Friday, 28 January 2011

FIVE THINGS ON FRIDAY

Well, that post on Wednesday certainly got a lot of attention! I'm still a little overwhelmed but I'm so glad that we had that great discussion in the comments and (so far!) no trolls ruined it.

However, after all that Important Grownup Discussion, I feel like returning to my normal madcap randomness today, hence FIVE THINGS ON FRIDAY!

1. This notebook. It is so pretty. But so expensive. But it has different coloured pages with illustrations. But I already have over seventy blank notebooks in my Writing Cave. But it has a Japanese woman on the front. But I don't need anymore notebooks. But SO PRETTY. Ach.

2. This post from author Marie Brennan on why people seriously need to stop tossing the term 'Mary-Sue' around when what they actually mean is 'I don't like this character' and why they should also stop and think a little about WHY they don't like the character, if the reason is that she's a) female and b) not useless. People have, in several reviews, called Alex from TSK a Mary Sue. I think even Zira got called a Mary-Sue once or twice. I may be flattering myself here, but I'm pretty sure I know what a Sue is, and I'm pretty sure I didn't write one in either case. If people don't connect with or believe in the character, that's fine, but I can't take them seriously if they just say 'Mary-Sue!' without having any understanding of what that actually means.

3. I am currently reading Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I luffs it. Go get a copy.

4. Another awesome post by N.K. Jemisin on how/why to write disability in SF or fantasy. Very useful, this - but comes with an Adult Language Warning.

5.  Unexpected dog picture is unexpected! Ha ha. This is Finn kindly checking my work. Don't know what I'd do without him.

6. Yeah, that's right - random extra number! I'm just that crazy. Interesting article by author Malinda Lo on not judging books by their covers, and how our drive to encourage diversity ought not to result in being too harsh on writers and publishers.

Ah, that feels better. Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, 24 January 2011

MAGIC WORDLE IS MAGIC

Hi everyone - Monday again. Where the heck did the weekend go? Oh, that's right, I didn't have one because I was locked in my study for twenty hours living on coffee and Quavers, writing seven thousand words in two days. Never mind. *Insane Cackle*

Ahem. Anyway, I fully intended to do you a big, long writing post today but once again the demands of writing Big Secret Project interfered. I swear, this project is going to devour my soul before I'm finished. However, I'm hoping to complete the sample chapters this week, so with any luck the blog will return to its normal schedule soon.

In the meantime, if there are any topics you'd like me to cover - any particular aspects of writing, publishing, being a writer, or any other random subjects that you'd like me to blog on, please comment or email and I'll do my best to accomodate you.

To tide us over until I'm back in the land of the living, I thought I'd once again tease and taunt you with all the stuff about Big Secret Projec that I can't actually tell you. Hence: Wordle!


Wordle: WIP
http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/3029189/WIP


I used my synopsis here, since I haven't written enough of the book for it to represent the story fairly. Once again, magic Wordle is scarily accurate in the way it presents the story, with all the dramatic words slicing into each other and the way it links up certain words. How does it know? Mio, by the way, is the heroine's name. But that's all I'm saying. Google is your friend on the other stuff.

Read you on Wednesday. If you'd like an actual post instead of me just rambing, tell me what to write about in the comments!

Friday, 21 January 2011

BIG SECRET PROJECT TEASER

Happy Friday, everyone. Congratulations on surviving another week. It was tough one for me, and probably for many of you as well. Give yourself a friendly pat on the back (if you can reach).

Since I was a big old meanie on Wednesday and didn't keep my world building post promise, and since the reason for that was Big Secret Project, and since everyone wants to know more about Big Secret Project but I can't really give you any details yet...

That's right - today I offer a special, exclusive sneak peek of Big Secret Project, just for you faithful blog readers. And this really is a teaser, because I'm literally on chapter three of the first draft and every single word I post here is likely to change later on. But the response to the FF teaser was so amazing that I thought you'd probably like to see this anyway, so here goes. Let me know what you think. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

NOT THE WORLD BUILDING POST YOU WERE LOOKING FOR

Sorry guys! I know I'm a bad blogging author, but things got away from me and I didn't end up writing the world building post I promised.

Quick run-down: I was in the middle of a really fun and intense world building spree for book #5 (the Giant Killer Clockwork Praying Mantis Death Robot Book) and was going places I'd never gone before, setting up twin moons that cause super high and super low tides, plus doing all the normal stuff I enjoy like creating a complex multi-racial society. I was having such fun that I thought I'd take you on a little journey with me through the process.

