Wednesday, 25 January 2012

ROADTRIP WEDNESDAY

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic
Pick two of your favorite YA characters and write a dialogue between them.

Well, you know what? I'm going to pick two of my own characters here (even though I don't think that was the purpose of the thing) because as soon as I read this the most funny, ridiculous pairing popped into my head. And that pairing is Akira, the fabulous fairy godmother from Shadows on the Moon, and Arian, the tortured, gruffly-wuffly lieutenant from the upcoming FrostFire.

(Bear in mind that I'm taking a few liberties with them here, just to allow them to exist in the same space)

BEGIN SCENE

Akira: Oh, hello! I didn't see you there - who are you?

Arian: (Stares, blushes, looks away) *Mutter mumble*

Akira: I beg your pardon, I didn't quite...

Arian: (Blushes harder) *MUTTER mumble growl mumble*

Akira: My apologies, perhaps there is something wrong with my hearing this morning. Could you repeat yourself for me one more time?

Arian: NEVER MIND!

Akira: (Jumps a little) Goodness me. Is there something wrong, young man? Because I can assure you that no matter how handsome you are, in this country that is not what passes for good manners. (Starts to turn away)

Arian: (Blinks) Handsome?

Akira: Oh, that got your attention? How typical. (Turns away again)

Arian: Wait!

Akira: (Sighs) Yes?

Arian: *Mutter mutter mutter*

Akira: (Sighs louder) Oh, will you please just come out with it? I'm starting to get the worrying sensation that I might be going deaf, and I'm not nearly old enough for that.

Arian: I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.

Both: Awkward pause.

Akira: Oh.

Arian: (Blushes brighter than a thousand suns)

Akira: Well, that's...that...ahem...very nice of you...ahem. But I think maybe...(Steps a little closer, leans in) *Whisper whisper whisper*

Arian: Oh? Oh! Um...well, I don't mind if you don't. 

Akira: What? Really? 

Arian: Well, just between you and me, there's this guy I was trying to get over, and then this girl...I'm open minded, you know? What's always mattered to me is - um - what's inside. And there's something about you...

Akira: (Stares, open-mouthed)

Arian: (Shifts uncomfortably)

Akira: All right. Come with me. You and I are going to get better acquainted. (Grabs his arm)

Arian (Allows himself to be dragged, a tiny smile on his face)

END SCENE

And there you are folks! That's what it looks like when an author writes fanfic for their own books - and ships a couple no one else probably ever thought of :)

Monday, 23 January 2012

LOOK WHAT I GOT!

Dear Readers, I have a wonderful friend. She is called Barbara and she lives in Canada, and she is part of my writing group The Furtive Scribblers. Barbara, on top of being an intimidatingly talented word artist, is also a dedicated craftsperson who is determined to hone her abilities to their very sharpest. As part of this, she goes to a lot of writing and genre festivals and conventions, and she meets a lot of other writers, including some very famous ones.

Now, as I may have mentioned on the blog before, I live in somewhat of a geographical cul de sac. Travel from my home to...er...well, pretty much anywhere is both expensive and exhausting, and as a result of this and the fact that I need to look after my father, I don't often get to go to writing related events. And this means that I don't have access to something which I love and adore. Something which Barbara gets her hands on quite often.

Signed books.

Barbara, dear, lovely Barbara, knows that signed books are like crack to me. She is the one who managed to get me a signed and personalised copy of The Other Wind by Ursula Le Guin, the book which I mention here as one of my ultimate writing influences (and by the way Ursula Le Guin? WE ARE NOT WORTHY *Bows Down*).

But this time, B. you have outdone yourself. This time when I opened the unexpected parcel that arrived on my doorstep I was not prepared for the awesomeosity that was to spill into my lap, oh no. 

Remember this story about The One, Dear Readers? About the lightning-struck moment of clarity when my life changed forever as I realised that I wanted to write fantasy for young adults? And the author whose book I was reading at the time was...

That's right.


B. it's possible I might have had a heart attack when I saw this. But it was totally worth it. You are a bright and shiny star, and like a star, you always lead me home eventually. I'll see you back in the FSC soon, promise.

*Snuggles book*

Friday, 20 January 2012

RANDOM FRIDAY

Is there any day of the week that I cannot engulf with my very own brand of randomosity? I think not. Onwards, Dear Readers!

