Monday, 26 October 2015


Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Monday to you all, and thanks for joining me for today's post! What is our theme this fine morning, you might ask?

One Song to Rule them all, One Song to find them
One Song to bring them all and in the darkness bind them... 

OK, that sounds... a tiny bit sinister, but I promise it's not. What am I on about, you wonder? Well, the other day I was listening wistfully to my #BaBBook playlist (because it's probably the loveliest playlist I've ever made and I sort of miss it) and I tweeted a link to a particular track saying 'If you want to know what my Beauty & the Beast retelling feels like as a song, this is it.'

Then it occurred to me that actually, there's a song like that on the playlist for every book I've ever written, going right back to my very first YA novel that didn't even get published. One Song (if you will) that just summed up the atmosphere, the central character's struggle, the soul and feel of the thing for me. 

Sometimes I got this wrong in my initial playlist and then got stuck and had to re-think because that key track acts as a sort of story linchpin for me, drawing all the other songs, other moods, other characters in towards that unnameable, ineffable thing that I was trying to get at with this particular story.

This struck me as kind of cool. And once I'd realised that, I thought maybe it would be interesting for Dear Readers to able to listen to these One Songs and compare them? So I decided to do a post about it, and here we are.

First up is the One Song for BLOOD MAGIC, which was the very first YA novel I ever completed. I sent this to every single children's book publisher in the UK, and two in Australia, and was rejected by all of them - but it was this book which caught the attention of my first first editor when it landed on the slushpile of my current publisher Walker Books, and launched me on my publishing journey. So it served a very useful purpose in the end.

It was a high fantasy novel about a young noblewoman with a magical ability so terrifying that it would have led to her instant execution if she was found out (which of course, she eventually was). She ended up saving her country and her King's life with that talent, but the story had a bittersweet ending, with her and her lover spared their lives as a result of the King's gratitude, but at the cost of being banished from their beloved home country. Along the way the heroine - Rialenthe, Countess of Kefari (*snorfle*) - lost her father and her best friend. Really, it was quite dark and I think the One Song definitely reflects that! It's Elysium from the Gladiator soundtrack by Hans Zimmer:

The next book is my first published one THE SWAN KINGDOM, which was a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale 'The Wild Swans'. The song is called Cumulus by Imogen Heap, but I always identified it so strong with my heroine's character and her journey through the story from tentative, unsure, and afraid, to strong, beautiful and confident, that in my head the song will always be called 'Alexandra'. There's so much in this song that links to the way I feel about the book, and when I listen to it I imagine clouds passing over the sun, ripples moving across the surface of deep green water, and tall rushes singing in the wind.

Next up is DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES - the book where I took the 'lost heir' or 'lost prince' trope and tried to turn it on its head by having the lost conquering royal hero who must reclaim their throne and bring balance to the Kingdom be a biracial girl with facial disfigurement and an awesome, disabled husband. I used a lot of the Gladiator soundtrack for this as well, but when I think back to writing it, the song I know I listened to the most, and which summed up the epic, tense, high fantasy vibe I really wanted was The Host of Seraphim by Dead Can Dance:

I wrote all the fight scenes to that - I probably listened to it over a hundred times just writing the final confrontation between the heroine, Zahira and the antagonist alone. Incidentally, the singer, Lisa Gerrard, is the same one you hear singing on the track Elysium above.

My third book, SHADOWS ON THE MOON, is a Cinderella retelling set in a fairytale version of Feudal Japan, where the heroine witnesses her family murdered and discovers she has a talent for concealing herself with illusions when this talent is all that saves her own life. After the shocking discovery of whom was responsible for the attack that killed her father and adopted sister, she becomes ruthlessly fixated upon revenge and decides to try to win the Prince's favour in order to use his political power to destroy her enemy.

This book actually had two really significant linchpin pieces - I think because it's so long and took so long to write. The way the heroine exchanges identities throughout the book probably has something to do with it, too. I thought long and hard about which song to include, but eventually decided to go with the first one, because I think the second is more about the mask that the main character is wearing (playing the part of a beautiful courtesan named Yue) in the final part of the book than the person she really is inside (a frightened, bereaved young woman named Suzume). So you get The Meadow from the Twilight: New Moon score by Andre Desplat. It sums up Suzume's desperate search for a place to belong, an identity that feels like it's hers, a family that's worth of her. Weirdly this isn't on the soundtrack that's on Spotify - I had to link to YouTube instead:

The next one makes my dilemma over the One Song for Shadows look like cake, though. It's FROSTFIRE, the companion novel to Daughter of the Flames, another epic high fantasy, this time about a young woman named Frost who lives under a curse of berserker rage that can be triggered at any time and which has ruined her life. In her search for a cure she gets tangled up in the conflict left over after the events of the previous book, and comes to love two men whose lives hang in the balance of that battle.

