Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Hi Everyone! I hope you're all having a great week so far.

In the excitement of reviewing Witchlanders on Monday I made a glaring ommission and forgot to point out that rather spiffy new sidebar banner which is glamming up my blog at the moment (look, it's there on the right - see? With the cherry blossoms) and explain that the wondergirls at The Book Memoirs have decided to dedicate a whole week on their blog to a certain writer. You know the one - the blonde. Loud girl, makes a lot of strange jokes. Has freakishly big eyes and a permanently worried expression? Yeah, her. Heaven knows why, but she's really honoured by the whole thing! I mean, she didn't even have to blackmail them or anything!

So when the 8th of August comes around I'll be directing you over to The Book Memoirs every single day of the week for guest posts, Q&As, reviews and giveaways. Like a Zolah-Themed blog carnival. It's going to be AMAZING. I'm so excited!

And for today's post I'm going to set that precedent by directing you to the Walker Undercover Blog where you will find an intriguing discussion between me and Wonder Girl, Mistress of Awesome, She Who Must Be Obeyed - otherwise known as Annalie, my editor.

Anyone who has ambitions of becoming a published author one day ought to click on this, because it sheds light on the way that editors think, and the working relationship between editor and writer. And it would be great if you could leave comments there on the Undercover Blog and let Annalie know how much you appreciate her taking the time to do the interview, because she's a very busy lady.

Well, that's all for today, peeps! See you on Friday, when I'll be continuing the Plotting series.

Monday, 25 July 2011


Hello Dear Readers! Monday again, and today I bring you a review of another fantastic book (I'm having a really great reading streak lately): WITCHLANDERS by Lena Coakley

The Synopsis:

High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.

It’s all a fake.

At least, that’s what Ryder thinks. He doubts the witches really deserve their tithes—one quarter of all the crops his village can produce. And even if they can predict the future, what danger is there to foretell, now that his people’s old enemy, the Baen, has been defeated?

But when a terrifying new magic threatens both his village and the coven, Ryder must confront the beautiful and silent witch who holds all the secrets. Everything he’s ever believed about witches, the Baen, magic and about himself will change, when he discovers that the prophecies he’s always scorned—

Are about him.

The Review:

Firstly I have to say that although that synopsis above sounds really cool, it bears very little resemblance to the book I read. I'm going to take a wild guess that it was not written by the author of this book, but by someone who was (in a well-meaning sort of way) trying to make the book appeal to the widest possible audience by giving the impression that the book is a traditional high fantasy with the character of Ryder as The Chosen One and a romance with that 'beautiful and silent witch'. Perhaps part of the same team that put a wistful looking, long-haired girl on the cover in the style of a paranormal romance, when there is, in fact, no female viewpoint character?

In any case, Lena Coakley's book is far from a traditional high fantasy, and nothing like a paranormal romance. And thank God for that!

In fact the character of Ryder is one of two narrators in Witchlanders, and the other isn't the witch of the synopsis, but Falpian, a boy of the Baen, the historical enemy of Ryder's Witchlander people. Neither of them precisely fits within the heroic stereotype of The Chosen One.

Ryder dreams of leaving the hardscrabble drudgery of his parent's border farm and going to sea, but when his father unexpectedly dies, he's forced to stay at home and keep the farm going, driven by a curmudgeonly sense of responsibility that doesn't really conceal his deep love for his eccentric, crumbling mother and effervescent younger sisters. He pooh-poohs his mother's bone-casting and resents the high-handed witches who serve as religious and political leaders from their mountain fastness. And he struggles to deal with his mother's increasingly erratic behaviour as she falls deeper and deeper into her dependency on ingesting hallucinagenic flowers.

Falpian is a sensitive, pampered young man who is sent to live alone in a tiny cottage on the Baen border during the winter of the story by his father, as part of the traditional mourning period for his twin brother, who recently drowned at sea. He's fighting not only his own loss but the despair of knowing that his father despises him for failing to inherit the war-like 'singing magic' that supposedly runs in their family. He wants nothing more than to see his father look at him with pride again, and when the man escorting him to the cottage gives him a special scroll which he is to open after fifty days, he believes he has been offered the chance to complete a mission which will win him his father's respect.

