Friday, 31 December 2010


The title says it all. I think my delightful little nieces have given me a vile, nasty, horrid, no-good cold (I mean, I have a cold and I'm pretty sure they're the culprits). The moment I start looking at a back-lit screen my eyes start watering. I'm slightly worried that if I push my luck they might actually fall out. Hmmm. This is me on cold medication. Not pretty, is it?

Anyway, I'm really sorry to everyone who sent me questions and emails which I was going to answer today. I promise that I WILL get to them on Monday and give you all a fantastic bumper writing post.

In the meantime, have a wonderful New Year everyone - and the best of luck in 2011. I think it's going to be a break-through year for me, and I hope it will be for all of you :)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Hi everyone - I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas break and that those of you who are back at work, school or college aren't having too hard a time adjusting. As for myself, well - since I was relentlessly baking, wrapping, cooking and entertaining relatives throughout the Christmas period I'm actually giving myself a little break NOW to recover from all the exertion, although I intend to start work on revising FrostFire once more at the end of this week.

I have a couple of intriguing reader questions to answer on Friday, but today I'm just putting out a call to the final winner of the Shadows on the Moon giveaway: Alessandra @ Out of the Blue. She's the only one who hasn't gotten in touch with me to give me her address yet.

I understand that many people are, like me, a little tired out and not entirely on top of their normal internet routine at this time of the year, but I hope you'll get in touch with me as soon as you can, Alessandra. The sooner I have your address, the sooner I can send the package out.

In the meantime, I'm ploughing through The Women of the Underworld Series by Kelley Armstrong and enjoying them a great deal, although I prefer her Darkest Powers series just a little, probably because Darkest Powers is YA and the characters don't have to keep stopping to have sex in order to justify a 'romance' label (sorry, kids, but one day you too will be skim-reading or skipping sex scenes because they're boring - it's how you know you're getting old).

If anyone has anymore questions on writing and publishing that they'd like me to answer in Friday's post, toss them in the comments or send me an email through my profile. It's going to be a bumper post, so the more the merrier. Take care, everyone.

Monday, 27 December 2010


Hellooo, blog readers! Here at long last (and yes, perhaps a little later than I said, Megha) is the announcement of the great Shadows on the Moon ARC giveaway winners (whoot, applause, cheers, screams - okay, calm down, I'm not Britney Spears. Geez)!

The three winners will each receive a copy of an uncorrected advanced proof of Shadows on the Moon, which is a Cinderella retelling set in faerytale Japan, and won't be officially released in the UK until 4th July 2011. Goodreads synopsis below:
Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself.

Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity. Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?

Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.
The winners will also get signed bookplates, scented Japanese paper fans and any other goodies that I can find.

Today I listed all my followers and the names of everyone who had left a comment on the SHADOWS ON THE MOON GIVEAWAY: REVISED post. I was about to use the random number generator, but then I realised I'd already written all the names down anyway, so I just picked three from a hat. Yes, the famous sparkly red hat.

*Drumroll please*

WINNER NUMBER TWO: Michelle at Clover Hill Book Review!
WINNER NUMBER THREE: Alessandra @ Out of the Blue!

I'm so happy for you! Please contact me as soon as you can through the email in my profile, so that I can get your addresses and get these prizes posted out for you.

Commiserations to everyone who entered and worked so hard to drum up blog traffic, but did not win. I know some of you were so excited about this and you're bound to be disappointed. Rest assured that if I can cadge any more ARCs or review copies, I'll put together another giveaway, because if it was up to me I seriously would give you ALL a copy. But remember that it's only six months until this book comes out now, and even if you don't live in the UK you can still order it through Amazon here or The Book Depository here. Free shipping!

Those of you who have book reviewing blogs can contact my publisher to ask to be put on the list to recieve a review copy in February - and in addition, Shadows will hopefully be taking part in the UK Blog Tour a little later as well, so people will have a chance to get their hands on an early copy then too.

Finally, a massive thank you to all of you, amazing, faithful readers that you are. Your comments, interest and support for the blog makes every bit of work associated with it worthwhile, and I wouldn't trade you guys for any other group of followers in the world. Finn also appreciates your love:

I'm sure Hero and Echo do as well, but they were both out playing in the snow today, so we'll just have to take that on faith.

Friday, 24 December 2010


Credit to Lauren of I was a Teenage Book Geek
Well ho ho ho, faithful readers. It's Christmas Eve, and I now announce the Shadows on the Moon ARC giveaway....CLOSED.

