Tuesday, 28 January 2014


Hello, everyone! Just a very quick quickie today to let you know that the super-exciting The Name of the Blade related reveal has been confirmed - for this coming Monday, the 3rd of February. I still haven't *really* been given the go-ahead to talk about what will be revealed. But I can say that it's going to happen simultaneously on these five lovely blogs: 
  1. Winged Reviews 
  2. Serendipity Reviews
  3. Readaraptor Reviews 
  4. Pewter Wolf 
  5. Book Angel's Booktopia 

And that you'll want to visit them IN THAT ORDER at 12pm. Isn't it excitingly mysterious? Whoop!

Sunday, 26 January 2014


Good Morning and Good Monday (if there is such a thing) my lovely readers.

I am sorry for the premature announcement of Exciting Tidings last week. I was told that everything was going to happen then, but obviously something went wrong. I mean, no one told me, so I was sat there hoping and waiting like the rest of you guys, but... nope. *Sigh* I'm hoping it'll all come together this week. I would cross my fingers, but currently my hands are hurting, so... I'll just cross them in my heart. At least I can absolutely promise that when the Exciting Stuff is officially released, it will be worth the wait (yes, it really is that good).

I am ill again. I feel as if I have just been ill constantly since my dad died. My immune system is not exactly robust, which comes along with the chronic health conditions I have (especially the IBS and asthma) but I've never been this ill this much before. Not since I was a kid, anyway. First there was the horrible cold/bug that wiped me out for a week after WFC in Brighton, then I had a deadly stomach bug, then my Repetitive Strain Injury in my hand kicked off, then I did something really weird to my hip that just ow ow ow why, and now I have bronchitis.

There is a perfectly good explanation for at least some of this. I remember seeing a documentary years ago in which a doctor - who had recently lost his own father, and been very ill afterwards - proved that your lymph nodes actually shrink when you are miserable. It sounds fantastical, but when you're really sad all the time your body is just swimming in certain 'sad' chemicals and the lymph nodes don't like those at all. They shrink and curl in on themselves in an effort to get away from the sad chemicals, which inhibits their ability to produce white blood cells, the warrior cells that fight off infection. And for me, whenever I get an infection, that seems to affect my joints, hence the hand and hip problems.

It still very much feels like the world - possibly even the universe - is conspiring to stop me from writing this book, the final book in The Name of the Blade trilogy. But I will not be stopped. I'm at 65k words as of this morning and hope to have added another 2k to that by the end of the day. That means I have probably another ten or twelve thousand words to go (if the story doesn't mutate in some strange way close to the end, which is always possible). I'm motivating myself by remembering how much my father loved and believed in this story and how proud he would be of me for finishing a proper trilogy, like many of the science fiction and fantasy authors that he loved.

Last week I had a lovely email from a group of readers - Daisy, Maia, Charlotte and Heike - which cheered me up and filled me with that nearly irresistable old-lady desire to pinch people's cheeks for being so darn adorable. The email posed a question that I thought might be interesting for other readers to get the answer to as well, so I'm doing it here.

Hello Zoë, we love all of your books, especially Frostfire and that's what we wanted to talk to you about. We think this book has full potential to become a film and we think you need to contact some producers/film makers and ask them about making a deal. We are not just doing this for us we are doing for you and all of you fans (we are some of them). We will not contact the producers without you permission.
I totally agree with you, my honeybunches! I also think that FrostFire would make a splendid film. And if you actually happen to know any film producers, you have my permission to direct their attention to the book, and let them know that the rights (owned by my publisher, Walker Books) are available.

You see, it's not up to the writer whether a film is made from one of their books or not. The world of novel writers like me and the world of the film industry are miles apart. In order to make a film of any kind you need a film studio and a production company involved, lots of connections to people in the movie business (like the heads of distribution companies and casting directors and screenwriters) and millions of pounds or dollars to spend on adapting, casting, filming and selling that movie. This is why if you do sometimes hear of authors who are producing films from their books, those authors are ones like Stephenie Meyer who are millionaires and can set up their own production companies.