This pair are opposites in every way, from their appearance to their religious views to their family backgrounds. By every rule of both their societies, by everything either of them has ever been taught, they are destined to be bitter enemies. And they are. But they are also fated to form a friendship which will endanger and save both their lives, bring them closer than brothers, and thrust them into experiences that no one else alive can understand.

Lena Coakley's command of language in this novel is breathtaking. She narrates both viewpoint characters in a close third person, unspooling the essence of their souls onto the page with seemingly effortless skill that never resorts to awkward info-dumping, and creating a pair of voices which are utterly distinct, even as Ryder and Falpian's different worlds collide. So deeply enmeshed in their emotions did I feel that when I came to write this review, I had to go back and check that I wasn't imagining that the story had been in third person, because normally only first person creates that kind of an empathetic bond for me.

Witchlanders is a daring story. It deals deftly with themes of religious and racial prejudice. It takes on the horrors of war and the effect that these can have on the survivors even among the victors. It looks at the more personal tragedies of ingrained misogyny, addiction and self-deception within families. It offers no easy answers. It focuses not on any traditional romantic relationship but on the deep, brotherly love and respect that grows up between two young men despite the fact that each of them is working to preserve their own people, even at the expense of the other.

Given the trends in the current YA market, I'm delighted that a publisher was willing to take a risk on such an unconventional book, one that defies categorisation and which doesn't offer a High Concept hook. But I can see why. No editor with a soul could have passed up such a beautifully written, perfectly characterised, masterfully plotted book when it happened across their desk. Witchlanders is good enough that it doesn't HAVE to fit neatly into a genre or sub-genre. It strides confidently past them and makes a space for itself.

It's well known that I'm not a fan of cliff-hanger endings, and I suppose that some people might term the open-ended conclusion of this novel a bit...unresolved. It's clear that the Witchlander and Baen people both face uncertain futures, and that none of the characters we've grown to love are necessarily safe. I really hope that the author continues the story she has begun in Witchlanders with a sequel or even two. But even if she doesn't, after the unexpected and profound emotional experience of reading this book, it seems ungrateful not to be perfectly satisfied.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Hi everyone! Congratulations on making it to Wednesday alive.

Today I'm going to review The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (which I received as an eARC via NetGalley - thanks NetGalley!) a book which held me utterly spellbound on Monday, and which I still can't stop thinking about now.

The Synopsis:  

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do. 

The Review:

I honestly don't know what to say about this book. It's not enough to say that I loved it. That I admired it. That I swallowed it in one gulp and that my heart is still filled by it. Or even that, despite the book's carefully crafted and well-resolved story arc, I'd sell a kidney to get hold of the next book in the trilogy. 

As a writer I love and admire many books, and crave their sequels. 

But I don't often read books that I wish, with my whole soul, I had written myself. 

That's a odd statement to make, I know. Of course whenever I like a book I kind of wish that I could have written it. But most of the time know I never could. I don't have the fiendish plotting gift needed to create a trilogy like The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, or the epic vision to come up with a story like Veronica Roth's Divergent, or the skill required to put together a double-crossing Baroque family dynamic like the one in The Demon Trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan. My brain simply doesn't work the way those author's brains work. Not only could I never have written their books the way they did, I know that a story like the stories they have told would never have occurred to me to be written in the first place.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns is different. It's a high fantasy which deals with almost every one of my all-time favourite themes to write about. It tackles religion and the dividing and uniting aspects of religion. It deals with the physical and mental transformation of the protagonist. It takes on tragic, forbidden love, friendship, resistence against overwhelming odds and female power. It is written in a voice which is the perfect combination of lyricism and intense sensory description. Its characters - from the main players to the most minor spear-carriers - are beautifully nuanced, multifaceted and complex in just the way I always strive to achieve. The story follows the path which I would have chosen myself, and yet it is utterly unpredictable.

