Friday 30 December 2011

It's My Birthday!

I'm twenty five today! So much has happened this year, it's been absolutely crazy. I've moved house, started blogging, self-published, become a foster parent and started preliminary work on my PhD. Plus, I've been busy writing my follow-up books.

I've been promoting my book for the past few days, and it's been modestly successful.I'm not sure that I want to get much more aggressive with my marketing tactics - there's nothing more annoying than a hard sell - but I decided that if I was going to indulge in some shameless self-promotion then my birthday would be the day to do it.

So yeah, for today only I'll be promoting heavily on twitter. At midnight GMT I'll stop. Don't worry, I'm not going to turn into one of those twitter authors who tweets about their book on a fifteen minute loop. I mean, if you can't irritate people on your birthday when can you irritate them?

I'm hoping that I'll be well enough to go for lunch today with my husband, and maybe raid a make-up counter or two. If not, I plan to sit in and watch Spooks with an espresso martini and some heat pads. Rock 'n' roll, eh?

That's today. Tomorrow I have to draw up a list of New Year's resolutions that mirror the tasks of Hercules in scope. I also have to catch up on comments, I'm hopelessly behind. But today I'm also over at Hart Johnson's blog talking about real life inspiration.

Have a good New Year's Eve Eve!

Thursday 29 December 2011

Reading Lists

Feeling a little better today! It's a rainy day here, so I'm planning on spending the day curled up on the couch with Polly, a large mug of coffee and my kindle. I'm currently reading Richelle Mead's Dark Swan books, if you like urban fantasy they're well worth a look.

Of course, I read lots of different types of books and another big draw for me is chick-lit, which is why I'm over with Talli Roland today talking about why I love the genre.

Hope you're all enjoying the holidays!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Some Belated Scroogery

Well, the good news is that I'm actually selling copies of Storms. I was really nervous about putting it out, but now that it's published it's not actually that scary. Well, until I start getting reviews in which will be very scary indeed.

The bad news is that my cough has progressed into a full-grade body-wracking rumble that makes me sound like I'm auditioning for the role of over-enthusiastic-consumptive patient #3 in a Victorian era drama. Not only is the cough itself painful, but I've coughed so hard that I've inflamed the muscles between my ribs, and it hurts to breath, move, hold things or, you guessed it, cough.

I also haven't had a full night's sleep in over a week, which has taken my already 'pale Irish' complexion down to 'living undead'.

The fact that this has happened over Christmas just adds to my general feeling of joie de vivre. I have friends home from the UK, I have family occasions that I want to go to, and I've missed them all.

The worst thing is the guilt. I feel like I'm letting everyone down. I'm not sure that everyone understands my illness at the best of times, but when I get another infection on top of it it makes everything more intense.

Sometimes, I'd just like to be able to plan my life without factoring in fibromyalgia. I'm really fed up today.

This has been an awful self-pitying post. Luckily, I'm over at Caitlin Lane's blog today, being a bit more upbeat and talking about writing for a living.

Promise I'll be in a better mood tomorrow!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Feeling Festive

Wrapping presents may have chipped my 'indestructible' purple Shellac manicure, but I'm still in the festive mood. So much so that I'm over with the wonderful Kimberly Montgomery talking about why I love Christmas.

I have a family party this afternoon, so I must run and get myself, husband and Polly suitably dressed and out the door. Once again, my book is now available on sale at Amazon in e-book format. Paperback will be available in February.

I promise, once I get past the 'official launch day' on my birthday on Friday, I'll ease up on the shameless promotion. Promises.


Monday 26 December 2011

Happy St. Stephen's Day!

I know in some parts of the world Christmas is just one day, but in Ireland St. Stephen's Day on December 26th is as much a part of Christmas as the day before. It's like the big day itself, but mellower. Really, Christmas here stretches into New Year, right up to old Christmas Day on January 6th.After the 6th, kids go back to school and the trees finally come down. Nowadays lots of people go back to work before Old Christmas Day, but festivities in Ireland stretch into the entire fortnight.

Did everyone have a good Christmas? I had a lovely one. Mostly because it's my favourite time of year, but also because my husband bought me a Kindle! I've waxed lyrical before on this blog about how paperbacks hurt my wrists (because of illness, I'm not the whiniest twenty-something year old in the world) and it was a really thoughtful present. I love it so much I'm posting a picture - as if you didn't know what one looks like.