Now, when I first began writing this book, Frost was a boy. Love interest #1 (Luca) was a girl, and the third person in their triangle was a boy called Arian. But then I realised Frost had tricked me. I knew Frost was a tall, very physically strong person with daddy issues who wielded their father's axe, so I assumed boy, but actually the character was a girl. But I didn't see why Luca should have to change. So I wrote a lesbian high fantasy. But that version just didn't work for my editor - not because of the sexuality of the protagonists, but because in my eagerness to get my first queer love story right I'd focused on that romance to the exclusion of everything else and the voice, pacing, plot, other characters... basically nothing else really worked. So I ended up making Luca a male character, threw out the entire first draft and started again from scratch (I still think of this book as a queer love story, btw, since my head canon is that Arian is bisexual).

Throughout this whole process of changing genders and writing new books with the same title and character names, I went through many, many, maaaaany tracks which I thought might be this novel's One Song. But I didn't find it until midway through writing that final, definitive version. You can imagine my relief! It's The Gravel Road from the score for The Village by James Newton Howard:

This song still makes me tear up a little - it speaks so poignantly about Frost's longing and loneliness, her romantic, loving heart. Plus, there's a certain series of notes within the piece (near the middle) that sounds like the distant call of a lone wolf to me, and that's a very important image in the book.

Now onto the NAME OF THE BLADE trilogy! This is my very first trilogy and also my very first urban fantasy story. It's set in contemporary Britain and is the story of a British-born Japanese teenager who 'borrows' a priceless ancestral katana (a Japanese longsword) from her family's attic and unwittingly unleashes the Gods and monsters of mythical Japan onto the streets of modern day London. The book has an all PoC cast and includes genderfluid and gay characters, plus unexpectedly badass parents, smexy fox spirits and all kinds of chaotic shenanigans.

For a while I was a bit stumped by how to pick a One Song for the trilogy, since each of the three books had a different playlist and a different One Song. And this post is already long enough! But then I whapped myself on the forehead for being so dense, because there's always been a single One Song that I've returned to again and again that just sums up everything I love about the trilogy, everything that makes it special to me - the fast pace, the Japanese influence, the modernity - and everything that makes the heroine Mio (who hangs onto her sense of humour grimly by her fingernails to the very end) a unique character. Long time blog readers have heard it before - it's Paprika from the Paprika score by Susumu Hirasawa (again, not available except on YouTube - whydo you hate me Spotify?):

Finally, it's the One Song that started it all, the track that sums up the essence of BAREFOOT ON THE WIND, my most recent fairytale retelling and the companion novel to Shadows, set in the same Japanese influenced fairytale world of Tsuki no Hikari no Kuni. 

This song sums up everything about my heroine, Hana. She's quiet and pragmatic, and just gets on with things - but underneath the matter-of-fact exterior there's such a painfully deep well of feelings which she's desperate to find a way to express. The narrative of the story and the deepening, changing relationships between her and the other central characters builds up inexorably towards a confrontation between Hana, a perfectly ordinary village girl who has only common sense, kindness, and determination on her side, and the monstrous magical forces aligned against her. This One Song really captures that sense of running out of control towards something that may be miraculous or fearful. It's Experience by Ludovico Einaudi and I love it:

I hope this has been as interesting for you to read and listen to as it was for me to write, Dear Readers! What a fun trip down memory lane. Read you later, honeys!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Happy Tuesday, lovely muffins! Welcome back!

Today I bring you a new page for the blog - on which all the Name of the Blade 'deleted scenes' (really bonus content specially written for the FRAIL HUMAN HEART blog tour) are now gathered together. Before you flick over there, just be aware that each scene is 100% spoilers. If you've read the whole trilogy or don't mind spoilers - proceed. Otherwise flee, flee, while you have the chance! Failure to heed this warning may result in wailing, gnashing of teeth and annoyed comments on this blog (but you will get a big fat zero of sympathy from me, so better not bother).

In other news, if you, like me, are constantly on the look out for cool geek-chic clothing, you might want to know about a great site I recently discovered, called Society6. I've only ordered T-shirts from them so far, but I've been delighted with the quality, selection and shipping speed of my orders. Society6's prices (including the cost of shipping) are reasonable, working out - once converted from dollars to pounds - at a bit less than fourteen pounds a shirt, which is the same or less than a lot of the far less interesting T-shirts you normally see in UK shops.