For an ordinary writer, what has to happen is that someone connected to the film industry - like a scout, or a producer or a successful screenwriter - comes across the book somehow, either because the publisher or agent who holds the rights sends it to them, or because they've heard of it some other way. They have to read it, and love it, and as a professional, they have to think that it would adapt well into the medium of a film, and that the film could be popular enough in the current market to make a profit.

Even this sounds a lot easier than it is. Hundreds of thousands of new books for children, young adults and adults are published every year, and there are already millions of books out there too. And most films that are made don't even *come* from books. Usually the books that get made into films are the ones which are already hugely successful mega-bestsellers, because those books already have a massive built-in audience. A largely unknown book by a largely unknown author like me doesn't have that great a chance of getting the attention of anyone with the money and connections to make a film of it, even though the subsidiary rights departments of our publishers and our agents will send the books out to those sorts of people, just in case.

Let's say that FrostFire did end up on the desk of someone in the movie business, and that they did read it, and did want to make it into a film. What would happen next is that they would approach my publisher or my agent and offer to buy an 'option' on the book. That means that they pay for an option to develop the book into a film. But it doesn't mean they have to develop the book into a film. Once they have the option, all it really means is that no one else can develop the book into a film for the term of that option. The vast majority of options like this expire without any development actually being done at all. Other books have their option renewed multiple times but never make it any further than that.

In some cases things do progress further. Maybe the person who bought the option works for a film studio. They get someone to write a script and then take that script to a meeting with the bosses. The bosses may say: 'Yes, we like this - go ahead and start developing' but equally, they may say: 'No, we don't like it/it's too similar to another film that already came out/it won't appeal to a broad enough audience.' Or maybe the person who owns the option doesn't work for a studio - maybe they're a producer or a writer. They now need to convince a studio and a distribution firm to invest in making the film, and the same process as above applies.

Even out of the hundreds of bestselling, hugely popular books that get optioned by movie people every year, only a tiny amount actually get far enough to have a script written, let alone make it into cinemas.

And, did you notice? Apart from saying 'yes' when a movie person approaches them and asks to buy the option on the book, the original writer has NOTHING to do with any of this! They have no say and no influence at all. This holds true even if the book does eventually get the greenlight from a studio and is made into a film, too. Very successful writers, who've been promised that they will be consulted about any changes to their story, still often find that their book has been ripped to shreds and made into something entirely different for the screen, and there's nothing they can do about it.

So what all this comes down to is that if your favourite book hasn't been made into a film, it's not because the writer doesn't want it to be, or that he or she hasn't made the effort to contact producers and offer the book to them. It's because the book was sent out to all the usual movie scouts and studios by the publisher or the agent, and none of the movie people have so far read it, or wanted to buy it - or, if they did, and they bought an option, the film hasn't gone into development yet.

For the record, none of my books have sold film rights. I'm sad about that, but there's nothing that I can do to change it, so I just try to be hopeful that some day it will change. In the meantime, if anyone reading this DOES know an influential producer, studio boss or screenwriter (or is one)... give me a call! We'll do lunch (you'll have to pay though, because I'm broke).

Monday, 20 January 2014


Hello, oh ducky darlings! Happy Monday, and I hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Today's message doesn't amount to all that much - it's basically to let you know that (fingers crossed and with any luck) there ought to be some very, very, veeeery exciting stuff for me to share sometime this week. If the planning at my publisher goes pear-shaped it might be next week, but I'm holding out for this one.

I cannot tell you much at this stage, but I think I'm safe to share that it's related to Darkness Hidden and to (le gasp!) cover art. Mua ha ha ha ha! Ahem. There ought to be multiple precious blogger-pals involved, some sneak peaks at the first chapter of the book, and other STUFF. Good stuff.

