music, Queen of Coin and Whispers, YA

The Queen of Coin and Whispers: music!

Music shapes my writing, from considering the initial seed of an idea, to figuring out characters and plot and scenes, to company while drafting. By the time I’m knee-deep in a draft, I have a playlist ready to go. These range from songs that inspired the original idea; reminded me of characters, pairings, or situations; or helped me evoke a particular atmosphere.

I thought it would fun to share some of the music I listened to (over and over again) while writing and revising The Queen of Coin and Whispers.

Continue reading “The Queen of Coin and Whispers: music!”

Book recommendations, YA

Book recommendation: The Near Witch

I, er, appear not to have updated since June! Oops. It was completely unintentional, so I’m going to be doing my best to remedy this in the coming weeks. For now, I’m here to recommend a book that I read recently and loved: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.

I’d been looking forward to this book for well over two years, having followed Victoria’s blog since before she sold The Near Witch. It seemed strange to finally hold a copy in my hands! The story is like a modern fairy tale: There are no strangers in the town of Near, until a stranger appears like mist and children begin disappearing.

The writing is soft, yet fluid, as mesmerising as your favourite fairy tale. The novel flows incredibly well, though this makes it difficult to put down (I took the easy way out, and started this on a day off so I could read as much of it in one sitting as possible). Yet it’s is not just a fairy tale, painting a picture of a town so secluded that it takes little for the seeds of distrust to flower into potential terror.

Lexi is a brilliant character, reminding me of Tamora Pierce’s and Kristin Cashore’s narrators: courageous even while fearing what’s happened to the children and what could happen to the stranger; a dreamer yet also a practical girl who’s grown up in the moors. Her father taught her to track and read the moor’s signs, and she desperately longs for a life different than the one expected of her. Everything changes when she sees the stranger, blurry at the edges like mist, at her window.

What makes this different to a lot of YA novels out there is that the moor and the wind themselves are practically characters in themselves. This book made me long for autumn storms and to hear the wind howling around my house, making the trees sway and the leaves rustle. It made me wish for overcast days and rain and fallen leaves. I found myself thinking about The Near Witch long after I’d finished. I can’t wait for Victoria Schwab’s next book–it’s going to be great.

Book recommendations, YA

Review and Giveaway: The Demon’s Surrender

There are very few authors that I will drop everything to read something new by them. Normally, I can contain myself enough that I’ll finish the book I’m currently reading. Sarah Rees Brennan is one of those authors. I dug my copy of The Demon’s Surrender out of the just-delivered boxes because I wanted it NOW.

It lived up to my expectations and then some! Sin’s POV is different to Nick’s and Mae’s, presenting an alternate view on characters and events that have already happened, yet similar enough in atmosphere and tone that it fits into the trilogy. I fell for Sin, her voice and how she viewed the world, and the secrets that were revealed about her and the Goblin Market.

(I’m one of those people who loves that the trilogy is narrated by three different people. We get all these alternate views on characters and situations! People are revealed to not be what they think or seem! It’s quite frankly awesome.)

The Demon’s Surrender is a fitting conclusion to Sarah Rees Brennan’s trilogy, tying up plot threads woven throughout the three books and concluding ones developed in Surrender itself. In classic SRB style, of course, there were some twists that I didn’t see coming, one which had me shouting “NO!” at the top of my lungs. When I finished it and closed the book, I realised I was sad that the trilogy was now finished and there would be no more books about Nick, Alan, Mae, Jamie and Sin, and their world of magicians, demons, and the Goblin Market. I can’t wait for Sarah Rees Brennan’s next book!

To celebrate the release of The Demon’s Surrender, I’m giving away a copy of the UK edition! To enter, leave a comment in this post with your name, your email, and something about the trilogy that you enjoy (a favourite character, a favourite scene, whatever you want). The deadline is Friday, 24th June at 9pm EST, and then I’ll pick a winner with the help of a random generator. The giveaway is open internationally.

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. 🙂

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.
Getting to the finish line, This writing thing, Those Who Favour Fire, YA

30 Days of Writing

So today is the first of December! Not sure where the year went, to be honest, but I’m looking forward to 2010. Not just a new year, but also a new decade.

My unofficial NaNo challenge last month was to write every day during November, which I did. (I have the sticker-filled November on my calender to prove it, once my camera has recharged.) My word count veered wildly between days, and there was one evening where I wrote two paragraphs at 11.45pm and then went straight to bed, but I managed it.

I learned that it is possible to write every day, even if it’s just ten minutes I manage to squeeze in somewhere. Towards the middle of November, I realised I was automatically putting aside the time in my day based on what shift I was working (if it was a work day. It was obviously a lot easier to find time to write on my days off). In days where the writing wasn’t going well, I went back and reread previous stuff and did a bit of line-editing–anything that would keep the story fresh in my mind.