What's more, they have great unisex v-neck tops (I'm so sick of wafer thin, skin-tight 'girls' t-shirts, or boys ones that have such a tiny neck I can barely fit my hair through it) which are made of thick, snuggly soft brushed cotton.

Here's a selection of what I've bought recently (don't judge my spending spree - they gave me free shipping and a money off coupon, OK?):


And every purchase you make pays directly to the artist who designed the shirt! The site aren't paying me for this endorsement, by the way - I'm just overjoyed to finally find an outlet that carries the type of T-shirt I can happily and comfortably lounge about in all day, writing, without feeling like a slob. Now I can throw away all the thin crappy ones that have pointless love hearts or diamante butterflies on (OK, fine, I'll donate them to charity, happy?).

I've just broken 10,000 words on my Mulan retelling and am starting to find my protagonist's distinctive and - I think - compelling voice. I'm moving slowly on this book, moving tentatively around the edges of my fictional world while I continue to research Tang Dynasty China feverishly. I'll know when I've done 'enough' research when I've absorbed so much detail that I feel comfortable letting go of all my reference books and just inventing things in my fictional, fantasy version of China without checking.

I'm also moving slowly because, honestly, I hate writing beginnings. I'm hoping that by setting myself a target of between 600 and 1000 words a day instead of expecting myself to produce huge chunks at the outset, I can progress the story in a worthwhile way but avoid my all too common problem of having to chuck out the first 3-9 chapters later on when I revise.

It's going so well at the moment that I'm thinking of doing a sort of... Faux-NaNoWriMo this year. Not real NaNo of course. I've already started the book, which disqualifies me. Also, as long-time blog readers know, every time (every. single. time) that I declare I'm going to do NaNo this year, something awful happens to me. Flu. Prolapsed disc. Food poisoning. Family drama. No more of that! My NaNo will be informal and less ambitious - I'll just up my word target to 1000 words or more a day, six days a week, and try to significantly bump my overall word count by the end of the month.

Anyone who wants to join in with Faux-NaNo is very welcome to post their progress in the comments on my checking in posts - which I'll probably put up once a week.

What's going on in your lives - writing or otherwise - cookies? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Hello, Dear Readers! Happy Tuesday to you all. Before I move onto the main topic of today's post I just need to say a huge thank you to writer pals Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery, and to all the lovely writers (old friends and new) who were at the #UKYAX on Saturday. I think I can honestly say it was the most relaxed, happy book event I've ever been to. If any of you were there, Dear Readers, I hope you had as wonderful a time as I did. If not - try to make it next time! I certainly will :)

With thanks Kendra Leighton and Chelley Toy for the pics!

And now... My review of Life & Death by Stephenie Meyer (henceforth referred to as Smeyer in the grand old Zoë-Trope tradition) which is, in case you've been peacefully snoozing in a woodland grotto for the past week, a genderbent retelling of her internationally bestselling YA vampire novel Twilight. (Guys, you have no idea how hard I had to look to find a link that wasn't spoilery! I'm not going to spoil anyone with this review if I can help it, by the way - there will be spoilers, but they'll be hidden under a cut at the end so you can avoid).

Yes, that's right. Smeyer went ahead and did a genderbent AU of her own novel to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the book's publication. When I heard this I actually had to check the date because I thought it couldn't possibly be serious - it had to be April Fool's, right? But no. It was really true! And then I couldn't decide if I thought it was the worst train-wreck-you-can't-look-away-from idea ever or the best thing I'd heard since Taylor Swift released 'Wildest Dreams' on single. What? Just... I mean... WHAT?!?

Longtime blog readers know that in the past I have taken issue with Twilight (although that was before everyone else started making a career out of slamming it, by which point it seemed a little mean-spirited) and have on occasion chosen to use it to illustrate dos and don'ts of writing. So why would I be interested in buying my very own copy of a book in which the author had presumably simply pressed 'Find' and 'Replace' on the names and had the whole thing rebound for a quick anniversary cash-grab? Well, two reasons, muffins:

1) I genuinely enjoyed Smeyer's later novel The Host, and thought it showed a marked improvement in her ability as both a craftsperson and storyteller. I believed (rightly as it turned out) that she wouldn't be able to resist meddling in more than a superficial way with this new version of her story, and I wanted to see if she could substantially improve it.

