Monday, 30 August 2010

How I live Today

This is coming up rather later than normal but at least it's up on the right day. I started reading Meg Rosoff's 'How I Live Now' last Tuesday and finished it early Wednesday, I have started another book but I haven't finished it yet so I can only give you one review this week. I've also been kind of ill and am sleeping lots so you'll probably only get one review next week as well.

How I live Now by Meg Rosoff.
I picked this up this month having previously read Just In Case by the same author. I have to say both books are very different, both are good, they're just different from each other. Unlike Justin who I found rather un-likeable Daisy, the female protagonist of How I Live Now is most definitely like-able. The story follows Daisy as she is sent from America to live with her English cousins just before a war breaks out. Once Britain finds it'self under the rule of The Enemy Daisy and her four cousins find themselves split up and fighting to survive.
This is an exciting tale that I read in two sittings because I just didn't want to put it down, I only did the first time because I had to sleep. Daisy has to grow up quickly and fight to keep herself and her young cousin alive as the search for the other two cousins. It's a tale of courage and strength and love. You see, the twist in the tale here is that Daisy is in love with one of her cousins and its this love that gives her the strength to keep going, it's this love that keeps her alive.
When put like that it's an odd sounding book but I guarantee you'll enjoy it if you give it a try.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Not as exciting.

To be honest, when I said I might have something different for you on Friday I'm sure I had some kind of plan. Not so much now (especially given today is Saturday), I just can't remember what I was thinking way back on Monday.

As it turned out I couldn't post yesterday anyway, I got an email on Thursday asking if I could reschedule my wedding dress fitting for yesterday. I used it as a dry run to check hair, make-up, shoes and underwear too which took me most of the day, especially trying to get comfy in a corset and heels. And when I got back home I was really tired and not focusing properly enough to write anything coherent, so no post for you.

Instead, here is a list of the books I took out of the library on Tuesday:

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Pretty Bad Things (get over it, nobody dies) by C. J. Skuse
The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
The Bloodline Cipher by Stephen Cole
The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

To confuse you even more than a supposed special Friday post being a boring Saturday post, I found all these books by only visiting 2 separate shelves in my libraries YA section. I think someone needs to teach them how to organise books.

Monday will be book reviews, Wednesday I'll be explaining my plan for the next 3 months and if I think of anything else exciting I will write it down and post about it on Friday for you,

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Something exciting

The video for this post is here.

First of all I want to thank my lovely subscribers. I failed to notice the youtube channel had gained 4 subscribers until a day or two ago and I know I have a few new subscribers here too. Thank you for your support, especial Race and Angie who between them seem to comment on almost every post. I apologise that I don't always do the same in return but I am getting better; I now average 1 blog comment a day rather than 1 a week.

Secondly, if you read my post about talking to an agent (*waves to Natalie if she's reading*) I have an update. She did eventually take my advice and will be running a bad query contest next month, information can be found on her fabulous blog here.

As promised I have a special treat for you, here is the horribly written first draft of the opening of The List. I wrote this in about an hour and emailed it to Rachel Mercaldo for her opinion on it before I started to do anything else with it. I think I'll probably use this as a plan for the whole of the first chapter though, or at least, a chapter at some point.

I stared down at the page before me, then turned to the others, “What's at the top of your list? I can't decide between good looks and a sense of humour.” beside me Beth laughed, “Looks of course, I mean even geeky Steve Wilson could make you laugh if he tried but you wouldn't date him would you?” I shook my head. No, I wouldn't date Steve, even if he could have made me laugh. I quickly jotted down 'good looks' at the top of my, so far blank, list. “Well I want a guy who'll spend money on me, and is willing to ditch his mates to spend time with just me,” Cynthia said, everyone nodded in agreement added it to their lists.

It was two nights before school started back and we where having our 'back-to-school' annual sleep-over. Cynthia had declared that it was about time that I had a boyfriend, and so we now sat around Beth and I's room writing out lists of the top ten things we would look for in our potential boyfriends. As usual Cynthia had devised the rules for this game; we were to write 10 things then share our lists with each other so we could be alert for any potentials. We'd been at it for half an hour and everyone except me had finished their list. Which was all very well for them, but the idea behind this had been to find me a boyfriend not anyone else. While I wasn't the only one of our group without a boyfriend at that point, I had been single the longest. I knew it wasn't because of my looks, Beth and I were identical in that department and she had had almost as many boyfriends as Cynthia. No, it was definitely a personality thing, I just didn't know what I wanted or how to get it.

