Thursday, 26 July 2012

THE STATE OF THE WRITING CAVE

Today's blog title comes from the 'State of the Nation' address made by the President of the United States. Obviously the work that goes on in my Writing Cave is far more important than running a country or whatever, so I thought I'd flatter that poor Obama guy with some imitation. It'll make him feel important.
Aw. You can tell he's moved.
Anyway! Happy Thursday to all. Since the FrostFire Blog Tour is now officially over we're back to our regular posting schedule of Tuesday and Thursday, and it seemed like a good time to update you on what's going on around here and what I'm working on.

So back in this post I told you that my editor decided to do a sort of awesomeness-overhaul of The Night Itself (Katana Trilogy Book #1) at pretty much the eleventh hour. Working on that has kept me extremely busy for a large chunk of time (and I went through four highlighter pens. Dude) but I finished the initial - and hopefully most difficult - revision and returned it to my editor. She's going to collaborate on marking up the new version of the manuscript with my U.S. editor, because Walker and Candlewick have been working closely together on this project in the hopes of reducing the wait between the book coming out in the UK and being published in the U.S. I probably won't hear anything back about the improved version of The Night Itself until late August.

I imagine there'll be another run through of the book then in order to smooth it and polish it and make it as good as possible. I'm really crossing my fingers that I'm not asked to make any more major changes, re-think any characters or add any more new scenes at this point. Not because I don't want to do the work on TNI, but because I'm obviously trying to work on the second Katana Book (which does have a title, promise - I'll probably share it when I have a cover design for The Night Itself to show you). Before I was asked to revise the first book I was about 65,000 words into the second one, which I expected to be about 73-80,000 words long in total.

With all the changes that I made to the first book, the second one now not only needs to be finished, but also completely overhauled itself (above and beyond the normal revision process) because in many key areas it no longer matches the first book, and THAT means large chunks of action and plot and characterisation no longer make the slightest bit of sense.

The problem is that because I'm not entirely sure if the new version of the first book that I've turned in will be the FINAL version (or if I'm likely to have to make more radical changes) I don't really know how to overhaul book #2 yet. And it's hard to imagine being able to push on and finish it without overhauling it, knowing that everything I'm writing is most probably fundamentally *wrong*.

I've got a fat manuscript of the incomplete second book printed out here, in a smart plastic document holder. It's been my constant companion for the past few weeks, but I've not yet been able to bring myself to open the holder and look at it because I literally have no idea what to do with or to it. Not to mention that printing it out breaks my Number One Cardinal Rule for myself when I'm writing, which is DO NOT LOOK BACK.

Looking at any part of an unfinished manuscript has been known to cause total paralysis in my writer's brain (accidentally reading a page from the beginning of the first draft of Shadows on the Moon caused writer's block that lasted for SIX MONTHS). In this case I know I have to re-read the manuscript before I go on. There's no way I can move forward with it otherwise. But that doesn't stop my whole brain from lighting up with red flashing signs saying DANGER! DANGER WILL ROBINSON!

So... *Sighs* I've basically spent the last few weeks grinding my teeth and procrastinating to the utmost extent of my ability. Which is great. Finally acknowledging that I've also been ill for a bit (once again, kids: denial doesn't work like antibiotics!) and getting some pills has helped, because it's made the headaches, dizziness and constant nausea (which my mother insisted was caused by stress - thanks mum!) go away and now I feel slightly better. I think I'll most probably bite the bullet and try to start re-reading this weekend. Eeep.

In the meantime! Remember the Summer Scream Event in London on the 4th of August, at Foyles Bookshop at Charing Cross? Where I will be part of a panel event also staring mega-stars L.A. Weatherly, Karen Mahoney and Michelle Harrison? Well, now some new authors will also be coming along to take part in a second panel event - Ruth Warburton and Laura Powell. And this is happening - Good Lord - SATURDAY NEXT WEEK! Where did the time go? I'm getting more and more excited the closer it gets. I'll probably do a post about it on Thursday next week, just to give a bit more detail for anyone who is coming - and I promise to take pictures and write up a detailed event report on the Tuesday after I come back so that even if you couldn't attend you'll get a flavour of the whole thing.

