After two and a half long, dry months of little writing, a cluster of stories came and took over my life. Over Friday and Saturday I wrote two new short pieces, and then early Sunday I got hit by a third idea, something of a remix of an old, dead story that I shelved a year ago. And boom!
Looks like I'll be taking my notebook away with me after all, just in case. And to think, I almost announced a hiatus from short fiction a few weeks ago.
Here's a snippet from my Friday story, a YA horror/fantasy, currently untitled, still early draft:"He cut his own hands off on purpose," they said, "so people would stop calling him
Rumour is one of the oldest sources of ignition.
It starts at the heart of the common room after morning break, on the first day back to school after a searing summer. It begins with a spark—a tiny truth.
"I heard he was working weekends on Winfirth Farm so he could pay for that college girl to get a clean abortion," Chloe says before fourth period. She taps her pen against a Maths book graffitied with the names of the boys she's kissed, some struck-through, others lovingly bubble-written.
"What?" Rose says. She fans her face and neck with her book, whose cover is crisp and clear. "That's so much crap." It's not that she likes Xavier Bracken or wants to defend him. His tongue's as sharp as his cheekbones, and she's always thought his eyes too black and lips too thin. Plus there's the whole "Airbags" thing. She can't believe anyone would sleep with him, especially not a college girl.
And why would he cut off his own hands if he wanted to pay for an abortion?
"Do you want to know what I heard or not?" Chloe says.
"I—yes, go on," Rose says with only a second's hesitation.
, by the GazettE.
There's a poet called Natalie Diaz. I stumbled across These Hands, If Not Gods
the other night, fell in love, and went looking for more of her work. She's also written Dome Riddle, Reservation Grass, Small Thundering, and Self-Portrait as a Chimera
, among others. I dream of using language the way she does.
I'm more than a little taken with Breaking Bad
. Oh my word. I get it now. I was trying to think of some little criticisms so this doesn't just sound like a lump of praise, but it really is an incredible slice of TV. Some will find it too dark, but the writing and production and acting is so strong, I'd still recommend it to anyone. (And it doesn't even have a hint of magic or fairies or zombies in it!) I made a few icons, eight in total: ( We're done when I say we're doneCollapse )
I've also been messing around in Final Fantasy XIII
again, now as a post-game player. I've tackled Titan's Trials, a set of sixty-four missions on Gran Pulse. I was always a little scared of doing the Trials, but they were surprisingly fun with a couple of genuinely difficult battles. They did get repetitive by the fourth round, but the entire game could be considered repetitive so it's a small gripe. I have to say, I love post-game—my Crystarium is maxed, and I've Omega Weaponed five out of six of my characters. I'm currently gearing up for the Adamantortoises
—which I still haven't managed to beat. I might be strong enough now.
Twelve days to New York. Depressingly, I found out that The 1975 are playing in NY the week I'm there, but tickets have already sold out. Woe.
, by The 1975.
Thank you for the responses to my (locked) poll from the other day. Your comments were very welcome. I'll admit—though it was possibly obvious anyway—that when I posted the poll I was still coasting on the waves of a big rejection, and some of your replies were heartening and encouraging (even if you didn't realise they were!).
I met a really nice tutor from a Writing for Young People MA recently, who was doing some workshopping with local teens (which I was lucky enough to attend, too). I mentioned that I liked the sound of the MA and was writing a young adult novel, but didn't have a degree. To which he said: "You don't need a degree to do the MA." To which I boggled, because I didn't know that—I just assumed that a course at a level higher than a degree would require a degree. O.o Apparently students are chosen based on the material they submit with their application.
I don't know if I'd be able to apply for an MA any time soon, and I'm not convinced an MA is the right thing for me anyway, but I did weigh up the pros and cons and I'm pleased the course is accessible.
And in other O.o realisations, my New York trip is under five weeks away!
I'm also into Podcasts all of a sudden. It started with Welcome to Night Vale
, which you should be listening to if you're not already, and now includes Frank Skinner's weekly show on Absolute Radio
, and a small podcast that is gently teaching me French. This calls for another O.o.
