Thursday, 29 March 2012


Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! Today I have many small pieces - one might even say tesserae - of loveliness to share, making this post a veritable mosaic of joy.

First, Shadows on the Moon. The (rather stunningly) good review by Kirkus Reviews is now online for all to see - although they've got the release date wrong. That's still the 24th of April. Some other early reviews are also starting to appear on U.S. blogs, which is very gratifying. Links below:

Dark Faerie Tales - Four Raven Review

Amy's Book Den - Excellent Find

The Book Queen - Four Star Review

Finding Wonderland

Anna Reads

Several of these reviews bring up the topic of the different U.S. and U.K. covers, and the universal opinion seems to be that people prefer the U.K. one, which is a little surprising to me, as I find both equally beautiful and would have expected, therefore, an even split. I think the really brilliant thing about both covers is that, on top of being very attractive, they're both pieces of art which will come to hold a deeper meaning for you as you actually read the book and understand the themes and imagery the artists were playing with. That's just my two cents on the matter, in case anyone cares (which probably no one does).

The U.S. release of Shadows also attracted the attention of the lovely Ellen Oh, who invited me to take part in a series of diversity related posts she's hosting on her blog at the moment. My post will be up next week, and I'll blog the link on Tuesday, but if you don't want to wait you can check it out on Monday. Make sure you stop a while and appreciate the rest of the blog too. Ellen is a fantastic person and I'm very much looking forward to reading her debut novel when I can get my hands on it. 

Next up, FrostFire and Daughter of the Flames. There is now a link on Amazon that will allow you to pre-order the new, scarlet-coated version of Daughter of the Flames with the gorgeous girlie on the front, if anyone's interested in adding it to their collection (either because they don't already have one, or because they want their copy to match the FF cover. Or maybe just because it's so darn pretty). The FrostFire artwork is finally up on Amazon too.

By strange coincidence, yesterday my editor emailed me the very-final-tweaked-buffed-and-polished full-cover artwork for both books, which I thought I would share with you since (all together now) it's so darn pretty. #NoRaceFail covers FTW!

Note: the white swirls and spine lettering you see on the DotF cover will be rendered in reflective blue foil on the real cover. (All together now) ooooh, shiny!

Let's just stand back for a moment and bask in all that glory, shall we?

*Contented Sigh*

OK, OK, enough basking. Stop it now. Get on with your day.

Read you on Thursday, my lovelies!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Hello, Dear readers! Today I make my final post on the Queen of Teen subject - by reposting a guest post that the lovely folks at the Walker Undercover Blog asked me to write last week. Basically, if this doesn't convince you to get in there and vote for me (or some other author you love)? Nothing will. Read on!

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.

And these days, I love something else which is very pink and sparkly. I love... the Queen of Teen Award.

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.

What you see before you here is a dichotomy which many of us ladies 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, we'll probably have some very unkind names thrown at us. And men are pretty much never allowed to glance at the Fragrant Pink Girly Box without getting sneered at and possibly beaten up by others, some of whom might even be women.

And ladies - many ladies - including me! - have seen this and they say: 'I shall not play in the Fragrant Pink Girly Box! 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 allow other people to tell us 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 a couple of 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.

My dears, the Queen of Teen award is about celebrating women's contributions to the field of Young Adult writing and all those amazing, life affirming books out there which are aimed at young women. I think we can all agree that this is a wonderful thing. And as such, I would very much like to win it, and take that sparkly Queen of Teen crown for my very own.

But now I'm the one with a problem, and my problem is this: my books... my books are not really very pink and sparkly. They are not like the books which have won the sparkly crown in the past. My books are fantasy, and they have sword-fights and magic, and blood and passion, and honour, and self-sacrifice. And on occasion, things blowing up. And even though I know very well that a lot of girls love books like this, I am worried that no one would ever think of nominating me for the Queen of Teen.

I am worried that they won't let me and my books out of the box.

You, my Dear Readers, are the only ones who can lift the lid and free me from that box. And you are the only ones who can free the Teen of Queen award from its box too. You are the ones who can make a new, box-free space where a woman who just wants to write books about magic and sword fights can win the sparkly crown she wants so so dearly. Where the award itself can be shown to be embracing all kinds of girls, including those who may not love pink things at all.

So this is a plea to you. All of you girls who love pink and sparkly things. And all of you girls who love sword fights and magic. And all of you girls who love both. The world may not want you to have strength and independence AND your suede kitten heels - but I think you can. I think we can. And if you believe it too?


