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Thursday, 20 November 2014

A PEEK INSIDE THE NOTEBOOK...

Hello, my well-iced cupcakes! Sorry for my blogging absence last week. I'm afraid I caught two bugs one on top of the other and I pretty much lost the full seven days. I'm still recovering, but at least I feel mostly human now. That was my NaNo efforts out of the window, though. I think I've learned my lesson now that it's happened three times: the universe does not want me NaNoing. I can take a hint!

Today's post is one that I promised on Twitter to the delightful Dear Readers Jenni (@JuniperJungle) and Lucy (@ChooseYA) aaages ago, after I posted a screencap of part of the original page of notes I made back in 2010 when I first came up with most of my ideas for THE NAME OF THE BLADE. So here is me finally getting to it, half a month later.

I've mentioned on the blog before that I use a programme called OneNote - a sort of virtual notebook which lets you open up new pages and tabs and jam random notes all over the place in no particular order - to keep track of my messy, developing ideas as all the elements of a story start coalescing in my brain. It's not really the same as brainstorming. It's just jotting things down, actually, but it's better for me than a normal notebook (le gasp! No, I still love normal notebooks and my stationery fetish is intact, I'm not a pod person, honest!) because after writing the notes you can move them around, add things, take things away, change the size or colour, add hyperlinks or paste in reference pictures, and generally make a mess of the virtual page without *literally* making a mess of the page, as you would if you did this on paper.

For this reason, while showing you any of the actual notebooks I used to write the trilogy (nine of them!) wouldn't be very interesting because most of the pages are barely legible and all of them are a mess, showing you screencaps of my OneNote pages is not only possibly but feasible. And sine Lucy and Jenni assured me it would be fascinating... here we are.

 

This is a continuous screencap of my very first page of notes for THE NAME OF THE BLADE, written over the course of about four or five days of furious inspiration in 2010 - and then added to over the following year. As you will be able to see immediately if you've read any of the books, my original ideas were all over the place and many of them evolved or changed completely between starting to scribble down ideas and the book actually being written and then ending up on shelves.

For instance, if you look at that first double column of notes, you can see that in the beginning I was working on the assumption that this would be one book. So all the events that ended up being spread out over the course of TNI and DH are jammed together. And initially Rachel and Jack weren't sisters. Rachel was going to be a babysitter/au pair who got killed early on to underline the terrible threat of the Nekomata. But when Rachel appeared in the story - with her mild OCD, bossiness and common sense - she was far too good to be squandered that way. So she ended up getting her own viewpoint and storyline! Good going, Rach. There was also a bit of confusion about everyone's names that I'm a little puzzled by now...

However, some things - like the haiku which gave the series its individual book titles and guiding theme (that the powerful, passionate love mortals are able to feel within their finite lifetimes is terrifying and awe-inspiring even to such ancient forces as the ones surrounding them in this story) stayed exactly the same. I actually wrote the haiku within minutes of the idea of a warrior trapped in a sword appearing in my head - and as my ideas kept getting bigger and bigger, realising that there were three book titles in there was part of how I knew it was going to be a trilogy.

The blurred section, by the way, is a bunch of mythology stuff that's going to be revealed in the final book. And since no one but my editor and agent have read that yet, it didn't seem fair to splash it around and ruin things for everyone else. If any other notes up there seem like massive spoilers, they're probably things that I actually changed later on, so I've left them because they won't do any damage to your reading pleasure.

You can see down the right hand side that I have other pages for each individual book - which is where things get really detailed and spoilery. There's also one called THE NAME OF THE BLADE which was my series bible, so to speak, keeping track of who knew what when and all the little niggly details that I needed to remember. And finally there's one called The Name of Love, which is a short story in the universe that I've been working on intermittently.

Every book that I've worked on over the last few years has a notebook like this in OneNote. Since most of my books are standalone most of them have less tabs - but not all. For instance, #BaBBook has just as many tabs because I've been doing in depth research into Japanese flora and fauna and food and house construction and a host of other things, and I've got a mini-encyclopaedia filled with reference notes, pictures, and links.