First, I'd like to share this excellent post about sexism (thanks for bunting this my way Saya!) written by Rae Carson, author of last year's kickass debut fantasy Girl of Fire and Thorns - which I reviewed, glowingly, here. Everything that she talks about experiencing in her article, I experienced during my time in the working world, at three separate work places. And what was more, I didn't realise there was anything wrong with it for the longest time, because this is how young women and girls expect to be treated in our society. Once I did realise that something wasn't right, I felt powerless to change things because I had accepted being treated that way for years - and whenever I did try to stand up for myself, I incurred even more abuse.

I'm not sure even I understood the full extent of the bullying, harassment and abuse I dealt with on a day to day basis until I actually left my day job and worked for myself for a while, and was able to look back with some perspective. So it's sobering to realise that there are people out there - men and women - who believe sexism is a myth. And that women have somehow taken over the world and are being unfair to men. And that discrimination and anti-bullying laws should be scaled back, either to 'boost industry' or because they're no longer needed.

Next, I want to share this wonderful blog where an artist envisions Disney heroines as real people: 


Seriously - how awesome is that? Go check out the other images on his blog.

Now for a question: What does everyone think about my website?

Do you think it needs a redesign? I first put it together nearly seven years ago and at the time it was the envy of everyone who looked at it - it was pretty and comprehensive and back then a lot of authors didn't even have a website. In the years since, though, all those writers who were hesitating on the brink of online activity have taken the plunge, and most of them paid web designers to create their sites, which means that the homemade nature of my little site has become startlingly obvious. What do you guys think? Do you like the wonky, homemade look the thing has now? Should I redesign myself? Or should I invest in something a bit more professional? That last one is expensive, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly.

If you think I should spring for a professional's help, do you have any favourite author sites - ones you think are particularly attractive, fun, or easy to navigate - to direct me to so that I can check out their designers?

Finally, since it's a brand new year and we've not talked about it for a bit - does anyone have any suggestions for what my challenge should be if/when the blog reaches 400 followers? It doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon, since we've been hovering around 320 for months now, but it would be nice to have something up there.

Well, that's all the random I've got right now. Have a great weekend - read you later! 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION & COVER REVEAL!

I'm very excited today, Dear Readers! I've got two lovely things to share with you.

Late yesterday evening (due to the time difference) I received an email from my editor at my U.S. publisher Candlewick Press. She told me that Shadows on the Moon, which is due to be released in a hardback edition in America on the 24th of April this year, has been chosen as a Junior Library Guild Selection.

I've heard of the JLG before but they've never picked any of my work to recommend, so this is wonderful news. I'm pretty sure it's also happy-making for Candlewick - my editor says the jacket of the book will be amended before it comes out to show the selection on the flap. The book isn't up on the JLG's website yet (presumably because this news is hot off the presses) but you can bet I'll be checking back frequently until I see it for myself!

Hot on the heels of this news, I realised that the final cover for the U.S. edition of Shadows on the Moon was up on the Amazon pre-order page. It's been up on various other websites for a while - NetGalley and Goodreads - but in a tiny thumbnail. Now, Candlewick had asked me not to put the artwork on my website until closer to the release date, so I've held back on that. But since we're now within a few months of U.S. publication, and the image is there in enlargeable form on both Amazon and the publisher's website, this seems as good a time as any for me to do a belated unveiling. So...

(Drumroll please!)


I know there's a lot of affection for the U.K. artwork (although I've seen some people dismiss it as generic too!) but I really love this. For a start - and believe me, I know how lucky I am! - there is No Racefail Here. The model is very beautiful, very Japanese, and has a flavour of that same mysterious Suzume expression which you see on the U.K. cover, and I adore that.

The most fabulous thing about this artwork, though, is the way that Suzume is fading away into the trees behind her, like a ghost, while at the same time luminous with a kind of fearsome beauty, her hair becoming a hood of shadow. The artist has captured something very important from the story: the idea that someone can project an image of beauty while their inner self is hidden or even dying. There's a great spookiness about this, too, which I like.

What do you guys think? And can anyone tell me how to get the larger image up on Goodreads when the thumbnail version is already there?

