PPWC 2016

I once again braved airports and jet lag to return to Colorado to see my Critique Group of Awesome and attend the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference. And once again, it was worth it despite the stress of air travel and waking up ridiculously early because of my internal clock.

There were several stand-outs this year. Carol Berg helped me fall in love with fantasy and world-building all over again. And Rachel Caine showed the necessity of butt-in-chair (“Creativity is not your master; creativity is your bitch.”) and treating writing like the job it truly is, while still remembering how wonderful and fun it can be (writing break dance parties!). Both of them were also incredible to talk to and had so much appreciated advice.

Angie Hodapp and Warren Hammond also had a brilliant session on knowing when and where to expand and contract in a manuscript. They are great people and an amazing team, and we all agreed their session could easily have been one of the three-hour workshops in the prequel Thursday.

I was much more relaxed about talking to people this year, now knowing what to expect (and already having some embarrassing experiences last year and surviving them). Writers are amazing people, and PPWC attracts funny, generous, and enthusiastic people. There’s always something to talk about whether writing, books, TV shows, or films. And when in doubt, there’s also card games in the lobby during the evening.:)

(I also came over a day early this year, to give myself extra time for adjusting to the time difference and altitude, along with giving myself a day to recover before flying back to Dublin. It was one of the best decisions I made for myself.)

Above all, I realised yet again how amazing my critique group is. Not just in terms of their writing and talent, but in terms of being wonderful people. We carved out pockets of time where we hung out and debriefed, brainstormed (I needed a new title), or just spent time talking before dinner. While only about half of us attended PPWC this year, the power of Google Hangouts mean we always get to stay in contact with each other.

I can’t wait to see them all again next year. And while PPWC16 was a personal and professional success for me (I’ll be doing a separate post on what I learned about verbal pitching), I gave myself a few days to recover from jet lag (again) before checking briefly back into the Revisionland Hotel to get the last couple of things done on the book. The end is now in sight, so I can soon nudge THE QUEEN OF COIN AND WHISPERS out into the world!

Above all, it was confirmed at PPWC to keep writing. If not this book, then the next one. We’re writers. We write. And there always needs to be another idea, another book.


This year’s photo: our critique group with authors Rachel Caine (left) and Carol Berg (middle right). I’m the one laughing. I think I thought the photos were done.

Pikes Peak Writers Conference

So, a little later than expected, but I’m finally posting about my trip to Colorado for the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

if you can manage it, go to this conference. DO IT DO IT DO IT!

A year ago, my friend David told me he was attending PPWC and said me it would likely be my thing, but due to timing and uncertainty over housemates and leases, I couldn’t commit to it. After he attended, he informed me I had to attend in 2015. I trust his opinion, so I agreed!

Fast forward to May 2015, and it’s my turn to pass it on: you have to attend in 2016. (Assuming circumstances allow, naturally.)

Continue reading

PPWC + Deeprose

So… long time, no see?

Since I last posted, I have been knee deep in words words words that I eventually strung together into a first draft. It involves a Queen, her female spymaster, politics, and kissing. I’m a little fond of it.😉

It’s (currently) called DEEPROSE:

An idealistic Queen and her vengeance-obsessed female spymaster fall for each other and must decide if achieving their ambitions is worth turning into people they despise.

(I also affectionately refer to it as my ‘ladies who fancy the dresses off each other’ book.)

Along with popping up with a book as evidence of my continued existence, this time two weeks from now, I will be in the US! In Colorado Springs, to be precise, attending the 2015 Pikes Peak Writers Conference. This came to my attention last year when a friend said he would be attending and asked if I was interested. I wasn’t able to go (travelling across the pond would be much easier if teleportation already existed, thanks very much, and the planet would agree), but following his glowing recommendation and assurances he’d be returning, I vowed I’d get there in 2015.

I’ll be the Irish one with the very professional Doctor Who shoulder bag.

(Nope, it’s not bigger in the inside.)


Hello all,

As you can see by the rather long blog silence here, I have been, well, silent on the blog. I’m currently reevaluating what I want to do with this blog. (I’ve been considering using my tumblr instead, but my tumblr mostly consists of reblogging pretty things and people’s opinions on shows I follow. It’s hard to converse on it. On the other hand… everyone likes seeing pretty things, surely?)

So, for the time being, there will continue to be silence here, but I’m active on Twitter at @hcor while I attempt to figure out the Matter of the Blog.


Hello all!

In a brief Helen-catches-up-the-internet post:

  • I was in the US earlier this month! I went with my lovely friend and critique partner Corinne to Boston for a few days, with a (blink and you’ll miss it) day dash to NYC! It was a great trip (with a lot of food; always important), but it turned a bit… snow-shaped (for this Irish girl, VERY snow-shaped). That said, Boston looks wonderful in the snow and I returned with some books. You can read Corinne’s blog about it here, and I’ve included photos here about the two basic points–weather, and food:

Continue reading


I’m breaking my revision-induced blog silence with some good news!

My friend, and critique partner, Corinne recently had some news. Then some more.Needless to say, it was all a bit exciting.

When I think of OTHERBOUND (the book formerly known as BLINK,) two things immediately pop up: looking up the role of different cats in WWII (I have no idea why; I think something came up on my Twitter feed and then I started googling out of interest) while Corinne was sending me the beginning of what would eventually become OTHERBOUND. I have a distinct memory of sitting in Starbucks over a year ago, on a grey overcast day after rain, reading about Simon the tuxedo cat on HMS Amethyst and then opening OTHERBOUND’s beginning to read it.