Thursday, 22 March 2012


Hey everyone! Thursday is here, and so it's time for the very first RetroThursday. Exactly the same as a RetroFriday - where a trawl through the blog archives and extract older posts which some of you may not have seen before or may enjoy re-reading - know, it's Thursday. I probably won't be doing Retro posts as often now that I'm blogging twice instead of three times a week, but I still think there's a place for this. So...Enjoy!


Hey everyone! This is a follow-up to last week's post Wake Up and Smell the Real World, where I'm going to try and clarify a few things that were discussed in the comment thread.

First of all, I urge you to read these very interesting posts - the first one about about the movie business, and how film students, even film students who were not male, not able-bodied and not white found themselves caught up in responding to headshots of potential actors a certain way. Then there's this response, which isolates the fact that when you try to point out other people's unconscious prejudice, you're often accused of prejudice yourself.

As both these posts point out, the warped view of the world we're all presented with near-constantly by the media mixed with human instinct to 'type' other people according to difference means that none of us - NONE OF US - is free of unconscious prejudice. Imma say that again. NONE OF US. I'd put sparklers around that if I could. This is important.

I freely admit that I'm not free of prejudice. That's not a big admission to make because NONE OF US are. What matters is to be aware of this fact, and willing, when you have a response to something, to examine it and be honest about where that response comes from.

Let me elaborate. What is the usual reaction among your friends and family if you hint that something they have said or assumed may spring from prejudice? Any suggestion that they are not perfectly liberal, prejudice free, shiny-bright and unbiased? I bet it's defensiveness and anger. 'I'm not a racist/sexist/ableist/homophobe!' they cry, their brains filled with images of Neo-Nazis, evil, sweaty monsters, and vile, chuckling villains. 'How can you SAY that about me?' They don't listen to what you've actually said. They only react to in order to repudiate it.

Anger and defensiveness are a really good warning sign - because people only get angry and defensive when they have something to defend. That 'something' is their own image of themselves, the comfy assumptions that allow them to walk through the world feeling content with who they are. They know they're a good person, not a hateful, chuckling Neo-Nazi. Therefore they cannot be a racist/sexist/ableist/homophobic.

Except that they probably are.

I am. Every prejudice that those angry, defensive people have? I have too. They lurk there in the back of my mind, pretending that they're 'instinct' or 'common-sense' or 'realism' when actually, they are just bigotry.

That doesn't make me a horrible, hateful, chuckling Neo-Nazi. It just makes me not perfect. That's all. A work in progress. A person who is willing to be honest with themselves and the world.

And in admitting that, I become a far more able to recognise and reject prejudice than I ever was when I was striding through the world in my insulated bubble of I'm-A-Good-Person ignorance, refusing to admit that my actions could *possibly* be influenced by evolutionary imperatives to reject those who are different, and centuries of religious and secular bigotry, and a mass media who refuse to represent the world as it really is.

The moment you let go of that image of yourself as a perfect, shiny-bright Good Person who couldn't possibly harbour prejudice, is the moment you will begin truly working AGAINST prejudice. Honesty is the key. Honesty is the thing that allows you to confront your own ingrained assumptions about other people and then put them aside so that you can act, as much as possible, as if you were NOT prejudiced.

Try it. Go ahead. It doesn't hurt, I promise. Take a deep breath, and then say, out loud: "I am not perfect. I am flawed. I have ingrained prejudices. I will do my best to recognise and overcome them."

Doesn't it feel like a weight off your chest? To admit to yourself that you don't have to be perfect, that it's OKAY to have nasty, knee-jerk reactions to things, sometimes, so long as you're willing to make sure no one else suffers as a result?

Now that we've gone there, I link you to this post, which was prompted by the original Wake Up and Smell the Real World post, and which in turn prompted THIS post.

And the reason that response post is crucial? Is that as a creative person who tries to embrace diversity and who writes about a lot of characters who have experiences and come from backgrounds nothing like mine, I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to write characters or create plots or situations that rub people up the wrong way. Some of those reactions will come from people who've put up with bigotry all their lives and who are just godammned sick of tripping over everyone else's privilege. And they're unlikely to give a flying pamplemoose about my ongoing project to kick bigotry in the behind. They're just going to say 'YOU SUCK' and walk away.

And that's OK. That's really the whole point of this post. It's not anyone else's job to educate me, or give me a pat on the head for trying really hard.