2) I love fanfic! Some of my favourite fanfic is Twilight AUs where people change one significant detail about the story and make it awesome. If I'm willing to read it on A03, I should be willing to read the author's own take, right?

So here's the book's deal. Bella has become Beau (short for Beaufort, ikr) and Edward is now Edythe (ha ha ha. Ahem. No, apparently there was at least one real live person called Edythe during the period that Edward would have been alive, so... we just have to go with it. And thanks for that link, Sally!).

But Smeyer has done more than this. She has also changed the gender of almost every other character in the book, including all the vampires except one, a couple of minor non-speaking roles, and Bella - sorry, Beaufort's - parents, Renee and Charlie (and Phil). She states this is because she finds it tough to believe an unemployed father would have been given custody of a baby back in the 80s when Beau was born, and... eh, maybe she's right. What this change makes clear, though, is how dominated by male characters (major, minor and incidental) the story was previously. Life and Death feels stuffed full of women instead, which just shows how easily we forget that women are actually 52% of the planet's population.

Now, in Smeyer's interviews about this book, and in her author's note, she says that she decided to bend the genders (by the way, I'm using 'bend' rather than 'swap' to describe this because I think it better acknowledges that there are, in fact, more than two genders in the world) of her characters because she was sick of seeing people talk about Bella as a damsel in distress. She felt the character only got flak for being obsessed with love/sparkly vampires as a result of being a girl. I think she wanted to show that these choices in characterisation were nothing to do with Bella's gender and everything to do with being a human playing in a world of monsters and magic.

Did she succeed in this? Not really, to be honest. Not necessarily because she's wrong in her point about how we respond to male versus female characters, though. More on that anon. I think Smeyer's mistake is she fell into that trap herself - she even acknowledges it (albeit without apparently realising she's done so). She states straight out in her author's note that Beau's personality 'developed' differently than Bella's. Her opinion on this is that Beau is merely less angry than Bella, doesn't carry a chip on his shoulder like his female counterpart, and is 'more OCD'.

But Smeyer is wrong. Bella never came across as particularly angry or OCD (not loving the casual flinging about of this mental illness, btw, but we'll give benefit of the doubt and assume she really does mean her character has a very mild form of obsessive compulsive disorder, rather than that she's using the term to be cute). Bella never came across as having a chip on her shoulder. She never came across as much of ANYTHING, really.

Bella is a personality void in the story. A list of traits which the other characters respond to as if they were real, but which are never truly demonstrated to us, the readers, in a way that makes her feel alive.

And that is the main difference between Life and Death and Twilight. Because Beau? Actually has a personality.

Yes, the story makes it clear that he possesses the same rather generic list of traits which are all we really know about Bella - the clumsiness, the social awkwardness/shyness, the reserve, the apparent ingrained need to cook and clean, the liking for classic literature - but either because of a natural increase in Smeyer's skill or because she sympathises with male characters more (Edward was always her writer's pet, after all) Beau manages to seem like an actual person on the page.

Despite moaning about looking after his mother, whining about the move to Forks, failing to connect with Charlie, and mocking/snarking about his classmates in exactly the same way (sometimes in almost identical words) to Bella, Beau is immediately vastly more sympathetic as a character. At first I felt that this was my own internal misogyny (yes, we all have it) telling me that a boy in the position of caring for his mother since childhood, and forced out of his home by her all-consuming love for her new husband, was more interesting and worthy of respect than a girl in a similar position.

And perhaps that is partly true. But what is also true is that Smeyer's other changes, large and small, mean that Beau seems like a real, awkward teen, dealing awkwardly with being put in an awkward position. He seems to have some degree of inner life. He doesn't express himself with the same stilted formality that Bella does, doesn't seem to have his life on pause waiting for someone to come along and give it meaning. He demonstrates traits within the action of the story instead of relying on his narration to inform us of them. We can see that while he's shy and awkward, he's also an incredibly laid back type. He doesn't worry much about the future. He has a sense of humour that isn't limited to making deprecating cracks at his classmates. He's aware of his own faults but seems to have at least some sense of self and even self-esteem. Maybe this was how Smeyer always saw Bella. But at the time of writing Twilight she didn't have the skill to show us any of it. Now she does.

