Friday, 30 September 2011

COMPETITION WINNER (That I should have announced on Monday. Ooops.)

Hi everyone - happy Friday! I hope you're all (by which I mean the British ones - sorry rest of the world) enjoying this wonderful Indian Summer we're having.

As long as I can remember I've thought the phrase 'Indian Summer' was enchanting and lovely, and I've always longed to be able to use it in conversation. And now I can! Hurray!

Another hurray for the fact that yesterday I finally managed to get my passport interview sorted out, and, barring mishaps, I should have my very own passport sometime in the next two weeks. Now if I ever make any money I can actually go places other than the UK! Although if the weather continues like this, I won't want to...

Back to business. Today began with an Oooops as I belatedly realised that I promised to pick the winner of last Friday's Ten Things I Love Giveaway this Monday. But I completely forgot because of that comment from the girl who was made to feel ashamed about reading YA at college, which caused me to feel an overwhelming need to get my rant on. Sorry about that, everyone!

Just to re-cap, I asked people to tell me their list of Ten Things They Loved in the comments before midnight on Friday, and promised I would randomly pick a participant to win a signed copy of Shadows on the Moon. I'll probably throw in a few associated goodies like magnets and postcards as well.

Having had a few bolstering sips of coffee, I've duly crunched the numbers through Random.org and the winner is:

(Drumroll Please)

JOANNA FARROW!

Congratulations, Joanna - please email me at z d marriott at gmail dot com and tell me your address, and I'll get your prize in the post for you as soon as I possibly can.

Commiserations to everyone else, but there's always a next time on my blog, so don't feel too depressed about it. Have a wonderful Friday and a great weekend, and I'll see you all on Monday!

Friday, 23 September 2011

TEN THINGS I LOVE

Hello, Dear Readers - and happy Friday! Isn't it lovely to see Friday again? It never gets old, does it? Today's post is brought to you via a meme (borrowed from the lovely Steph Burgis' Blog), wherein you take a moment to list ten things in your life that you love and are grateful for, just to remind yourself how lucky you are (and I have been tremendously lucky, I know).

So here we go:

1) Being a published writer. It might sound strange to list this as a thing I love, but it's true. I really do love being a writer, a published writer. I love this life. I spent my whole childhood, my teens and my early twenties longing for this outcome, bargaining with higher powers (and fairies, and the spirits, and fate and luck and any other supernatural thing I could think of) If only I could get published... And now I am. And I've got an unspeakably wonderful agent, a complete dream editor, the best readers ever, and I get to do this full-time, at least for a while. How wonderful is that? Sometimes I still have to stop and take a minute to absorb the fact that it's really, really real. I hope I always will.

2) Finbar Finley Finbarsson the Third. Needs no explanation, really. I mean, just look at him!


3) My online YA community. The people that I've met online - mostly on Twitter - have been an absolute Godsend to me. You may remember my Insecurity: I Haz It post, where I talked about how lonely and isolated I had felt in the past as a writer in my small, rural community. Family and friends tried to be supportive but the simple fact is that calling your sister or friend at work at three in the afternoon to say: '3k today, wahooo!' is likely to get a very puzzled reaction indeed. Online, that statement gets you virtual high-fives and hugs and genuinely interested questions about your WIP because the YA writing/reading community - bloggers, readers, writers both published and aspiring - GETS IT. I can't tell you how amazing it is to have a group of friends who get it. I love you guys!

4) My writing group. We've been around in one form or another since about 2002, but in 2004 the lovely Barbara decided to give us a name, The Furtive Scribblers, and we've never looked back. Most of my very best ideas for stories and situations and characters have evolved from the convoluted, tangenital discussions I have with my writing group that start out about unicorns as a mythological representation of innocence and end up with psychosomatic injuries. That this bunch of learned, educated, well-travelled, well-read individuals all gather together on a regular basis to, basically, talk crazy - and that it really works! - is a wonder and a joy to me.

5) Clouds and water. I'm so lucky to have access to wild green spaces in my day to day life. When I'm frustrated, sad, blocked or just restless, a long walk among the sighing grasses, looking at the clouds and the reflections in the water, eases my soul like nothing else ever has.


6) Books. Books, books, books. Do I need to say anymore here? There are a million authors I could thank for expanding my mind, my understanding, my heart and my soul, but basically...I love books. Even the books I hate, I also love in a strange way. Books. I love you.

7) Trains. Waiting at the station, watching the other trains pass by, leaving a blurred white snapshot on the back of my eyelids of incomplete faces peering out of the windows. The muffled, melancholic sounds of the announcements over the tannoy, mentioning places and routes that seem oddly exotic even if I've been there before. Getting on my own train, watching the other passengers from the corners of my eyes and making up names and stories for them based on the fact that they wear a red tie with a blue suit or that their shopping bag has a rainbow badge on it. And then, as the train pulls away, popping my headphones in, taking out my notebook and just writing. Writing faster than I ever manage to do in real life - because being on a train, sitting still and yet travelling - isn't real life. It's unreal, and it's quiet even though it's noisy, and private even though it's in public. On Tuesday I did a three hour round trip and managed to write nearly twenty notebook pages, which translates to about 5,000 words. A normal day's work in my Writing Cave (between six to twelve hours) produces 2,000 if I'm lucky. So yeah, you bet I love trains.

