Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Dancing Christmas Pony

When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted for Christmas was a real live pony. Now I'm a fantasy author I want a real live unicorn, which is a bit trickier (so I probably won't get one of those, either!)

I do, however, still have my virtual unicorn muse, who has done some digging over at YouTube with his glittery horn and returned with this cute dancing Christmas pony... if you visit the site, you can even create gift ponies for your friends. Enjoy!


Monday, 16 December 2013

Tamora Pierce and Me

It's amazing what you can discover online, years after the event itself. Browsing my profile in Goodreads recently to see if any stray "Katherine Roberts" books had been added to it by mistake (there are at least four different authors with books published under my name), I discovered this book listed:

Actually not a book, but a sampler that my American publishers must have produced to cross-promote my titles back when they still published me. I knew nothing about it at the time, which just proves how much publishers do that authors are not aware of... a belated thank you, Scholastic!

If I had known about it, I'd have been quite flattered as a new author to be compared to the queen of young US fantasy writing Tamora Pierce (still am, if the truth be known!). But this sampler is now a small piece of history, and my two books listed in it - Song Quest and Spellfall - have moved on to a new stage of their life after going out of print at Scholastic/Chicken House a few years ago.

Song Quest is now available in paperback from Catnip Books, with an ebook promised soon.

Spellfall is available as an ebook from Amazon, Apple, Kobo or Nook.

And in case you're disappointed you've missed the free books mentioned in the sampler, the unicorn is running a free ebook offer for the Christmas period over at my website, where it already seems to be snowing: www.katherineroberts.co.uk

The years might have passed, but the stories remain. So wrap up warm, grab your e-reader, and enjoy!

Monday, 9 December 2013

MUSE MONDAY - The Trolls of Rosen Trevithick

This week the unicorn welcomes Cornish author Rosen Trevithick to tell us about her unusual muse. (WARNING: Do not read this post if you are eating, unless you have an unusually strong stomach!)

Rosen Trevithick

Who (or what) is your muse?

Rosen: My muse is a troll called Loodrip Stinkleboss, and she has lived in my toilet since I was ten years old.

When did you first meet?

Rosen: I first met Loodrip on Devoran Quay. I was strolling around on the shingle shore when I spotted a creature stuck in the mud. Real trolls aren’t like the ones you read about in fairy tales – they look much more human. She has big, scruffy hair that covers her horns. So, at first, I thought she was a person. I began to dig her out.

Just as I was freeing her pudgy legs, she declared her desire to gobble me for lunch. I had to think on my feet, so I explained to her that I was still growing. I said, if she ate me, I might grow in her belly causing her to pop. She thanked me for the warning and decided not to eat me.

However, after getting stuck in the mud, she developed a fear of the great outdoors and decided to follow me home and live in my toilet.

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

Rosen: Loodrip herself is too disgusting to appear in any of my books. I don’t wish to terrify children. However, she has inspired many troll characters such as Gunkfreak, The Ogre of Uggle and Wilfred Whiffwizard. She reads all my books to check for factual inaccuracies before I publish them. She’s anxious for trolls to be properly represented. 

Lavinia Loopywits by Katie W Stewart

(NOTE: Loodrip is too vile to share. However, this is an illustration of the character Lavinia Loopywits, depicted by Katie W. Stewart. Lavinia is partially based on Loodrip.)

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

Rosen: I’d like to build Smelly Troll World. It would be an imagination theme park where children would go to be inspired. There would be exhibits and the occasional ride featuring characters from the book, but most of the park would consist of interactive features where children could create monsters, storyboard and even put on plays.

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

Rosen: Do unicorns do bottom burps, and if so, what do they smell like?

Well, of course - though ours smell like roses on Midsummer's Eve and sound like the soft sighs of a maiden in love. (I am not sure unicorns would be welcome in Smelly Troll World!)

More about Rosen

Rosen was born in Cornwall. She studied psychology at Oxford before moving back to the West Country. She now lives on the south coast of Devon with two imaginary cats, fantasising about getting a real one.

Readers have downloaded over 245,000 copies of Rosen's books. Several titles have broken into the Amazon charts, including a number 1 humorous fiction bestseller.

Visit her website for more about her books for children and adults
The Troll Trap : Book 1 in the Smelly Trolls series.

Rufus Sebbleford is the only boy in the world to have ever seen a real troll. So, when he finds out that trolls plan to attack Sludgeside School, he must stop them with the help of his good friend Polly.

Meanwhile, the Super-Troll-Knobbly-Foot family decide to turn their backs on smelly bottoms and eating children. They don't want to be bad any more. So, they paint themselves orange and try to live like humans. However, being enormous, horned and slimy makes it difficult to blend in.

Will Sludgeside ever be safe from the disgusting bad trolls and their horrifying leader, The Ogre of Uggle?

A stinky, squelchy adventure packed with secret dens, tree climbing, troll traps and lots and lots of revolting smells!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tower Hamlets Book Award 2013

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the finale of the Tower Hamlets Book Award at Swanlea School in East London. My book Sword of Light had been shortlisted, and I was one of three authors invited along to judge the book presentations performed by the children of eight local schools.

Tower Hamlets Book Award shortlist 2013

This event is organised annually by the Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, and it's obvious a great deal of energy and enthusiasm had gone into the afternoon.

Gillian Harris, head of Tower Hamlets Schools Library Service, kicks things off

Meet the authors...