Monday, 16 January 2012

FROSTFIRE TEASER #4

Heeellooo, Dear Readers! Today I bring you a teensy snippet of the upcoming Daughter of the Flames companion novel FrostFire, which is coming out from Walker Books in July of this year. Since the manuscript is in edits now, there's less chance than usual of this scene being significantly cut or changed, but you never know, so bear that in mind.

Since this is probably the last sample I'll be able to post for some time (if at all), it seemed only fitting to head back to the beginning of the book. Or...nearly the beginning. There's a preface, but that would give away far too much, my pretties (mwaa haa haa!). So here's the start of the first chapter proper. Click the cut for more:

Monday, 9 January 2012

MONDAY FOUR

Hello, Dear Readers! Here we are again. The weighted rubber mallet of Monday has slammed inevitably into our skulls. If you're anything like me, you're clutching your head and staggering around making muffled whimpers of suffering (no? Just me? Oh, well). But fear not! I offer the wet flannel of randomness to drape over our foreheads and soothe the ache.

1) Daughter of the Flames Kindle edition became an Amazon bestseller in several categories for a brief moment last week and this weekend. This was mostly to do with the fact that it was part of the Amazon Twelve Days of Kindle sale, and the price was reduced to 99p. Of course, as soon as the sale was over and the price went back to the (still rather reasonable!) rate of £2.69, it dropped off the bestselling chart like a lead balloon. But it was still fun to see it there in the company of such luminaries as Cassandra Clare, Chris Priestley and Joss Stirling for a while. A very nice start to the New Year!

2) This weekend I was on Twitter, bemoaning the fact that one of my all-time favourite songs, 'All I Need' by Within Temptation, is written in a key which makes it impossible for me to sing along without my voice breaking. Well, ask Twitter and ye shall receive: lovely Twitter people brought this cover of the song to my attention, and I loves it:

3) This picture which a lovely reader sent me a while back and I forgot to share. My heart still melts whenever anyone takes the time to show me my books in the wild, especially where the book's clearly been displayed with such enthusiasm.<3


4) The Hunger Games Trilogy. Although I was determined to wait until the film came out and so not spoil it for myself (as the book is pretty much always better) I finally gave in over the weekend and read them. I'm still dehydrated from all the weeping. Holy Emotional Devastation, Batman! Ms Collins pulls no punches, and I'm in awe - I couldn't write something that bleak, something that *truthful*. The places she must have had to go, internally, to create this world! Normally I can call who will live and die fairly reliably early on, but the utter pointless randomness of the deaths in these books...eugh. So truthful, especially amid the alien decadence of the setting. I WILL NEVER GET OVER THESE BOOKS.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

LEEDS BOOK AWARD NOMINATION

Hi everyone! Today I'm sharing some exciting news about Shadows on the Moon. I've known about it for a while, but I was asked to keep quiet until after the new year (and you all know how hard it is for me to keep secrets - argh!). So I'm delighted to finally announce this.

Shadows has been shortlisted in the 14-16 category of the Leeds Book Award!


 This is the full award shortlist for my category:

  • Angel’s Fury by Bryony Pearce
  • Wreckers by Julie Hearn
  • Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
  • Quarry by Ally Kennen
  • Department 19 by Will Hill
  • Flip by Martyn Bedford

Which I think you'll agree is pretty darn impressive company to be in! I'm absolutely thrilled!

There are also shortlists for 9-11 year olds:

  • Moon Pie by Simon Mason
  • Gold Seekers by Jane Johnson
  • Gravehunger by Harriet Goodwin
  • Sky Hawk by Gill Lewis
  • Magicalamity by Kate Saunders
  • Muncle Trogg by Janet Foxley

And 11-14 year olds:

  • My sister lives on the mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
  • Dark Woods by Steve Voake
  • The truth about Celia Frost by Paula Rawsthorne
  • Fifty Fifty by S L Powell
  • Sektion 20 by Paul Doswell
  • Wereworld: The rise of the wolf by Curtis Jobling

There's a really great mix here of bestsellers, critically acclaimed work, and lesser known books (that last one includes me!) which I always love to see, because it means the awards are aiming for excellence but at the same time are accessible and helping to raise the profile of deserving books which might otherwise be overlooked. My heart always sinks a bit when I see an award list which is made up of the same old 'buzz' books that have been nominated for every other award in the world. I think this wonderful diversity comes about because the shortlists are voted on by the people who really matter - the young adults themselves. Cheers pupils of the Leeds area!