The correct response to having someone notice the fact that, despite my endeavors, I'm still flawed and unconsciously prejudiced, is NOT to flee back into the I'm-A-Good-Person bubble, claim that the ones telling me I suck are horrible, nasty, ungrateful and prejudiced themselves, and say sulkily: 'Fine! I'll just write about straight, white, able-bodied people from now on and THEN YOU'LL BE SORRY!.

Nor is it to curl into a ball on the floor, weeping, and bash my head repeatedly on the tiles chanting: "I am a terrible, horrible, no-good bigot who should be flayed UNTIL SHE IS SORRY!"

It's to listen to what other people have said, acknowledge that those reactions to my work are valid and true and real, and then decide if I can learn from them. Don't get me wrong. It is hard. But it's necessary. Because, I'm coming to realise, it's not enough for writers (or actors or artists or politicians or firemen or teachers or dog-walkers or CEOs) to write the change that they want to see in the world.

We have to BE the change we want to see in the world, and keep on being it, even knowing that we'll never be perfect - only better than we were before.

OK, I've been rambling on for a while here, so let's sum up. In order to fight prejudice in our day to day lives, we must:
  1. Step out of the I-Am-A-Good-Person bubble and admit that we are imperfect and flawed and prejudiced, like the rest of the world
  2. Be honest with ourselves when we say or do something as a result of prejudice
  3. Accept that fighting against prejudice is our own responsibility and our own choice and that no one owes us gratitude or enlightenment as a result
  4. Allow other people to tell us when we mess up without dismissing what they feel or fleeing back into the IAAGP bubble again, or trying to drink bleach because we STILL aren't perfect
  5. Rinse. Repeat.
 Does this make sense? I hope so. Honestly, this blog is better than a therapist! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Good morning (or afternoon or evening, or whenever you're reading this) Dear Readers!

A few pieces of other business before we tackle today's blog topic. After my Pinterest related post last week there were some requests for me to make boards showcasing the images that inspired me when I was writing some of my published books, as well as the WIPs. Luckily I still had the files for Shadows on the Moon and FrostFire, so their boards are up there now if you're interested.

Also, a reminder that the Queen of Teen award nomination window is still open - but not for much longer! There's going to be a guest post and possibly a giveaway on the Undercover Reads Blog about this probably later this week, but please don't wait for that. Vote now!

And now onto the main point of this post: Fanfiction. My thoughts, let me show you them.

Lately there has been a big-bottom kerfuffle over a series of self-published books called 50 Shades of Grey (which I will not post a buy-link to, for reasons which will soon become clear). These books don't seem to be anything all that special - basically they're naughty romances with whips and chains and other titilating things. But they've become a huge success, to the extent that a publisher has paid between six and seven figures for the right to produce a hardcopy version, and high-profile production companies are battling it out to make a film. And most of that seems to be down to the fact that once upon a time, 50 Shades of Grey was a fanfic. More specifically, a Twilight fanfic.

There's been the usual misogynistic sneering over these silly bookeses that the silly wimminz read and all that, but the part of the debate which interests me is the one you see there on that link above, where people are asking: is this ethical? Is it right that a piece of fiction which originated from another author's work should now generate income for someone else? Is it OK to file off the serial numbers of a fanfic and sell it as original fiction?

A little over a month ago I would have shrugged my shoulders over this without thinking much about it either way (other than wondering if there's some sort of fairy glamour attached to Twilight which turns anything even tangenitally connected to it into a huge hit, and whose kidney I'd have to eat to get some of that for myself). I'd never written fanfic, never read it, and as far as I'm aware no one's ever written any for my books. So who cares, right?

But about a month ago I was checking out one of my favourite sites, Reasoning With Vampires, where a grammar-junkie dissects Twilight on a prose level and makes much pedantic hilarity of its awfulness, and she had a Q&A post where someone asked her, had she ever read any Twilight fanfic? She said that she didn't really enjoy fanfic much, so she'd only ever read one piece: The Movement of the Earth (don't click on that link if you're under the age of consent - there's language and adult stuff). This fanfic was, in her opinion, a rather brilliant piece of writing by a very talented author who attempted to re-write the story in a way that allowed for actual characterisation, plot, pacing and some degree of story logic while remaining within the 'Meyer Voice' (ie, making it look like she could barely string a coherent sentence together).