My novel Storms in Teacups is out now, and is available in all Amazon Kindle stores.Today I'm over at my ABNA buddy Dwight Okita's blog, talking about being afraid of failure.

To those who've liked my Facebook page thank you so much. The link is here if anyone wants to spread some festive goodwill. Karma people, karma.

Off to cook the St. Stephen's Day ham! :)

Saturday 24 December 2011

T'was The Night Before Christmas...

Yes, it's that time of year again. By some dint of a miracle I have all my presents in, and can finally relax with the holiday box of chocolates and a gin and tonic. Good times.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all my blog followers for reading  and commenting on my posts since I first joined Blogger in March. I've met lots of great people and writers through the blogosphere, and I'm so happy that I jumped on board when I did.

I've been absent for a lot of December - putting the finishing touches on Storms, minding a baby, setting up a new (albeit unfinished) website and buying Christmas presents has made for an insane month. Hopefully January will be a more laid back one.

But it's been worth it! Storms in Teacups is now available to buy from Amazon! I'm equal parts scared and nervous.

Finally, if anyone is in a particularly giving mood and fancies giving me a (free) present, I'd really appreciate it if you'd like my new author page here. My reluctance to tell anyone that in my real life that I've written a book  means I have only a handful of likes, and I need 25 to get a stable URL.

Hope that wherever you are you have a fabulous Christmas/holiday season!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

He's Climbing In Your Windows...

Sorry I haven't been around much. As well as preparing for Christmas and the release of Storms I'm also setting up a new blogsite. As well as looking after a baby. Really can't wait for a break over Christmas.

I meant to catch up with you all yesterday, but as those of you who follow me on Twitter may already know I got distracted when someone tried to break into my house. In an urban neighbourhood. At 11am in the morning.

I was feeding Polly Pocket in the living room, when my dog jumped out of her bed and ran to the front door and started barking. Now, despite being a large dog with a large bark my dog is afraid of her own shadow. She doesn't bark very often, and when she does bark in fright at something she usually runs back and hides behind me.

When she didn't stop, I walked into the hallway with the baby, thinking she'd gotten spooked and needed calming down.

Not so - there was a gloved hand coming in my letterbox and trying to reach up to the latch (the letterbox is very close to the latch in my door. He tried to pull his hand out after he heard the dog barking.

I ran in to the living room to put Polly down, but by the time I made it back to the door he was gone. There were some people on my street, but I had no way of identifying which one it was. None of them seemed to be hurrying.

I was kind of calm at the time, but it freaked me out a little bit later. If Roxie had been in the back garden, he might have gotten into the house before I'd realised what was happening. I guess it's just a sign of the times, economy is getting worse and the run up to Christmas is a tough time for everyone. Though unless the burglar has a penchant for paperbacks or craft beers, there isn't much to steal in my house.

I do have the best dog in the world though. She's definitely on Santa's good list. And yes, her favourite thing in the world is teddy bears.

Thanks to everyone who offered support on Twitter and Facebook. You are all stars, I really appreciate it :)

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Storms In Teacups Book Blurb and Cover!

I'm in the Christmas mood, but there's so much that I still have to do before the festive season is upon us! In some fit of insanity, I decided to release my book at Christmas, so life is even more hectic. Here's the blurb (back jacket copy) for Storms, and my cover which I think is really simple but effective.

ALEX is a journalist who has always dreamed of working for a glossy women’s magazine. Instead, she finds herself working for Dublin’s most notorious tabloid newspaper, rewriting press releases and covering for her colleague Jodie, a well-connected neurotic who still hasn’t figured out how to use an apostrophe

ROSE thinks that she has life sorted. She loves her job as a teacher in a disadvantaged school, and has just moved in with her gorgeous actor boyfriend, Daniel. The only clouds on her horizon are a headmaster with a passion for new-age team-building and a stack of envelopes that she refuses to open but can’t quite bring herself to throw out.

SHANNON feels like she’s stagnating. When she graduated at the top of her class from drama college everyone thought it would be just a matter of time until she got her big break. Instead, she pays the bills with parts in small plays and some low rent television shows. Now she’s in her thirties, is it time she gives up on her dreams and get a proper job?