As you can see by looking at the Followers in the sidebar, we've not quite managed to reach the 200 mark, and since Christmas is tomorrow, it doesn't look like we're going to either. But I'm still impressed and awed by everyone's hard work in pushing up the total so far so fast. And this means that although I will *not* be putting up a YouTube video of me singing the blues (phew) I think it's only fair that I should give away the copies of Shadows on the Moon that I put aside for the purpose earlier on.

So using a random number generator, I shall pick three winners from among all my blog followers and all the people that commented in the SHADOWS ON THE MOON GIVEAWAY: REVISED post. I'll announce them on Monday, when the Christmas festivities have calmed down a bit, and post them out in the New Year.

I hope this makes everyone happy. Please now return to your regularly scheduled Christmas fun.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Today I'm thrilled to participate in the YA Highways's Road Trip Wednesday, where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing - or reading - related question and answer it on their own blogs. Readers can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic, and people are welcome to add their own contribution - which I will be doing today for the first time! Hurrah!

Today's topic is: Give a book character a Christmas Present.

I'm going assume that it's good form not to give your own characters presents (which is a shame, really, as I'm sure Frost, Luca and Arian would just luuurve some new daggers, a new sword and possibly a small war-axe to play with) and this means I need to search for a fictional character that I feel really deserves something for Christmas.

And not in the 'Valentine Morgenstern deserves a nice hard spanking' sort of way, either.

So if I could reach into one imaginary world and give one fictional character a present, what would it be?

It depends on whether or not I'm giving a present as The Author, omnipresent creator. Because if I could give any fictional character ANY fictional present, I'd have to give a gift to Eugenides from Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia, one of my all-time favourite characters. And that gift would be his hand, which he lost in The Queen of Attolia.

It would simply reappear on the stump of his arm overnight, and after the scene in which he cries with joy in the arms of his beloved wife - and she cries too, at being redeemed from the consequences of her own cruel and hasty actions - I would sit back with tears on my own face, and happily wait to see what chaos and mischief he stirred up with two sets of opposible thumbs.

On the other hand (ha ha) if I'm giving a present just as a normal person who can't grow hands back overnight, then it's a tougher decision to make. But I think in the end I would have to plump for a special, sensitive skin spa-treatment for Derek from Kelley Armstrong's amazing Darkest Powers series.

For those who haven't read the books, Derek is a grumpy, prickly young man who has - among his many issues - some serious skin and hygiene problems. But underneath all that, the guy is sweet, funny and intelligent, and possesses a heart of gold. I reckon if he got a makeover, including a haircut and a skin polish, he'd feel much better about himself, and then maybe Chloe, the heroine of the books, would have an easier time.

So what about you, guys? If you could give one present to a character from a book, who and what would it be?

Monday, 20 December 2010


Today, inspired by Astres' post on her adorable new(ish) cat Dexter, I decided to hold Writer's Pet Appreciation Day. Because as any writer will know, there are times in our lives when no one understands us except our faithful dog, cat, ferret or tarantula.

In the past I've posted a few pictures of my adorable dog Finn (otherwise known as Finbar Finley Finneas Finbarrsson the third). I got Finn during a period when I felt very depressed and unhappy. I was convinced that getting a dog would improve my life. I was probably right: a dog WOULD have improved my life. But a yipping, bouncing, insane puppy with more energy than a squirrel on steroids? No.

I spent the first two months that Finn lived with me thinking I had made the biggest mistake of my life and feeling more depressed than ever. The fact that he never let me get more than an hour's sleep didn't help. But then suddenly, sometime during month three, I started to have fun. I realised I had found an amazingly clever and devoted friend who was always happy to see me. At about the time I taught him to 'high five' I fell in love, and now I wouldn't be parted from him for all the Brazil nut toffee in Thornton's.

Me: "Finbar! What should I do? I finished my Big Secret Project chapter and synopses and I don't have to start baking for Christmas until tomorrow and I feel all weird and loose-endy!"

Finn: "Use the Force, Zolah..."

This one is after his second walk of the day. In such cold weather I fold the towels over the radiator in the kitchen so that I can easily melt any frozen snow out of Finn's long, curly ears, or the fluffy fur between his toes. But Finn likes to think of it as a bespoke spa treatment. He's been known to lie down in the towels and roll around, resisting all attempts to get him out.

Finn: "I shall not be moved."

Me: "Right, that's it. You're going on a diet!"

Finn: "I shall be in the living room."

Five minutes later in the living room...

Finn: "What? YOU were sitting here? But this is my seat. And look how cute I am. Can you really say no to this face? Hmmm?"

Okay, moving on from Finn, let's give some attention to my two feline pals, who I've never featured on the blog because they are notoriously camera shy. They do not like the camera-thing that goes flashy flashy in their eyes. I had to bribe both of them with pieces of cheese (yes, cheese) and catnip treats to get them to stay still long enough for the photographs.