I hope this was interesting to someone, anyway! Thanks for pushing me to post it, Jenni and Lucy! Read you later, my lovelies.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

NaNoWriMo. SORT OF.

Hello, oh lovely readers, and welcome back! As our blog title for the day suggests, this year I'm attempting to participate in NaNo. Sort of.

Due to all the personal and health issues I had this year I never got around to running or even attempting to do my own International Creative Writing Month (sorry, anyone who was looking forward to it!). In May and July, when I'd normally have set that up, I was just about managing twenty minutes or maybe half an hour of computer activity per day before a headache set in, and that was while wearing sunglasses. It just wasn't going to work. But I still feel bummed about it. So when I sent my edits for Frail Mortal Heart back a few days shy of the end of October, I thought - why not try NaNo this year?

I should... probably have known better than to do that, really?

Well anyway, I knew that I couldn't actually sign up to take part as an official NaNo-er because the book that I'm working on in November is the Beauty and the Beast retelling I talked about here, usually referred to on twitter as #BaBBook. I've already written a chunk of the book and that means it's not eligible to be a NaNo novel. But I did intend to stick to the rules otherwise and commit to writing a certain amount each day in order to get to a certain word total by the end of the month. My goal was to produce ten handwritten pages of notes six days a week, for a grand total of 240 pages by the end of the month (I didn't count the first Sunday of the month because I was spending that day with my nieces). That would significantly progress BaBBook and give me a shot at getting a first draft finished early next year. All good.

As usual, Fate, the Muses, and the Writing Gods laughed at this plan of mine. As soon as I opened my draft document to look at the chapters I'd already written (I'd planned to skim-read them to get myself back into the correct voice and mood) I began to get a sinking feeling. I hadn't looked at this piece of writing for a month, since I'd been focusing on the aforementioned edits for TNotB #3, and it seemed that the distance had thrown some serious problems with the opening of the novel into sharp relief. I'd been feeling pretty good about those chapters and now I definitely was not. They just weren't up to scratch at all.

Fine. OK. Don't panic. The first day was just going to have to be re-writing so that I could fix this and move on feeling confident. And I know that goes completely against the NaNoWriMo principle of pushing on regardless, but I just *couldn't* OK? I had to get my ducks in a row first because otherwise the very important section I needed to write next was going to be weakened by the feebleness of what came before.

So I put in what felt like a fruitful day's work revising those chapters and getting them up to a standard that felt solid enough for me to move on, and was feeling OK about things until I got to the end of the document and realised there were pages missing there. Pages I knew I had written. Nearly a full chapter. What was going on? Had I failed to save at the end of my last writing session a month ago or something or... or... Oh. My. GOD.

I had been working on the wrong version of the manuscript.

I have two computers now - a slim laptop that travels with me, and a heavy old PC replacement that lives in my Writing Cave. I also have a flashdrive which I ferry back and forth between them, updating whatever computer I'm using with the most recent version of #BaBBook. And obviously at the end of last month, I hadn't updated the file on the Writing Cave computer with the newer version from the flashdrive. No wonder those chapters hadn't seemed good enough. They were from the middle, not the end, of September.

ARGH.

The urge to trash the room, rock 'n' roll style, was definitely rising, but after a few moments of deep breathing and staring at the calming picture on my wall, I was able to get it together. There was nothing to be done but print out the pages that I had revised, update my computer using the flashdrive and then hastily leave the room in order to watch classic anime until the urge to sacrifice myself on the alter of an elder god and then rise again as a eldritch tentacled monster of vengeance had passed.

Today, then, has been spent looking closely at the correct version of #BaBBook and inputting quite a lot of the changes that I'd made to the older version of the book's opening onto that, since many of them are still good. Two days of NaNo (during which I should have written twenty new pages, remember) down and not much to show for them, except a slightly more polished version of the first few chapters. And also a strong feeling that the last chapter, which I wrote at the end of September, needs to go in the bin and be completely rethought because it just feels rushed and wrong. Dammit.

