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Is it Autumn yet?

A sheepish confession: I’m not the biggest fan of summer. My not-so-secret theory is that there are redheads in my family, so I’m unlikely to be best friends with combined sun and high temperatures. Heat is totally not my thing, and I live in a temperate climate. (Places that have really hot summers scare me.) Autumn unofficially begins in a few hours, and I can’t wait.

Autumn (to me, anyway) means new sweaters, writing in dark evenings, and the return of the Starbucks Red Cups (frantic writing with Eggnog Lattes, mmm. Always a good combination); scarfs and crisp mornings. It also means the approach of Christmas (not so good when you work in book retail, until it’s 6:01pm on Christmas Eve and you’re freeeeee. Ahem). Sometimes it even means snow–though I can do without the chronic craziness we had last year, which involved my clinging to lamp posts and unintentionally breaking out some Saturday Night Fever moves, thanks.

My autumn plans involve rewriting the steampunk Alice book (temporarily on hold while I finish rewriting the werewolves) and writing the first draft of a YA contemporary idea that’s been slyly beckoning to me for a few months. (Why is is that Shiny New Ideas always strut up when you’re knee-high in revising and contemplating the distance between your laptop and the window?) As always, there is a teetering to-read pile(s) to work through, and I have some review posts in the pipe line.

What are you looking forward to this autumn? Any plans, small or not-so-small?

This writing thing, Those Who Favour Fire, YA

Teaser Tuesday (playing for chocolate)

Since it’s Tuesday and I actually remembered for once: here be Teaser Tuesday. A tiny excerpt from the werewolves where I was experimenting on character and making a stab at humour. May not make the final revised version, and not completely polished yet, but it was fun to write. This will be taken down shortly.

Teaser taken down! Thanks for the comments. 🙂

Book recommendations

Book Recs!

I’ve been writing like crazy for the past few weeks; apologies for the blog silence! Unfortunately, I can’t yet talk about what I’m writing, so for now I decided to do a book recommendation post.

So! Books I’ve read lately:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall is, simply, one of the best depictions of the ‘mean girl’ character I’ve read. Even describing the main character as a mean girl doesn’t present the full picture: she’s a flawed character, with both good and bad aspects. This book also has some of the most fantastic teenage characterisations I’ve read in YA fiction–throughout the narrative, I kept thinking, “Yes, these characters are recognisably teenage, I fully believe this.” They don’t represent every type of teenager, obviously, but the ones they do are wonderfully developed and authentic. I started to suspect over halfway through the book how it would end, but reaching the last page and having to close the book was still wrenching.

White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black

I’ve read Holly’s previous YA books, but was really excited by this new series, where magic was outlawed in the 1930s, turning it into a dark, almost feared profession operating underground and leading to the rise of prominent, morally-dodgy magic (or ‘worker’) families. Cassel is the youngest of his worker family, but the only one unable to work magic. Cassel has more important things on his mind, such as the fact he killed his best friend when he was fourteen, but can’t actually remember the murder.

The world-building is wonderful. The little details are delicately woven into the narrative as needed, and the scope of the consequences of these differences intensify as the novel goes on. The family interactions are also great–Cassel’s brothers are both distinct and his relationships with his mother and grandfather are also intriguing (and also a little crazy, since the family is incredibly dysfunctional). I didn’t see the twist coming at all, and the ending has me wanting the next book so badly. (Roll on, Red Glove!)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

I picked this up based on several recommendations and WHOA BOY did it not disappoint. I devoured this on a train ride and the first thing I did when I had internet access again was check the release date for the next book (“November ’10! The same year, oh my god, this is so exciting!” were my exact words). I’m not even sure where to start: the world building is fabulous, the characters–both human and god–are fabulous, the writing is fabulous. The disjointed, literary, almost conversational style perplexed me at first, but when I realised what it meant… well, it was a slightly embarrassing reaction to have on a train around other people. I’m just sayin’. Basically: if you enjoy fantasy and want to be surprised by something new, pick this up. Immediately.

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I heard about this book when a co-worker from another branch sent an email raving about it. So I picked it up when it came out, and it was everything she said it was and more. I couldn’t put it down once I started it and read it while cooking and eating and when I was supposed to be writing… It could be termed an “issue” book, with Lennie struggling to cope in the aftermath of her older sister Bailey’s death, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a book about grief, and living, and death, and loving, and music, and things you probably shouldn’t do but doing them anyway.

All of the characters and wonderfully developed with endearments and flaws, the setting of Clover is exceptional (seriously, read this if you’re struggling with the setting of your book, it was a huge help to me), and the slow and wonderfully developed romance between Lennie and Joe had me actually squealing in delight more than once. Interspersed throughout the narrative are snapshots of Lennie’s poetry, written on scraps of paper, takeaway coffee cups, tree trunks and more, all scattered throughout Clover, which are actually mentioned in the book. (A little detail that I adored.) One of the best teen books I’ve read this year.

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Irish Publishing News (playing catch up)

(Apologies to anyone who clicked into the post I made a few days ago and then found nothing. I felt weird posting small excerpts of writing in this blog, so I deleted it soon after hitting ‘post’. It won’t be happening again, sorry!)

It’s been a while since I’ve updated, which is mostly because I’ve been buried away writing, and I’ve been trying to make as much progress as I can. I have some book recommendation posts in the pipe line, in particular a post about the best YA LGBT books I’ve read as June is Pride Month.

(I was thinking about writing a post about why the werewolves wasn’t specifically written with lesbian characters in mind–it was more a case of reaching Chapter Three and realising my MC liked her best friend–but it also feels weird to talk about a book I’m querying. Hmm. Thoughts?)