First of all is Echo. She is a rescue cat who came to me when she was two and half years old, and spent the first week hiding under my sofa and behind the bookcase, emerging only when food was on offer, rinse, repeat. Frankly, after a while having a silent black cat silently slipping around the house started to creep me out. However, when she finally did decide that my adopting her wasn't part of a nefarious plot to turn her into catfur mittens, she turned out to be the dopiest, sweetest little cat in the world. She's called Echo because any noise that a human can make, she will happily echo back at you. If you open a door for her, she says 'Meeeankoo' which sounds uncannily like 'Thank you'.

Echo says: "Oh Gawd, not AGAIN with the flashy flashy thing. Hasn't this human worked out yet that I don't like having photos taken? I always look fat!"

Me: "Come on, you're not fat! You're precious. Look at your cut little white paws! Do you know how many cats would kill for paws like those? And your whiskers! They're the finest whiskers in England!"

Echo: "What, really? Well, if you saw so...How do I look now?"

Me: "OMG, you're so FLUFFY! It's adorable!"

Echo: "And you're really SURE I don't look fat? Make sure to get my profile in this one! It's slimming."

Next up, Hero. Hero was also a rescue cat and came to me when she was eight months old (my mother named her for the Shakespearean heroine). She was possibly the friendliest little cat I've ever met. If someone sat still for more than thirty seconds, she'd be snuggled up to them, purring like an out of control electric toothbrush.

However as she kept growing, and growing and GROWING (she's one of the largest female cats I've ever met, and built along the lines of a Swedish supermodel) she began to display the fact that she was a serious One Woman Cat. She followed me from room to room, supervised me in the bath, ran to say hello when I came home from work and only consented to sit on *my* lap. Anyone could stroke or snuggle her, but if anyone else attempted to pick her up she'd go stiff as a board and dig her claws in with every appearance of terror.

This is probably explained by the fact that her previous owners were a pair of teenagers who abandoned her in a box by the side of the road, may suffering be upon them with swift wings.

Hero says: "U bringz cheese?"

Me: "Who's a beautiful girl, then? Who's the most beautiful girl in the whole world?"

Hero: "I am, of course! I don't have self-image issues, like that other cat. Hand the cheese over. And stop trying to sneak the camera out, I can SEE what you're doing."

Me: "Please let me take some pictures. The world deserves to enjoy your beauty. All you have to do is stay still for thirty seconds. Have some more cheese."

Hero: "Okay, cheese gone. You can go too. I'm having a nap now. Unless you'd like to stroke under my chin? No - wash your hands first! I don't want cheese all over my fur."

So these are my cuties, without whom, I am sure, I could never write a word at all. Do you have pets, and how do they help you in your day-to-day life?

Friday, 17 December 2010


Happy Friday everyone! Today I'm answering more questions from readers, one of which came to me via email, and the other arrived in the comments here.

Aimen says:
Recently, I've come across a really big problem. Which is that I can't visualize my fantasy world. I've been obsessing a lot over the political system, and the education system and the characters and now, that my characters are being given the opportunity to explore the world, I'm tripping over my feet trying to visualize it. I think that it's primarily because I've only ever lived in a place that has only one distinctive geographical feature. And sand. I don't have any idea as to how a desert would lead into a forest? Is that even possible? What does an autumn breeze smell like? How cold is -10 degrees C? I actually thought I was doing pretty good but now, my world just seems awfully bland. I really don't want the whole of my world to be a desert. Do you think that I should just leave my world the way it initially popped into my head and let the desert be another thing that stands in my protagonist's way? Or should I add more variety to the landscape?
This is such a good question. The feelings you're describing here are the same ones that beset me every time I set out to write something, so you're not alone.

The first part of your problem is that you're forgetting that your story is set in a FANTASY world. You're making it up. It can be anything that YOU want. If you're not happy at this point writing about forests and mountains, don't write them. That might be the 'familiar' fantasy setting, but it doesn't mean you can't use your own, unique, sandy landscape to write your own, unique, sandy world. Don't feel pressured to write a story just like everyone else's story. Don't you know things about the desert that no one who doesn't live there can know? The colour of the sand as the sun comes up, the shapes sand paints in the air when the wind sweeps over the dunes? Those details might not fit in a cliched Lord of the Rings world, but that doesn't mean they're not beautiful and wonderful.

The second part of your problem is that at this point you don't know enough. If you honestly and truly feel that your fantasy country needs to contain a variety of landscapes (and it's fine if you do!) then you need to do your research. And by that I don't mean that you need to go and walk through an autumn forest, although it's obviously nice if you can.