My publisher has been kind enough to get me a later train back from London on the Sunday and I'm hoping to use that time to do some Katana Trilogy research, specifically for locations I'm planning to use in the final book, which is brilliant and I'm really looking forward to it. It will, of course, be even more brilliant if I've managed to un-chicken myself and re-read Katana #2 by then. Wish me luck with that...

How are things with all of you, Dear Readers? Unload in the comments!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

THE SADNESS OF A READER

Hey everyone. Tuesday again. I'm battling a nasty infection, which got to be so nasty because I've been ignoring the symptoms for nearly a month, hoping it would go away, asking myself 'Who else is going to look after my dad?' Yeah, don't try that one at home boys and girls. Turns out that determination and denial don't actually work like antibiotics. Frankly that, on top of this new sweaty, dog-breath weather, was already making me wish that I'd never been born.

And then I woke up this morning and learned that Margaret Mahy, the author of The Changeover, and The Door in the Air, and The Great Chewing Gum Rescue, and so many other books that expanded and informed my imagination as a child, has passed away at the age of just seventy-six (she should have had at least another ten or fifteen years in her). And I cried.

The fact that I already feel terrible might have made the tears a bit more violent than they would otherwise have been. But maybe not. I was only writing about Margaret Mahy recently as part of the FrostFire Blog Tour - listing her as a fantasy writer who had inspired me and explaining why. Which means thoughts about how truly important she was to me are still fresh in my mind. All my reading life her books have been there. Knowing that she is gone, and that there will be no more books, ever, feels like losing a part of myself, my own identity as a reader. It feels like an earthquake in the landscape of my imagination.

In the last couple of years so many of the authors that I relied on as a child - that I still love as an adult - have been slipping away. The most notable for me up until now was the legendary Diana Wynne Jones. When Diana Wynne Jones died many writers blogged tributes to her, and it was wonderful to see the astonishing, inimitable impact she had on the world. But I couldn't bring myself to write about it. I had never met her, but I had always hoped that I would be lucky enough to one day. That possible one day was suddenly gone. I would never now get the chance to tell her how much she and her stories had meant to me.

It's such a strange thing to regret, because even if I had been able to meet her, I would never have been any more than yet another devoted reader to her (and she had thousands), telling her the same old things about the books she had written. She might have been happy to hear it, or tired and bored and thinking about her lunch. It would have been a huge moment for me, but not for her. Her life was not lessened by not having met me, even if mine was lessened by never meeting her.

I wish I could have said those words anyway. I wish that I had written her a letter telling her, even if it would only have been one of dozens. Her loss was sharp enough that I fell into a melancholy that lasted a week or more, and I can still feel the echoes of that grief now whenever I remember that she is gone. No more Diana Wynne Jones in the world. The world seemed a less bright, less brilliant, less surprising place.

Now Margaret Mahy is gone too, and the world seems dimmer and duller and more predictable still.

I hope that their books will continue to be on bookshelves and library shelves for many, many years to come. I hope that children still whisper their words out loud while hiding under the covers a hundred years from now. And I hope that there are other, younger, newer writers out there who can do for generations of children growing up now what these two writers did for me. I hope that one day the world will glow bright and brilliant and surprising again.

In the meantime, Dear Readers? If there is an author who has moved you, transported you, transformed you? An author who you feel, deep in your heart of hearts, is special? An author who you secretly wish to meet one day? Write to them now. Or arrange to actually meet them if you can. Do it while you have the chance. That towering figure who cast their shade over your childhood isn't immortal, even if it seems that the sheer power of their genius must be. One day you will hear that they have gone, and you will realise time slipped away from you and it's too late. And you will feel sad. No matter what, you will feel sad. Don't add the sadness of never having said what you always intended to say to that as well.