In short, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is the book I want to write when I grow up.


Sometimes I regret that I got published at such a relatively young age. I mean, I don't regret being a published author, and I'm proud of all my books, imperfect as they are. But I wonder - if I'd waited a few years, trunked a few more stories - maybe my first book could have been like this? Because if you're going to blast your way onto the market with a high fantasy, THIS is the way to do it.

Let me offer a few more reasons why you should go out and get this yourselves the moment it hits the shops.

Firstly, if you want to see a heroine who is (painfully, excruciatingly) realistic in her flaws and self-doubts, and who gradually matures and hardens into an extraordinary woman of courage, power and wisdom (and also the sort of badass who pretends to beg at a traitor's feet so that she can steal the knives out of his boots and then threaten to cut his throat with them) then you will definitely enjoy this book.

If you love far-flung, unpredictable plots which drag the characters through every possible physical and mental test and then come full-circle to allow them to use all they have learned, you will like this book.

If you hate insta-love and you want meaningful relationships (not just romantic ones!) which develop slowly out of respect and knowledge, this book is for you.

If you love richly textured non-standard fantasy settings which are filled with people of all ethnic backgrounds, and dark-skinned heroes and heroines who take leading roles, you want this book.

If you want a book that carefully examines the idea of religious faith and 'God's Will' and which eventually demonstrates that all humans, whether by virtue or weakness, are part of God's plan, then this book will thrill you.

Finally, if you want a book that will make you gasp, and cry, and curl up into a little ball of shattered emotions, a book that will wreck you and then put you back together again with bittersweet grace, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is your book.

I've recommended books to you guys before, books that I loved and admired. But this book? This book I am not recommending. I am *ordering* you to go get it. You need it. You want it. You must have it. Go on. Pre-order it now.


Sunday, 17 July 2011


Hello, dear readers! Today I propose to tantalise you with a snippet of my fourth book, FrostFire, which is currently in edits with Wonder Editor (otherwise known as Mistress of Awesome, She Who Must be Obeyed, or sometimes just Annalie). As a quick reminder, FrostFire is a companion novel to Daughter of the Flames, set in Ruan but featuring a completely different cast of characters.

As always, any teasers posted here prior to the final proof-read are subject to changes both large and small, and may even end up on the cutting room floor. So enjoy it while you can. And tell me what you think!


Luca strode ahead of me. By the time that I, carefully carrying my axe, had reached the tent, Luca had already lit two lamps inside and was rummaging in the chest at the foot of his bed. I laid my axe carefully on my pile of furs. When I turned, I saw that Luca had laid a drying cloth on the floor next to the low table, and had a brush in his hand. The brush had fine white bristles and the back of it was silver. Such an item had never been near my shaggy mess of hair before.
“This will get the dust out,” he promised. “Come sit on the cloth, and that way it won’t get all over the rugs.”
I smiled as I went to sit cross legged on the edge of the towel.
“Nothing. Only...sometimes you can be a little...m-motherly.”
There was a long pause. I glanced over my shoulder at him. He was still by the bed, mouth hanging open.
“Motherly?” he repeated. I couldn’t tell from if his voice if he was angry or just shocked. I shrugged, taking a little petty satisfaction in having wrong-footed him for once.
“Sometimes. Can I have the brush now?”
“No,” he almost snapped, coming to kneel behind me. “You can’t see where the dust is.”
A tiny laugh escaped my lips. I put my hand over my mouth. After a second I heard him laugh too, if reluctantly.
“Any more jokes like that and I’ll make you go and dunk in the river again – and it’s cold at this time of night, believe me. Here, hold this.”
He shoved the brush at me over my shoulder, and as I fumbled to catch it I felt a quick series of tugs at my hair. My braid uncoiled from around my head, falling down my back with a puff of rock dust.
“How do you know how to do that?” I demanded.
“How do you think? My hair’s longer than yours. I pin it under my helm all the time. Give me the brush now, and no funny comments, please.”
He tugged the tie from the end of the braid. Feeling him comb gently through the long wriggles of hair with his fingers, I abruptly lost the urge to tease. My breath left me in a long, shuddering sigh. Goosepimples sprang up on my skin. Mortified, I pressed my lips together and prayed this would be over soon.
“Lean back,” he murmured, tilting my head. His fingertips brushed the curve of my ear. My teeth bit into my lip.
The brush made a soft shushing noise as he ran it through the thick, fluffy layers of my hair, parting it gently to get at all the dust. I felt myself slumping back further towards him – I couldn’t help it – and put out a hand to steady myself. My palm landed on his leg, stretched out beside me.
The firm, warm bulge of muscle above his knee tensed under my fingers. The brush paused in mid-stroke. I froze.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Hello everyone! Today is official release day for Shadows on the Moon - the day when the online retailers like Amazon and The Book Depository change the book's status from Pre-Order to Order Now, the day when bookshops nationwide will start putting it out right there on the shelves for people to pick up and leaf through and hopefully BUY.