Fascinated, I hied hither and read The Movement of the Earth. And I found it good. So then I read all the author's other fics, which were dark and scary and beautiful and real, even though every single one of them was inspired by the work of other authors. And then I followed links from that writer's LJ to where I found other authors writing Twilight fanfic and I, Twilight-hater-extraordinaire, FELL IN LOVE.

I read a million takes on Twilight. I read stories where authors took the characters and events of the story and remade them into something transcendent and wonderful which I could simply never have imagined. I read stories where characters I'd never imagined as a couple fell in love and I believed it. I read fics so diverse and brave and brilliant that, apart from the names, it would have been impossible for me to tell that there had ever been any connection to Stephenie Meyer's work in the first place. I read fics that made me giggle and snort like an otter with fish guts on its nose, and fics that made me snort and sob like an otter with fish guts on its nose.

I read a couple of pieces of writing so amazing that I desperately tried to figure out if it would be too presumptuous to email the authors, tell them I thought their work was grade-A, publication quality awesome, and beg them to do some serial number filing so they could submit to my agent (I haven't done this, by the way - I'm honestly not sure, given fanfic culture, if the writers would find that an insult).

Of course, I also waded through an awful lot of utter, complete, dreck. But how is that different from any visit to my local bookshop? Not at all, actually.

And as I was reading and laughing and crying and mentally composing (but not actually writing) begging emails to these fanfic writers, it occurred to me that actually, I *have* written fanfic in the past. I just never called it that, because I'd never heard the term when I was twelve. And I never had any kind of an outlet to share it; when I was a kid there was no online fandom and no or anything of the sort.

I suddenly remembered filling a green school exercise book with my take on scenarios where Daine and Numair of Tamora Pierce's The Immortals Quartet finally admitted their feelings for each other and kissed for the first time. I re-wrote Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca with myself as the heroine (and I kicked Max DeWinter's butt, let me tell you). I wrote hundreds of poems that were directly inspired by situations I read about in other people's books.

And all this? Is the reason why I am the writer I am today.

Writing fanfiction is a talented artist carefully imitating the work of Picasso or Monet or Leonardo deVinci in order to learn the skills that allowed those earlier artists to create such beauty. It's like me listening to a piece of music with a specific mood, over and over, to help me write a certain scene with that mood. It's taking a recipe which doesn't quite work for you and tweaking it, messing with it, taking certain ingredients out and putting new ones in until you've come up with something unique and different which has a little flavour of the original.

So my take on fanfiction is this: I'm all for it. I think it's a great testing ground for people who are often enormously talented in their own right to learn necessary skills in writing and taking and giving constructive criticism. If anyone ever wants to write any for my work I'll be astonished but pleased (although I'm not sure I'll be able to read it). And if someone offers you a publishing deal for a piece of work inspired by my writing, all you're going to need to do is make sure you file those serial numbers off really well, and I'll be delighted for you.

Have at it.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


Happy Thursday, Dear Readers! Today I'm going to introduce you to my latest addiction/guilty pleasure/procrastination device:


Oh, so much pretty! So, so, so much pretty, Dear Readers!


So, yeah, after seeing that lots of authors were using the site to build up mood and inspiration pinboards for their books, I got overexcited by the pretty caved into temptation and begged on Twitter for someone who already had an account to send me an invite (which you need in order to sign up). A very, very kind gentleman writer did the honours, and soon I was setting up my very own visual inspiration boards.

Now, I've posted the odd picture here on the blog in the past to give you a flavour of what I might be working on, but I'm not sure you guys fully realise the extent of my magpie-like obsession with Teh Pretty. I haven't even uploaded a quarter of the pictures from my files onto Pinterest yet, but it's really satisfying to see the images that I've collected over years organised and together on screen like that. The only thing that makes me sad is that you can't, as far as I can see, pin sound files or videos - which are another enduring source of creative fuel - to the board. Maybe they'll change that in the future.

In the meantime, here are the links to the boards I've currently got running.

Katana Trilogy

Barefoot on the Wind

General Inspiration

And to make up for the fact that there's no music included, here:

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


Hello, Dear Readers! Before we move onto today's topic, I'd like to bring up the subject of the Queen of Teen Award again.

I was talking about this with one of the lovely ladies from my publisher yesterday, which lead to me getting a bit fired up and making lots of forceful tweets ('Say NO to pink and sparkly [while nice]! Say YES to sword fights, magic & epic battles!'). In the wake of the the response on Twitter, I'm stepping up my position on the Award from: 'It would be nice if non-pink-and-sparkly author won this year' to: 'I WANT TO WIN AND SHOW THEM ALL THAT THERE IS MORE TO YA THAN SNOGGING!'

