Saturday, January 30, 2010

An award and some major procrastination.

This rather awesome award comes courtesy of the rather awesome Becky aka The Bookette. Becky's blog kicks some serious ass, so do check it out when you can.

You're supposed to pass this on to five bloggers of your choice, but I'm going for four (I'm so crazy and alternative, it's true):

1. Nicola Morgan @ Help! I Need a Publisher. The self-confessed crabbit old bat provides invaluable (and often amusing) advice to anyone trying to get published.

2. Yunaleska @ Nayu's Reading Corner. A prolific book reviewer if ever there was one. Oh, and she's also very kindly hooking me up with a copy of a book I've been wanting to read for aaaages.

3. Sammee @ I Want To Read That. Sammee is a fellow YA addict who writes some great reviews.

4. Anna @ The Chocolate Keyboard. Anna's a writer and editor with some VERY interesting insights into the world of UK publishing.

So, it's Saturday, and I feel obliged to inform you that today's Writing Avoidance Scheme has so far involved:

1. Watching Justine Henin v. Serena Williams in the Australian Open final. I wanted Henin to win. Sigh.
2. Washing clothes. The question on everyone's lips is... Will I be able to get those nasty olive oil stains out of my trousers? Only time will tell.
3. Looking for recipes to cook tomorrow. Finally settled on some kind of beany chilli-type thing. Yum.
4. Watching Australian Masterchef. God help me.
5. Having a nap.

Impressive, no? So... what's your favourite procrastinatory pasttime? Come on, 'fess up... You're amongst friends here. This is a Safe Place.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The genius of Laurie Halse Anderson

If there are any YA fans out there who haven't yet discovered the complete and utter genius that is LHA, I'd suggest you get discovering right this second. Seriously, stop reading this blog post and run to your local book shop. OK, OK, you can have a quick cup of tea first, but promise me you'll do it soooooon.

I think Laurie's books are big over in the States (if anyone could confirm this, I'd be interested to know), but as far as I'm concerned, she deserves recognition and popularity everywhere.  All over the world, nay, the universe. She is THAT good.

For starters, I'd recommend SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS. Both books tackle serious issues, but I'd never categorize them as issues books. The writing is simply gorgeous. Laurie also writes brilliant historical YA (I'm dying to get my hands on a copy of CHAINS), AND picture books. That's a whole lot of talent wrapped up in one writer lady.

If any of you do read (or have read) any of Laurie's books, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Contact me! If you feel like it

Morning! Just a quick note to let you know that my email address is up and running. Anyone who wants to contact me can now do so at:


I'd love to hear from you, even if it's just to diss me about my 'chocolate or cheese' decision.

Have a wonderful day, full of sparkles and goodness. Buy an awesome YA book. Read it. Tell me about it. Ta!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I've been reading this week

The Forest of Hands & Teeth, by Carrie Ryan: Zombies! Love triangles/squares! MORE zombies! Ooh this is a good book. I'm SO ready for the zombie apocalypse. Bring. It. On.

Extreme Kissing, by Luisa Plaja: BFFs! Hot French boys! Kissing! Seriously, what's not to like?

Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell: Christian camp! A hot boy in a wheelchair! A main character who's not stick-thin! This book gave me a serious case of author envy. One of my favourite quotes: 'First impressions are arse.'

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Alpha, beta, whatever

Yesterday I finally discovered the difference between alpha readers and beta readers, thanks to the wonderful Natalie Whipple. I'd never even heard of beta readers till a few months ago, and since then I've heard nothing of the alphas. I've been vaguely curious, but not enough to actually ASK someone.

So, alpha readers = cheerleaders who read your writing as you go along. I don't think they have to be ACTUAL cheerleaders (although, why not? That could work too. Gimme a C! C!), but they have to enjoy your writing and know better than to nitpick and pick away at your confidence just when you need it most. That's not to say they can't be critical, they just have to be critical in the RIGHT way. And point out gaping plot holes and any wrong turnings before it's too late. I have an alpha. She's ace.

Beta readers = people who read your writing when it's done, perhaps when you've finished your first draft. Betas can be slightly more critical, more forensic in their approach to your work. And since they're reading the whole novel in its entirety, they'll provide you with a fairly good idea of whether the novel is made of awesome, or merely made of quite-good. (Let's just assume it's not made of bobbins.) Beta readers must be HONEST. My beta reader is the same as my alpha reader. She's a veritable Greek alphabet of readers, all wrapped up into one. I may or may not try and find a couple more beta readers to look at my current novel (which I'm a looooong way from finishing). We'll see. Anyhoo, I'm very pleased to have learned something this weekend!