The real meaning of research, for me, is to give your imagination the tools it needs to work. You need to get hold of books and pictures and DVDs that show the sort of landscape that you want to write about and watch them, paying attention to details but also soaking up the atmosphere.

When you've seen a TV character shiver and go blue, your imagination can tell you how that must feel. You've been cold, right? Imagine yourself into your character's skin, wracked by shivers and tight with goosepimples, and you're there. Look at a picture of a mossy forest and you can imagine the damp smells of the green, growing things there. Read books set in a cold, forested world and those details will seep into your mind and make it feel much more natural to write about such places yourself.

I know it's a challenge. When I was writing Shadows on the Moon I went without *food* to be able to afford all the books I wanted because I was desperate for more knowledge to make me feel more secure. At a certain point, though, you have to let go and just MAKE STUFF UP. If a desert isn't exotic enough for you, set your book in a kingdom of clouds that hovers above the world! Go for it, and have fun.

Okay, next, Emma:
Do you find it difficult to make sure that the first and second books round feel complete and round up their own plots and still leave things open? Because that's a major block that I've hit with the first of my series - the ending just seems so inconclusive!
Lord, do I! Surely everyone must struggle with this one. The temptation, when you realise you're telling a story over three books or four or even two, is literally to come up with one big story and just chop it into three or four or two pieces. No need to bother tying things up at the end of each book. No need to show significant character change until the end. No need to plan individual arcs. Easy peasy. I even know some pretty successful authors who've gotten away with it.

But as a reader, I find it infuriating. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. It makes me do this:

The thing is, your book will cost the same and require the same investment of time and energy as any other book. Why should readers accept half of or a third of a real book for the same price? They're investing in your story. All good stories should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. You HAVE to make an effort to give them that.

Successful trilogies and series (and by 'successful' I mean, 'didn't make me want to chuck them across the room') get around this problem by telling several stories within one story. I won't lie. It is complex stuff. I know it's complex because doing it for Big Secret Project took a few years off my life! And you can see the kind of jiggery pokery I had to go through to get it to work back here. But the end product should work something like this:

  • First Book. Characters get pulled out of their normal routine by some extraordinary event. They begin to realise that big, scary things are happening around them and they try desperately to escape these, without any long term success. They are confronted with an immediate problem which represents a small part of the larger, scarier events taking place. In trying to solve this problem, they are changed, for better or worse. The book ends either when they've solved the problem or when they've given up on solving it and the reader has seen the consequences. In either case, the readers now have an understanding that the world and the characters can't go back to what and who they were before.
  • Middle Book/s. The world throws a larger problem or problems at the characters, who again have to scramble to solve them. In doing so they - and we! - begin to get a grasp on the enormity of the big, scary events which are overtaking the world. The characters start to plan to either escape their situation or tackle it. It might work but trigger more problems. It might go completely wrong. However, in carrying out these actions, the characters are again changed, and this allows them to gain a better understanding of themselves, the problems they have to face in the future, and each other. This is where romantic subplots, secondary characters and backstory has room to blossom. By the end of the story there should have been some significant event, an unexpected victory or a terrible loss, a new resolve made or a character's resolve broken, that sets up the reader's expectations for the end of the series.
  • Final Book.You finish your plot and character arcs and type THE END. Pretty simple to describe, this one, even if it's not easy to do. 

If you can't go through all these stages, then have a good think about whether your series or trilogy is really a series or trilogy at all. It might just be one long story, and when some extraneous events and characters are trimmed out of it, it will make a great standalone book.

Phew. I hope all this was helpful, guys. If anyone has anymore writing or publishing questions, email me or toss them in the comments.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Lots of stuff to share with you today, and no real way to connect it all together. So let's celebrate a Random Wednesday!

First, there's some more buzz about Shadows on the Moon from Lynsey at Narratively Speaking here, from Liz of My Favourite Books on The Book Smugglers here and even from a Canadian blog called Tapestry of Words here. 

I'm really excited by all this advance interest because the lead-up to the release days of TSK and DotF was quite a lonely time for me. Even if your publisher is fantastic (and mine truly is), unless you're a Big Fat Deal like Stephenie Meyer or J.K. Rowling no one will give you much of an idea what they're doing to promote your book, or even much of an idea what YOU can do to promote it. I went out and did as much as I could myself by putting together a website, and arranging book signings and school visits, but I had no way of knowing how much difference that made or even if it had been a complete waste of time.