Just for your information, I have made another pledge, this time to my Twitter friends, that if Shadows on the Moon makes it onto any UK bestseller's chart, I will film myself doing the famous Zolah Happy Dance and post it on YouTube for all to see (and mock, and laugh at). So, if you'd like to see (and mock, and laugh at) that, now is a great time to order Shadows on the Moon in either paperback or Kindle edition, or pick up a copy (or two!) from your local bookshop. You could even ask about it at your local library and make sure that they've ordered one for their shelves. Just sayin'.

And now that bit's over (phew!) I'm going to talk to you about the thing causing all this fuss. My story. The story that was, at various times, called 'The Moon Mask', 'Fair as the Moon' and 'The Shadow Mantle'. The story we now know as Shadows on the Moon. The following post is based on the talk I gave at the Walker Undercover event in winter last year.

Sometimes as a writer you get an idea that is crazy. So crazy that you have no choice but to write it. In my case the idea came when Memoirs of a Geisha, Cinderella and The Count of Monte Cristo all collided in my head. At the time I was struggling with another book (which is still unfinished) and my crazy, Japanese influenced idea looked incredibly shiny and fun and easy in comparision. So, with the blessing of my editor, I switched.

Guess what? It wasn't shiny. It wasn't fun. And it definitely was not easy.

Almost straight away, things began to go wrong. My heroine turned out to be much darker and more complex than I had bargained for. The story developed twists and turns I never expected. The world expanded until I had lost track of its boundaries. Within a chapter or two I was having a crisis of confidence. The monologue running through my head went something like this:

I made a mistake. This story isn't ready to be written. It's too big. I should never have started it. I’ll never finish it. 

I got stuck for months at a time. I blew two deadlines, one computer, and more braincells than I care to think about.

And it was worth it.

Because when I finished I found that despite the panic attacks, temper tantrums and ripping my hair out over my rising word count, something really extraordinary had happened. A story had forced itself out of me into the world, and even I felt a bit shocked at just how special it was.

It might be surprising to learn, especially for those of you who know how much I love fairytales - but I have never been a fan of Cinderella. In fact, if you'd asked me growing up, I'd probably have said she was my least favourite fairytale heroine of all. Let’s face it, she’s the classic wimp. Throughout the entire fairytale Cinderella never seems to take a single action to improve her lot in life. All she does is sigh and whine and wait for other people to save her – which they duly do, first her fairy godmother, and finally the prince.

But what did Cinderella do to deserve any of that? I'm sorry, but being beautiful and obedient just don't cut it in my view. She never shows a scrap of determination, strength or intelligence. I mean, if I was in her situation and my fairy godmother had arrived in a puff of smoke asking what I wanted, I’d have requested something a bit more practical than a nice dress and a ride to the ball. How about a box of my mum’s jewellery and a coach ticket out of town? Who would just throw away their one chance at freedom to go and sip lukewarm lemonade and get stepped on by some random prince's feet?