8) My iPod. At the click of a finger I can conjure up any mood I wish. Need to feel sad? Wistful? Angry? Determined? Pumped and optimistic? Joyful and relaxed? I have a playlist for it, trust me. My dad, when asked what music he likes, just says: 'Ask Zoë. She has all the music'. And he's right. I do. Right here on my trusty iPod.

9) Papermate Nylon Blue Tuck nylon fibre tip pen with 1.0mm line width and blue ink. Not fancy, not expensive, but still my favourite pen in the whole wide world.
10) You. My Dear Readers, questioning, funny, clever, creative, persistent and perfect as you are. I wouldn't swap you for anything.

QUICK CONTEST: List Ten Things YOU Love in the comments before before midnight tonight, and one randomly chosen winner will receive a signed UK paperback copy of Shadows on the Moon. This giveaway is open internationally. I will pick the winner on Saturday and announce on Monday. Ready, steady...Go!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

BIG SECRET PROJECT TEASER #3

Hello and Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers (whoa, a lot of capitals in that line)!

Today, as the faintly golden fingers of dawn crept through the gap in my curtains, I blinked, stretched, sighed - and experienced that sinking feeling known as 'Oh Cr*p, I've Got To Blog Today' which descends on a hapless blogger when they have completely forgotten to think of anything to talk about. This was not, I hasten to add, because I don't love you all with a deep and passionate devotion. It's because I wrote eighteen notebook pages of the first draft of Big Secret Project yesterday and that pretty much sucked my creative juices dry.

So since my lack of a witty and sparkling blog topic is really all Big Secret Project's fault, I thought it was only fair that Big Secret Project help me out of my blogging dilemma by providing an intriguing snippet. As always, since I'm still working on this book and it has not been sold or edited, everything you read in a teaser is subject to massive change or even deletion. An interesting fact about this section: the character name comes from a lovely blog reader who bid in the Authors for Japan auction. She won the right to have her namesake in this book, and if she checks the blog today, this will be her first sight of the result.

Teaser hidden there under the cut. Let me know what you think...

Sunday, 18 September 2011

THE RETURN

Hello, Dear Readers! I have returned from my holiday sojurn and the blog hiatus is officially over!

It seems a lot of stuff has been going on while I was away. A scandal over a well-liked agent reportedly asking a pair of respected authors to 'de-gay' their story set fire to the internet, with people either taking sides or refusing to believe any of it. I've got lots to say about this topic (as you either know, or can find out here and here), but I feel as if every possible opinion has already been explored so thoroughly that it's pointless to try and find different ways to express what has already been stated extremely well by others. So I'll just post a link to this excellent round up of the whole thing on the redoubtable Cleolinda's Blog, and say that I feel incredibly lucky to work with an agent, an editor and a publisher who have always supported me in my quest to reflect the world's real and beautiful diversity in my work.

Also, Zolah favourite and author of the fantabulous Demon's Lexicon Trilogy Sarah Rees Brennan revealed that she had been keeping secrets from us, working on a very, very, very exciting joint project with beloved YA fantasy author Justine Larbalastier, and that their book already has a cover and everything. I nearly died of squee.

Lots of other interesting things have been going on as well, but those were the ones that caught my attention the most. I have also (for those who remember what I said before I went away and perhaps were wondering) had some News about Big Secret Project - but not the sort of news I can really share, since things are still up in the air. More on that when I can.

And now - onto the holiday pictures! When looking at these you need to bear in mind that I managed to arrange to stay in a small, wooden cabin on the side of a mountain in the Lake District during the one week in the year when the entire of Cumbria was being lashed by Hurrican Katya with 70mph winds and torrential rain. So a lot of the pictures I took were unuseable because I got blown over mid click or had rain on my lense. Sometimes I didn't even dare take my camera out. But I persevered. In fact, I was so anxious to get you photos of one place that I went back a second time when the weather was a little better and tried again!


 
 

My favourite one is the second to last there - but I'm quite proud of all of these. I do love to take photos! What do you guys think?

Friday, 9 September 2011

NEW HAIR! NEW HAIR!

Hello all! It's Friday (Friday, Friday!) and tomorrow I depart for my week-long, internet-free sojourn in the wilds of the Lake District. But yesterday I made an even more perilous journey. To the hair stylists!

Because, lo, these many long weeks ago, I made my faithful Dear Readers a promise. That if/when the blog reached 300 followers, I would die pink or purple streaks in my hair. I had decided to get a haircut at the same time, and asked you all to vote on what I should go for.