And other stuff to do with damning the torpedos and fighting on the beaches and Macduff.

So. Here's the link. If you are eligible to vote, a nomination for Team Zolah would be much appreciated. You can always vote for some other fantasy author, of course. If you want to make me cry. If you'd like to make me smile instead, asking friends and family to also support Team Zolah would be a great way of going about it. I might have swag to give away in regard to this later on, so stay tuned for that.

[Now for a Party Political Broadcast] Chose adventure and fear and strength! Chose sword fights, climbing mountains and swimming oceans! Chose trusty stallions, fleet falcons and tricksy dragons! Chose dark spells, subtle illusions and fearful enchantment! Chose alternate views of femininity! Chose new worlds! Chose honour and valour and epic battles to the death! Chose FANTASY! Chose Team Zolah! [End Broadcast]

Right, having dealt with THAT - yes, you did read the title of this post right. Sometimes you really DO need to write rubbish. Let me tell you why.

I remember, many years ago, reading an interview with a famous illustrator (I think it was Quentin Blake, but I can't find the quote now so I may be wrong) in which he said that in order to draw competently, one first needs to be willing to write 'a thousand miles of bad line'. He was basically telling apprentice artists that they couldn't expect to be good right away - that drawing badly has value so long as it teaches you something.

Much the same is true of writing (especially for those of us who scribble by hand). In fact, for writers it might go up to a million miles of bad lines before you start to produce something good.

Luckily, this includes all the stories about rabbits and essays for Mother's Day and the two pages on 'What I Did On My Holidays' that you wrote in Primary School. And all the longer stories and poems about death and flowers and fiendishly plotting to murder all the school bullies that you wrote in secondary school. And for most of us, it also includes the first few novels we write as well.

But it's more than that. Because even once you've learned all you can learn from writing badly, and you've locked your hilariously bad efforts away in the trunk never to see the light of day again, when you can say with a straight face 'I'm competent. I can string a sentence together. I know my craft'...there are still times when you're going to need - yes, I said NEED - to write rubbish.

Sometimes you need to get everything wrong before you stand a chance of getting it right.

It's not fun. In fact, it can be downright painful. The moment I start thinking about it, similes and metaphors for how tortuous this is begin to swarm from my typing fingers. Like trying to chip out Michaelangelo's David from a block of marble using only a blunt spoon. Like wading through quicksand with only a single hair as a safety rope. Like swimming through treacle. Like trying to run in one of those awful dreams where your legs have turned to lead and no matter how scared you are, you can't get away and the horrible Black Thing is gaining on you until you can feel it's fetid breath on the back of your neck...

Writing rubbish, when you're well aware that it's rubbish, is one of the least pleasant things you'll ever have to do as a writer.

But there's something that's worse. Not writing at all.

That's the choice we all face one day. The choice between giving up and going on. Going on, even though all those metaphors for our suffering are crowding around us, and we'd rather give up and do anything else, anything else at all, even clean all the bathroom grouting with a toothbrush and then brush our teeth with it. With no mouthwash.

I've never written a single book where I got everything right the first time around. Sometimes I wasn't aware that I'd taken a wrong turn, and it wasn't until I'd finished my first draft and re-read it that I realised something had taken a turn for the stinky. But a lot of the time I did know. And despite gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair and banging of skulls against the nearest wall, I didn't have the tools to fix it at that point. All I could do was keep going until something gave and things slid back into place, knowing full well that I was leaving a mess behind me which I would have to fix sooner or later.

There's a phrase I often use:   

You can fix anything in revision - except a blank page.

People always respond to this. It's got a comforting sound to it. I repeat it to myself quite often. But the flipside of it is the other phrase which I have oft typed out here on the blog:

Give yourself permission to suck.

Because you will. We all do. From time to time, we HAVE to, or all we'd have is a blank page.

If chapter three isn't working, and nothing you do seems to make it better? And you've wailed and cried and tried going back to the beginning and switching POV characters and beginning in the middle and all the rest and nothing's worked? If you ever want to write chapter four and chapter five all the chapters after that and finally, The End? You must press on with it. Press on, painful as it is, until you've got it all as wrong as it can possibly be. And then - only then - in the shining, particular terribleness of something so awful, so twisted and sideways and no-good, you might begin to see the way to get it *right*.