Friday, 20 July 2012

FANTASY WORLDS

Hello, Lovely Readers. The dulcet tones of Friday have once again coaxed us (stumbling and grumbling, in my case) from our comfy beds - which means that it is time for the final stop on the FrostFire Blog Tour!

Today's post is entitled FANTASY WORLDS and explores some aspects of the work I do in order to create a fully realised setting for my stories. You can find it here on the lovely Emma's blog: Book Angel Booktopia. Emma also hosted a review of FrostFire by one of the pupils at her school (Madison) which you can see here. In addition, the lovely Vivienne, who was also part of the Blog Tour, has just posted her review of the book too. Do you agree with her?

Onwards, into the weekend!

Monday, 16 July 2012

RETROTUESDAY: WHAT WOULD MARY SUE DO?

Happy Tuesday, my duckies! I hope the week got off to a really great start to you. The weather is apparently going to start to change for the better soon, and my event in London is coming up (details here), plus there have been two spectacular new blog reviews for the U.S. edition of Shadows on the Moon here and here, so I'm thinking signs are good :)

And now it's time for RetroTuesday, when I drag a post kicking and screaming from the archives for your entertainment. Since the last RetroTuesday saw us revisiting my original Mary Sue post, I thought it only appropriate to offer the follow-up post to you as well. Read on!

WHAT WOULD MARY SUE DO?

I've decided that it's finally time to follow up on my most-read post ever. I have girded my loins, donned my flack jacket, and cautiously boarded the train back to Crazy Town (carrying some sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper, and a spare pair of socks, in case of emergency, as all travellers to Crazy Town should).

Yes, Dear Readers. That's right.

Today, we're going to talk about Mary Sue. Again.

Many of you will be aware of the internet firestorm that descended on this blog after I made a post asking reviewers and critics to reconsider their use (and misuse) of the term Mary Sue - but if not, you can find the post, and read the extremely interesting comment trail, here.

In the wake of that post and the response to it, several other authors weighed in on the discussion, with their particular takes on why seeing 'Mary Sue' scattered all over the place like an unwise fashion epidemic (neon leg warmers? Puffball skirts? Mullets?) made their souls die a little. I'm isolating here the responses that particularly struck a chord for me and made me look at this whole debate from a different perspective.

Firstly we had the wonderful Sarah Rees Brennan (who-I-kind-of-want-to-marry-Omg) telling ladies that they are ALLOWED to be both flawed and awesome: in fact, flawsome.

Next Holly Black (Saint-Paul-on-a-pogo-stick-HOLLY-BLACK!) very thoughtfully pointed out that a Mary Sue is only a Mary Sue in fanfic because she's stealing the narrative from the true leading characters. In original fiction, where she IS the leading character, she's just doing what a hero or heroine does.

Then not long ago adult urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire (whose-October-Daye-books-are-literally-on-my-TBR-pile-right-now-holy-crap) made possibly the most telling post of all for me, wherein she teased out an aspect of the situation which I hadn't consciously analysed before: that reviewers are calling Mary Sue on any female character who is sufficiently heroic to actually carry her own story.

When I wrote that original Mary Sue post, obviously I had no idea how much of a landmine I was stepping on in terms of anger and defensiveness from certain readers (which is why I eventually stopped responding to comments and emails on the topic). But at the same time, I also had no idea how much of a groundswell of support there would be from other authors, authors who'd been witnessing this phenomenon themselves and feeling just as disturbed by it as I was. I had no idea, basically, how bloody right I was.

I rant a lot, about a lot of subjects, and I always believe in what I say. But as I saw the response to my Mary Sue post gaining momentum, as I saw more and more women writers admitting how sad and disheartened and hopeless this term made them feel, it began to dawn on me that this wasn't just me ranting about a pet peeve anymore. It wasn't just that Mary Sue was an inaccurate way to criticise female characters, that it was badly defined and contradictory and annoying.