♫ The City
, by The 1975.
Still on something of a hiatus (which I don't think I mentioned before), hence I've not been so commenty lately. Everything is OK, I'm just getting on with a lot of offline things right now, while snatching a little time to work on the novel in between. I do hope everyone on my f-list is doing well!
I've watched a few videos of Dragon Age: Inquisition
gameplay and I have to say, it's looking incredible. I know I often bang on about Skyrim
, but there are echoes of it in the DA:I world-building—in the scenery, the way the trails are set out, and the more open-world feel of the game. Not that I'm going to spend all my time comparing the two; they're very different games with very different goals. It sounds like DA:I is still going to focus greatly on character relationships, and interactions will impact the course of the game in fundamental ways. ( More thoughts about Dragon Age Inquisition here, with links to gameplay videosCollapse )
And just in case you haven't seen the trailer yet, check it out: Dragon Age: Inquisition HD Teaser Trailer
. (My god, but doesn't it look gorgeous
?) Now all I have to do is be patient until autumn 2014. Riiiight.
You know, every time I think EXO can't get any derpier, they go and derp all over the internet. This video is... well. Some of the members were given a punishment for failing a game. The punishment? They have to spell out their names using the movement of their butts. No, I'm not kidding, Buttwriting is a thing now, and apparently Xiumin is the king and lord of all. (Chen's flailing commentary in the background nearly made me rupture something.) I just. I just can't. 13/08/2013 Sukira EXO Punishment (Subtitled)
Also, I realise I haven't mentioned that I'm going to New York at Christmastime. Aaaah! Will post more about that soon.
, by B.A.P.
Resurfacing from home decorating for a bit of author squee. The fabulous Kate Kelly
visited Storyslingers last night to talk about her debut children's/YA novel, Red Rock
, which came out on 12th September. Kate is great fun, very friendly and down to earth, and has interesting things to say about writing. One of her pieces of advice was to not worry about making a character likeable, but make sure they're someone readers can empathise with. There's a massive difference between the two. This is something I forget sometimes, and my characters can start to feel a bit safe and nice
—and ultimately not very rounded and real.
Feedback has been steadily trickling in for my novel, and so far nobody has had any major, plot-broken issues. It's mostly character things that shouldn't be too scary to fix. At least, I hope not! If I can time everything well, I might be able to start querying agents in the first quarter of next year. Aaaah!The Order 1886 is Not Steampunk
— So apparently the PS4 game The Order 1886
is not steampunk, according to co-founder of Ready at Dawn. Sure, it looks like steampunk, has steampunk-inspired weaponry, world-building, costumes and aesthetic, but it's, um, not steampunk. No, really. It's not. (Does steampunk really have such a bad rep these days?)Magic Realism
— Blog dedicated to bringing you a review of a magic realism book every week.Terry Pratchett, AS Byatt and Terry Eagleton on Fantasy, Fiction and Desire
— Video. Fantasy is often seen as existing outside higher culture, with little to contribute to our lives. It is considered by many as little more than throwaway entertainment, but is this an error?
, by London Grammar. Beautiful, chilled, and a little haunting.
I've been working on my synopsis, query letter and pitch, because I want to be a prepared bunny. Probably the most difficult one for me is the synopsis - and I think it boils down to the length, which might be related to my struggle with writing flash fiction. I love drabbles and micro-fiction. Give me 100 words or less, and I'm already formulating ideas. But give me between 100 - 1000 words, and I go blank. I've tried and tried and tried
to write decent flash fiction over the years, and I still get the urge to flail my arms and throw sticks at my computer. For me, short stories are harder than novels, and flash fiction is definitely harder than short stories.
I haven't had the opportunity to pitch face-to-face yet, but I'm reasonably happy with the shape of my pitches (I currently have one single line, blink-of-an-eye pitch, and one slightly longer two paragraph pitch) and even though the notion is utterly terrifying when you stop and think about it, a part of me is drawn to the challenge. I'd probably have to be careful not to ask, "So, how was it for you?" straight afterwards, because that would be weird. Very, very weird.