It will be a lot easier to do this if you admit to yourself that it's OK first. That from time to time writing rubbish IS A GOOD THING - the only thing, in fact, you can do to save your book. You will spend a lot less time wailing and crying and gnashing and pulling your hair out if you impress this lesson on your mind now. I wish I had managed it a few years ago.

So let's add another saying to the list. 
  1. You can fix anything in revision - except a blank page.
  2. Give yourself permission to suck.
  3. Sometimes it's vital to write rubbish.
Thanks for reading, guys :) See you all on Thursday. 

Thursday, 8 March 2012


Hello and Happy Thursday Dear Readers! Today, I'm going to tackle a bunch of questions that I got via email and which have been patiently sitting around, waiting to be answered, for a couple of months in some cases. Sorry about that - I hope the wait will be worth it.

First up, Alice says:
When I think of a sentence for my story, and it doesn’t quite fit in, I usually can think of a different way for the sentence to go. Problem is, usually, the verified sentence isn’t as *cool*/ *good* and I can’t *let go* of the original one. (I hope this is making sense) Is it just me, or do you have that problem to? 
This is a bit of a tough one to answer, Alice, because I'm not sure what you mean when you say that you think of a sentence but it 'doesn't fit in'. Why doesn't it fit in? Does it not mean what you wanted it to mean? Does it not make sense?

If your sentence doesn't convey the information that it needs to, or won't make sense to the reader, it doesn't matter how cool it is. You must let it go and write a sentence that WILL. But I'm not sure that's what you mean here. Maybe you mean that you feel compelled to fiddle with and rewrite sentences constantly, trying to get them perfect, but the sentences that you've fiddled with never feel quite as good as the original? This is a common problem.

My advice comes in two parts.

For most writers, what you're doing would be extremely counterproductive, and I would say: If you like your sentence and think it's cool, just leave it alone and move onto the next sentence. Don't get caught in a death spiral where you're going over and over the same sentences again and again, desperately searching for the perfect way to phrase your idea and unable to move on. While you're doing that, all the future sentences that need you to write them are dying from lack of attention. Just leave it. It's more important to keep things progressing in your story, keep the action flowing and characters acting. Making sure everything fits together perfectly and that your prose is smooth and flawless is mostly a job for much later on, when you've finished the book and then put it aside to gain some distance before revising.

On the other hand, maybe you're a perfectionist writer, and it's impossible for you to work that way.  You simply must feel that the sentence you've written perfectly conveys your meaning before you can think of the what the next sentence should be (like the lovely long-time commentor Isabel, or like writer Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch). That is also cool. It means that your drafts are likely to be things of beauty which require much less line editing than other writers work, although you may still need to work on seeing the big picture of your story. If this is the case, then you must accept this about yourself and stop trying to force yourself to write quickly and to 'let go' before you are happy with what you've just written. When you feel blocked and unhappy about a sentence, allow yourself the freedom to fiddle with it until it 'sings' for you, and then move on.

Either way is fine. The most important thing is that you do keep your story progressing until you get to the end. You can fix anything in revision except a blank page.

Onwards! The next question is from Eva, who says:
i really need some help with a book that I'm working on. It's a school project we do in 8th grade. We were allowed to choose whatever we wanted to do and I chose writing because I like to write- and then procrastinated for 3 months. It's due in early April and I only have 2000 words... I'm not sure if I want to just say it will be a short story or what, but I don't know if I will be able to get it done on time. Do you have any advice for getting a lot of writing done fast?
Oh, how I sympathize! I used to find myself in this predicament every time I had a school assignment. Because I did (and do!) love to write, just like you, Eva - but the moment that writing becomes 'work', something you MUST do, the fun sort of drains out of it and you lose your motivation.

You're not going to want to hear this, Eva, but the only way out of your predicament is through. What does this mean? Well, first read this post. Hopefully that will help. But you might need to move a little more quickly, and in that case, you're going to have to do what I did in with my GCSE English essay on Othello when I was fourteen. That is: give yourself a set start time (for me it was 13:00) and force yourself to sit down and write a fixed number of words (for me it was 500) each and every day until you get to the end. MAKE yourself do it. You can, trust me. It won't be fun, but it will get your story finished, and relatively quickly. And every day when that period of fixed writing is over, you will feel *so much better* that you might find, after a while, you're not having to force yourself anymore.

If you worry that forcing yourself to write will result in something that's not so good to read? Follow this link and read the answer to the last question there at the bottom, and relax. It'll be fine.