So. Hopefully I'll get on that tomorrow and manage to construct a lead-in to the next part of the book that feels right and works. And then Thursday, I will actually start NaNo. Right?

Right?

*Sigh*

Monday, 27 October 2014

FRAIL MORTAL HEART COVER REVEAL

Hello, hello, hello, my lovelies! This post was originally supposed to be for yesterday, but I've been miserably ill since Saturday and today's the first day that I could be bothered to do more than tap out 140 characters on Twitter. However, I think the under-lying fabulosity of the post kinda makes up for the delay, so I'm just going to go ahead and call it even (especially since even now I know that 99% of you are busily scrolling past my words to get to the shiny shiny cover reveal below, you impatient heathens, you).

So, anyway: The Name of the Blade Book Three - FRAIL MORTAL HEART. It haz a cover and it is beautimous, and since it was shared with the lovely guests - hey guys, it was amazing to meet you! - at the blogger tea at Walker Books on Saturday (wherein I made my second flying visit to our country's fine capital in as many weeks and picked up this weird bug which may have been down to the salmon sandwich I ate on the train, and that's a lesson for you, my children - if they don't have ham then just say no to train sandwiches) and there are slightly blurry, not-really-forbidden glimpses of it circulating all over Twitter, I've now got permission to rip away the veil of secrecy officially.

And yes, that was the longest sentence that's ever been written on this blog. Yes, I am doing it on purpose to mess with you, oh patient and rare 1% who are actually wading through all this before getting to the image. I love you, my babies! Never change!

Fine, fine, I'll shut up. Here it is!


It's coming right up, right next!


Well, just a bit further down.


And a little more.


Leeetle more.


Just a bit


Tiny bit.


Now!


Um. Yeah. Do I even need to describe the amount of flailing, squeeing and unbearable smugness that is emanating from Marriott Towers right now? No? I thought not. As I said at the blogger tea - my cover has a dragon on it. LIVE ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.

Also, this:

Click to embiggen. Do it. DOOOO IIIIITTT.
That is my trilogy guys. It's *this close* to finished. And actually being serious for half a second here - I am so, so proud of Walker Books for once again kicking #racefail and whitewashing in the soft dangly bits and giving my books cover art that not only accurately reflects the ethnicity of the characters within, but celebrates it with an airpunch and a HELL YEAH WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS BABY. At my publisher they not only acknowledge that they need diverse books, they really and truly want them, and treat them with the respect they deserve. How awesome is that?

Thank you to Annalie (Wonder Editor) and Maria (Delightful Designer) and also Larry Rostant, the photographer (who doesn't have a nickname because I haven't met him so it seems like it would be taking a liberty) for making my dream covers a reality. Wow, guys. Just. Wow.

OK, before I go, a final reminder that I, along with amazing fellow YA authors Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery, will be at the Lincoln High Street Waterstone's this Wednesday doing a panel event - Heroines of Teen Lit - with readings, a Q&A, signing, and super special swag (although I'm not bringing sweeties this time because... well, I've been too ill to go and buy any. Sorry *Sad face*). No need to book tickets or ring ahead - just turn up at 6:30 and we will be delighted to see you! 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

BOOK NOOKS

Hello, lovely readers! Today I've posted over at the Author Allsorts, so to read my faintly embarrassing reminiscences of all the odd places that I used to hide out to read as a kid, mosey across there now.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

COME AND SEE ME!

Greetings, Dear Readers! Don't check your calendars - I know it's not my normal posting day, but I'm joining you early this week because I have EXCITING NEWS.

So, you remember I posted about the Heroines of Teen Lit panel and signing in Lincoln on the 29th of October? Well, if you can't get to that (and I know that sadly it was a bit far to travel for many of you) then weep not - I'm doing another event, this one in London, and it's on the 19th. That's right - this coming Sunday. I know it's not much notice, but that's because I literally only learned about it myself on Friday afternoon. It's been a bit of a whirlwind.

