Monday, 31 October 2011

Books Make Life Magical

  Beth Revis, author of the amazing Across the Universe which I ranted about here, is hosting an extraordinary give-away. It's amazing, honestly. She's giving away 19 signed YA books by people who've helped her in all various ways on her journey, plus lots of swag, and there's even runner up prizes. Best-give-away-ever. 

 And to enter you have to write a post about the one book you are most grateful for. 

  Argh, what a question? There's so many books I've read in the past 12 months that I'm grateful for, let alone all the books I've read throughout my life.

 But then, after I let that moment of panic settle, I knew there was only one series (ok not one book but I can't pick one) of books that I know have made my life more magical.
  Harry Potter.
  Two words, one name. Whenever anyone hears them they think; lightening bolt; he-who-must-not-be-named; glasses; wands; Hogwarts. (Ok I could go on, but you get the idea. Plus I don't need to tell you what you think of when you hear Harry Potter)

 I first read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone when I was 10, in my last year of primary school, right before heading off to big school (scary times).
  I was hooked from the word go, and it wasn't just me, but my whole family.
  Every Harry Potter film we've watched together, every time the DVD's (or video back in the day) has been released we've watched it together, analysing it.
  Right before the Deathly Hallows book was published, we spent a whole day discussing the possible outcomes for the plot, making predictions and bets. And then after I'd finished reading (i.e. having my heart torn out and stamped on) I rung my brother, who was crying and said he hadn't made it to the end because he was grieving for the loss of one amazing house elf. (And yes, we also sobbed in the cinema, doing that whole, I'm-not-really-crying-about-something-I-knew-was-coming.)

  Basically, I've grown up with these books, as the characters matured, so did I. They've seen me through so many stages of my life.
 I remember being 15, sitting in my Mum's swinging chair in the garden while I spent 4 hours devouring Harry Potter and the Half-Blood prince. I had to re-read the ending a hundred times, because I was crying so much. (I actually screamed, 'HOW COULD JK DO THIS AFTER THE END OF THE LAST BOOK! DOES SHE HATE HARRY THAT MUCH?!?!?!')
  My Mum had to come outside and ask me to keep it down, 'No spoilers before I've picked it up please.' Although I think my tear stained face ruined that.

  So yes, Harry Potter has become a part of my life, helped me realise the type of person I want to be, reminds me why I want to write and share my stories.
  And the one greatest thing about these books, in the words of JK herself, 'Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.'

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Experimenting...By Force

  It feels like ages since I lasted posted. (Well it's been a week, feels like forever) And it seems things are as hectic as ever. My brain seems to be all over the place. I can't seem to get it straight and focused.

 Besides all the stuff that's been going on with my family and friends, (some good, some bad. My friend's baby was christened, it was a short but sweet ceremony. Me and my friends were prepared to be in there hours.) I've been quite hectic at university.
 Any who read a previous post, I was meant to start reading Atonement for one of my classes. I'm happy to say I have, and that I'm actually quite into it.
  I love how the characters are so clear and vivid, and although the story may be a little slow and perhaps confusing (the confusion has come from the class discussions), I just love how real his characters are.
  I'm so glad I've finally found a reason to pick this up.

 In other reading I also finished the first two books in the Iron Fey series, they are everything I expected them to be. I'm currently reading My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece, I have to say at first I was wondering if I would enjoy it, but I'm hooked. It's very honest, and I find that extremely compelling.

  I have started working on my essays, the deadlines are looming! Eek. (And when I mean started...I have made bullet points.) And each week I also have to write a completely original piece of writing for my Prose class. I thought this might be easy, I have ideas and write all the time. 
 Then we were asked to write an essay. The question; Is it ok to eat animals? That was all we were given to work with. Eventually I managed to pull some ideas together, but my it was hard.
  I enjoyed the piece we had to write the week before. A memoir in third person.
 'Musical screams blasted from the state of the art speakers, repelling off the century old walls. Amie winced and stepped backwards from the vast moving lights, which were making nonsense patterns on the wall.

  She wondered what dear Albert and Victoria would say if they could hear this kind of music, not that she really felt it was music at all.'

 That's the start of my piece. It was fun to refer to myself in the third person, I don't know why, it just made me giggle.

  I've also had to start writing a ten page play. I have no idea what I'm doing with what I'm currently working on, although that isn't necessarily a surprise.

Charles: So it's true then? The old man, he's gone.
Rosa: Yes.
What are you doing here? I thought you were honeymooning in the Alps, or was it on a safari?
Charles: Hawaii actually, our flight was cancelled.
Rosa: Hawaii? There we are then, shows how much attention I pay when my brother blabbers on. Where is your new found wealth? Sorry, wife.

  That's the start. I'm sticking with this idea at the moment, but I've got a few weeks, so everything could change.

  (Also...all the above required writing is making me sad for my WIP. I have lots of revisions to be working on, and I know they are missing my attention, but me and my laptop have a deal. Work first, WIP later. It's working...sort of.)