Something else Smeyer gets right in L&D is to immediately make explicit the fact that Charlie chose to leave Beau with Renee not because he believed it was best for Beau, but because he knew 'Renee needed him'. Charlie gets a lot of sympathy in Twilight because of Bella's apparent indifference to him. He's cast in many people's eyes as a perfect, loving father with an ungrateful, cold off-spring. Reading in this new version that Charlie prioritised the well-being of his scatty ex-wife over that of his small child, and that Beau consequently was balancing Renee's chequebook and doing her laundry as soon as he could add up and reach the buttons on the washing machine - and that Charlie knew this and approved! - makes Beau's lack of interest in his dad, and his abrupt, overwhelming attachment not only to Edythe (protective, caring Edythe) but to her helicopter family seem much more logical.

When Beau meets Edythe not only is his reaction to her much more immediately romantic - and less filled with terror and hurt - it is also intensely physical. Bella is obsessed with Edward mostly, it seems, because he was mean to her, and then saved her life and was mean to her again. When the realisation comes that she's in love with him it seems to come out of nowhere. But Beau is unequivocally obsessed with Edythe from the start because he finds her hot and sexy and gorgeous and just can't believe she might look sideways at a normal guy like him, and it's clear that he knows it's not sensible or healthy - but he still wants her any way he can get her.

Because of this vital, profound difference between Bella and Beau - not in their genders but in their characters - it's much more difficult to compare Twilight and Life & Death than it might first appear. Having a central character, a first person narrator, who is sympathetic to some extent (although his blithering on about Edith's perfection is as boring as ever) makes a massive difference in the overall quality of the book.

Onto the other vampires of the Cullen clan! Dr Carlisle Cullen becomes Dr Carine Cullen - a Grace Kelly/Marilyn Monroe look-alike, but even more beautiful (pfft). The maternal, beautiful Esme becomes gentle stay-at-home husband Earnest, whose looks aren't really mentioned. Rosalie becomes Royal, dubbed 'the golden quarterback and homecoming king' by Beau, and possessor of a surprising man-bun. Emmett is Eleanor, a terrifyingly aggressive foil for Royal. Jasper is Jessamine, feline and spooky. Alice is Archie, and somehow becomes far less extreme, far warmer, less shrill (I hate to use that word for any female character, but come on) and more interesting in the process.

It's really telling to me how, in attempting to preserve the pre-bend traits of the younger vampires in their new genders, Smeyer instantly makes them more interesting. When all the female vampires suddenly become animalistic, intimidating and not-to-be-messed with, and the male ones are mostly described in terms of their hair and beauty it makes you realise how strongly gender-essentialist the book was in the first place. But Smeyer does some rapid work on the backstories of some characters here too, because apparently it wouldn't do to give a male character a history of having survived sexual assault, or a female one a past as a (terrible amateur) vampire hunter. Would it? *Raises eyebrow*

As for Edythe - she initially seems the least interesting of the bunch, although Smeyer goes to a lot of effort to switch up the descriptions of her to make it clear that she's super feminine. Her hair is strikingly 'metallic', leading me to believe it's more bright coppery-red than that famously ambiguous 'bronze' ascribed to Edward. She's tiny, but as graceful as a dancer (a description previously reserved for Alice). Her hands are described as 'little' and her eyes are 'long', although she does have 'surprisingly muscular' forearms (natch). Beau towers over her. It almost seems fitting for such a fairy-like creature to sparkle in the sunlight.

As the book progresses onward, however, Edythe also emerges as a distinct character from Edward. Freed of the need to act the Bryonic, tortured hero, Edythe keeps her (audible to Beau, anyway) self-loathing and self-castigation to a minimum, exhibits some interest in Beau as a person rather than as the vessel for floral-scented tastyblood (with thanks to Cleolinda) and an impenetrable mind, appears to have a rudimentary sense of humour herself, and offers convincing emotional vulnerability that actually makes the sudden, desperate connection between the two feel somewhat realistic.

OK, she's the definition of a manic pixie dream girl, and OK, she indulges in the same sort of weirdo stalker behaviour as her male counterpart. But she actually seems sorry, which is more then Edward ever does. What's more, her inhumanity, her alienness, are so much better established that it feels much easier to accept that she cannot be expected to conform to human behavioural norms. Beau's easy and unquestioning acceptance feels more like a reinforcement of his irrational crush rather than a death-wish.

Less wholesomely, Beau's repeated and loving descriptions of the hollows under Edythe's cheeks, her 'sharp' shoulder-blades, 'thin' arms, the 'fragile' 'twigs' of her collarbone, her 'vulnerable' slenderness and the fact that he can count her ribs makes it clear that part of Edythe's beauty is severe emaciation (presumably from having been half dead of Spanish 'flu when Carine transformed her). Beau not only notices this thinness; he clearly desires it desperately. It's a facet of her appeal. Something deeply whiggy is coming out of the author's subconscious there and I think these parts should have been edited responsibly before the book was published.