The second is being on a train to a monkey zoo with Corinne, staring at OTHERBOUND condensed onto virtual notecards and hoping I would eventually say something sensible in regards to the pacing issues we were attempting to fix. It ended up with us wandering around the zoo (a spider monkey climbed onto our backpacks. It was awesome. I wanted to bring it home with me, except I don’t think customs would have approved, nor would the monkey be too impressed with Ireland) and me saying variations of “I hate your book’s pacing.” (I admit, when her agent referred to OTHERBOUND as “fast paced“, I fist-punched the air in victory. You know, like I’m the sole reason for that, or something.)

OTHERBOUND is special. It has characters of colour, disabled characters, and queer characters (of which I felt like the personal cheerleader for at times, even if it was mostly in my own head). It has a character who sits down to dinner with his family and cares about his sister, with whom he has actual conversations. It addresses things that aren’t addressed a whole lot in YA fiction. And it has enough twists to make your head spin.

The problem with being a CP is that once that aspect of a book is done, there’s not a whole lot left in your control except to keep having faith. So when I heard that OTHERBOUND had sold, and it wasn’t going to be shelved after all, I was in the middle of a busy Dublin street. And I screamed at my phone. I would have jumped up and down, but I have some dignity, thank you. Even now, when I’m talking to Corinne, it’ll hit me that OTHERBOUND is going to be a book. With pages, and a cover, and an ISBN of its own. (I’m a bookseller. These are the things I think about.) It makes the frightening search results that pop up with you type search ‘BLINK’ in my inbox worth it.😉

So if you like the thoughts of a book involving lying liars who lie people who keep secrets, and people being loyal to each other, and girls kissing other girls (like I said, cheerleader even if in my head), and a whole lot of characters running for their lives, you should pick OTHERBOUND up in 2014.

Rufus Wainwright, packs of batteries, and YA: A Study in

On Wednesday the 18th July, I went to see Rufus Wainwright in the Iveagh Gardens. I regret nothing.

It was due to a spur of the moment decision several months ago. I was talking to a friend online who had seen him perform in London–sitting in a Starbucks, supposed to be revising but taking a break instead–and Googled to see if he was performing in Dublin this year. I’d missed him every time he’d been in Ireland, so I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But he was playing in July! I checked the date and decided I’d twist someone’s arm into going with me. (Housemate and Ex-Housemate, thank you very much for agreeing to the arm-twisting!)

Whenever Rufus Wainwright is mentioned, the first thing that pops into my head is carrying a battered CD player around college (with the necessary spare batteries) and playing Want Two on loop as a I churned through my many English and History essays. (At one point I was able to time how far I should have been in my essay wordcount by how far I was into Want Two.) It sounds silly, trite, but Rufus Wainwright got me through the final year of my undergrad.

Most of the acclaim and gushing is usually given to Wainwright’s quietly reflective Want One, but I’ve always preferred the louder, brassier Want Two, the pink album that declares it’s doing life its way, no matter what others think. Perfect for a girl who knew she was gay, knew her life wasn’t going in the direction she’d expected, but was painfully aware her style and demeanor wasn’t quite adapting to this change. The girl who wanted her life to be different but didn’t know how.

(I ended up bolting to Dublin for a Masters once the undergrad was complete, so to a certain extent I did something, at least.)

I still have the CDs–this was before I joined the iPod and iTunes revolution–and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I listened on loop, though I can tell you I went through many, many packs of batteries. Listening to Rufus Wainwright felt a bit like loving Plath–cliche, expected of a teenager–but I didn’t care. I listened to him on and off once arriving in Dublin, discovering new music and attempting to figure out my twenties, but I’d often come back to one of his albums and linger over the songs for a few days. I didn’t realise how deeply ingrained his music was in me unti Wednesday night, when I’d remember a song based on only a few opening notes and the words would come flooding back. (I mouthed along, probably deeply uncool, but what about this blog post made you think I was cool?)

One of the things that really pleased me when we reached the concert venue was the eclectic crowd: not just older teenagers and twenty- and thirty-somethings, but people my parents’ age and older. In Ireland, at least, he seems to appeal to many different age groups. And he’s flamboyantly, unashamedly gay: not just in how he speaks or dresses, but there are many references to this in his music. If you’ve read interviews with him, he’s pretty frank about wanting mainstream success but also not at the expense of being someone he’s not.

It hit me, in the middle of a song I was kind of dancing along to, as I have no rhythm and not enough bravery to dance like so in public, that this was similar to the kind of writing I wanted to do. Unashamedly gay (because YA ficiton needs more lesbians on its shelves) and involving things that I’m excited to write about, even if they won’t all appeal to the mainstream. (And in regards to trends: well, I’ve loved werewolves since I was twelve, an unfortunate YA subject to write about in the last few years.)

So that’s what I decided when I got home from the concert: to be brave about writing, and to keep on with the lesbians. And to start getting up early before work to get more done, like I used to do with alarming regularity but then gradually started slipping on. I even tapped it on the back of my bedroom door, so I’d see it every time I left: BE BRAVE.

He was amazing live, just so you know.