I also realised that I prefer going back and fixing things before moving on. It’s an anti-NaNo sentiment, but it makes me feel better and more confident about moving on. Being 35,001 words deep in a story isn’t as scary when you know the majority of the problems in the previous 35,000 are a little better than they were. Either way, I’m going to have to fix it, so I might as well do it sooner rather than later. This is the complete opposite to how I wrote a year ago (‘write first, fix later’), but I think I’ve been converted because it’s taken so long to fix the structural and other problems of Draft Two.

That said, no matter how long it’s taking, I’m excited about the third draft. Some characters and events have been put in that weren’t in the first or second drafts. I’ve also noticed I was stuck far less in November than in previous months, and I think the ‘rereading and going back and fixing’ idea was part of that. It’s helped pinpoint problems, or stopped them from causing trouble later on.

I’m still not entirely done, but I’m so close, and aiming to finish as soon as possible–once the Christmas rush starts in earnest I’m going to be so exhausted that writing will slow to a snail’s pace. But it’s been interesting what a month of writing every day has shown me about the changes in my writing process.

Book recommendations, Getting to the finish line, Those Who Favour Fire, YA

Nattering and book recommendations!

Apologies for the radio silence–I’ve been hard at work at getting the current draft of the werewolves into shape. I’m aiming to have it all ready to send to readers by the 1st of December (my own version of NaNoWriMo). This draft has taught me a lot about pacing and how to tackle the ‘soggy middle’ and tightening it up so it’s less… soggy. I’m treating this deadline as an official one, so I’ve been getting in writing whenever I can. It frequently involves getting up disgustingly early in the morning to hammer out words before work. As a result, I haven’t had such a regular sleep schedule in years.

I’m also going to mention some books that I read recently and loved!

Ash by Malinda Lo.

I can’t remember where I found out about this book, but once I heard about it, I was so excited. Fairies, fairy tale retellings, and lesbians–what more could you want? This is a beautiful little book, the US cover is stunning (it isn’t out in the UK until March, but that cover also looks lovely, though it’s very different), and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down. While it’s being marketed as a Cinderella retelling with a lesbian twist, there’s much more to it than that. Relationships are at the heart of this: the relationships Ash has with her mother and father; the colder and harder ones she has with her stepmother and stepsisters; and the romantic ones with Sidhean and Kaisa. The book is also about growing up and learning to move on from grief and loss, and learning to love oneself again. The lack of homophobia in Ash’s world is also interesting and a change from many of the YA LGBT books, though this also hasn’t been without its share of controversy.

The lesbian relationship is handled carefully and subtly, though Ash’s relationship with Sidhean is also fascinating, not to mention unsettling and kind of creepy. One of the things I loved most about this book is Malinda Lo’s fairies–they’re very much not human, dark, and sometimes so alien that you can’t help but fear for Ash in her dealings with them. This is a wonderful book, highly recommended, and I can’t wait for Malinda Lo’s next one.

Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews.

This continues to be my favourite urban fantasy series in years. The world-building is incredible–I love how much of the mythology from our time period has been changed and altered in Kate’s. Best of all, there’s Celtic mythology in this book and it hasn’t been messed up to such a point that I’m ripping my hair out! Ilona Andrews also continues to subvert my vampire and shapeshifter expectations, and Kate continues to be a fascinating character while remaining firmly tight-lipped about her past. Another aspect of this series that I love is that decisions have consequences and sometimes the ‘good guys’ don’t succeed without casualties. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Magic Strikes, but I’m putting off so I won’t have as long to wait for the fourth book. If you like urban fantasy, I highly recommended this series.


Liar by Justine Larbalestier

I’m actually not going to say that much about this book because I think it’s one that people should go into knowing as little as possible. So: Micah is a liar. She’s a really good one. This book is fabulous. By the time I reached the end, I wasn’t sure of anything. It must have been a complete headache to write and keep everything straight while doing so. This is definitely one that you should pick up: highly, highly recommended.

And now, I return to plowing through my draft!

Revisions, This writing thing, Those Who Favour Fire, YA

Summer weather?

Eek, once again I sort of disappeared from here for several months! Unintentional, I assure you. Right now I am deep in the second draft of TWFF with a deadline for the end of June. This is a deadline I have to stick to as one of my readers is heading to Thailand for seven weeks at the end of next month, and she’s hoping to either read the draft before she goes or to take it with her.

I recently returned from a trip to New York; my first cross-Atlantic trip, in fact. I may have ransacked the YA sections of many bookstores while I was there. I came back with twenty-six books, but, as I was underweight, I could have bought more. I’m starting to make my way through them, but taking my time of course.

So far we seem to be getting an actual summer, if only for a little while. I think it’s time to start contemplating writing outside in the garden with a cool drink. It’s still bright on my home from work after evening shifts, warm enough that I don’t need a coat–perfect thinking time. While I’m not a fan of summer, preferring pleasant spring days, I love summer evenings and how they make me relaxed and contemplative.

I’m hoping to start querying TWFF possibly in late summer or early autumn, but we’ll see. I think there’s still a draft or two to go; there’s no point in overthinking it until I get some reader feedback.