It was that the overuse of Mary Sue was damaging the quality of critical response to original fiction AND encouraging anti-woman sentiment hidden under a thin veneer of concern for Strong Female Characters.

Mary Sue is a lot more important than she first appeared, Dear Readers. Not just in herself, but because she is symptomatic of a much wider problem: how women are treated and represented in our society.

And how is that? Well, to sum it up, let's take a look at this lovely little poster (which I know you've all probably seen before) which puts a series of male comic book characters in the same pose that artists chose for Wonder Woman (with WW herself at the bottom for comparison):


This has been doing the rounds on the internet for months, and we've all had a good laugh about it. Because that's what we socially aware Feminists DO when we're confronted with evidence of the over-sexualisation of women in the media. We laugh about it.

The problem is that it's not really funny.

If any male hero was really drawn posed like that on any page in any mainstream graphic novel, the words 'Ridiculous!' 'Inappropriate!', 'Demeaning!', 'Disgusting!' and most probably 'Gay!' (cringe) would get thrown at it so fast that you'd hear a wave of sonic booms. But female characters continue to be drawn this way. And female actors continue to be posed this way in films and on TV. And female models do the same pose in ads and on the catwalk.

Why? Because its OK for women to look ridiculous and inappropriate, for them to be demeaned and disgusting (and most definitely gay, so long as they're happy to let hetero blokes watch them at it).

In fact, it's more than OK. It's expected. It is REQUIRED. So much so that no one even sees it as demeaning or inappropriate or any of those other emotive words. They just see it as normal. *I* see it as normal. So what if I spend around a quarter of a film averting my eyes from lingering shots of a female actor's rear end, bust, legs and lips, and walk away without being able to remember the character's name? I probably don't even notice because That's Just How Films Are (this is called the Male Gaze and is a topic to be fully explored in another post, Dear Readers).

Basically: Male heroes get to save the world. Female ones get to stand there and look sexy, dammit.

Considering that we're constantly - but constantly - exposed to this worldview, is it any wonder that most of us have trouble clearing enough space in our heads to tackle female characters fairly?

I don't believe all reviewers (especially the female ones!) want to see women characters over-sexualised and treated as nothing more than unthreatening eye candy. But what I do believe is that this bombardment of EmptySexyHotObject images has made it hard for us to see women AS ANYTHING ELSE.

Which is why when female writers produce female characters with depth and agency, they get accused of wish fulfilment.

There's an unconscious assumption that any female protagonist or any important female secondary character written by a woman must necessarily be an idealised author insert/wish fulfilment character. Otherwise no female character would get to tell her own story in her own voice, and have her experiences treated as interesting and worthwhile. That's the real flaw with the term Mary Sue and the way that reviewers are applying it to original fiction. Female characters are not parasites sucking away the limelight that rightfully belongs to their male counterparts. Women do deserve their own stories. Their own voices. Their experiences are interesting and worthwhile.

Female protagonists are being treated like cuckoos in the nest within their own stories.

And the more successful they become, the more female writers are being treated like cuckoos in the nest within their own industry.

Look at this. And some of the comments in this (brilliant) post by Maureen Johnson. Examples of people stating that they want women to stop all this silly writing of theirs, and let men do the job instead. Examples of people stating, without irony, that women need to stop producing these girly books full of girl characters for girls to read because that is somehow stopping BOYS from reading! Let the men write manly books for men because...well, just because! Boys are important! Stuff girls! Who cares if THEY read or not? They're just there to look sexy, dammit!

These are the attitudes and assumptions that all women, and all readers, are fighting against.

I'm not saying that the misuse of the term Mary Sue is responsible for All The Sexism. But it is a really worrying symptom. It's an internet term, mostly used by internet savvy folks - and the Internet is the place where, for my money, a lot of the really smart booktalk happens. This is the place where readers find like-minded networks of friends, where a lot of promising young writers get nurtured. And where you find courageous, honest reviewers who really know the YA category - reviewers whose reviews we NEED because they are willing to put their heads above the parapet and call out misogyny and racism and homophobia and bad writing and abusive fictional boyfriends (all stuff that worries me too)!