The glorious EXO
have been repackaged, just two months after the release of their first full album. Two months! Why so soon, SM? Oh, that's right, because you need more money like now. OK, but it's EXO, so I can kind of forgive. Mostly, I wanted to link to one of the new singles on the repackaged version of XOXO
. This is one of my favourites yet, and the video is stunning (to be fair, it doesn't take much for their vids to be stunning...). There's also a dance only version here
. As you can see, the 'rehearsal' version is almost as polished as the official. EXO are so shiny.
♫ Comets & Violins
, by Kidneythieves.
Whoa, so I didn't mean to drop off the face of LJ. There have been a combination of things keeping me away—I went to stay with some friends a couple of weeks ago, which was fantabulous, but while there I picked up a vicious cold and brought it back home, then was out of commission for a week with that. And then this past week has just flown; I have no idea what's going on. But I hope everyone is doing well. ♥BioWare Writer Quits After Death Threats to Family
- a friend linked me to this the other day. It's astounding that some people can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. It's gaming
, for chrissakes. Totally crazybones.
And I never realised 'chrissakes' is a recognised word in the Oxford Dictionary, until now. Huh, learning things!
Oh, and I've been reading Garth Nix. Yep, finally. I read Sabriel
, which I adored, and now I'm a quarter way through Lirael
which I am also adoring. I wish I'd found Sabriel
back in the 90s when I was a young adult. It probably would have changed my life. (Not that life was bad back then, but you know what I mean.)
♫ His Young Heart (EP)
, by Daughter. This is a full EP currently on YT. It's really beautiful and mellow, at times reminding me of Bat For Lashes's Two Suns
Sorry I haven't been around to comment much lately, I took a couple of weeks away from the blog to focus on offline things. I've been doing a spot of revamping around the house, plus some extra summer work and a couple of web design projects that need finishing. I'm eager to be done with everything so I can get back to work on the novel. I'm about halfway through my YA passthrough, tweaking and strengthening. It's lost 10k words since its previous draft already.
Speaking of house revamping, I have a new bed! It is this one
. I bought a memory foam mattress for it and, oh my word, is it ever difficult getting out of it in the morning. So very comfy. Wintertime is going to be the worst, though, when I have to get up at six o'clock for work. Ungh.
I also finally tossed out my Kodak C310 all-in-one printer because it spaz-flailed one too many times. Bought a far cheaper HP Deskjet, figuring I won't feel like I've been robbed blind if it turns out to be rubbish. I don't trust printers any more—I've been through too many bad ones. Honestly, they can put people on the moon but nobody can make a printer that lasts… ;)Epic Steampunk Wedding Has Everything
- via The Mary Sue. It's the ring-bearing robot butler that got me.New Steampunk vs. Aliens Anthology
- put together by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray. Sounds cool! It has a Kickstarter page here
♫ You're Gonna Go Far, Kid
, by The Offspring.
I'm so pleased aigooism
is playing Final Fantasy XIII
. It means I get to bombard her with my knowledge of the game. Ahh!
Tuesday night was the Jaine Fenn and Suzanne McLeod author event
at Storyslingers. We were extremely lucky to have them, and both Jaine and Suzanne were excellent guests and friendly, fun and encouraging authors. They each read out short fiction and answered a load of questions from us eager n00bs. I also got my copies of Principles of Angels
and The Sweet Scent of Blood
signed. I hope they'll come back to us in the future and do another talk, maybe even a workshop.
In more k-poppy news, I'm now annoyed at EXO. I had this amazing dark atmosphere going in my YA novel, but then EXO went and released their new album
and ruined everything with their upbeat pop-heaven straight from outer space goodness. Grr. Yeah, I'm really angry about this. Really.
I am trying to get back into the Victorian era groove, but Wolf
is making it difficult.
♫ Get Lucky
, by Daughter (Daft Punk cover). momebie
linked this on Tumblr the other day. It is superb.