Now that I'm aware of the amazing British blogging community (and have even hopefully made a few friends within it) I feel much less scared and isolated. I know where to look to see how people feel about my work. The fact that I have blog readers who respond to my covers and my blurbs and let me know how they feel also really helps. Thanks everyone.

Another thank you is due to the blog readers who responded to my question on Monday about whether my best friend character in the Big Secret Project should be a gay guy or a gay girl. The overwhelming majority voted for a girl, mostly due to the lack of gay female characters in strong roles in YA fiction right now. I mean, they ARE there, and they're awesome, but you really have to search for them. Commentors said that they'd seen quite a few 'sassy gay friends' of the male persuasion and would find a female one more interesting for a change. So - there you go. Your wish is granted.

As you know, I'm still working on Big Secret Project and all details are subject to change. But I have just finished writing the synopses for it (YES, YES, YES!!!!) and I can tell you that the character you have helped to create is a sixteen year old Goth called Jack Lucy (Lucy is her surname and Jack is short for Jacqueline). She's naturally mousey but likes to die her hair a variety of bright colours, and she's extremely handy with an iron skillet (and I DON'T mean that she makes a good omelette). Hurrah!

My final random topic today is the release of the cover art for the new Mortal Instruments book by Cassandra Clare. As you may or may not know, there's been a lot of secrecy and hype over this cover, since the first Mortal Instruments Trilogy was a MegaBigBestseller and the new trilogy will carry on with the story of the same characters. I've personally been anticipating it because I adored the first trilogy and City of Fallen Angels is coming out in April of 2011 - making it the perfect birthday present for moi!

So, the cover has finally been revealed, and this is it:

You can see what Ms Clare has to say about it here.

What do you guys think of it?

Monday, 13 December 2010


You guys may have noticed that out of all the parts of a writer's process I could talk about, plotting is the one that comes up most often on this blog. Please don't run away with the idea that this is because I'm a plotting expert. I'm...seriously not. Plotting and pacing are the things I struggle with most and enjoy the least.

Characterisation? Comes pretty naturally, once I let my characters into my head. Style? I LOVE the English language, and I love playing with words and trying to create beautiful and startling images. But plot? God, just tie me into a hessian bag, wrap it in chains and throw it in a river. It'll be less painful and a heck of a lot less helpless feeling.

I've heard many other authors say that they love the planning stage of writing, when literally anything can happen, and they can play around with events, change anything they want, and not have to worry about it. I'm not sure what weird mojo goes on in those writer's heads, but it is entirely foreign to me, because frankly, when I first start trying to figure out what happens to who in a book and why and in what order, it feels as if I'm struggling around waist deep in a soup full of unexpected sharp/hard objects that keep hitting me and knocking me over. Blind folded.

That's why I'm always coming up with different ways to try and make plotting easier for myself (and you!). I've showed you my bullet-pointed lists and my diamond-diagrams before. Those serve me pretty well in a general way. But when I came to try and write the synopses for The Big Secret Project, which is a trilogy, I found that they just weren't helping me. I had so many more events to keep track of. I needed to be able to see not just the plot and character arcs for one book, but for three, and the over-arcing plot that would join all three stories together.

And so... I went out to my local stationary shop and grabbed some supplies. I decided I need a massive pad of paper so that I could see all my plots working against each other at the same time. Post-it notes also seemed like a good idea because that way I could try to imitate those 'I Love Planning' authors and move my events around easily. I needed a ruler to draw columns.

The coloured pens and star stickers were just for fun.

The first thing I did was to try and figure out what all the hard/sharp objects bumping into me in the soup were. I mean, maybe not all of them would be useful, but I wanted them out of the soup and on the page. So, I decided to brainstorm. I don't normally find brainstorming particularly helpful because it just makes me more confused (shut up, I can't HELP the way my brain IS, okay?) but in this case I assigned each book a colour and then randomly wrote down all the ideas I had for each one.

In some places I instantly realised that certain ideas fitted together better than others, and if they were marked the wrong colour, I put an asterisk in the right colour next to them. In other places I had cool ideas that didn't really seem anchored to the plot I had in mind and those got a star sticker. Looking at everyone all at once like that might seem like it would be overwhelming, but actually once it was on the paper it felt much more organised than it had in my head (not hard, really).

The second thing I did was to divide one page into three parts and start putting Post-its in lines so that I could see the stories for each book working parallel to one another. You will notice, by the way, in these pictures, that I have deliberately blurred out a lot of the words and the titles. This is because I know that certain readers, naming no names (*cough*Saya*cough*) would have no hesitation in zooming in and trying to make out details of The Big Secret Project. And since it's Secret, and all subject to change anyway, I just can't have that. Sorry! But I hope you can still see what I was aiming for.