When a scandal shakes up the lives of all three women, will they manage to stay true to their dreams? Or will the betrayal of one man change their plans for good?

Hope all your holiday preparations are going well! :) 

Friday 9 December 2011

Anyone want to host me? Want a blogging holiday for the holidays?

I've already had lovely offers from Hart and Julianna (thank you so much) to help me promote my Christmas Kindle release Storms in Teacups. Which I'm planning on shamelessly taking them up on. But I wondered if there was anyone else who would like to host me on my Twelve Days of Christmas Blog Tour? It runs, predictably enough, from December 25th to January 6th. So if you want to take a back seat on your blogging over the festive season and would be interesting in scheduling a guest post or interview with me, I'd be so grateful.

Even if you're blogging over Christmas but just want to take pity on me - that's cool too. I'm not above pity, or above using Tiny Tim eyes to try to persuade you. Don't do it for it for Tiny Tim.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Diplomatically Speaking...

These two pandas are called Sweetie and Sunshine, and they were a gift to the people of Scotland from China.

They're not just any pandas though. Because they are a gift from the Chinese government they are an instrument of diplomacy. Meaning? They have diplomatic immunity.

How cool is that? Admittedly locked up as they are in Edinburgh Zoo they can't really do much with it, but it's still pretty sweet.

They are pretty cute aren't they? Is it wrong that I'd like to have their job?

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Editing Until My Eyes Go Funny

I'm doing my final edits before I upload my book to Createspace, Smashwords and Kindle. At this point I've edited it so many times that it's hurting my brain.

I have a cover, which is pretty exciting. I'll post it next week. My husband is a journalist and an editor and he's fairly handy with photoshop, so we managed to come up with something that we're happy with.

I was very nervous when I made my decision to self-publish, and my stomach was in knots when I thought about people actually reading my book. Now though, I'm really excited. It's going to be a lot of hard work, and I'm not expecting that my book will be a bestseller. But it beats sticking it in a drawer and waiting until the economy recovers, like agents told me to.

So yeah, can't wait now!

Thursday 24 November 2011

That’s The Way The Cornbread Crumbles

One of the things about being married is that you are the automatic partner to any event that your spouse wants to go to. My husband found this out three years ago when he came to Belfast with me to Bjork. She is my favourite artist, but I know no one else in Ireland who liked her enough to accompany me.

So last Thursday it was time for me to pay the piper. I’ve spoken before about my husband’s love of country and bluegrass music, and how I shudder at the mere sight of a banjo or a harmonica. It’s the one area in which my husband and I are completely opposite. But Gillian Welch was coming to the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, and my husband hadn’t seen them perform for seven years.  I was kind of dreading it, but didn’t want to let on to him just how much I was dreading it. Nobody wants to go to an event with someone who has a face on them and isn’t even trying to enjoy themselves.

And actually, it wasn’t that bad. Yeah, I could have done without the harmonica. And I can’t say I’m going to load up all their songs to my iPhone. But Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are really talented musicians, and a couple of songs I really liked.

Sometimes it’s good to be pushed outside your comfort zone, even if it’s only to something like Appalachian/Bluegrass fusion. It’s a reminder to myself that I need to be more open, that even though something might not be my thing, it doesn’t mean that I can’t take something from it.  

And I even came up with a plot point at the concert! Score.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

I Just Don't Want To Know

I’ve talked before about Richelle Mead. She’s the hugely talented urban fantasy author behind Vampire Academy, Bloodlines, The Georgina Kincaid series and Dark Swan.

I read her Vampire Academy books just after I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia in October 2009. Her books and her blog inspired me to write Ravensborough, which started me writing seriously for publication. At first I loved her Vampire Academy Books, but I later got hooked on the Georgina Kincaid series, which tells the trials and tribulations of a succubus who falls in love with a guy she can’t touch in case she accidentally steals his soul. It’s a six book series, and book five ended on such a cliff hanger that I was impatient to see how (if) the final book would resolve things for Georgina.

I didn’t know how I’d wait until September 2011 when it was released in the UK. But September came and went, and I didn’t buy the book. I even put the book in my Amazon shopping cart, and took it straight back out again. Despite looking forward to it for months, despite me loving the previous five books, I didn’t really want to read the last book. Why? Because then it would be over.