  In other news today I met Cassandra Clare. *Excited Face* She is the author of the best selling the Mortal Instruments and the Infernal Devices series. And author extraordinare. Also Sarah Rees Brennan was there! She is extremely funny, I'm looking forward to reading The Demon's Lexicon, and her other books.
  Cassandra did a Q & A, and Sarah was there to ask the questions pulled from the cauldron and make us all laugh.
  I got all my books signed, which made this week infinitely better.
  And I also may have a give-away occurring soon, to do with Cassandra Clare & the signing. Stay tuned.

Lastly, I was passed on this award by the wonder CD Meetens. Her blog (One Little Spark - A Writer's World) is such a great read, and I love this award. So cute. (I will be passing this on, just it's getting late now and I have rambled on for some time. =] )

Hope everyone's been well, I've been trying to keep up on blogs, if I've missed any let me know.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

On Being Critiqued

 A wonderful and temporarily heart-wrenching thing happened to me the other day; my work was critiqued. 

 And not by my Mum, who is a sound, encouraging reader who helps me progress, but by a stranger.

 As soon as I sent the first few chapters off my heart did that flutter thing, and I wondered if I would be able to open her reply.
  Lucky for me I did.

 She pointed out my flaws in my writing, which I was either unaware of, or subconsciously ignored.
  At first my heart sort of stopped, and my stomach fell out. All my hard work suddenly seemed wasted. I've been developing this story since the start of 2010, when the snow in my garden inspired me to write the piece of work I'd been longing to.
 (And if anyone sees my first drafts then I think I would die of embarrassment. Oh the shame, what was I thinking? How could that possibly be my best work?)
 I, eventually, proceeded to show my Mum the email, who pointed out the positives to me. (There were some brilliant positives – once I began breathing again I smiled with pride, and blushed too.) Then we had a long discussion, where I cried.
  The one thing my Mum said to me that sticks out in my mind is, 'You being critiqued is good for me too, I'm learning to see what I should have seen before. It's fantastic,' she went on to say, 'This advice is great, but as she (my critique partner) says, and so do I, ultimately the story is yours to tell. Tell it how you want to.'

 After that we went out for a while, and I didn't really think much about it. Or at least I tried not to. My thoughts couldn't help but mull over how much work I had to do (it really isn't that much, but my mind seemed to disagree), and how little time there was to do it in (that part still feels true).
 When I arrived back home I took another look at the edits, and set about reworking the first few pages.
Already I feel so much more fulfilled and satisfied with my work. It feels richer and cleaner, and now I am aware of my weaknesses and strengths, I have things in mind to work on.

  Seriously, this stranger will never know how much I owe her. And my Mum. Two amazing women, who's acquaintance with me is at opposite ends of the spectrum, but right now I am valuing them both in high esteem.

  When I started this year I wanted to share my work with others. I am so happy I took the plunge. I feel so much more knowledgeable, it's an indescribable feeling when someone says your story is worth telling. It's just my craft needs some work.
  I know it will take time (sigh) but I need to continue to learn patience if I want my writing to be the best it can be.
  So yes, getting critiqued is hard, but the rewards are splendid.

 Besides, you wouldn't want any old thing out there would you? Not when you are capable of so much more.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Best Ways To Procrastinate

Dear you,
            would you like to sleep? Yes, well then you are going to have to stop with this procrastinating business. Honestly it really isn't healthy.
Because instead of going to sleep at a reasonable hour (I know with work it is sometimes difficult, but that doesn't excuse the other 4 nights out of 7) you are doing what you should have been doing in the day.

You see that copy of Atonement on your beside table? Yep it's just on top of the reading packs for the other modules, and the poetry textbooks – YOU MUST READ. Put down the Iron King, or whatever other book you decide to 'take a look at'. You can read them when you have done your essential reading for the week.
Just think, you've wanted to read Atonement for sometime, and now you have to. See how good that is?

And you know when you go on the internet to check your accounts? Or trains times. AVOID YOU TUBE. That place will be your downfall. I know there are wonderful singers and songs on there, and montages of Doctor Who that you feel you must watch, but please just add them to the Watch Later playlist and they will wait for you.

Do not even get me started on your nails. Do you have to paint them? Do they really need it? Ok, well I tell you what you can do; you may paint them, however you are not to remove the nail varnish and repaint them unless you have a good twenty minutes or so.
If you do not have that time because you're meant to be either sleeping; or eating; or showering; or doing ESSENTIAL reading; or going to uni or work; then leave them. Do you really care if you wander the streets of London with a bit of chipped nail polish? Nope, didn't think you'd mind.

Even doing this here letter-to-self-to-post-as-a-blog is taking up your time. And I know re-reading that WIP is engaging and lots of fun, but it's not going to go anywhere. I thought we had a deal? One hours reading/work = one hours reading/writing. See how easy it is if you just focus and commit yourself.

It's ok, you'll get there. These things take time. As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day.
(They also say you can sleep when you're dead – but I want you to IGNORE that. You need your sleep beautiful lady, bags do not become you.)