I chewed the end of my pencil as I looked over my list again, thinking about Steve and what made him someone I wouldn't date. “I don't want anyone smarter than me,” I said eventually and was promptly hit on the head by a well aimed pillow, “As if we could find anyone,” Martha laughed. “No,” I said, trying to explain, “I mean I don't want a geek like Steve. Besides, just because I get better grades than you doesn't mean I'm smart,” I said, to more laughter. “Yeah,” Beth agreed, “You only got one A+ on your last report card,” now it was my turn to throw pillows. Beside me, Cynthia had grabbed my half-finished list and was happily making her own additions, “You want someone who's good in bed, you want your first time to be with someone who knows what he's doing. And there is no way you are leaving high school still a virgin, but we have all year to deal with that.” I just sat there nodding. I trusted that Cynthia knew what she was talking about, she had dated most of our classmates after all, and even managed a few weeks with a college freshman last fall. “And you want someone who'll get on well with us.” Martha said, “No point dating someone who hates your besties.” Cynthia nodded and added it to my list.

I realized I had become the groups new project and the dismay must have shown on my face because Beth took my hand and said, “Obviously these are just guidelines to get things started, we wont set you up with anyone you don't like.” I smiled and nodded. I had known these girls since preschool and Beth was my twin sister, we'd been through everything together. I trusted them. Martha had moved round beside Cynthia and they were discussing possible additions to my list. “You don't want a proper bad boy,” She said to me, “You're not that type, but then you don't want a goody-goody either.” she glanced again at the paper, “That gives you seven.” Everyone was silent for a moment, as we thought about what else to add. The CD player had picked that point to play a song about true love. I was about to ask for my list back when Martha made a grab for it. “Of course.” she said, as if it should have been obvious to all of us, “We can't have you dating some loser, he has to be one of the popular boys.” I watched as she wrote it down, glad that my friends were looking out for me like. Finally Cynthia handed the paper back to me, “You can add you're own last two,” she said. I scanned the list and quickly added 'sense of humor' which I'd forgotten about earlier but the last one had me stumped. “Are you sure about all these?” I asked, reading the list again. I couldn't think of a single guy at school who would match all these qualities that I actually liked. Maybe this year would be like one of those cheesy romance novels and some mysterious new guy will turn up that everyone thinks is totally wrong for me but ends up being just the right guy. I got so caught up in my daydream about hot bad boy bikers that I failed to notice the argument that had started over which dvd to watch.

As the others tried to decide between some dance film and some cheerleading film I stared at my paper trying to imagine the kind of guy that would fit with everything written on it. Most of the boys Cynthia dated where exactly like that but I hadn't really liked any of them, not beyond looks anyway. I focused on trying to fill in the blank gap at the bottom of the list, the one thing that would round out my perfect guy. After a moment I carefully wrote 3 words, “Must read books” and slipped the paper under the bed out of sight in case some felt the need to comment.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Lets review some books.

Cause it's a Monday and that's book review day. I read two very different books this week, I actually finished them on Thursday but haven't read anything since. I was starting to see printed type emblazoned on my eyelids so thought I should stop for a bit.

Immortal by Gillian Shields

I think this is supposed to be a Gothic, paranormal romance. It's got a secret society, some witches, a crazy wizard (warlock? What are we calling male witches these days?), a ghost girl, a guy who's a bit less alive than you think, a guy who's a bit less dead than you think, a scary boarding school some midnight romantic meetings by the lake.
Evie is sent to Wyldcliffe Abbey School when her Grandmother becomes ill. There she struggles to fit into the strict regime and make friends. She also meets Sebastian who is full of mystery and whom she's not really allowed to meet, hence the midnight fun by the lake.
It's well written enough to keep me turning pages and manages to carry on a sense of mystery and suspense despite it's sometimes obvious plot lines (mainly about the secret society and Sebastian's true reason for being near the school). I really enjoyed this one, I got swept away in the Gothic mystery of the location with it's wild moors and impressive manor house. It's got lots of interesting characters with may more going on in their lives than yo would first think. It's the first book in a set and I'll be keeping my eye out for the next one.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen arrives home to find a parcel of 7 tapes waiting on them. On them Hannah Baker, an old school friend and secret crush, explains the reasons why she recently committed suicide. The things that Clay hears change his views on his classmates, on Hannah and on his own life.
This book hurt to read. It's so well written I almost had to stop because I didn't want to hear any more about all the things that had happened to Hannah, and I didn't want to watch how badly Clay was coping with hearing it. Which is really the point. At the back is an author interview and in there Jay Asher mentions that he hopes it will make people more aware of how they treat others. You never really know the full story of a person's life, even if you think you do, and you never know how much damage you could be doing, even if you're trying to help.
I don't think I would say I enjoyed this book, I don't think it's a book to be enjoyed in the 'that was a good story' sense. But I do think everyone should read this book and, more importantly, let it change them.