Then I decided to break down the most important part of the story, which is the heroine's emotional arc, and how she changes throughout both books, what issues she has to start with, and when and how these are resolved.

With all this firmly pinned down I broke out the Microsoft OneNote programme, which I find particularly useful because it lets you scribble randomly all over the place, but keeps everything neat for you. I came up with this:

Which (one of the nice features of OneNote) includes links to useful webpages where I can go back and check my facts.

Having done all this, I now have a pretty good idea of what is going to happen to who, when and how. So I'm going to ask a question of my lovely blog readers, and your answer might influence the way this story is written.

My heroine needs to have a best friend. I know who this person is inside, but what I haven't decided yet is their outter trappings - ie, their gender and sexuality. It's always been really important for me to try and include characters of different cultures, races and faiths in my work, but recently I've also been attempting to include characters who do not fit into the Western World's narrow definition of heteronormative behavior. So help me out. What would make you happy? Do you think my heroine's best friend should be a gay GUY, or a gay GIRL? Either way they are extremely fierce, smart and protective, are a little bit Goth, and end up having an extremely complex love life throughout these books.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Friday, 10 December 2010


Hi, everyone! How has your week been?

Mine's been up and down, to be honest. So I thought I would make that the topic of my Friday Five.
  1. On Tuesday I woke up at 5:30 to find myself smushed into the wall by the unprecedented presence of a dog and two cats huddled on my bed. This was soon explained when I realised that my teeth were chattering and there was ice on the INSIDE of my windows. No joke. The boiler had stopped working in the night and therefore I had lost both central heating and hot water. I'm lucky not to have died in my bed. It's more or less fixed now, though (apart from me having to go into the false roof and empty out a bucket every now and again) so don't worry. I promise to finish revising FrostFire before I choke for any reason.
  2. How to Train Your Dragon! Picked up the DVD on impulse while grocery shopping on Saturday. I'm so glad I did! It's the best film I've seen in ages. It's beautifully written and designed, has a wonderful score, and treats you to a thrill-packed action adventure with fully rounded characters and pitch-perfect emotional stakes. I want a Toothless of my own so much, Father Christmas. I promise, I'll be a good girl forever...
  3. Working on three linked synopses for The Big Secret Project has been something of a challenge. I mean, I realised it would be different than working on a standalone book, but no one warned me HOW different. Normally when I start seriously trying to put together a story my head is full of millions of sprouting ideas and I just start trimming them off until I have something that looks both manageable and interesting. But in this case I need ALL the ideas. I need three booksworth of ideas. I can't afford to go cutting off the inconvenient dangly bits. Somehow I have to make sense of all of them and get them into the required order and shape. Hard. It is very. More on this next week, possibly with diagrams.
  4. Today, I had one of those unexpected days where you have a long To Do List and you square your shoulders...and somehow it all works out and you get everything done and you end up with a wonderful glow of satisfaction. Chrismassy satisfaction. I dug all the snow and ice off my front and back paths. I decorated my Christmas tree. I drank mulled wine. I took my dog for two long snowy walks AND I had a blinding inspiration about Big Secret Project, which fills me with relief and happiness. It's a Christmas Miracle! Hurrah!
  5. Today's crowning glory - I got an email from Veronica Roth telling me that I was one of the winners of her giveaway for ARCs of Divergent, her upcoming debut Dystopian novel. I'm ecstatic, because I was already really excited to read this, and now I don't have to wait until next year!

That's my name on there! Yay!

So on Tuesday I was convinced that this was going to be the worse week ever, and instead it's turned out pretty well. There's a lesson to be learned from this. Hang on long enough, and almost everything will get better eventually.

Now, before I go, I had a reader email recently from Faith, asking:

"I like to write as well,but I have a problem I will think of something, usaully it turns into the main part but then I cant figure out how to start it or finish it.So I just give up can you help me."

I don't think this is necessarily a big problem. Not all writers work from start to finish in order, and it sounds to me like you're a non-linear writer, Faith. Stephenie Meyer famously began writing Twilight right in the middle of the story following a vivid dream, and it didn't do her any harm.

My advice to you is to go with it and have fun. If you have an idea for what seems like the middle of the story, then write it. Enjoy yourself. If you let yourself get drawn into the story and characters, you'll hopefully find that your brain starts to fill up with other ideas for where to take them. Either, like Stephenie Meyer, you'll carry on writing until you eventually get to the end, or else other random scenes from later or earlier in the story will begin to appear in your head one by one, and you can keep writing them until you figure out how to link them all together.