Sam Gayton and Katherine Roberts (me!) judging the presentations

Sarwat Chadda and Sam Gayton signing books
Then came the performances, which I had been looking forward to very much. Two schools performed my book Sword of Light - Swanlea Secondary and John Scurr Primary - taking quite different approaches to the story.

John Scurr's presentation was so enjoyable I took a video clip (which to protect the children taking part I am not allowed to publish here). But it was like a film, with three scenes, great costumes, and a perfect feisty, red-haired "Rhianna" - Hollywood, take note! The children performed the capture of Rhianna and her friends by Prince Mordred's Bloodbeards and their subsequent escape from the Saxon Camp (chapter 6 of the book), using a number of realistic props including some fearsome-looking slave collars and a magic harp complete with silver strings, which must have been great fun to make.

"This land belongs to King Arthur!"

We had special effects from Blue Gate Fields Junior School, who performed Frank Cotterell Boyce's The Unforgiven Coat, and rivers of blood (in the guise of red silk) from Cayley Primary, who gave a short but spirited presentation of Sarwat Chadda's Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress. The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brockett was a good excuse for some balloons and a cute black and white dog, and I am sure there must have been a few of Philip Reeve's Goblins lurking somewhere in the shadows grumbling about not being properly represented.

A perfomance of Wonder
RJ Palacio's Wonder was clearly a popular book, with two different schools presenting a version of the story. But it was St Pauls Primary School's performance of Wonder that really stood out, with impressive singing from the whole cast and its effective use of technology, where two of the characters sit with laptops and send each other messages after acting out the bullying scene. After much deliberation that took longer than our allotted time slot (sorry, Gillian!), the judges awarded St Pauls the prize.

There were drinks, delicious cakes and healthy grapes on offer, as well as quizzes and postcard and tweet competitions to break up the afternoon. All three of the authors were kept busy signing bookmarks and copies of their books for their fans and the school libraries.

Then it was the turn of the children to vote for the shortlisted books. All the votes disappeared into a big box and nobody knew the winner until they were counted up at the end.

Sword of Light came third (Muse: I demand a recount!)

Wonder was second, and the winner was...

Sam Gayton's book The Snow Merchant.

Which was lovely, since Sam was actually there in person to pick up his award (that's his hand in the picture), and although there can only be one prize, all three authors were given a lovely bunch of flowers to take home.

Sarwat Chadda - orange for the boys.

Me with my pink roses back in Devon (they survived the train home!)

Thank you to all the Tower Hamlets schools, children, and librarians for a very inspiring day.

Monday, 2 December 2013

MUSE MONDAY - Nicola Morgan and her great outdoor muse

This Monday the unicorn is delighted to welcome author and and publishing guru Nicola Morgan, whose muse is rather large and sometimes a bit scary...

Nicola Morgan
Who, or what, is your muse?

Nicola: My muse is an outdoor empty space. It is silent, apart from wind, or running water, or birdsong. It asks nothing of me. I can go where I want in it and no one else is ever there. There are trees in parts of it, solid ancient trees with gnarled trunks and twisting branches and holes for owls and secrets. It’s quite scary because things can hide behind the trees and there are deep shadows and dark possibilities, but the pleasure of coming through the woods into the sunlight and minty air and clear blue spaces is worth it.

sunlight, minty air and clear blue space

When did you first meet?

Nicola: When I was five. I lived in the country in a life of strange freedoms and risks and miles of open spaces and rafts on rivers and dens in hay and treehouses and tunnels and hideaways and woods with danger of forest fires. But in those days I didn’t know it as a muse of writing, just a muse of thinking and making believe in my head.

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

woods - perfect for an author's den?

Nicola: My first novel, Mondays are Red, is full of those spaces, with woods and fires. In The Passionflower Massacre, Matilda needs such spaces and she’s trying to find them. In Sleepwalking, there are no open spaces. They are destroyed.

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

Nicola: I don’t think money would buy me artistic freedom. Except in one sense: that I could stop all the things I do that aren’t writing but which are necessary to my career, such as events, blogging, Facebook etc, and which stop me writing. And I’d like to pay someone to handle all the admin stuff. Then I’d spend more time wandering in open spaces chasing ideas, and less time fretting about whether I’ve sold enough books to justify my publishers’ costs. I’d be healthier and I’d write more. I think my writing would be better. I’d write a dark, gothic fantasy which would make readers shiver.

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

Be careful what you believe.

Thank you, Nicola - a wise message, I suspect!

More about Nicola

Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction, mostly for and about teenagers. She is also a blogger and public-speaker on the teenage brain and stress, the reading brain and all aspects of writing and publishing. She lives in Edinburgh but travels widely. She loves shoes and chocolate.

The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking
Two novels published in one ebook.

These two YA thrillers were originally published by Hodder and attracted excellent reviews, with Sleepwalking winning the Scottish Children’s Book of the Year. Both are coming of age novels, infused with passion and anger, danger and hope. The Passionflower Massacre was inspired by the Jonestown Massacre and features an emotionally-damaged girl desperate for freedom who becomes embroiled in a sinister religious cult. We also see inside the head of the even more damaged cult leader. Sleepwalking is set in a dystopian future where language is dying and ambition is almost dead; four teenagers must find the courage to enter the terrifying Tower to discover the secret and destroy the government.

The ebook is published TODAY! See here for details.


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