Let me make it clear that I love readers. I love reviewers. I love bloggers. I WANT you guys to keep doing your thing. I want to keep on reading reviews of my own work (positive and negative) which teach me useful lessons and help me to develop and improve as writer BECAUSE they are not written for my benefit. I want to be able to click on Amazon or Goodreads or Book Depo and see fifty different reviews of the books I'm thinking about buying from all different perspectives. If you think a character is badly written or developed or unrealistic? I 100% support your right to scream that from the rooftops.

But the unconscious cuckoo-in-the-nest assumption betrayed by the use of Mary Sue as a term to denigrate female characters (and authors!) in original fiction is stealthily poisoning a lot of that healthy, necessary debate about YA books. It's harmful to the young readers we should be encouraging, the young reviewers we should be embracing, and the developing writers we should be supporting online.

Why does it have to be this way, Dear Readers? What do you think?

What would Mary Sue (by which I mean a complex, fully realised, awesome female character) do?

(With thanks to the lovely writers who double-checked this post for me and stopped me from commiting pure Feminist Rage Smash. They know who they are!)

Friday, 13 July 2012

YA FANTASY

Hello, Dear Readers! Happy friday and welcome to the penultimate stop on the FrostFire Blog Tour!

Today's post is YA FANTASY (in which I ramble about the recent evolution of the YA publishing industry) and is over at the blog of the marvelous PewterWolf, otherwise known as Andrew, who happened to give FrostFire a glowing review just this week.

Also! I did a guest post on the blog of the charming Norman Geras, who is married to YA and Ch's legend Adele Geras. It's about one of my favourite books ever, The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, so go check that out too :)

See you all on Tuesday, my duckies!

Monday, 9 July 2012

PINK IS NOT THE ENEMY

Hello, my lovelies! Tuesday again, and today I'm sharing with you a slightly different kind of RetroTuesday post - not something from the archive, but a post that I wrote for my publisher's UNDERCOVER blog back a couple of months ago. At the time I linked the post into the Queen of Teen Award, but I thought it would be nice to bring it back here for anyone who didn't see it then and just let it stand on its own. I present to you:
PINK IS NOT THE ENEMY

Shhhh. *Looks around furtively* I need to tell you a secret, OK?

It's really embarrassing. You won't tell anyone, right? This is just between you and me?

Here goes.

I really... kind of... love... pink.

When I was a little girl and my mum tried to put me in a pair of jeans, I threw an epic tantrum and wouldn't leave the house, even though said jeans had been specially bought because they had pink embroidered flowers all over them. When my cousin didn't invite me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding I cried for hours because I swear to you, I wanted that big pink puffy meringue dress more than I wanted to live. One of my favourite toys for years was a troll doll with hot-pink hair in a full ballerina's outfit including hot-pink tutu and toe shoes. It never left my sight.



I know, right!? Me! Me, with my martial arts and Feminism and fantasy/sci-fi nerdery. Me, with all the big talk about sexism and diversity and trying to write the change you want to see in the world. Me, with my powerful heroines that go around fighting and casting spells and rescuing the heroes and freeing nations.

I feel so ashamed of myself! I'm letting the side down! Right? Right?

Or how about: OH HECK NO.
 

This is the dilemma many of us ladies (and in fact, gentlemen) face in our day to day lives. We want to be fierce, strong, independent people, fighting back against stereotypes of what femininity can and cannot be. We want respect and we are prepared to kick butt and take names until we get it.

But we also really, really, really want that pair of pink suede kitten heel slingbacks we saw on sale last week...