Details! you cry. Give us details! Patience, young Padawan - details follow.

Remember the YALC - Young Adult Literature Convention - which was organised by the amazeballs Malorie Blackman and which took place in July this year? Well, YALC is returning with a smaller 'pop-up' event at the winter London Film and Comic Con this very Sunday, and I will be there doing an event on Female Characters in Fantasy Fiction, along with YA superstars Laure Eve (author of FEARSOME DREAMER and THE ILLUSIONISTS) and Samantha Shannon (of THE BONE SEASON fame). I am polishing my tasteful yet kickass Feminist boots as I type. Figuratively. I don't want to get boot polish on my keyboard. But you get the idea: mouthy awesome ladies being mouthy and awesome. Live!
Here is the official press release, which also gives details of the other YALC panel event. Both the YALC events are free to attend, but you will need to have an LFCC ticket to get in. If you're only interested in the two YALC events, you can get a cheaper late day pass, rather than an early bird or all weekend LFCC ticket.

Here is the website for the LFCC where you can learn more about the venue, purchasing tickets, and other stuff going on at the larger con (Princess Leia FTW!).

After the panel, as the press release notes, we'll be doing an hour long signing. I will be there with my special signing pen and I will sign anything you ask me to, not including private parts (because I love you, but I feel we need to get to know each other better before we take that step). I will also be giving away my usual swathes of swag and HUGS. Always, always hugs.

Ettiquette from my previous event still applies: Internet Friends and Dear Readers MUST APPROACH. There is no need to lurk and feel sad about it later! I want to see you, that's the whole point of why I am there. And remember that if know you online by KittyGirl567 and you come along and introduce yourself to me as Sally, I will still be delighted to see you, but might look a bit blank-faced if you bring up our Twitter discussion about fanfic. If we know each other,  please, please DO NOT BE TOO SHY to tell me who you are online before you introduce yourself with your real life name, so that I can greet you with all the genuine warmth, pleasure, in-jokes and snuggles you deserve. Above all: don't worry that it will be awkward! Of course it will, because I am awkward at all times, which means am totally used to it! You cannot possibly embarrass yourself as much as I can embarrass both of us, and that is a guarantee.

Extra information: last night I had an incredibly vivid dream that during the panel event I spontaneously burst into song and ended up leading the other panelists and audience in an a capella rendition of Taylor Swift's Shake it Off, culminating in a fierce dance-off. So, I'm not saying that will definitely happen but, you know. You don't want to miss it if it does, right? Just putting that out there.

Finally, two new reviews showed up on the Amazon page for Darkness Hidden this week after my appeal in last week's blog post. I am overjoyed to see them - thank you my darlings! See you hopefully on Sunday, and if not, then on the blog next week :)

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

THE NAME OF THE BLADE: US EDITION!

Hello and happy Wednesday, my lovelies! Today is a fine day for...book p*rn!

Yes, that's right, a precious finished copy of the Candlewick Press edition of The Night Itself - retitled THE NAME OF THE BLADE for US release, and due out in November of this year - has arrived and it is a hardcover of surpassing prettiness if I do say so myself. Get out your smelling salts, lock yourself away somewhere private, and prepare yourself for sexeh sexeh book shots (I HAVE SO MANY OF THEM I MAY HAVE A PROBLEM SEND HELP):
 

So, here is the front. Which, you may note here, is incredibly shiny and has more coloured foils on it than you can shake a stick at - dusky purple for the Nekomata, gold for its eyes and the lettering, a bit more gold and some black on the grip of the katana, and silver for the blade itself. Its rather shockingly lovely in the flesh. BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE:


Let's hear it for brightly coloured endpapers I love them so. This is one of the best things about hardcovers, I swear. So bright, so yellow, my preccccious...