Now I bid you farewell, and leave you with good will and faith.

I said bye.

Seriously, bye.

Ok, you can watch one more video before you go.


Friday, 7 October 2011

What a Week.

On my last blog I ended wondering where this month would take me, well it seems it has already taken me to a hundred different places.

First day of uni went well, I actually felt as though I had some knowledge to participate with. Perhaps that time off I had, and all the reading I accomplished, did me some good after all.
Then I came home, and things went slowly downhill. I felt my chest tighten, and my temperature shot up. But I went out to the pub anyway to celebrate my friends birthday, gradually feeling worse as the evening progressed.
Next morning I decided to take myself to the Doctors, and it turns out I have bronchitis. Bloody brilliant. So he gave me a prescription, my poor body has seen more drugs than ever this past year, and off I went.

The rest of the week I trudged through, trying to ignore the pains and not cough. Very difficult.

I did however have some good times too. I paid a visit to could have ended very badly (look at the treasure cove below) however I behaved and left empty handed. 

 Please excuse my shaky pictures...I only had my phone with me, my lovely cameras were at home. 

While I was there I did discover these little gems.

If anyone wants a closer look at this (and clearer pictures) go here.

Now I had never heard of Flipback books before. According to the tag line they are 'a whole book in your pocket.'
I did resist temptation, but I think I might have to invest in one just because they are so cute! And if I ever saw my book compressed into something so small, then I would squeal with delighted excitement.
Small things, small things.

I went to work, but as a show patron rather than staff, to watch the wonderful Idina Menzel perform. She is one of my all time favourite musical theatre actresses.
She sung For Good, from one of the best musicals Wicked, acapella. Without the use of a microphone, and she filled the Royal Albert Hall completely. It was honestly spell binding.

Also this week, in between uni stuff, I went back to look at one of my WIPs.
Oh god I love this story, but I am a little ashamed of the writing.
I wrote this about a year ago, and it feels weird to say that my writing has progressed so much since then.
So I've set about rewriting it, although I am going to take my time with it. There are a multitude of other stories I want to work on, but I think I should try to stay away from them.
I can already feel my uni assignments creeping up on me. 

Although that didn't stop me paying a trip to the library today.

I have started The Poison Diaries already. At least we know it wasn't a wasted trip.  Actually, I couldn't find the book I was after. A Million Little Pieces by James Fray. Sad face.

I know, tut tut, but who even knows if I will get round to reading them all.
I just couldn't resist the shining covers that were calling to me. Sigh.

How has everyone else's week been?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Sunday Thoughts

It's been quite a hectic few days. (And not just because of the Doctor Who finale, and the judges houses stage of the X Factor) I can't even tell you why, but it almost feels as though everything has been happening all at once. 

I've been spending some time with my friends, which has been good. (Perhaps not so for the liver, poor thing has been put through the mill lately) The birthday season has started again, so there's been a lot of celebrations. And my friend's 3 month old daughter is being christened later this month, which is very exciting. She is an absolutely beauty. 

I've been preparing for University. I started this by purchasing myself a wireless printer, which I adore.
I do love gadgets and technology, even though I'm not great at handling it.
I can finally print from my laptop! Goodbye days of emailing myself my work, then using my Mums computer to copy and paste into a new document. Hello time saved.
Little things like that make me happy. 

Now the eve has arrived before my first lecture and I am so nervous. I didn't get my modules till late last week, so I haven't had enough time to find my reading materials. Gah.
I like to build these things up in my head and over complicate them, usually I am wrong and I wonder why I worried so much in the first place.
I really hope that's the case with this first week. I suppose only one way to find out. 

Also this week I've been thinking a lot about words, more specifically the number of them.
I bit the bullet and submitted some work to be critiqued on a blog. By complete strangers. It was a little painful, but wonderfully enriching.
Yes, being critiqued is hard (especially by people I don't know and have never met) but I feel it is needed for writers to grow and learn.
When starting my novel, I had no clue about word count. Honestly. I just thought it was a fun number for me to know.
Then I did some research on books and querying.
I really didn't have a clue. 
My novel was way too long. After reading some good articles from other authors and agents on word count in novels, it lead me to the decision to break my story into two. And I think it's strengthened the story, one of the best things to have come out of this year.
A good place to start if you're looking into this is this great entry on agent Jennifer Laughran's blog. It also lists some great examples of books on the market, from early reader to YA.

So this evening I end this blog on a wondrous note. Wondrous apprehension. You know when you've made some decisions, then a lot of things have happened, and you just hope it will work out in the end. That's sorta where I am this evening. I feel full of so much and I know I'm about to get even fuller. (Especially with knowledge - I hope at least.)

I hope you've all had a good weekend. And here's to the start of October, can't wait to see where we all are at the end of it.
You never know what could happen.

I also want to leave you with this beautiful cover of Wherever You Will Go, discovered from an advert for Twinings tea.