Had lunch with my editor on Friday (holy moly I have an editor!). We discussed titles and covers. It was fun, and reassuring that we were both on the same wavelengh. I hope to be able to announce a title in the next week or so. Are you bored of me going on about titles yet? I kind of am. Sorry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The writing blues

'I have forced myself to begin writing when I have been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes ... and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so.'
-Joyce Carol Oates

This is one of my favourite writing quotes, and I usually find it to be 100% true. But a couple of days ago, the opposite was the case. I sat down to write feeling fine and dandy, and by the time I'd written 1000 words I felt hollow and just... bleak. Maybe that's what you get when you write depressing scenes in which people do HORRIBLE things.

Note to self: include fluffy bunny rabbits and ickle kittens in next scene. And do NOT kill them.

BOOK NEWS: we're getting closer to a title, and a designer will be briefed about the cover very soon. My book's going to have a cover and EVERYTHING! How awesome is that?
(Answer: very.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Five reasons to read When I Was Joe, by Keren David

1. The subject matter. Boy in Witness Protection after witnessing knife crime? Brilliant.

2. The voice. Completely believable and sometimes almost shockingly honest.

3. The suspense. Wow, those chapter endings are GOOD. A couple even made me gasp (and not just in my head! A proper, audible intake of breath).

4. The running scenes. These really struck a chord with me, maybe because I run too.

5. Claire. Not saying why. Simply a great character.

I can't wait to read Almost True. I would like it to arrive on my doorstep NOW, please.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ideal Reader, part deux

I've been thinking about this whole 'Ideal Reader' thing, and the value of getting someone else to read your writing before it goes out to an agent/editor/the real world. I know I'd struggle without my IR, not least because she nags me to keep writing. The first novel would never have been finished had it not been for her gentle nagging/encouragement/downright bullying. The second novel hopefully won't need quite so much of this, not least because it's under contract, so umm... I kind of have to write it. And I want to, so that's good. But I could still do with huge dollops of encouragement, of course.

There aren't many people I'd trust to read my writing in its raw state. There aren't many (any?) people whose opinion I value so highly. BUT could I benefit from some different perspectives? Or would too many cooks spoil the book? Would I be too confused by one person saying 'I love this character - she's so DARK,' and another person saying 'Urgh, I hate this character - she's so DARK'? Would my brain explode?

It's an interesting question, to me at least.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ooh! An award! Fancy that!

Look what I got! Isn't it marvellous? This honour was bestowed upon me by the lovely Keren David.

I've never had an award before. I did once 'win' some reflective stickers to put on your school bag. Then I discovered years later that Blue Peter had sent stickers to EVERY PERSON WHO ENTERED THE COMPETITION. I was most disgruntled.

Now, the idea is that I pass it on to bloggers whose blogs fit the description. Cool idea, huh? So let's get on with it. I fear that some of these awesome bloggers have already got gazillions of awards, and some probably have this exact one, but what the hey, hey?

For awesome YA reviews and general loveliness.

For Sex in Teen Lit month, among other things. Finally, a sensible discussion about the matter.

For awesome reviews. My reading age is stuck at 16 too - just like Lauren's!

A great blog about writing and the road to publication. Nova's tween novel Dani Noir is a fab read.

For being prolific and HILARIOUS. The new vlogs on there are particularly worth a look.

A new find for me. Tamsyn Murray's YA debut is out in February.

For being my publishing-house buddy. A great blog, even if she is a 'dog' person.

My, this is a good-looking site.  Great content too - just don't mention WEREWOLVES. Courtney's book Cracked up to be was mentioned on here a while ago.

Another new find for me, but I'm liking it already. Rhiannon's an Australian YA writer.

For REALLY good writing/publishing advice, awesome drawings and much, much more. Natalie's an American YA writer, repped by the God that is Nathan Bransford.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My Ideal Reader

If you haven’t read Stephen King’s On Writing yet, maybe you should. I recommend it to all my writer friends. I’d defy anyone to read it and NOT want to go away and write IMMEDIATELY. It’s inspirational, and not just because Mr King got a ridonkulously huge advance for his first novel, Carrie. In On Writing, King talks about his Ideal Reader. This happens to be his wife, Tabitha, which is mighty convenient.

Do you have an Ideal Reader? A friend or loved one who lurks at the back of your mind as you write? You write something funny (maybe), and think ‘Ha! I bet that’ll make him/her laugh!’. Or you write something sad (which is more likely for me) and think ‘Ha! I bet that’ll make him/her cry!’. You’re still writing for yourself, of course, but there’s the added incentive of hoping to please someone else. Which makes sense, since, ultimately, you’re hoping that many, many complete strangers will read your book one day.

My Ideal Reader is my best friend. Hello, IR if you’re reading this! Thanks for reading, and laughing and crying in all the right places.

So, who’s your Ideal Reader, and why?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fanks for fings

Thank you thank you thank you for the questions for the FAQs. I'm halfway through answering them, and it's turning out to be a lot of fun. It's kind of tricky too, because I've had to THINK and that is sometimes hard for me. Some of the questions made me think about stuff I've never really taken the time to think about before. So I hope the answers will be of some interest to you, since they've been a revelation to me!