But for this post, I’m going to talk about some Irish publishing and children’s books related things. In mid-May, I was lucky enough to attend the first half of the annual CBI conference (Children’s Books Ireland).  It was great to be there, surrounded by people so passionate about children’s books, and I got to chat with some lovely people.

Highlights included Marcus Sedgwick, before whom I embarrassed myself terribly while he was signing books, and Elena Odriozola, a Spanish illustrator whose talk was fascinating. There was also a very inspiring speech from Siobhán Parkinson, the inaugural Irish Children’s Laureate, about the importance of libraries for children and reading. I was unable to make the second half the following day, but I already can’t wait for next year.

Another piece of news is that Derek Landy, author of the stupendous Skulduggery Pleasant (known as Scepter of the Ancients in the US) won the Irish Book of the Decade award, beating stiff competition from the likes of John Banville and Sebastian Barry. Yup, a children’s book won from a shortlist of primarily adult books (there were a few other children’s writers like John Boyne and Eoin Colfer). The award was done through public vote, and it was wonderful to see such an amazing–and popular– book win.

And now I go back to writing. Book recommendation posts coming soon!

music, Those Who Favour Fire

AW Blog Chain: Music and Writing

I’m taking part in Absolute Write‘s May Blog Chain, and this month’s theme is: What does your story/character(s) sound like?

I listen to music a lot. My iPod is a permanent fixture on my way to and from work, and I usually have music on in the background when I’m at home. I write to music and I make playlists for my writing on iTunes. Each book gets its own general playlist, but sometimes when I’m on a second or third draft for a book, I’ll make a smaller playlist of music that most inspires me for it and focuses on characters or specific scenes. The music can have lyrics or be instrumental; all that matters is that it fits the character or scene.

I’m going to focus on the werewolves–THOSE WHO FAVOUR FIRE–in this post, as I have two playlists for that book and I’m still putting the finishing touches on the first playlist for the steampunk Alice book. (As you can tell, I have a habit of referring to my books through nicknames rather than their titles.) I’m going to be putting direct Youtube links in for the songs, but if you like any of them, I would definitely recommend you support the artists through iTunes or wherever you get your music.

The werewolves centres around three main themes: at what point can the idea of lying to people for their own good be taken too far; a girl realising her family has been lying and keeping secrets from her; and the same girl learning the double-edged sword of embracing her sexuality.

Continue reading “AW Blog Chain: Music and Writing”

Chasing Rabbits, This writing thing, Those Who Favour Fire, YA

Bullet points for the win!

  • I went to Edinburgh for a few days last week. It was amazing–Edinburgh has such a wonderful vibe. It’s one of my favourite cities, but I think I’d need an actual reason to live there, rather than just waking up and deciding, “Okay, I’m moving to Edinburgh.” (Granted, you never know when you’re going to wake up and make snap decisions, so never say never?) I got to meet one of my ex-flatmates and we had a lovely time catching up etc.
  • I finished revising Draft Three of the werewolves while I was over there. Had breakfast, went back to my room, and thought, “Oh, wait, I could just finish the edits here.” So I stuck the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door and spent six hours on them. I felt brilliant when they were done. And a little hungry.
  • Draft Three went off to readers over the weekend! One of them has already got back to me and is halfway through. I should be getting some comments by the start of next week, which is putting me weeks ahead of schedule. Looks very likely that querying will begin before the end of this month.
  • I started Draft Three of my new book today! It’s a YA steampunk with Alice in Wonderland illusions allusions. No, it’s not thanks to Tim Burton. I wrote the first draft back in late 2007, started a second draft, and then put it aside because I knew I had to improve to make it the best it could be. I went off and wrote the werewolves, which taught me a lot, so I can now say that putting the Alice book aside was a good idea. I also put a word counter thingy for it in the sidebar.
  • I got to bring out all my steampunk and Alice playlists, and I’m in the process of searching for all my Victorian history books. It’s set in an alternate London, but with enough similarities to keep it recognisable, so it’s time for a history brush up. Exciting!
  • The Cheshire Cat is awesome. Trust me.
Book recommendations, Revisions, Those Who Favour Fire

Things I am loving lately

Things I am loving lately:

  • THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss.

I finished THE NAME OF THE WIND this morning, and just–wow. I closed the book and had to take a moment of stunned silence in an attempt to sort my thoughts out. It’s the most amazing thing to find a gem of a fantasy tome to work through, a fully developed and detailed world to get lost in for hours and days. I wasn’t entirely sure where everything was going towards the end of the novel, but all the revelations towards the end–! After a year of putting off reading this in case the hype didn’t live up to my expectations, I’m as desperate as everyone else for THE WISE MAN’S FEAR to come out. *wants!*

  • Glee

Glee has been airing in Ireland and the UK for the last few weeks, so my housemate and I have been watching it every week. I’m loving it so far, and my love only increases with every new episode (no spoilers, please!). We’re watching the episodes that are aired on Monday evenings, so I have something to look forward to on Mondays now. It’s a win-win situation. The way the teenagers are portrayed and the dialogue, and the way the darker issues are handled–it’s skillfully done and kind of, well, epic. Two thumbs up, and I’m looking forward to buying Volume 1 of the soundtrack soon.

  • My Writing Workshop

I’ve been attending a writing workshop that specialises in children’s and YA fiction for the past few weeks. It’s been brilliant so far. The other people in the class are lovely and there are so many good ideas being worked on. I’ve also been taking a few stumbling steps towards sucking less at reading my work aloud. It’s a massive change, being able to talk about writing with people who aren’t online, but it’s incredibly freeing at the same time.

  • My book

Heh. When the editing is good well. 😉 Over halfway through now, almost there!