Humans have a problem, and it is this: we like to put things in boxes. We like to be able to put Hairy Chested Manly Things in one box, and Fragrant Pink Girly things in another. Girls may sometimes, and with a large application of effort, be allowed to play in the Hairy Chested Manly Things box and borrow some stuff (like, you know, wearing trousers, voting, owning property). But we're not allowed to have everything we might want, and we're often under threat of someone coming along and taking those things back from us. 

And if we like the stuff out of the boys box too much (equal rights and pay at work, equal sexual freedom, absolute and unquestioned dominion of our own bodies) we'll probably have some very unkind names thrown at us and may even be physically attacked. 

Men are not even allowed to glance at the Fragrant Pink Girly Box. Everything in there - everything which is supposed to be natural to and desirable for girls - is supposed to be inherantly inferior and lesser for them. A man who likes that stuff is letting down all men. He's unfit to be a man. He can't play in the box without getting sneered at, threatened, deprived of rights and possibly beaten up by others, some of whom might even be women.

And ladies - many ladies - including me! - have seen this and have been known to say: 'I shall not play in the Fragrant Pink Girly Box! If it is not good enough for men then it is not good enough for me either! I shall not be forced into certain roles and choices in life! I shall partake only of the Hairy Chested Manly things - like being tough and strong, and not caring about personal hygiene - AND THAT WILL JUST SHOW YOU!'

Ladies. Comrades. Sisters in arms and sisters in pink suede kitten heel slingbacks. I am here to tell you that you do not have to chose.

Many, many of the things our society has put in the Hairy Chested Manly Box, like wearing trousers, and kicking butts, and being strong, are awesome. And many, many things society has put in the Fragrant Pink Girly Box, like falling in love, and caring about relationships, are also awesome.

The thing that is very not awesome? Is the label there on the box that says 'Manly' or 'Girly'.

Because this makes those of us who like stuff from both boxes feel bad. It makes us scared. It makes us feel that things we like and care about and enjoy are wrong, merely because of the private parts assigned to us by fate. That is not awesome at all. It's so far from awesome that I'd quite like to catch it and put it in a box all of its very own. And then hit the box with a stick. And then drop the box off a very high cliff.

It's 2012, and all of us, boys and girls, should feel free to play in both boxes and take what we like out of both of them and then construct our own, personal idea of what it is to be a man or a woman. Pink is not essentially girly, no matter what those box loving people think (in fact, until around a hundred years ago, pink was traditionally a boy's colour, did you know that?). And being hairy is just as much a girly thing as a man thing - anyone who has seen a woman's collection of hair removing products cannot doubt this. 


We do not live as hunter-gatherers anymore. The natural order of things is the way that feels natural to each of us as individuals.

When I see people making disparaging comments or retching noises over displays of pink, that makes me feel sad. Because there is nothing inherantly wrong with pink. The only reason pink is so despised is that it is considered something 'for girls' - and this has caused it to be labeled inferior, sickening, lesser. So those people are, in fact, making their disparaging comments not just about the colour - but about the value of things liked by girls. When I hear a boy being teased by being called a 'girl', that makes me feel incredibly sad. He's being told that the worst thing he can do is to act in any way that the world considers traditionally feminine - that in fact, doing anything badly is to do it 'girlishly'.

People try to play this off like it isn't important. People - both men and women - will tell you that worrying about the use of the word 'girl' as an insult, or how wearing a pink shirt to school is unthinkable for a boy, is foolish. Or over-reacting. But it isn't. Of course it isn't. Think about it for a minute and think about what this actually says about our society and our attitude to women and girls. It's scary. 

So this is a plea to you. All of you boys and girls who love pink and sparkly things. And all of you boys and girls who love sword fights and magic. And all of you boys and girls who love both. The world may not want you to have strength and independence AND pink - but I think you can. I think we can.

Don't let other people tell you who you are. Just BE who you are.

Pink is not the enemy. Prejudice, narrow-mindedness and bigotry are. 

Appropriate personal photo-no-jutsu!