For years I'd been rolling my eyes at Cinderella and crossly muttering to myself that no real person - no real girl, with a real heart and a real mind - could be that spineless. And then one day, out of the blue, it occurred to me to ask: What if Cinderella wasn’t? What if she WASN'T a wimp? If that persona was an illusion. A disguise...
What kind of person would play that part? Hide every vestige of their soul beneath a mask of obedience and beauty? And why?

The story flipped in my head. Immediately I saw that a character who was intelligent, cunning and devious enough to play the role of Cinderella would have to have a really good reason to endure all that she does in the story. She would have to want something very badly, badly enough to risk her own soul to get it.

REVENGE. Revenge for the murder of her father. After all, the first important thing that happens in Cinderella is her father's death. The story never says how he died, but what if it was murder?

I began to see that my Cinderella would hide as a common drudge in her enemy’s kitchen in order to preserve her life. And when she rose from the dirt and ashes she would become, not some imitation fairy princess, but the most beautiful courtesan in the land, determined to go to the ball, not to wear a pretty dress and dance with the prince, but to crush her enemy.

And then I began to think of all the ways it could go wrong. All the ways that living a life of such darkness and deception would hurt and twist and eventually destroy a person, no matter how strong they were. I began to wonder just what could save my Cinderella from the vengeance she had sacrificed everything to achieve.

So in the midst of this ruthless quest for vengeance, I knew that my heroine would meet a boy. Not just any boy. The one person in the world who saw through her magic and her beautiful illusions and her mask of Shadows. Someone who could sees all her fury and her hurt and her darkness...and love her anyway. This boy wouldn’t give her up - not even to the prince she was determined to snare.

Shadows on the Moon is a story about transformations, and about how sometimes in our quest to leave our pain behind, we can accidentally leave ourselves behind as well.

It's a story about how deception hurts everyone, even the one practising it.
It's a story about illusions and how - frighteningly often - is it easier to believe in lies than truth.

But most of all, Shadows on the Moon turned out to be a story about love. About how, like my version of Cinderella, it can wear many faces. And some them are dark and terrible. But ultimately, the story is about how love can bring you back to yourself when even you thought that you were lost forever.

Here's the trailer again, in case anyone missed it on Sugarscape (or just wants to see it again). And I've been authorised to tell you that if the views on this trailer get up to over 1,000, there may be extra trailer related goodness on offer - like deleted scenes. Yeah, baby! Tell your friends!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Hello dear readers! Today is a momentous day because it is FINALLY time for me to reveal to you the Shadows on the Moon trailer!

I'm really incredibly proud of this (even though my contribution to it was fairly small) and so delighted that my publisher decided to put this much effort into making it something special. They've arranged for it to debut exclusively on Sugarscape.com, which is a digital magazine for teens with a fantastic online book club, which will hopefully get it the attention it deserves - but of course if you want to share it on Facebook or Tweet about it, I'll be very pleased.

But before I give you the link, another quick round-up of the blog tour.

Monday's post was on Writing From the Tub and included a sneak preview of the book and a swag giveaway too.

On Tuesday the wonderful Sarah at Feeling Fictional also offered a sneak preview, and a review - and a brilliant giveaway of two copies of the book, one of which is for INTERNATIONAL readers. So get over there and enter if you haven't already.

Today, lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking is doing another exciting giveaway and she will be reviewing the book tomorrow too, so make sure to check that out.

Also tomorrow, in defiance of my normal posting schedule, I'm going to be doing a very special blog post for you, which is based on the talk I gave at the 2010 Walker Undercover event, about the origins of Shadows on the Moon - where the idea came from, how it developed, my experience writing it and what the story means to me. I'll be hosting the book trailer here too. This post won't go up until after 5:30 in the afternoon (due to the exclusivity period which Sugarscape.com has with the trailer) so make sure to check back then for interesting insights into the book.

OK. Now for the moment you've been waiting for. *Deep breaths*

Here's the link to the Shadows on the Moon trailer.

Don't forget to come back and tell me what you think, guys!