So there you have it for this week's reviews, I have a special treat for you on Wednesday and possibly something different for Friday.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010


The video for this post is here.

First of all I want to wish Rachel Mercaldo well and hope she's enjoying settling into college life. Rachel's agent put her out on sub last week and within two days Rachel was rejected. Which sucks but at least it's happened now and she is a bit more prepared for it in the future. I have promised that if she makes it to 10 rejections before she comes over to visit in October then I'll buy her a new book, though I think she'll b picked up before she gets to 10 rejection.

In other news NaNoWriMo is slowly approaching. National Novel Writing Month take place every November and it's a cruel and and unusual form of punishment that writers willingly participate in. the basic idea is that you write 50,000 words in 30 days. I have 3 ideas about what to do this year and I thought I'd open it up to let my wonderful readers help me make the decision. It's worth bearing in mind that I get married a the end of October so I'm on my honeymoon for the first 2 weeks of November I should be able to still get writing done but obviously other things will take priority, like moving house.

So my ideas are:
  1. Ignore it completely
  2. Finish the project I started last year since I only did about 2 weeks worth last year this might work out quite well.
  3. Work really hard on planning The List from now until then and use NaNoWriMo to write the first draft of that.
Let me know what your thinking in the comments below and if you have any requests for future blog posts / videos leave them as well.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

I've been talking to an agent

When J phoned me tonight and asked if I had done anything exciting today my immediate response was, "Yes, I've been talking to an agent, a real agent, and important book agent." He was rather impressed and excited, probably by my fan-girl squees.

And then I came clean.

Yes, I have been talking to a real life important book agent, her name is Natalie Fischer (she blogs here) and she is the agent-most-awesome of Rachel Mercaldo (she blogs here) but she is not my agent. Nor does she have any plans to become my agent. Yes we spoke, well, okay, we tweeted a few times, but not related to my writing at all.
I was trying to convince her that a certain query writing contest was a good idea. I don't think it worked.

Still, it's the first time an agent has ever noticed my existence (that I know of) so I'm going to say my squees were justified.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Love, lust and Glaswegian thugs - Book reviews!

I have 3 book reviews for you today from 3 very different books.

Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde

The front cover of this has a love heart on it, the back has this:

Excuse me, most gorgeous guy I've ever met.
See, before you go down in history as my FIRST and ONLY date,
d'you mind ticking the following boxes to disclose whether or not you are:
a) A psycho axe-murderer
b) The Devil in a suede jacket
c) Just after me for my body. (Ooooh yes please!)

With a blurb like that I was really intrigued by this one. The book is about a girl called Claudia (Cloddy) who witnesses a violent attack outside her dad's opticians, later that day she meets The. Most. Gorgeous. Guy. Ever. Apparently. But Sexy, rich, Stefan is not all he appears to be and the police keep turning up to ask her more questions about the attack she swears she never saw.
This book really threw me when I started reading it, and not in a good way. First chapter establishes Cloddy as totally board with having to work in her dads shop on a Saturday. Second chapter, we get a graphic description of a guy being attacked with a hammer. BAM. Just like that. I suppose if gore is your thing, it's not that graphic but it was certainly enough for me to put the book down and walk away. I think I actually did the putting it in the middle of the floor and walking around it to see if it's dangerous. Only closer inspection I discovered that the title page, the thing I usually ignore, contained a warning that the book contains violence. Helpful, but perhaps more helpful if put on the cover. Of course 2 chapters later Cloddy is being chatted up by some heartthrob she met at the sweet counter. It was all a bit confusing really. The book did pick up after that, though there were a few more violent paragraphs they were more side glances than full descriptions.
The main character was a bit annoying, it became fairly obvious what was going on quite early on and yet Cloddy continued, completely oblivious to personal danger, to get herself into some very stupid situations. For a girl who is supposed to have grown up in Glasgow with it's drug and knife crime culture, she did some pretty stupid stuff. Speaking as someone who also grew up in Glasgow. I suppose you do get people as tuned-out as Cloddy but it made the book harder to get into for me. The writing is quiet good and really gets inside Cloddy's head. I did finish it but I'm not sure I would have started it if I had known about the violence before I hit chapter 2.

All we Know of Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin
A girl (Natalie) goes on a bus-trip to Florida. Okay so she's convinced her dad she's gone on a skiing holiday with her best friend and she's off to track down her mother who left without warning 4 years ago. But basically...