Last year's winner in my category was ANGEL by L. A. Weatherly, which, as you all know, I adored, and which makes me all the more gleeful to see my work nominated. I'd love to win this, but just seeing my name up there surrounded by so many other wonderful authors and knowing the quality of past winners is pretty darn all right by me.

This year's award website isn't up yet, but I'll probably post a link to it when it is, so watch this space for that.

Monday, 2 January 2012

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2012

Happy Monday - and Happy New Year - Dear Readers! And whoa, that's a lot of capitals in one sentence. But you deserve them! And so does this shiny, bright, beautiful new year that we're all just beginning right now.

Today's first order of business is to note that I, like most of Britain, watched the BBC's SHERLOCK last night and adored it to the point where I'm going to have to exercise iron-clad control to hold myself back from some serious fanfic writing. O. M. G. I'm sure a lot of people have far more intelligent comments to make about it, but all I can say is that the exquisite beauty of this episode made my heart ache. It's definitely for the over sixteens, but if that's you and you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do and soon (and if not, maybe plead with your parents because just watching it will probably boost your IQ by a few points and make you do better in your exams. Honestly).

And now onto the non-squeeing part of the programme!

Following the tradition we started last year, I'm going to share some goals that I'd like to aim for in 2012, and then when 2013 cycles around I can present myself for your congratulations, or your pointing/jeering/mocking etc.
2012 GOALS
  1. As I mentioned in my last post, in 2011 I had a slight problem with over-working myself. I didn't end up passing out or being rushed to the hospital with heart pains or any of those other melodramatic symptoms that TV characters who over-work always get, but more often than not I'd be in my Writing Cave when eight or nine in the evening rolled around, and I'd end up shoving a microwave meal in and collapsing on the sofa - and then doing the same the next day too. I saw less of friends and family, made less time for healthy outdoor activities and new experiences and reading, and generally turned into a Writing Hermit to match my Cave. So this year, I'd like to prove to myself that I can do my job WITHOUT being a hermit. In 2012, I'd like to stick to a reasonable writing schedule of no more than eight hours of work six days a week, making time for other important stuff as well.
  2. The last year has been an amazing one for this blog in every respect. My follower numbers nearly doubled, my unique visitor numbers quadrupled, and I wrote some posts that not only make me feel rather proud in terms of the discussion they generated, but which also brought in astonishing numbers of readers (The original Mary Sue post has had nearly 12,000 hits to date - for realz). Apart from a few early experiments, I've never really gone in for the traditional, accepted methods of driving traffic. I don't usually require people to follow the blog to enter giveaways, I don't take part in memes or post awards. I just write the best stuff I can come up with and try to interact with my readers in a way that shows how much I love and appreciate you - and somehow it's paid off. It's humbling and heartwarming. In 2012, I'd like to carry on posting here three times a week every week (with a few holiday/hiatuses as required) and growing my blog readership through sincerity and the pursuit of excellence.
  3. I suppose this next one's fairly predictable, because I didn't manage to get to it in quite the way I wanted last year - instead of writing two completely new books, I ended up writing one new book and completely revising and revamping a book that I'd written the year before. However, it's a bit more urgent now. In order to meet the publishing schedule that's been worked out for me over the next several years, I really do need to write a book and a half in 2012. And if I'm going for a book and a half, why not go the whole hog? So: In 2012, I'd like to finally manage to write two books in twelve months.
  4. Last year I made my final goal about promoting Shadows, but this year I'm going for something a bit less fun (and probably less interesting for you - sorry!). I've just had my first full year as a full-time writer, and it's made me acutely aware that my skills as an accountant are horribly lacking. You may wonder what one thing has to do with the other. Well, as a self-employed person, I have to keep records of all my earnings and expenditures, keep receipts, and complete my own tax returns. It's been hard enough up until now, when the largest part of my income was a non-taxable grant. The coming year is going to bring me more income from my writing, which is great, but it's also going to bring me concern over voluntary VAT registration. U.S. tax payer numbers, and pay coding notices. It's vital that I stop dithering and start to really keep on top of my records. Frankly, it makes my stomach churn. In 2012, I'd like to seek out professional help with book-keeping and learn how to run myself as a proper business so that I can stop panicking about this issue all the time.
Phew. Well, that's me done. What about you guys? What would you like to aim for this year?
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