Unfortunately, and much to my surprise, no one asked the two most important questions in the universe. I've chosen to answer them here, for you.

Chocolate or cheese? (i.e. If you could only have one for the rest of your life, which would it be?)

Hmm, let me think for a second... NOT! It's got to be cheese. Got. To. Be. I could not live without parmesan and cheddar and camembert and all their cheesy relatives. Don't get me wrong: I like chocolate, I really do. But cheese rules the world.

Would you rather have muffins for hands, or squirrels for feet?

Squirrels for feet, of course. Those little munchkins could propel me around the streets of London, with minimal effort required on my part. 'Squirrels, go thataway! Squirrels, wait for the green man! Squirrels, please propel me past that charity mugger at full speed!' If I had muffins for hands, I wouldn't be able to write books, and that would be a shame.

There. I feel better for putting that out there.

Thanks also for the YA book recommendations. The tower grows ever higher. God, I love YA and the people who read it. I really truly do.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A question for you

What is your favourite YA book of all time? I just want to check I'm not missing out on any gems. Even though my to-read pile is almost as tall as I am, I think it can still get taller before it topples over and squishes my two cats in one of those all too frequent 'YA books killing cats' tragedies.

Is there ONE YA book that you recommend to everyone you meet, even the people who sneer at the idea of reading 'children's' books?

I rave to anyone who'll listen about Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin, and The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins... So which book turns you into a crazy-eyed YA evangelist?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I am excited about... When I was Joe, by Keren David

Man, I love this cover. It's even better real life. That boy's eyelashes are so luscious! Those blood spatters are embossed AND spot UV (yes, I am a geek, but I'm OK with that). AND the book is nice and chunky. I want to read it NOW!

Here's a synopsis for you:
When Ty witnesses a stabbing, his own life is in danger from the criminals he s named, and he and his mum have to go into police protection. Ty has a new name, a new look and a cool new image life as Joe is good, especially when he gets talent spotted as a potential athletics star, special training from an attractive local celebrity and a lot of female attention. But his mum can t cope with her new life, and the gangsters will stop at nothing to flush them from hiding. Joe s cracking under extreme pressure, and then he meets a girl with dark secrets of her own. This wonderfully gripping and intelligent novel depicts Ty/Joe's confused sense of identity in a moving and funny story that teenage boys and girls will identify with - a remarkable debut from a great new writing talent.

Why don't you head over to Keren's blog where she's running a contest involving boys in hoodies? Surely the best kind of contest there is.

I've been thinking recently about what a writer actually DOES on publication day. My book should be out this time next year, so I really think I should start planning now. In my head the day involves copious amounts of champagne and roaming around London in an open-top bus waving to strangers. OK, not really. In my head I have no clue. Please, someone, tell me what it's like OR what it SHOULD be like.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Please ask me questions!

Hello, you lovely blog readers! May I just say that you're looking particularly attractive today... not a trace of overindulgence over the festive period... Have you been working out?

OK, here's the deal: I'm creating my website. There will be no bells and whistles on it, because I ain't computer-savvy enough for such fripperies. But there will be words. Hopefully. And I need YOU to help me out with my FAQ page.

Please, ask me anything you like. Anything at all. It can be about writing, or cheese, or stripey socks, or music or ANYTHING. If you do this, I will heart you forever.

Thank you.

Have a nice day.

Disappointing lunch of the day: Urgh, some kind of hot halloumi bagel. Sounded great, tasted rank. And it was messy too. And the rocket was wilted and gross.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

First edit: done and dusted

Yay! I finished! I cut about 2000 words. There are two bits I might save for another book, but I might not bother. They'll always be there though, in draft five or six or whichever one it was. That version of the novel was OK. This version is better, without a doubt. Aren't editors wonderfully clever? (And no, I'm not just saying that because I wear an editor hat from Monday to Friday. BTW my editor hat is green, with bells on.)

Still working on the title though. I might be making progress there, thanks to one of my Twitter buddies who will be even more profusely thanked if her suggestion ends up on the book. Fingers crossed!

Anyone else out there have any book-title troubles?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Editor gets edited

Editing books is my day job, but today I am the editee/edited/editorated... or something. I'm looking at the first edit from my editor. And it's nowhere near as overwhelming as I was expecting - in fact, it's positively light. This a huge relief.

So far I've cut about a thousand words. All of the suggested cuts are good ones. And a couple are bits that I KNEW should probably cut, but I hearted them for whatever reason and left them in, hoping no one else would notice. Mostly the bits being cut are little asides, bits that make me smile, and bits where I repeat myself, bits where I repeat myself.

I'm starting to realize that soon the text will be final. And then I won't be able to play around with characters' names and such like. It will be SET IN STONE (or rather, set in paper, but that doesn't sound as good... ooh, I'd like my book to be actually set in stone). So I'd better make sure I'm as happy with the ms as I'm ever going to be. Scary biscuits, eh?

Song of the day: Green Hills Race for California, by Emerson Hart