And what colour goes the best with dusky purple dust jackets and bright yellow endpapers? Why it's pale dove grey and silver, which is the exact shade chosen for the binding, as you can see.


But what's that? A strange symbol on the spine? Let's check the dust jacket again!

It's there too! And all shiny and silver and purple again, hubba hubba.

Also, it feels worth mentioning that this is a super dinky little hardcover - it's smaller than a trade paperback here in the UK and not much bigger than a mass market paperback. I've never seen such a petite hardcover edition - it's practically dwarfed by the Candlewick Press hardcover of, say, Daughter of the Flames or Shadows on the Moon. I'm not sure why that is, but it's kind of precious, honestly. I want to slip it in my pocket, just because I can.

Anyway, this is a case where the little thumbnails you see of a cover online do not do the book justice in any way. It's simply scrummy in the flesh, and I hope that lots of people notice this and pick it off the bookshelves of their local shop come November. Lucky for me, the book's already had two lovely reviews, one of which was featured in the Publisher's Weekly Children's Bookshelf Newsletter (and I had no idea until it popped into my inbox and I was reading it as normal and suddenly there was my book staring out at me, leading to much flailing and squeaking at Casa Marriott).

In the meantime, I'd like to ask a favour of any Dear Readers who have a few spare moments: if you've written a review of Book Two of the Trilogy: Darkness Hidden for your blog or your Goodreads, or you were thinking of doing so? The Amazon page for this book is looking a bit sparse in terms of reviews. It's got four absolute stonking ones, which I'm very grateful for - don't get me wrong! - but since the first book has over twenty it kind of looks like no one is reading the next in the series which isn't the impression I was hoping the book would make, you know?

However, there's no pressure to do this, and I'm not guilt-tripping anyone who doesn't want to or doesn't have the time, so feel free to ignore my neediness, oh delightful chickadees. I love you all regardless! *Mwah*


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

HEROINES OF TEEN LIT

Hello, hello, hello Dear Readers!

I'm back today to bring you a bit more detail about the event that I'm doing in Lincoln on the 29th of October. Here, courtesy of the mad skillz of the lovely Kerry Drewery herself, is all the information you should need in order to know how cool it's going to be that and YOU WANT TO BE THERE:

Each of us will be reading from our books, taking questions from the audience, and signing. I plan to read a bit from book three of the Name of the Blade Trilogy - Frail Mortal Heart - which isn't out until July of 2015, so that will hopefully be a valuable sneak peek for those who've enjoyed the first two books. I'll also be bringing my special signing pen to autograph and personalise any books that you bring or buy, signed bookplates for you to take home, various pieces of exclusive and delightful swag and, most important of all, *sweeties*.

Plus, of course, my usual suffocating and inescapable hugs. Those are non-negotiable.

Lincoln is a delightful place - which I know well because it's only an hour away from my hometown by train and I've spent a lot of time there. The best scone and cup of tea in the North of England is available right there on Lincoln High Street by Stokes Cafe. They also sometimes do a sticky toffee pudding which is... *Drools* Nomz. Anyway, Lincoln is small and easy to navigate, full of fascinating little independent shops and well worth a few hours of anyone's time even if there wasn't going to be this pretty mad awesome book event there, too. If anyone's ever wanted to see one of these fabulous multi-author panel events that always seem to be going on in London, but find the capital a bit expensive or difficult to get to, now is the time to take advantage of the more Northernly location of THIS book event and book your train tickets/get your dad to give you a lift/look up the bus timetables.

So, in summary, reasons everyone should come and hang out with us in Lincoln on the 29th of October:
  1. Frail Mortal Heart spoilers/sneek peeks
  2. Signed and personalised books
  3. Signed bookplates
  4. Exclusive swag
  5. Sweeties
  6. Hugs
  7. Gorgeous location (with optional scones)
I think I've made a compelling case here, but let me know if you want anymore details, my ducky darlings, and I shall, as the Black Widow would say persuade you.

*Smooches to all*
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