But then Super Agent Nancy got back to me about Big Secret Project and asked me to write two more sample chapters for her, ASAP. This meant that I needed to drop the Giant Killer Clockwork Praying Mantis Death Robot Book (and its fantasy setting) and dive straight back into Big Secret Project (with its contemporary setting). I'm currently doing some very quick research with the help of some friends, since it's set in a city where I don't actually live, and trying to disconnect my brain from the third person historical fantasy voice and reconnect it to the first person contemporary one.

So all in all, I've been a tad busy and stressed since Tuesday, and I don't really dare to think about book #5 too much because I'm already having a hard enough time getting my head back into the Big Secret Project. I'll have a look at world building when a) I've completed the sample chapters or b) I feel like I'm stuck into them enough that I can spare the attention.

And now my stomach is rumbling. Apparently it's picky and doesn't recognise coffee as food. *Sigh*

Take care, everyone! And wish me luck...

Friday, 14 January 2011

FROSTFIRE TEASER

Happy Friday, guys! Here, as promised, is a FrostFire teaser, offered with the usual proviso - the manuscript isn't edited yet, and any scenes you read here are subject to changes both minor and major, or even total deletion.

Text under the cut:

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

RANDOM WEDNESDAY

First of all, THE FINAL DRAFT OF FROSTFIRE IS FINISHED!!!!

Of course, when I say 'final draft' I mean 'It's at the stage where I can send it to my editor'. And when I say 'finished' I mean 'Now my editor will rip it into itty-bitty shreds and point out all the stupid mistakes and inconsistencies and boring parts and I'll have to fix them and we'll do that two or three more times and then I'll have a line-edit and a copy-edit' but, you know, whatever. For right now, I'm finished. Woot!

Once my editor does get back to me about it (she hasn't returned from her extremely well deserved holiday yet, I don't think, so it'll probably be a little while) and I've got some ideas about her intial thoughts, hopefully I should be able to share some more details with you about FrostFire. It really is completely different to anything I've written before and very different to pretty much anything I've seen on the YA shelves, so I'm excited and scared!

With all this, naturally I ought to be taking the opportunity to live it up on a beach in Malibu, paddling in the warm water, working on my tan and drinking strange substances that come in coconut husks and have little umbrellas in them. But I can't afford it (and I don't tan anyway). Instead I should probably take a little bit of time off and recharge my batteries, loll about, read some new books. But I'm obsessive compulsive and forcing myself to take time off causes anxiety attacks, especially when I've only just had a week off for Christmas. So instead, I'm going to start putting down some ideas for book #5, which is the last book I have contracted with my publisher and which must be completed before I can start work on Big Secret Project (assuming anyone wants to buy Big Secret Project).

Book #5 is tentatively entitled Immortal Flesh, and is fondly known amongst long-time fans as The Giant Praying Mantis Killer Clockwork Death Robot Book. See how that slips off the tongue?

More random stuff: 2010 in Facebook Statuses..es..eses...


This is quite fun for me to look at, like a mini-diary, although it's a shame that I didn't actually start bothering to update my Facebook status until April.

Slightly less random is that Walker Books have launched UnderCover Reading, which has its own blog here. Shadows on the Moon will be the featured title in July, which means that readers will have access to exclusive online content and extras, so it's well worth bookmarking/following. Lynsey at Narratively Speaking (hi Lynsey!) blogs about this in more detail here.

Okay, back to my drawing board. Read you all on Friday!

Monday, 10 January 2011

NEW SHADOWS ON THE MOON ARC WINNER

Okay, everyone - I've now officially given up on getting a response from Alessandra @ Out of the Blue. It's a shame, but I've put her name here plenty of times and given her what I feel is a fair chance to respond, and I don't intend to chase her anymore.

What this means for you? I've picked a NEW Shadows on the Moon ARC winner out of the hat. Well, actually I picked one and it turned out to be one of the bloggers who *already* has a review copy, so then I picked another one. And the winner is (drumroll please):

SHANNON THE BOOKSTALKER

Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth from all the other blog readers/followers. I'm sorry, you guys - especially for those of you who I know were really crossing your fingers for this. But Lady Luck is a Fickle Mistress and maybe it will be your turn next time. Shannon, please email me through my profile to give me your address so that I can post your prize out to you, as per the picture below:


FYI: I'm implementing a new policy with regard to competitions. I don't want to get too grumpy about it, but for every giveaway/competition I've done there has always been one winner who apparently doesn't read this blog at all, even though they're an official 'follower', and who forces me to send them multiple emails before they respond. It makes me a bit miffed to have to go to all that trouble to give people their free stuff, so...yeah, not doing it anymore.

From now on, I will give any winner seven days, not including the day of the draw, to get in touch. If they don't I pick another winner. That seems fair to me.