Just got my eager little hands on EXO's new album, XOXO
. There are two versions: hugs (Chinese) and kisses (Korean). I just. I can't even. I'm so happy I could burst. ♥ ♥ ♥ So far my favourite track is Black Pearl
, which was previewed way back when EXO first released their teasers in 2011/2012. I'm also loving Wolf
and My Lady
. Those guys can sing (and dance, and do all kinds of other amazing things), but I think they've grown even better, stronger vocally. Guys, I'M SO HAPPY. I'm seriously having to contain my squee here.momebie
recently posted the Mosaic Meme and I am pilfering it because it is excellent.Rules:
a) Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b) Using ONLY the first page, pick an image.
c) Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into Mosaic Maker. (Change to 3 rows / 3 columns.)
d) Save the image and post it!
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favourite food?
3. What is your favourite colour?
4. Favourite band?
5. Dream vacation?
6. Favourite hobby?
7. What you want to be when you grow up?
8. What do you love?
9. One word to describe you. ( I get all numb. When she sings it's over. Such a strange numb, and it brings my knees to the earthCollapse )Female Sexuality in YA Fiction
- at Stacked. The post also links to a handful of other posts on the subject, and is well worth a read.
, by Deftones.
I'm writing about a trip I took to India over a decade ago because some of the locations will feature in my novel. I went to southern India for three months back in the year 2000 as part of a conservation programme. Honestly, I wanted to see a wild tiger, but I also wanted to do something completely different and it marked my first ever trip outside the UK.
I mostly lived in a small city called Puliangudi with a family who were volunteers on the programme. They made me and the other British girls feel like part of the family, and when I had photos taken towards the end of my stay, mummy lent me her wedding jewellery to wear. She also asked some of the girls from the local school to dress me in a lilac crepe sari and weave fresh jasmine flowers into my hair (because I would have made a complete hash of it if left to my own devices).
Alas, I didn't get to see my wild tiger, though I did see a couple in captivity, as well as crocodiles, countless monkeys and birds, elephants and boars. Oh, and during a weekend excursion, a small island inhabited by lions whose roars drifted eerily across the lake to my hotel balcony at sunset.
One of the coolest things about staying in Puliangudi, apart from the amazing hospitality, was that I was close to the Ghat Mountains which run along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau—a 62,000 square mile deciduous rainforest. My most memorable place in the Ghats is Periyar National Park
, where I could have happily stayed forever. I vividly remember taking the boat ride
across Periyar Lake, barely blinking in case I missed the flick of an orange and black striped tail. Here is a video
highlighting some of the area's wildlife and flora.
Anyway, what I'm basically saying is that this is my favourite type of research because it takes me right back to that time. Sometimes I can almost smell the towns in the air, a mix of dust and cooking spices and heat and open sewers; there are so many great memories attached. I love that I can take my characters there and relive it (somewhat; they're there over a hundred years before me, of course, which I have to take into consideration).
OK, for the song, I'm picking the main theme to a Tamil political thriller movie I went to see while in Chennai (Madras). The movie was Mudhalvan
and it was epic.
♫ Kurukku Chiruththavale
, composed by A.R. Rahman.
A lot of folk have mentioned Welcome to Night Vale
and I'm going to add my voice, because it is unique and clever and just plain rollicking creepy fun. This is the blurb: Welcome to Night Vale is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide.
Great thing about Night Vale? It's free to download. Other great thing? It's extremely well produced and acted. And did I mention rollicking creepy fun?
I've had an idea for a new novel. Cheers, brain. I'm not done with the current steampunk novel and I've only just started outlining its follow-up, but now I have this third monster—a YA sci-fi about celebrity culture and self-identity. It was originally a short story I wrote last year that never quite came together or felt complete. And now I know why.