This is a fun one. It tells Natalie's story as she travels to find her mother; who walked out 4 years earlier in the middle of telling her something about love. It's interspersed with stories of Natalie's own love life and stories of the people she meets and their love lives. It really takes a close look at how we are shaped by the people we love. There isn't much given to us directly about Natalie's character but a lot can be taken about her from the snippets of her relationship with Adam. Which, in my opinion, is really clever writing. It's a really interesting insight into love and how it shapes our actions and our reactions to things. Yes, you could just read it an enjoy the story but for those that want to look, this goes much deeper than that,

A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

On the back of the book E. Lockhart describes the writing as 'poetic'. If you ever find a copy of this, glance inside and the meaning of that word will not be lost on you. Yes this is a story, told from 3 different girl's points of view but it's written as poems, or at least in poem format. This made it a really quick book to read while I was sunbathing yesterday, I made it through all 220 pages in a couple of hours and that was with taking breaks. The writing style of this isn't something I've seen before but it's definitely something I'd like to see again. When you sit writing block of prose every day you forget the impact a break in a sentence can have on the mood of a piece. Or I do anyway. This book follows the story of 3 girls who all date the high school dirt bag, the boy who is out to lay every chick in the school before graduation. A subject which would provide most teenagers with enough material to write a bunch of angst ridden poetry. But there is a lack of angst here, there is raw emotion and well thought out structure. I seriously recommend reading this book, then read it again actually paying attention to the line breaks and how it plays with the feeling of the words. Here is one of the shorter 'poems' from it:


Phone rings.
"It's me."

A code.
As if to say,
Who else could it be?
he claims me with
a two-word combination
to my personal lock.

Friday, 13 August 2010

When technology inhibits productivity.

So I sat down to write this about an hour ago which illustrates my point quite nicely.

For the past couple of days I've been getting up early and starting my day by doing my studying, trying to catch up to where my planner says I should be. I've been doing pretty well at it, I'm now only 2 weeks behind. I was feeling quite good about my productivity levels as each day I was getting through my to-do list quite happily.

And then today happened.

I woke up 3 hours late to start with and then my to-do list laughed in my face and magically expanded. Still, I can cope with that, just sit down and do my journal then my study and everything will be fine... right? Wrong. As I was stripping the bed and tidying away clothes I switched my computer on. My theory was that if I checked my emails first I'd be less concerned about rushing through my study to check them. That was 2 hours ago. I haven't showered, I haven't journalled, I haven't studied. I have read some blogs, done my daily blog commenting (I try to comment on 3 blogs a day), I've checked emails, I've played on facebook, I've read web comics and I've rpoled ( check it out).

In a way I have been productive. I've done all this stuff that I would probably have got done later in the day anyway. Except I'd have done it sitting in the living room with my fiance where as now when he arrives I'll need to be studying, that is after I make him take me to Asda because I have no time to get there and back on my own before he arrives.

Technology is great, I can check my emails on my phone, I can follow twitter in the car, I can chat to people form all over the world. I can type essays and blog posts and shop and study and do loads of really productive things. But it also eats time like crazy if your not disciplined enough to turn off that little voice that goes 'oh I'll just check this while I'm on'.
For example, I spent 20 minutes trying to log in to my university's community to read a blog post that I was only mildly interested in. And only because I'd seen it pop up on twitter which I was only on because a friend's facebook status was complaining about how few followers he had.

*deep breath*

Right, time to shut down *shudders* and actually be productive away from time-eating technology. If I'm lucky I'll get it all down before J arrives in 4 hours.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Touring the bookshelf

Okay so today's video (click here) is more fan service for the one person I know actually views the videos.

As it toured my bookshelf (okay, one bookshelf and 3 media units stacked on top of each other) I realiesd just how few books I actually own. Surely as a writer this is not normal. Yeah okay I have 2 boxes of books packed away but their small boxes which only amount to about 12 more books. I do have an amazon book wish list that currently totals close to 300 books but I don't actually own that many.

I make extensive use of my local library, usually going through between 5 and 10 books from there a month (and it only take a month because I hate the 3 mile walk to return them and get more). And of course birthdays and Christmas are always times to ask for more books. I just feel that if I'm supposed to be a writer I should own more books. That and, you know, I love to read.

So what about you? Do you own shelves and shelves of books or just a select few that mean a lot to you?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Paper Vampires - book reviews!

Certainly not good if you're reading something that gets all deep and meaningful towards the end *glares at Paper Towns*. Anyway, lets review some books, they're both kinda short today.