Anyway, congratulations, Shannon! And happy Monday to everyone else.

Monday Writing Statistics:

  • Pages of FrostFire that have been revised/polished: 135
  • Words that have been cut from last draft: 1,400
  • Pages of FrostFire yet to be revised: 158
  • Estimated final word count: 84,000 (almost the same as DotF)
  • Deadline: 13th January 2011 (3 days left, eek!)
Off back to work with me - for I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, 7 January 2011

MUSE FRIENDLY MUSIC

Hi everyone! First of all I need to welcome a new member of my family, Kiki the Coffee machine.

Regular blog readers have glimpsed the horror that is me without coffee; to say that it is vital to me would be something of an understatement. However, up until this point I'd been drinking mostly instant with a scattering of Starbucks, and feeling strong pangs of envy whenever I saw vlogs of other authors and their coffee makers.

After a year of procrastinating over buying a filter coffee machine, I finally gave in and bought Kiki just ahead of the tax hike. Here she is, installed in my kitchen in all her cherry red glory. I've not quite dared try to operate her yet. She's just so *shiny*. I'm hoping that she'll help keep me productive in the coming year.


On Wednesday the subject of music came up in the comment thread, and I decided that I'd do a little round-up of music that I've found useful for stimulating the writing part of my brain. I ought to make it clear that this isn't necessarily my favourite music, or even the music that I listen to the most just for fun (though some of it is!). It's music that gets me into the right mood to write, or helps me to write a specific kind of scene, and often I'm not even sure why that is.

One of this year's greatest discoveries for me was Two Steps from Hell and their album 'Legend'. The following track is one of my favourites. I can't really imagine sitting on the bus listening to it, but when I'm feeling flat and tired and not in a creative mood, this song grabs hold of my creative muscle and gives it a good hard smacking. I've been listening to it constantly while writing FF.



Next, the wonderful Florence and the Machine. Yes, I know everyone loves Flo - and I certainly DO listen to her music on the bus, and sing along! - but this track does something special for me and has managed to find its way onto every playlist on my iPod. I often play this while writing fast, chasing scenes.

Moving onto one of my all-time favourite artists Imogen Heap. Some of her stuff I love and adore and other bits I have to be in the right mood to appreciate - but when something works for me it WORKS, and once again this track is brilliant for getting me into a mood of emotional tension so that I can unleash angst and suffering on the page.

Now for something a little more manly - the song Alibi, from 30 Seconds to Mars album War. I love the slow build-up of this piece, it's really sneaky because it slides you into drama without you realising it. It's great for writing scenes which start off quietly but gradually become darker.

Onto a tune which is a little more classical. Many people have asked me what the music was for the Shadows on the Moon trailer, and the answer is a sample from this track, Ending Title, from the soundtrack of the film 'Curse of the Golden Flower'. I love it, and I defy anyone to hear the rising beat of the drums tangle with the rich timbre of the shinobue flute and NOT feel their heart skip a beat.

Next is probably my favourite song ever, from one of my favourite bands. If you have heard the Leona Lewis travesty which was a cover of this song, please try to erase it from your mind. Argh. THIS is the real thing.

This next song comes from another favourite band of mine, Paramore. I loved them waaaay before they got famous for being on the Twilight soundtrack, and this song is brilliant for writing kissing scenes. There, I said it! KISSING!

This song was recommended on Maggie Stiefvater's blog many long moons ago, and I'm really grateful, because it's great for writing anger - when your character is mad as hell and isn't going to take it anymore. The steadily rising percussion is irresistible.

Okay, this post is getting horribly long, so I end with a song called Sacrifice from the amazing Lisa Gerrard. This lady was responsible for the soundtracks of such films as Gladiator and Whale Rider, and her music is stunning (she used to be in a band called Dead Can Dance and they were also frighteningly awesome). I used this track a lot when writing Shadows on the Moon, and again for FF.

Music is an incredibly individual thing, but hopefully someone will discover a new favourite here, in which case all the messing about embedding these videos will have been worth it!

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2010 ROUND UP, 2011 RESOLUTIONS

Before I move onto the main point of this post, I just want to give a link to my review of N.K. Jemisin's THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS.

I adored it and I'm recommending it to everyone. However, for anyone under sixteen, this review comes with a warning: there's some kinky sex stuff in here, therefore your parents may not approve (that never stopped ME from reading stuff when I was under sixteen, but I thought it best to mention).

Okay, onwards! Normally at this time of year I like to sit down and take a bit of time to think about the events of the past twelve months. I turn everything over in my head, all the good things and the bad, and try to figure out what I did right and wrong. In the past obviously this has been a private thing, but I thought this year I would share it with you and maybe stimulate you all to try doing the same thing.