And it got me thinking: Sometimes you have a fully realised world and you try to work it as a short story, and you're sure there must be a way of showing what needs to be shown super subtly, in a condensed form. But some stories can't be pushed into small packages, and I think you have to go with your gut rather than struggle with them. Writers agonise over keeping things lean, but it should never be to the detriment of story
Occasionally I would try to squish a story to fit the guidelines of my favourite magazines, but not so much these days. It wasn't healthy, for me or my fiction. Now I go with my gut, and try not to freak out too much if I realise that short story I've been bouncing around is actually a novel. :)John Scalzi's Convention Harassment Policy
- That the convention has a harassment policy, and that the harassment policy is clear on what is unacceptable behavior, as well as to whom those who feel harassed, or see others engaging in harassing behavior, can go for help and action.
There's also a post where you can co-sign this policy
I've never been harassed at a convention, but I've been inappropriately grabbed before, and I would hate for something like that to colour a fan's enjoyment of an event that should be a safe, welcoming and exciting environment.
♫ Ashes to Ashes
, by David Bowie.
On Tuesday 16th July, 2013, fantasy and sci-fi authors Jaine Fenn
and Suzanne McLeod
are coming to my writing group, Storyslingers, to talk about their books, read us some of their fiction, and answer questions. Both Jaine and Suzanne are published by Gollancz, and have lots of experience in writing and publishing.
Jaine is a science-fiction writer, author of a number of short stories and the Hidden Empire
series of novels. From Jaine's website: Most of my fiction is set in a seven-thousand-year future history. During this time mankind falls and rises again—with help—leaving human-occupied space as a largely stable area of several hundred semi-autonomous systems, no two alike. Unfortunately humanity's dark past won't stay dead and the future holds threats worse than any faced so far.
Find Jaine on Twitter: @JaineFenn
Suzanne is the author of the popular urban fantasy Spellcracker.com
series of novels. From Amazon: Genevieve Taylor is a Sidhe, one of the noble fae, and she's unusual, even in present-day London where celebrity vampires, eccentric goblins and scheming lesser fae mix freely with the human population. Genny is a rising star at Spellcrackers.com, where she finds the M' in magic - and that invariably leads to mischief, malice and - too often - murder.
Find Suzanne on Twitter: @suzanne_mcleod
I'm so excited to meet them and hear them talk about their work and writing in general. My group is really energetic, so it's probably going to be a fun night. If you happen to be around the westcountry, UK, on the 16th, why not drop by
. (Artwork for the promo poster by Dan Morison, who illustrated our amazing Story Slam posters back in 2012.)
♫ Dark Horse
, by Kidneythieves.
How to Report Sexual Harassment, by Elise Matthesen
, via Jim C. Hines. A lot of people will have seen this, but for those who haven't, it's worth a read.
Making career-changing, life-changing decisions can be scary, but they can also give you a clearer focus, a more obvious and solid goal to push towards. That clarity helps your work grow stronger. Having a direction gives you more confidence.
Last week was the Chalke Valley History Festival
, which ran all week and was jam-packed with historical goodness (low in calories, high in fibre). Me and some friends went on the Saturday to a History Writing seminar. This was backdropped by the sound of distant cannons and gunshots, but don't worry, it was just part of the WWII reenactment taking place across the field. I really liked the panelists—author Charles Cumming, publishing director Eleo Gordon, literary agent Mark Lucas, and publishing director Bill Scott-Kerr. The floor was opened to audience questions, and at one point Fifty Shades of Grey
was brought up (obviously).
But something I've been finding with the writing events I attend is the advice is almost always beginner-focused. Most of it I already know. It's great to be encouraged by professionals—that never gets old—but the tips themselves are generally generic, and sometimes audience questions feel a bit like a waste of precious time. I think I'm going to take a step back from lit festival seminars and workshops for a while. They're great for beginners, but they make me wish there were more seminars aimed at mid-to-pro level writers. Plus, sometimes they're not cheap.
Other than that, the festival was fab. There was a lot of reenactment, some cool aerial displays, steam engines, and stalls selling all kinds of nifty things. I got a couple of pics of ( historical dudes being historicalCollapse )
, by Blackmill. Been listening to this beautiful, melodic dubstep while doing edits on the novel. I love Blackmill right now!