I hope that's helpful, Faith! Have a lovely weekend everyone, and check out How to Train Your Dragon, if you haven't already.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


As I believe I mentioned briefly on this blog before, on Saturday the 27th of November I got up at an unGodly hour (5:55 am), put on my make-up, straightened my hair and then made my way to my local railway station. There I began a somewhat arduous three-hour journey to London. Luckily the snow was not yet as bad as it's been for the past week, but it was still bad enough that I was stuck in Doncaster for an extra hour, and turned up late at my final destination (sorry, everyone!) which was Walker Books Ltd, my UK publisher's office.

But I didn't care! Let me tell you why.

The reason I'd been asked to visit the Walker offices that day is that my publisher has a really exciting line up of new YA books planned for next year. These books will be released as part of their new Undercover Reading range. And Shadows on the Moon is one of those books. The fabulous PR and marketing departments at Walker had decided to hold an event to promote the Undercover range and invite some influential bloggers to hear all about it.

And I, dear readers, was the Mystery Author.

Although I've done quite a few Inspiring Speeches about my books at this point, for instance at the Walker Sales Conference in September, I have to admit that I was reeeally nervous about this event. Shadows on the Moon is so special to me, and I desperately wanted to convey that specialness to these fabulous bloggers (all of whose blogs I already followed). These are people who've been to a LOT of publishing events. These are people who've met and chatted with really famous authors like Maggie Stiefvater. Cue: Zolah Freakout.

I turned up, late, hot and bothered, with hat-hair, and plunged into this roomful of important people to babble at them and give them presents. I told them all about the book, and then answered many astute questions with more babbling (are you sensing a theme there?) To my surprise, I found I really enjoyed it. Of course the bloggers were all passionate about books and reading anyway, so that helped, as did the support of the lovely Annalie (my long-suffering and supremely patient editor) and other Walker peeps Ruth, Rebecca and Sean. And then I went home. And the next day I woke up and thought: "Oh God, WHY did I have to talk so much? Why did I have to talk so fast? I bet no one understood a word I SAID! Arhgkkllghh!"

But it's okay! I need not have despaired, because apparently said bloggers are used to listening to hysterical authors babble. Either that or Annalie was discreetly translating for me. Anyway, the event reports are starting to show up on the interwebz now, and they are overwhelmingly positive about My Preeessshcious. So I thought I'd share.

Lauren at I was a Teenage Book Geek talks about it here.
Liz from My Favourite Books talks about it here.
Sarah from Sarah's Book Reviews talks about it here.

Becky from The Bookette and Lynsey from Narratively Speaking haven't posted their event reports yet, but I'm crossing my fingers that they will soon.

Thanks for making my slightly nerve-wracking day out fun, Kindly Bloggers. Hopefully I'll get to meet you all again one day!

Monday, 6 December 2010


Wheeee! Best. Monday. EVAH.

Just over 85,000 words of wolfy, romantic, action-adventurey goodness is now complete. I'm going to put this to one side until the first week of January, when I'll just comb through it one more time for typos and embarrassing boo-boos, before I send it to my editor on the 10th of January. That is, the very DAY she returns from her extremely well deserved holiday. No rest for the virtuous!

Besides, if I try to hang onto it any longer I'm bound to start fiddling, and given that I've done nothing but work on this book since April, I'll be in serious danger of making that weird mud-colour that you get when you put red and blue and green and yellow and pink and white together and just keep stirring.

I will, of course, give you guys lots more details about this book when I'm sure that my lovely editor isn't going to make me completely re-write the whole thing. For now, suffice it to say that it's a companion book to DotF, but doesn't feature any of the same characters, and that it also has my very first love triangle - but, for anyone heaving a bored sigh, this is NOT like any love triangle you've ever come across in YA before. BELIEVE ME. *Snorks with private laughter*

All being well, FrostFire is scheduled to be released (along with a re-jacketed DotF) in July 2012. Exciting stuff.

So, what is Zolah going to be working on next? Well, I've been noodling around with the idea for what I've been calling a Gothic Clockpunk Romance for a while now, and I think this is what my publisher would like me to do. For those of you who've been paying attention, you may remember this as the Giant Killer Clockwork Praying Mantis Death Robot book. Catchy, eh? I'll probably start on that in earnest in the new year.

Before then, to stop myself getting all tense and ansty and cross, I'll be writing a synopsis (or rather, three synopses) for The Big Secret Project. Which is, you know, Big. And Secret. But since it's you, I'll slip you some hints. *Looks around furtively*

Hopefully Big Secret Project will be a story that takes place over not one, not two, but three whole books. As a devoted lover of fantasy trilogies and series, it's really exciting to realise that I've got a story which has enough guts to work that way. At the same time, it's pretty terrifying for someone who's always written standalones to try and plot something that doesn't come to a neat end in a single book. Big Secret Project will also allow me to utilize all that research I did on Japan for Shadows. And that's all I'm saying. My lips, they are sealed.