Next! Lauryn asks:
1. If i send you my story could you read it and tell me what you think
2. I'm 11 and i'm worried that no one will want to publish my story
3. DO I NEED AN AGENT every advice book I've read said i need one
4. will people be prejudiced against me because I'm young
Whoa. That's a whole bunch of questions there. Let me try and be as efficient as possible in reply.
1. Nope. If you want to know why, read this page on my website. But thanks for asking instead of just sending the story to me.
2. If you have written a book which is good enough to be published, your age will not count against you. In fact, being so young will give a potential publisher or agent an excellent way to promote your work and may make them even more eager to take you on. But your book has to be good enough first.
3. Read this link. It ought to make things a bit clearer as to how things work in publishing and with getting an agent.
4. See number 2. up there. Don't worry about that. Worry about writing something that you love and enjoy and believe in and which is good enough to be published.
Phew! Well, I'm pretty much exhausted now, so I'm going to call it a day. Happy reading and writing, everyone - see you next Tuesday :)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Hello, Dear Readers! Welcome back and Happy Tuesday (first time typing that? Probably!) to you all! Today's blog comes with three pieces of Shadows on the Moon news which I hope you'll find as interesting as I do.

The first relates to the Google Alert that appeared in my inbox late on Sunday, telling me Shadows on the Moon had been mentioned on the Achuka website. Since that's a very well respected blog that covers many aspects of children's publishing, I hastened hither. And found this. Shadows on the Lancashire Book of the Year shortlist, surrounded by some absolute YA crackers!

Of course it was very nice to see it there. The problem was that I couldn't actually believe it. My publisher hadn't mentioned anything to me, and when I checked the Lancashire Book of the Year website they hadn't even put this year's shortlist up yet. There was no mention of the shortlist for 2012 anywhere else online. As it was a Sunday, I couldn't email anyone at my publisher about it, either. So I decided not to get too happy. These things have been mistakes before.

Then on Monday morning I got another Google Alert, this time with a link to this article. This was when I started to let myself get a bit excited, because there's a lot of detail here (Adele Geras? Eeee!). I sent off my email to Walker Books. And a few hours later it was confirmed - Shadows really is on the shortlist for the Lancashire Book of the Year 2012. Whoot! Shadows on the Moon is doing really well for itself here in the UK - that's the third award shortlist it's made, not counting the Sasakawa Prize, which it won prior to publication. I can only hope that the recent excellent Kirkus review and the Junior Library Guild Selection are hints that it will do as well in the U.S. when it comes out there in April.

And speaking of the US release (see what I did there?) the second piece of news I have comes from Candlewick Press, who have teamed up with Brilliance Audio to create the audiobook of Shadows on the Moon. This is the first time that any of my books will have been adapted to audiobook and frankly I can't wait to be able to listen to it. I have this idea that it will allow me to see the book in a completely new way, coming to it like a reader rather than a writer. Which means I was overjoyed to be told the name of the voice actress narrating the audio version: Amy Rubinate. I was sent a tiny sample of her reading, and then went out and looked for more myself. She has a very soft American accent, and her voice has a great deal of warmth and vulnerability, which I adore. Here, here and here are some samples if you want to check out her talent.

And now for the final piece of Shadows news! And this might be the most exciting bit of all. Aaaages ago I was told that Polish rights for Shadows on the Moon had been sold to Edgmont, and since this was my first foreign rights sale ever I was delighted. But I haven't heard anything since, so it was with great jublilation that I discovered (only this morning, Dear Readers!) that the Polish version is now available for pre-order (released on 18th of April) and got my first glimpse at the cover art. Here it is:

Isn't this gorgeous?! I love the shadows of Kanzi and bamboo leaves falling on the model's skin (very thematically significant!) and the darkness around her face. That lovely red circle, which I assume represents the moon as well as being a nod to the Japanese flag, is also a beautiful touch. I just wish that I could get a translation of all the words (both Polish and Japanese) on this cover! So intriguing. Here's a link to the page where I found it, which I pressed the translate function on - the translated synopsis is good for a laugh in my opinion. I really hope that's not what the Polish people are reading!

All in all, an excellent Tuesday for me :) I think I'll be answering some reader emails/comments on Thursday, so read you all then, my lovelies.

Friday, 2 March 2012


Happy Friday, my Dear Readers! Today is our very last RetroFriday! Although that's not as dramatic as it sounds - it's just because from next week I won't be posting on Fridays anymore, so if I decide to pull posts out of the archive they'll appear on a Tuesday or Thursday. But whatever! I thought I'd give us a proper send-off by resurrecting the most emo post I've ever written. And so I give you...