Winchester Writers' Conference
was exhausting, but in the informative, busy, fun way. The opening speakers were Julian Fellowes (who wrote this little British TV show called Downton Abbey
) and his wife, editor Emma Kitchener-Fellowes. ( I only took one photo, mostly because the day was so packed with workshops and talks and meetings that I forgot to take moreCollapse )
Fellowes is entertaining and inspiring and has so much energy. His enthusiasm set Saturday off on the perfect note.
The day consisted of discussions, workshops and one-to-one appointments. I went to five talks: ( Settings to Die For, Self-Editing Before Publication, Means to an End, Making a Drama Out of a Crisis, and Not Another Vampire StoryCollapse )
The one-to-ones were probably my favourite part. I got great feedback and each one was extremely encouraging. I came away thrumming with writerly delight.
It's not the cheapest conference in the UK, but in my experience it's definitely worth going to if you can.NASA’s Sci-Fi Vision: Robots Could Help Humanity Mine Asteroids
- from Universe Today. More sci-fi future nerdery, but an exciting prospect. So if Armageddon
really does happen like the movie, we won't have to send Bruce Willis up there to blow it up. That's a relief.Losing You
, by Phaeleh.
Tomorrow I board a train and head to Winchester for the Winchester Writers' Conference
. I'm no longer nervous; there have been weeks to be nervous, and I am all out of nerves. By now, the Author, the Agent and the Editor (walked into a bar. Sorry, it sounds like the start of a joke) will have read my first chapter and I'm dying to hear if it's working. It feels like the right time to start sending out my novel to first readers, and that's exactly what I'm doing. Chapters 1 − 3 went out to my writing group a couple of days ago. Perspective, I do not have it any more. ;) But gosh, I'm actually enjoying editing through the second draft, tightening the bigger things like voice (which is so important to me when reading books) and character motivation. I don't enjoy editing short stories, but I seem to thrive editing novels. Who'd have thunk it?
Mostly I've been writing and editing to The Dark Knight Rises
soundtrack, by Hans Zimmer. I wish I could do with words what Zimmer does with music. I feel like I could sit and peel back layer after layer of his scores and keep finding new twists and turns. Atmosphere is another one of those things I latch onto when I read a book, and Zimmer knows atmosphere. He's incredibly inspiring.
Speaking of awesomeness, yesterday I finished reading The Raven Boys
, the first book in the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved this book immediately, so much so that I decided it was one of my favourite YA novels before I was even a quarter way in. The blurb makes it sound way more romancey than it is, though there are the beginning glimmers of a romance. It's more about the magic and mystery and intricate platonic relationships, and I highly recommended it.The Ocean at the End of the Lane
, by Neil Gaiman, was lovely, entertaining, dark and charming. As expected!
, by Blur.
Topping Books was way too small to accommodate the sort of crowd Neil Gaiman draws, so the event was moved to The Forum
concert hall. It was packed out. Me and my friend arrived early so we managed to sit near the front and had a great view of the stage.
Neil Gaiman's book launch was, as you'd expect, brilliant. He's so charming and understatedly funny. He started out with a reading from The Ocean at the End of the Lane
, which sounds equally charming and, again, as well-written as you would expect. I have my copy of the book and I can't wait to start reading, possibly later today, if I can get all my work done.
Neil talked about how the book came about, saying that he originally started it as a short story for his wife who was away in Australia at the time, kind of a love letter because he missed her. But it soon became a novellette, and then grew into a novella, and when he was done and did a word count, he realised it was actually a novel. That's quite a love letter!
One of the most interesting parts of the evening was the audience Q&A. Neil explained at the start what a good question was (short, to the point) and what a bad question could do (make an audience angry). That got some laughs. Someone asked about the Good Omens
TV show, and Neil said that there was nothing about Good Omens
that he could talk about on stage. The wink was so heavily implied that everyone started clapping and cheering. *squee*
I took a few photos, which I'll ( pop under this here eljay cutCollapse )
Staff were giving out flyers about up-coming events and I noticed Margaret Atwood is going to be in Bath in August. So it looks like I'll be going back there soon for more author goodness.
♫ 5-HT (Loadstar Remix)
, by The Good Natured.