And now, I am going to go and collapse from SHEER RELIEF! See you on Wednesday!

Friday, 3 December 2010


Hello readers, old and new. At least, I hope there are some new ones, since the follower numbers have leapt up (woohoo! Well done everyone!). I also hope you old faithfuls are all here too. And that none of you are suffering from frostbite in the current inclement weather. I swear, if I hear anyone whistling 'White Christmas' in the next month I'll smack them one.

Today I thought I'd give you a virtual tour of The Writing Cave. Anyone who's watched my YouTube videos will have caught the odd glimpse of the place where I work, but I've never shown it in much detail, because I was hoping that one day I might get to be one of those posh writers who get interviewed in their study by a newspaper and have pictures taken under a title like WRITER'S HIDEAWAY REVEALED. This happened to Kevin Crossley-Holland. This is his study:

Droolworthy, right?

But the other day it occurred to me that there's actually not room in my Writing Cave for a journalist and a photographer. There's barely room for me. If I turn my chair around too quickly the arms whack into the desk, or sweep books and papers onto the floor. And anyway, if I ever become important enough that a newspaper wants to interview me, I'll probably have already moved into my sustainably sourced timber-framed eco house, so I'll have a completely different writer's cave. And thus I present to you:

This is where the magic happens. And now the writer's-eye-view:

To the left of my secretaire there's a rocking chair where Beulah now lives, only it's not really a rocking chair because it doesn't have any room to rock in that corner. It's very comfy though. I got it for £60 from a house clearance.

Here's one of my incredibly untidy bookcases. The untidiness is not really my fault. I always kept my study well organised up until recently, when I had workmen in fiddling with my radiator. While I wasn't around they tipped all the books off this case and then shoved them back on two-deep, creating the chaos you see here. I swear I'm going to take a day off soon and put everything back in it's proper order.

And finally, here's the view out of my window, snow, icicles and all.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Yes, we're back to this again. First of all, for those who didn't read the note attached to Monday's post there are now THREE ARCs of Shadows on the Moon on offer. This is probably the only ARC giveaway I'll be doing, because the few copies I've got left will be tied up in blog tours. So you need to enter now or forever hold your piece (until July 4th anyway).

Here's the book blurb from Goodreads:

"On my fourteenth birthday when the sakura was in full bloom, the men came to kill us. We saw them come, Aimi and me. We were excited, because we did not know how to be frightened. We had never seen soldiers before."

Suzume is a shadow-weaver. She can create mantles of darkness and light, walk unseen in the middle of the day, change her face. She can be anyone she wants to be. Except herself. Suzume died officially the day the Prince's men accused her father of treason. Now even she is no longer sure of her true identity.
Is she the girl of noble birth living under the tyranny of her mother’s new husband, Lord Terayama? A lowly drudge scraping a living in the ashes of Terayama’s kitchens? Or Yue, the most beautiful courtesan in the Moonlit Lands?
Everyone knows Yue is destined to capture the heart of a prince. Only she knows that she is determined to use his power to destroy Terayama.

And nothing will stop her. Not even love.

Excited? I know I am!

However, it's been brought to my attention that there are plenty of faithful blog readers who cannot get or do not want a Google account, and can't 'follow' using the friend connect device on the right. Which means, according to the rules I posted before, that they can't enter. How unfair! I'm sorry I didn't realise this until it was pointed out to me. I don't want any regular reader to be left out in my quest to get new followers.

The object of the competition was for me to send my lovely readers out to be my emissaries and get me *more* readers. I'd still like you all to do that, and the best way for me to keep track of this is through the friend connect system. But so long as we DO get 200 followers through Google Connect by Christmas, I'm happy to expand the draw to include people who can't actually follow through Google.

So for anyone who can't enter the giveaway through becoming a follower, you can do so by leaving a comment, including your email address (just to make life easier for me) in the comment trail below THIS post. If you also want to link the competition to Facebook or Tweet about it or put a link to the giveaway in your blog sidebar or even do a blog post of your own celebrating our little-known-yet-much-loved-blog, that's fantastic, but you don't have to provide links to prove it.  All that matters is the 200 in the sidebar.

I hope this makes everyone happy, or at least happier than they were. And now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to attempt to take my dog for a walk through the two foot high snow drifts surrounding my house, which I believe must be my punishment for daring to say, in the last post, that I'd decided I liked snow.

Le Sigh.
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