solving her cases. But a younger, French cat called Noir plays a vital role in Slightly's most recent adventure, The Case of the Hidden City. I tell you, things were looking really, really bad when ... but I don't want to give anything away!

If you won the lottery and had complete artistic freedom, what would you write/create?
Joan: Hmmm. I've never done the lottery but, you know, I think it might be fun to write a musical with songs and dancing and poetry, with all the parts played by Cats.

Before you go, does your muse have a message for the Unicorn?
Katie: Hi! Is it okay if I sleep in your manger for a bit?

Of course you can, Katie, though only when I'm not eating out of it. (By the way, your author's musical idea sounds wonderful, but it's probably just as well she doesn't buy lottery tickets because I hear it's already been done... by humans! Cats the musical.)
More about Joan
Joan Lennon lives in the Kingdom of Fife, on the River Tay. The Kingdom is said to be shaped like a dog's head. If this is so, her flat is somewhere on the tip of the ear, which explains a lot. She has a husband, four tall sons and one short cat, and plans to go on writing forever. To learn more, visit Joan's website:

Slightly Jones and the Case of the Hidden City
Maria kidnapped. Dare tell no one. Ransom demand signed Hidden City. Afraid.

Slightly Jones arrives in the City of Art and Artists in response to a bewildering telegram. But will her first case out of her own country prove too much for our detective-in-training? Will she discover the truth, or will she be lost forever beneath the streets of Paris?

You can buy this book online from Amazon

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Arthurian Legends Today

Last weekend, I was discussing Arthurian legends with the lovely Julia Golding at the Bath Children's Literature Festival...

Julia Golding, Jeff Norton, and me (with Excalibur) at Bath Festival

Julia has written a series based on the Arthurian legends too Young Knights  - and it was interesting to see the different ways we brought the old legends into our books. My Pendragon Legacy series continues the story the day after after King Arthur is killed in battle, with his secret daughter Rhianna Pendragon riding out of Avalon to fight her cousin Mordred for the throne of Camelot. Julia's series takes characters from different times back to Avalon, then sends them into the modern world to form a new Round Table.

At the event, after I'd done a bit of sword waving, and Julia had shown her beautiful cloth version of the Round Table, our chair Jeff Norton asked us a rather difficult question:

"Why do you think the Arthurian legends are still relevant today?"

We were running out of time, and I knew if I started it answering that question then everyone would still be sitting there! So we said we'd think about it and opened the floor to some (slightly) easier questions from the audience. But now that I've had a week to mull it over, I've written a post at the History Girls with my answer, which is a long post but might explain why I wrote the Pendragon books. It's all to do with the Grail, which seems appropriate for a Sunday post, when many people are thinking of spiritual matters.

The Pendragon Legacy is now complete!
 Watch the trailer HERE.

Join Rhianna and her friends on their quest...

1. SWORD OF LIGHT (hardcover, paperback & ebook KINDLE OFFER 99p)
2. LANCE OF TRUTH (hardcover, paperback & ebook)
3. CROWN OF DREAMS (hardcover, paperback & ebook)
4. GRAIL OF STARS (hardcover only, paperback & ebook publish in February)


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