In the meantime, I'm ploughing on - extremely slowly - with the final Name of the Blade trilogy book. There's so much high tension, drama, and emotion that it's starting to feel like opening a vein every time I sit down to scribble something. I've got a strange chesty cough and my voice has gone to nothing, which is probably from all the crying. I'm typing this with a mug of tea with honey and lemon clutched in one hand, and a wrist brace and fingerless glove wrapped around the other because I seem to have gotten a repetitive strain injury from all the longhand work I've been doing.

Send me some good vibes, Dear Readers, and I'll make sure I get this done for you.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers. Happy Tuesday to you all.

I've kind of ruined the surprise with my today's blog title there, but just in case you didn't get the idea - I'm nipping in today to tell you that you can now pre-order the second book of The Name of the Blade Trilogy: Darkness Hidden on Amazon. I've looked at a few other sites, like Foyles, The Book Depo and WHSmiths, and it's not up on any of them yet, so if you *do* want to pre-order then Amazon is where it's at for the moment.

In related news, there's exciting stuff to do with the cover for this book coming up. Very, veeeery exciting stuff. I am sworn to secrecy and not even allowed to hint, but I will of course share more details the moment that I have the all clear.

I'm still hard at work on the final book in the trilogy; lots of moments of huge emotion and high drama and lots of me weeping all over my keyboard/notebook. I should have finished this book before Christmas last year, but obviously with everything that happened at the end of 2013 that was never going to happen. I'm well stuck into it though, and we don't anticipate that there'll be any delays with the release (so long as I can get my butt into gear).

Hopefully I'll be able to tell you the name for this third book fairly soon too. It's my favourite of all the trilogy titles and it's never changed. Initially I just kept it quiet because I thought it would be cool to be a little secretive about it, but as a result of keeping schtum for so long it's now become part of that big mystery about covers. I think there's going to be a big reveal, sort of thing, and all will become clear then.

By the way, I realised the other day that I normally do an end of year post, looking at resolutions made and kept throughout the past year, and then making some goals for the coming year. I totally missed the boat on that this time around, and am still not sure I can really face the first part of it. 2013 was, without a doubt, the worst year of my life. But maybe I can come up with some goals or resolutions for this year. I'll think about it, and if I can come up with anything coherant before the end of the month, we'll see.

Monday, 6 January 2014


Hello, Dear Readers! Today I bring you a review of one of the best books I've read in at least a year, if not more, a book that I hope I can persuade ALL of you to rush out and buy or borrow as soon as possible. That book is Sorrow's Knot, by Erin Bow.


In the world of Sorrow’s Knot, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry and nearly invisible, something deadly. The dead can only be repelled or destroyed with magically knotted cords and yarns. The women who tie these knots are called binders.

Otter is the daughter of Willow, a binder of great power. She’s a proud and privileged girl who takes it for granted that she will be a binder some day herself. But when Willow’s power begins to turn inward and tear her apart, Otter finds herself trapped with a responsibility she’s not ready for, and a power she no longer wants.


I don't know if anyone else finds this, but when I love something - really, really love it, and wouldn't change a thing about it, and feel that slighty teary, this-has-left-me-forever-changed attachment to it - I find it incredibly hard to write a review. I mean, there's loved and then there's loved, and when you truly fall in love with something it's nigh on impossible to make yourself pick it apart in any kind of a meaningful (or helpful) way.

On the other hand, I'm desperate to get everyone else to read this. And reviews that just spurt squeeing all over the place, while often fun to read, don't usually manage that for me. So I'm going to try to say reasonable, sensible things about Sorrow's Knot. But if you can hear a faint, high-pitched sound echoing in the distance? That is me making helpless noises over this book, and rolling around with it, and hugging it and loving it and calling it George. Because I just can't help it.

So. Do you love Ursula K. Le Guin? Do you love her exquisitely beautiful prose and her almost frightening insight into characters? Then you must read this book. Off you pop. Next!