Another interesting thing that swims to light in this new version is how truly odd and out of place it appears when everyone in Beau's life, including Charlie, seems fixated on getting him paired off with a girl and attending the dance. I honestly can't remember if this plot point was hammered home with such verve in the original book. Maybe it's not. Or maybe we're all just much more used to seeing girls pressured to fall in love and focus on romance and defining themselves by relationships (preferably with boys). All I know is that by the time Beau finally confesses his and Edythe's relationship to his father, I was starting to think that Charlie was caught up in some kind of mortal panic that his son might be gay. Leave the kid alone!

More messed-up stuff comes in the form of Charlie *not* bothering to sabotage Beau's truck when he thinks his son is going to sneak off, as he does with Bella's in the same situation. Apparently only girl children need their autonomy physically restricted, kids! I also remain baffled by how a vampire who has been eavesdropping on both humans and vampires thinking about and having sex for nearly a hundred years, apparently manages to know absolutely nothing about it - a fact of the story that sadly remains unchanged.

Cool stuff comes from the new Volturi, who have a different line-up and a totally awesome history that took me by surprise. If only Smeyer had used this version in the original books and allowed them to be multidimensional people instead of pantomime villains! Also, there's less pointed victim-blaming from Edythe for Beau. I wonder why...

And now: spoilers!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


Hello, hello, hello my magical muffins. A very happy Tuesday to you!

Last week I took part in a panel discussion on Diversity and Mental Illness in YA, at 7pm at Leeds Waterstones. The other authors were Martyn Bedford, Annabel Pitcher and Kim Slater. Each of us had written a book or books that had diverse characters and/or characters suffering with mental illness, and we had a great (somewhat rambling) discussion about our own personal reasons for writing about this, how we develop and research characters, and why diversity and the portrayal of mental illness or non-neurotypical people was important to us. Here's a reminder about my position on that from the archives, for interest's sake.

There was a great mix of people in the audience, and I was heartened that so many of them were young people (including some very focussed young writers). We were initially meant to each do a short reading of our books, and I had the first chapter of Barefoot on the Wind queued up on my laptop, but we ran out of time. I was equally relieved and disappointed! We did have time for questions from the audience, though, and I hope we gave out some helpful advice on how to get published.

As per usual, I forgot my camera (everytime! EVERY. TIME.) but thankfully the lovely Darren from Bart's Bookshelf was on the job, and he took these lovely shots:

That's the always wonderful Martyn Bedford on the far left, Annabel Pitcher to my immediate left, the delightful bookseller who arranged and ran the event on my right (I think her name was Tanya - I hope I'm right, comment and smack me if not) and Kim Slater on her right. And yes, I am making my usual selection of strange and awkward faces and gestures. It was a great time, and I'm very pleased to have been invited.

But wait, there's more!

This is a reminder that if you missed the panel at Leeds, there's still the UKYA Extravaganza, where no less than thirty other fab authors - including Martyn once again, and some of my other very favourite people! - will all be gathered on Saturday the 10th. Tickets are free, but you do need to call the store to get one (I'm told there are still some available). 

Please do come to this if you can, Dear Readers. It's like no other big book event you've ever been to; authors wandering around chatting to bloggers, bloggers making friends with readers, readers nattering to authors. It's totally friendly and informal, everyone should get a chance to meet and talk to everyone, there are loads of panels, and we're all bringing cakes and other food from home. And it's in a bookshop! Honestly, what more could you want?

The line-up has changed slightly since the last time I posted this, so here's the poster again:

 Get excited. Get on the phone to the bookshop. And get down to Nottingham on Saturday!

In other news, I finished and returned my Barefoot on the Wind edits last week, so right now I'm mid-dive back into research (library fines, my lovelies. So many library fines) on my Mulan re-telling, and hope to start work on the actual drafting next week. Wish me luck! This book is going to be a huge challenge on many levels, but I've had such lovely support from people who really want to see this story told and I'm super excited. Anyone who would like to check out the book's Pinterest board can do so here - and this is the book's newly minted playlist!

This'll evolve and change as the characters begin to really come to life in my head, but it's what I'm going with for now (for some reason in this embedded player the songs have organised themselves in kind of a weird way, so probably best to listen on random).

Read you later, cupcakes. And remember, requests for future blogposts on any topic, or questions you'd like answered in a Reader Questions post are always welcome in the comments :)
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