Just for perspective, here's a shot of me just after I got up yesterday morning, with shaggy dishevelled hair:


So after I hauled that shaggy mop down to the stylists, what DID I go for?

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Floopy hair! A shoulder-length layered bob with a heavy fring (bangs, for you USians). I love it! It's still long enough to put back in a bun or ponytail if I want it out of the way to wash my face or whatever, but short enough that it feels loads lighter and very different. I'm told it makes me look younger, too, and there is NOTHING wrong with that.

But what about our purple streaks, you cry! You didn't chicken out, did you? No, no, my babies - your lack of faith hurts! I would never go back on a promise to you. Here are your streaks:





One on each side, like racing stripes! I had them placed under my hairline so that when I turn my head they flash through the blonde, and I can show them off by pulling the sides of my hair back or braiding it. Nice, eh?

Of course the question now is...what should I do if the blog reaches 400 followers? Suggestions in the comments! And remember - this is the last you will see of me for a week. I'll be back, with holiday snaps, on the 19th of September. Take care of yourselves, Dear Readers :)

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

WEDNESDAY FIVE #2

Yes, the middle of the week has rolled around again - and once again I have been so embroiled in work, work, work that I have failed to come up with a scintillating new topic for you. So: Random Wednesday (hey - you at the back - no booing on my blog!).

Thing the First:

Yesterday I passed 50,000 words on Big Secret Project! 51k, in actual fact. It's been a long time coming, what with the FF re-writes, so I'm chuffed and excited and very happy to be heading towards the explosive, climactic scenes. I don't want to jinx myself, but barring hideous mischance, I think I should definitely have a complete first draft by the end of the year.

Thing the Second:

I'm hoping to get Some News about Big Secret Project next week. It's all a bit complicated because the News might not be anything definite, and anyway I'm going to be in a cabin in the woods with no way to communicate with you and spotty mobile phone reception which will make it hard for anyone to talk to me. But if I do get News, I shall share it on the blog next week. If I don't say anything, take it that there was no News (this is publishing, folks - all the speed and transparency of an iceberg creeping down a mountain).

Thing the Third:

I love my agent. I adore her. I bless the day that my editor said to me, 'You know who might be a really good fit for you?' and mentioned her name for the first time (even though I had already been worshipping her from afar for a while before that, I hadn't really had the courage to approach). Nancy, you may or may not be psychic, but you definitely rock.

Thing the Fourth:

Tomorrow, I visit the hairstylists. Who knows what will happen to me in there? If something goes wrong, tell my dog I love him. I regret nothing.

Thing the Fifth:

The Shadows on the Moon book trailer has, disappointingly, stalled at just over 850 views. Now, if you think back to when it was first launched, I promised that when it reached 1000, there would be extra features on offer. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've convinced the lovely people at Walker Books to release the Director's Cut version of the trailer, which is longer and has extra exciting bits. So if, while I'm away on my internet free sojourn, you guys were to spread the word, share the trailer, and boost those viewing figures up? I might be able to celebrate my return by posting that. Get on it:



SURPRISE SIXTH THING:

The final line from Chapter Fifteen of Big Secret Project, which I wrote yesterday! Adult language warning:
"Holy shit,” Hikaru whispered.
And with that, I bid you adieu! See you on Friday with new hair pictures.

Friday, 2 September 2011

A LETTER TO MY CHARACTERS

Dear Characters,

Exactly what are you trying to tell me?

Speak up! I can't stand all this muttering you young people do these days - in my day people spoke their minds so everyone could understand them. I can tell that there's something going on. I can hear you whispering behind my back and I'm bright enough to notice that you always fall silent when I walk in. Just what is the problem?

I mean, here we are, 70% through this wonderful story which - I fully admit! - you've helped me with in the most generous way. The plot has developed in all kinds of interesting and unexpected directions thanks to your input, and so many exciting things are going on right now. We've been looking forward to this section of the book since we first started writing it together, and I thought we'd be skipping through fields of daisies, hand-in-hand, at this point.

But suddenly you've changed.

You're dragging your feet. You keep sighing and looking over your shoulder and finding excuses to stay just where you are in this flaming scene where we've been stuck for a week. Instead of witty banter you're giving me grammatically correct dialogue with all the spark and humour of oatmeal.

I just can't tell what you're THINKING anymore.

Obviously there's something you want to share. So come on - out with it! I'm happy to listen to any concerns you've got. You want to add something? Take a few steps back and handle that last bit of action in a different way? Make time for smooching or a blazing row? Whatever you want, I'll do it!

We've been such good friends for so long. I can't cope with this silent treatment. Talk to me again, that's all I want. I know that our relationship is strong enough to survive, so long as we keep communicating.

Just stop ignoring me. Please.

Much love,
Your Worried Author
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