Monday, 4 July 2011


Hi everyone and a very happy Monday to you all. Today is the day when we pick the names of three hardworking blog readers from the hat (well, the random number generator) and make them very happy, with any luck.

Before we get to that, though - a Blog Tour update.

Saturday's post is about my most influential writers, and is on the Undercover Blog.

Sunday's post reveals the soundtrack of Shadows on the Moon and is at the lovely Emma's Book Angel's Booktopia.

Today's post will be on Writing From the Tub (I think it's going to be another sneak preview of the book - there might be a giveaway too).

And don't forget to check out Tuesday's at Sarah's Feeling Fictional.

In other news, the Shadows on the Moon ebook is now available for pre-order and it's only £2.49. That's nearly 500 pages for under three quid!

All right, onto the part which I know you're all really here for:

The first winner, who will receive the grand prize of an ARC of Shadows on the Moon, signed and personalised for them, a sparkly UK paperback of The Swan Kingdom, a gorgeous US hardcover of Daughter of the Flames, both also signed and personalised, and a one of a kind piece of artwork created by my own fair hand during the process of writing Shadows on the Moon is...



Rebecca Lindsay! 

Which, given how many times Rebecca and her family entered, was probably inevitable. You really worked hard for this Rebecca - well done.

Now, the winner of the second prize, which is an ARC of Shadows on the Moon, a one of a kind piece of artwork from my Shadows on the Moon sketches, and a bag of swag, including signed bookplates, magnets and postcards is...

*Trumpet fanfare*



And again, I can't say I'm all that surprised, as I think Isabel entered nearly as many times as Rebecca. You were determined to win this one, Isabel, and you've never won anything from the blog before, which I know has been disappointing in the past. I'm really, really pleased for you. Congratulations! 

Finally, the runner up, who will get a one of a kind piece of artwork and a bag of swag, including signed bookplates, magnets, postcards, fans, and anything else I have on hand, is... 

*Heavenly chorus of angels*


Scattered Laura!  

Congratulations, Laura - I hope you'll be happy with your prize!  

I'd like all the winners to get in touch with me via my email (zdmarriott at g mail dot com) as soon as possible to give me their postal addresses. I'm going to try to get all these prizes in the post by Friday of this week so that you get them pronto. 

Congratulations again to all the winners. Commiserations to those of you who didn't win. I'm sure you're feeling a little depressed right now, but there will be other giveaways and maybe you'll be lucky another time.

See you all on Wednesday!

Friday, 1 July 2011


Hello everyone - I hope you're enjoying this fine, sunny Friday? I certainly am, after a half hour of yoga, a bracing dog-walk and a pint of coffee. Later on I plan to lay out a blanket in my garden and read while soaking up as much vitamin D as is possible for a pasty-skinned girl wearing factor 30. O, lazy holiday lifestyle - I shall miss you when I go back to work next week. Well, not really. But I shall pretend to.

All right, the first order of business today is to remind anyone who hasn't entered yet that the Blogiversary Extravaganza giveaway is still open. You have until midnight on the 3rd of July to collect those points. Clickity clickity to read the rules and the list of prizes.

Next up on the agenda - the Shadows on the Moon Blog Tour has begun! Yesterday the lovely Liz and Sarah of My favourite Books hosted an extract of Shadows on the Moon, a review, and swag giveaway/guest post by me about fairytale and mythology retellings that I love. Check it out!

Today's tour post is up on the Serendipity Blog, hosted by charming Vivienne, and recounts A Day In My Crazy Writing Life (with pictures) AND a giveaway of a copy of Shadows on the Moon!

See how good to you I am? Two posts and three giveaways in one day! I really urge you to head over to both these blogs and comment - let my publisher see your enthusiasm!

Finally, an update on the Shadows book trailer. I have seen a tough cut, and although they intend to trim it down with a little more editing, I am...well...speechless pretty much covers it. I cannot WAIT to show you what they did. I think they're launching it next week, and there are hush-hush things going on as to where, but I'll let you know the second I've got a link.

Have a lovely weekend everyone!
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