Do you love Garth Nix's Old Kingdom Trilogy, with it's sinister yet tortured dead that long for peace even as they fight to continue their painful existence in life, and it's incredibly rich, multitextured world-building? Then you must read this book. Run along now. Next!

Do you like my books, with their diverse characters, strong and complex female leads, and tangled familial interactions where love is sometimes more painful than hate? Then you must read this book. Skiddadle.

Perhaps none of these arguments convince you. Let me tell you a little bit more about this story then. It's not at all what the blurb lead me to expect, actually. Sorrow's Knot is set in a world which has clearly been heavily influenced by Native American traditions, and which provices the most subtly and beautifully wrought Matriarchal society I think I've ever come across. I loved the lush, sensory, down-to-earth descriptions of the wild landscapes, the multi-textured background of stories and songs and traditions.

The world-building is just...stunning. And it's so, so cleverly done, without ever slipping into a faintly lecturing tone or resorting to info-dumping. I wouldn't even have *cared* if there had been info-dumping, because I was desperate to know more, to glimpse the depths of history behind every day life. But Erin just gently, gently washes your brain with the awareness of how things are, and it feels utterly right and natural and so real.

The POV character is Otter, daughter of the legendary binder Willow, whose bindings on the dead are so strong that, near the beginning of the story, they begin to turn against her, attacking her sanity and driving her to effectively disown Otter, even though it's clear that she desperately loves her. Willow's disintegrating health is a terrible thing for Westmost, the forest village where Otter and Willow live. Willow is the only binder, and has refused to take on an apprentice. Her bindings - literally a ring of woven yarn and rawhide strung between the trees around the village - are the only thing that keep the dead back. And in this world, the dead lurk everywhere. Literally everywhere. 

They aren't rotting corpses. They're shadowy, wordless blots of hunger with no real form and no real substance, who can lurk unseen in any tiny patch of darkness. Under a tree root, or in the crevice of a rock, or behind a clump of grass. Their insubstantial bodies long for the warmth of life - if they can get close enough to a human they will surge over into and *into* them, 'undoing the knots' inside their bodies. The knots of bone and tendon and muscle and blood vessels. Even if a person is lucky enough to survive an encounter with the dead, if there is a binder nearby who can draw the dead out of them and send it away, they are often left with terrible internal injuries which subsequently kill them or leave them disabled for life.

And that's just the little dead. There is another kind of dead thing - the Ones with White Hands. Dead that used to be people. Dead that *think*, that hunt... and if one of them touches you and leaves the mark of a white handprint on your skin, you won't be lucky enough to simply die. No. You'll slowly lose your reason and your life, until a new White Hand chews its way out of you. One of these terrible creatures is lurking outside the village - the village where the bindings are beginning to unravel - and the swift-running river that no dead thing can cross, the last line of defence of the village of Westmost, is beginning to ice over...

Otter is a natural binder. An incredibly strong binder. The power inside her is clamouring to get out. But her mother refuses to train her, and in the highly traditional world of the Free Women of the Forest, where everyone must keep the secrets of their 'cord', there's nothing anyone can do to help. Especially since the worse Willow's mental health gets, the more scared everyone in Westmost is of her. Luckily for Otter, there are two other central characters in the story - Cricket and Kestrel, who love each other, but also love Otter, and make her a part of their family when she looses her home. The friendship between these three is so tenderly and realistically drawn that when I think about it my eyes start prickling. 

In her quest to protect Cricket and Kestrel, and understand her mother's madness and the reason the dead keep coming back, Otter will show incredible bravery and, eventually wisdom. She will face losses that hollow her out, and find love that will open up the world to her. I'd really enjoy getting into more detail about all my favourite parts of the story, and all the parts that made me cry my eyes out, but this isn't a book where there are throwaway scenes. Everything counts, and every detail is a massive spoiler. So I can't.

This review is all over the place - but I promise you, Sorrow's Knot isn't. Go and get a copy now. Borrow it from a friend or from the library, buy it from a bookshop or from the internet. Just read it. You won't regret it.

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