Paper Towns by John Green

Margo Roth Spiegelman hijacks Quentin's life for one wild night before vanishing. She seems to have left a series of Margo-like clues behind her though which do not point to a happy ending. Quentin and his fiends race against time to unravel the enigma that I Margo and try to find her before it's to late.
I was really looking forward to this one and it didn't really disappoint. It's more deep than I expected it to be and there are lots of bits that really made me think about how I view the world and the people I interact with. If you're like me and tend to force yourself to stay awake to finish a book, I suggest not doing that with this one. The end is a bit to intense in a metaphysical way to be reading 3 hours after you should have been asleep. Apart from that though I really enjoyed this book. It does make you think about things, more than I think a lot of YA (or any) books do these days The character's were well thought out and full of delightful little quirks that you expect people to have but don't always happen in fiction. I would recommend it but be prepared to have to really pay attention to it at times, I had to keep re-reading sections to fully understand it.

Diary of A Wimpy Vampire (because the undead have feelings too) by Tim Collins

Nigel Mullet was transformed at the age of 15, and even 85 years later has not grown out of the awkwardness of teenage life. He never got the beauty or the speed or any of the super cool vampire powers he should have got when he transformed. It seems he doomed to wander the earth as the perpetual broody, whiny teenager, never managing to win the girl of his dreams.
I read this along side Paper Towns which was a good idea; partly because of the heavy-going-ness of some of the passages in Paper Towns and partly for the 'you are such an annoying MC' feeling of this. Yes, okay, I found the MC to be very annoying for most of this book. But it worked surprisingly well. For a case-study of how a character should change over the course of a book, this one is brilliant. there is such a stark contrast between the long rambling diary entries at the start to the short, cheerful ones at the end. Once I got used to haw depressed with his life Nigel is I started to enjoy the book. It is a very predictable 'My life sucks then I met a girl and all is peachy.' but it works. If you have a few hours to spare and want to read about the troubled life of a perpetually 15 year old then give it a shot.

I'm currently reading Cathrine Ford's Sugarcoated which is actually set not so many miles away from where I live and has a very jarring opening couple of chapters. SO you should definitely hope I post the review of it on Monday cause it'll be good.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Planning, part 2

The video for this post can be found here.

So yes, trying out Wednesday videos, though hopefully not taking 5 hours to film, edit and upload like today.

Today we're yet again looking at planning, this time how I plan. I plan in loads of different ways depending on what it is I'm doing and what ideas I have about it.
THaN was planned around scenes, ideas for parts of the story that I had in my head, so I worked out what those scenes were and then what characters to fit it and built around the scenes.
The Missing Number was planned around a joke I heard and expanded out to fit a theme and planned around fitting the story to the joke.
The Shadows was planned from a dream. Like THaN it was a scene and everything was planned around that scene.

The List is different again. The List started because 4 girls walked into my head as fully formed characters and started telling me about this list they had made. Soon after a bunch of boys joined in and once I heard Derek and Cynthia going on about their storylines I knew I had to write about them. So most of my planning work is going into building up the characters, this is going to be a very character driven story rather than a plot point driven story. It's not something I've done before but that's cool, I like a challenge.

I can't really say much more at the moment because I haven't done much more than that. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out if this planning works or if I throw the whole thing in a trunk and ignore it.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Yes, okay, I vanished again.

I spent a long weekend in a farm hotel with my fiance and no internet access. It was bliss.

It also meant no Friday post, no Friday video, and no Monday book reviews. Sorry.
I'm hopefully going to be moving the videos to a Wednesday because then I might have more lucky at getting them done every week.

I did manage to visit the library on Friday before we left and gathered another pile of books. Of course first I had to present them with a bank statement, a credit card bill, my passport and my drivers license to prove I was who I said I was and I lived within the area, so yes I could be trusted with a library card (despite the obvious fact that I was asking for a replacement because I lost the last one). So here is the list of what I now have sitting beside my desk;

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Diary of a Wimpy Vampire (because the undead have feelings too) by Tim Collins
Paper Towns by John Green (SQUEE!)
Sugarcoated by Catherine Forde
All We Know of Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Immortal by Gillian Shields
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

I'm currently reading Paper Towns as it's been on my want list for at least a year and I was so very excited to see it sitting there on the library shelf. I checked the system and it only arrived at the end of April and was taken out straight away, probably took the usual week or so to go back through the system and then I found it. I refuse to comment on wither or not I actually squeed in the library.
Thirteen Reasons why is also on my want list so I'll probably leave that till list but any suggestions on what order to read the rest in would be gratefully received. You should hopefully get the first reviews from this pile on Monday as usual.