THE EPIC EVENTS OF 2010
  • January: Found out that I had won the 2009 Sasakawa Prize for Shadows on the Moon. I also found out that my job was under threat.
  • February: Started work on FrostFire (which was then called 'Wolves in the Wind', eugh).
  • March: Went to London and met with my editor, Annalie, and her boss, Gill, as well as lots of other splendid Walker Books people. Realised that everyone was really exited about Shadows and got rather excited myself. Talked about FF with my editor. Convinced her that the protagonist of FF should change to a girl, and got tentative approval of some contraversial details...
  • April: Lost my job. Wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Gill and Annalie rallied around with encouragement and advice.
  • May: Applied for a grant from The Royal Literary Fund on Gill's advice. Also applied for benefits for the first time in my life and thought that I would die of embarrassment because I used to WORK in that office, and everyone knew who I was. Hadn't had so many fingers pointed or so many people whispering about me behind their hands since school.
  • June: Started this blog! And my own YouTube Channel. Applied for every job I could find and frantically scribbled away on FF, achieving a target of 2000 words a day, six days a week, for six weeks.
  • July: Interviewed for several jobs, then found out that I was being awarded an amazingly generous grant from the RLF, and that they intended to pay off all my debts. Realised that I would now be able to be a full-time writer for the next TWO YEARS and went into a state of utter, incoherant bliss for about a week. Came up with brilliant idea of trying to turn FF into a two book series.
  • August: Finished first draft of FF. Gave myself two weeks off and read approximately thirty books, discovering Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Sarah Rees Brennan and Cassandra Clare. Was gently persuaded by editor that FF would not work as a two book series and got back to work on it.
  • September: Parted ways with former agent, with much sadness and regret. Went to London to present Shadows on the Moon at the Walker sales conference and was blown away by everyone's enthusiasm for the book. Found a new agent and melted with relief.
  • October: Revealed the cover of Shadows on the Moon and was delighted to find that everyone else loved it just as much as me. Finished another draft of FF. Completed copy-edits of Shadows.
  • November: Realised that the current version of FF was utter, complete, wretched nonsense. Wailed, ripped out hair, banged head on desk, then finally threw it out and started again from scratch. Went to London once more and met awesome bloggers at Walker Undercover event. Was snowed in for a full week and realised snow is only pretty when it's not melting in your boots.
  • December: Finished the penultimate draft of FF. Wrote sample chapter and synopses for Big Secret Project and sent them off to agent. Survived Christmas.

Looking at this list (which is only this complete because I had this blog for six months of the year and could check my facts) I cannot BELIEVE how much has happened this year. It's been twelve months of staggering highs and lows - the major lows being losing my job and leaving my agent. And yet the highs more than made up for those bad days: if I hadn't lost my job I would never have gotten the RLF grant and the chance to fulfil a lifelong dream and become a full-time writer. If I hadn't had to leave my old agent I would never have found my new one, who is awesomesauce.

On the whole I'd say that 2010 has been one of the most stressful, joyful and significant of my life. But what's really great is that I have this strange feeling that 2011 will be even better. So...

2011 NEW YEAR'S GOALS
  1. I'd love to be able to stick to my 2000 words, six days a week regime. But slavishly adhering to that routine caused me to type my first draft directly onto my laptop instead of drafting with pen and paper first, and that wasn't a good thing. So what I'm going to set as a resolution is this: Write six days a week, using my notebook.
  2. I'm not a very consistent writer. One book took me six months to write while I was working in an office full-time. Another book took eighteen months when I was doing my office work part-time. I'm not sure why this is, but now that I have this chance to be full-time as a writer, I'd like to increase my productivity and my consistency, so I'm setting myself a challenging target. I might not be able to do it, but I do want to try: Write two books in 2011. 
  3. I'm really proud of the fact that I've managed to blog three times a week every week this year. It hasn't always been easy! But I've been rewarded with some amazing blog followers. I'd like to keep doing that AND I'd like to vlog more as well, because I think that's a good way of enriching the blog for all of you. So: Carry on blogging three times a week, and try to vlog once a month.
  4. Finally, a goal that I can't really control myself, making this more like a wish than any kind of a resolution. In 2011 I really hope that Shadows on the Moon lives up to everyone's expectations (including mine). I love this book and believe in it, and so do my publisher, but I'm aware that this isn't always enough when you're not a big name with a big marketing and PR budget. My final goal is: Do all I can to promote Shadows so that it gets into the right hands, gets the right reviews or award nominations, catches the imagination of the people who will enjoy it, and finds its place in the market.
Phew, that was a long one! What are your New Year's Goals, folks?
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