Friday, 6 July 2012

WOMEN IN FANTASY

Hello, my duckies! Happy Friday to you all! Yesterday - the 5th of July - was FrostFire's official publication date (even though Amazon has been shipping it out to people since late last week) and so now we're in the hushed waiting period, both longing for and dreading reviews. Eeep.

I would absolutely LOVE it if people would send me pictures of FrostFire out in the wild. Shots of it on the shelf, or of yourself holding it in a bookshop - they make my day. So remember to charge your phones or take your cameras when you go shopping next!

Today is the third stop on the FrostFire Blog Tour, and the topic is Women in Fantasy (or Fantasy Women, as I wanted to call it). It's all about my favourite girl characters, and it's been hosted by the delightful Lynsey of Narratively Speaking. Head on over there and read!

This week there's also a couple of really interesting interviews with me online. The first is with Novia at Truly Bookish as part of her MultiCultural Book Challenge - and there's a giveaway of Shadows on the Moon for USians, too! Then Kaylie from the Bluewater Waterstone's interviewed me for her book club's blog. Check those both out. There were some great questions.

In the meantime, to celebrate (belatedly) the release date, and just in case you haven't seen it yet - the FrostFire trailer!


Monday, 2 July 2012

NICE TO MEET YOU?

Hello, hello, hello Dear Readers! I'm back from the Lancashire Book of the Year Awards in Preston and wow - I had the best time EVER. There were a series of events over the weekend including a panel with local children, a dinner, and then the actual presentation ceremony, and despite slight collywobbles from me about all the public speaking involved, I think this was probably one of the most humbling and rewarding experiences of my career so far.

I met legendary children's and YA author Adele Geras who is a fascinating, intimidatingly well-read lady, wickedly funny and completely invested in encouraging young people to read and value books. I loved her books as a kid (still love them, really) so I managed to get a place near her at both breakfast and lunch on the Saturday and probably talked her ear off, along with this brilliant university professor Helen (I realised later that I never got her last name - gah!) who teaches an MA course in Children's and YA literature at UCLAN. If I could have gotten away with it, I'd have rolled them both up, hidden them in my bag, and taken them home with me. Our discussions were epic.

I also met the award winner Chris Higgins, who was lovely, and nearly got into a scrap with fellow shortlisters Cliff McNish and Mike Lancaster over romance in YA novels and why men don't write more of it (a friendly scrap! And the kids at the panel found it highly amusing). And to top it all of, I got a delightful visit from Keris Stainton, who was at the awards last year, and who came to the lunch on the Friday with her son Harry. It was wonderful to meet her at last!

Of course, the most amazing thing of all was the ridiculous quantities of hard work that had gone into making all this happen by the ladies from the library service - including Big Boss Heather and the two ladies known as 'The Allisons', and lovely Jake and Sandra, and many more -  and the young people who'd ploughed through all these books and spoke so passionately about their favourites. Huge thank yous and hugs to all! Everything was so joyful that I think I'll be crossing my fingers constantly from now on that one of my books manages to get shortlisted again at some point. 

But now onto the point of today's post, which is...THIS:


THAT'S RIGHT DEAR READERS! Those of you who live in, around, or within a reasonable distance of London have finally got the chance to come and meet me! Which means I finally have the chance to meet you!

*Flails*

That's an amazing line-up of authors right there - you already know I love Kaz Mahoney and Lee Weatherly (both as luverly people and as writers) because I've interviewed them right here and given away copies of their books. I also know Michelle Harrison from Twitter and she's funny and adorable. We'll be having a panel discussion about books, writing and reading, signing books and (in my case anyway) giving away special presents and swag. I can't tell you how excited I am about this - and I want my Dear Readers there so much, you guys. If any of you can make it you will literally make my day.

The way to reserve tickets for the event is to email this address: events@foyles.co.uk. Now from the response on Twitter yesterday when I announced this the tickets may be going fast, so please get in there as soon as you can. I really, really, REALLY want some of you to be there! 
 
*Flails some more*

See you again on Friday!
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