Hey you! Yes, you – the fourteen year old with the nail scissors! Put those down and pay attention. I’ve got something to say to you, something you need to hear. Listen up.

You’re in a pretty awful place right now. You’re in a place not many people get low enough to experience in their lives, and even fewer climb out of. This is probably the worst you’ve ever felt about yourself, and you’re thinking: can I go on like this? Do I even want to? Maybe there’s a way out…

No, don’t try and brush me off. I’m not going to be fooled by that big goofy grin or your hyperactive chatter. I know the truth. Those half-healed cuts and scratches on your arms and legs? The ‘accidental’ ones that you lie about so well, no one ever questions you? Yeah. I still have those scars, kiddo. So let’s not play games.

Today, on the way home from school, a group of about ten boys, ranging in age from twelve to sixteen, cornered you. They pushed you up against the wall of a building and spat on you. Spat in your face, in your hair, on your clothes. They laughed and taunted you while they did it. When you managed to get away and get home, you scrubbed yourself until your skin bled, washed your hair until handfuls started coming out. But no matter what you did, you couldn’t get clean. You feel like you’ll never be clean again.

And you and I both know that this isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to you.

Every day since you were eleven, you’ve gotten up, eaten breakfast, left your house, and walked into a nightmare. You’ve been kicked, pinched, punched, tripped, pushed down stairs, been stabbed, had ink poured down your back, and on one memorable occasion, had eight separate pieces of chewing gum stuck in your hair. You’ve been shunned. Screamed at. Tortured in every way that a person can be, short of hot pokers and bamboo shoots under the nails. You’ve watched every person you ever called a friend scatter because just being close to you was too dangerous. You’ve seen teachers who pounce on improperly fastened school uniforms or kids holding hands brush off your suffering by telling you to ‘just ignore it’. You’ve lived through punishments on the occasions when you dared to fight back. You’ve even heard your own parents ask each other, when they thought you couldn’t hear: ‘Why does this keep happening to her? What is she doing wrong?’

That’s the question I’m here to answer for you, fourteen-year-old Zolah. Just what the Hell is wrong with you?


Not a single, solitary fucking thing.

Shut up. Don’t start arguing with me. Don’t start crying. You’ve never let them see you cry, and now is not the time to start.

This isn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. There’s nothing missing inside you, no essential flaw, no reason at all why 50% of the kids at your school take pleasure in tormenting you, or why none of the adults in your life seem to be able to help you. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.

There’s some stuff right with you, though. Some stuff you’ve never realised because you’re too lonely and depressed and emo to realise it. Let me spell it out.

You’re brave. You’re incredibly, stunningly, wonderfully brave. You don’t know this. In fact, you think you’re a coward, that if you were just brave enough you could get people to leave you alone. But the truth is that the courage it takes to keep walking into that school, day after day, to keep putting your hand up in class, to keep studying and doing your homework, to keep reading your books and talking exactly how you want to talk? Is possibly the greatest courage in the world. I’m awed by that courage. One day you’re going to be awed by it too.

You’re also compassionate. Don’t ask me why that matters. I know it’s not a virtue anyone gives a crap about in your life right now, but one day your kindness is going to make you real friends. Friends who will do anything for you, friends who’ll stick with you no matter what, who would never abandon you and take cover. Friends who’ll make your life worth living.

And you’re clever – and it’s not anything to be ashamed of. You sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be better if you were like everyone else, if you thought books were stupid, if you didn’t want to learn. But you’re dead wrong. Your intelligence is a gift, an amazing gift. Stop cursing it.

So here’s the deal. I’m not going to lie. Things aren’t going to look up straight away. In fact, you’ve got some bad stuff to come. Really bad. But you are going to survive it. And in the not-too-distant future, good things are going to start happening, things which will make up for everything you’ve gone through so far. I promise. YOU will make those things happen. The very traits the other kids hate about you, the bravery, compassion and intelligence that they try to beat out of you, will allow you to follow and find your dreams.

So put those scissors down, okay? You don’t have to punish yourself. You don’t have to keep hurting yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re going to put the scissors down, Zolah. And someday, soon, you’re going to be all right.

**This is a guest post that was written for the wonderful site Dear Teen Me. Check it out to read hilarious and inspiring letters from authors all over the world to their teen selves**
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