I know it’s kind of childish, but I want to prolong it for as long as I can. I plan to reread the first five books and then – just maybe – I might be ready to read the final instalment.

What books or series’ have you not wanted to finish?   

Tuesday 22 November 2011

She's Making A List...

I can’t believe that it’s almost four weeks until Christmas. I know my friends in the States have Thanksgiving to break the time between Halloween and Christmas, but in Ireland all we have is the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Ireland may have a reputation as a very Catholic country, but these days it’s known as Christmas Shopping Day, when people from the country come up to Dublin to do their Christmas shopping.

My fourteen year old sister is super organised and already as all her Christmas shopping done. I, on the other hand, have one present organised. Honestly, I may be older but she beats me hands down at organisation. She finds my generally disorganised life hard to understand. I always start off with the best of intentions but have a ‘why do today what I can put off until tomorrow’ attitude to life. As does my husband. And so it continues.

That being said, I’ve a lot to do before Christmas. I need to get ready for Storms’ release on December 30 and organise a blog tour and other kinds of promotion. I’ve also got some deadlines I need to meet for my other WIP’s so I can hit the ground running in 2012. I have to get things sorted for Christmas, and I have a child development course that’s going to run for the next eight weeks. I also need to do some work on my PhD, as I don’t want to end up with an avalanche of work awaiting me in January. I also have doctor visits for Polly, and a report to write.

And with a baby on night feeds, what I want more than anything is to sleep. Possibly until Christmas. You know you’re getting older when you fantasise about finding some pretext to leave the baby with your husband, visit a dodgy hotel alone and sleep for twelve hours. Or maybe it’s just me.

I have a diary where I make lists of my tasks for everyday, but they’re always hopelessly ambitious and I end up with a large proportion of them ending up being bumped onto the next day. By the end of November I’m going to have a list longer than Santa.   

Monday 21 November 2011

Book Country: Something to Be Avoided Like A Particularly Virulent Plague

It’s no secret that there are big changes going on within the publishing industry. More and more writers are choosing to release their own material, attract their own audiences and promote their own books without the help of a publishing house. It’s too early, in my opinion, to start saying that traditional publishing is dead. Most people still buy their books in hardcopy after all. But the fact that traditional or legacy publishers are starting to develop money-making models from the surge in self-publishing tells us they’re rattled.

The fact that they’re rattled may be more down to the fact that we’re facing a double-dip economic crisis (I really hate that phrase – since when is it the done thing to refer to serious economic situations in the style of bad guacamole etiquette?) rather than the fact that self-publishing and digital editions are the only viable way to publish. Mass book burnings will not be taking place around the world while agents and editors are flung onto the streets by rioters, anxiously clutching their copies of The Writer & Artists Yearbook. I may be self-publishing, but I don’t see it as the only way in the future. I may be wrong though.

Book Country is Penguin’s new entry into the self-publishing sphere. It’s a website with a community section where you can have peer critiquing and take part in workshops. So far, so uncontroversial. The part that s getting people exercised is the price that Penguin are charging for their services to self-publishing authors.
Their premium package – which costs an eye watering $549 – includes no editing or cover design help. What you get for your large chunk of cash is your book formatted for digital and print editions, which they then upload for you. That’s it. If you wanted your book formatted there are independent suppliers of services such as Catherine Ryan Howard who will do this for you for significantly less money. Or you could buy her ebook Self-Printed and follow her comprehensive instructions for less than the price of two cups of coffee.

Not to be too harsh, Book Country does offer a cheaper option for those of us who have less money to throw into a large hole of pointlessness. For the meagre price of $299 they will let you use their software to format your ebook and print edition yourself which they will then upload for you. With both packages you get tips and general advice on promotion. This may be helpful in theory, but in practice you can probably get all the advice you need by following writers such as Elizabeth SpannCraig who tweets and blogs with helpful links to blogs offering writing, publishing and promoting tips.

If you’re prepared to format your own book yourself it will cost you nothing but time and a bit of frustration. This will get you distribution on most of the top online retailers such as Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Even the $99 dollar option from Book Country still requires you to format your book yourself, and that’s where most of the work is.

But that’s not the end of it. They also take 30% of your royalty cut on a $2.99 book. If you publish directly with Amazon KDP you are entitled to $2.05 from every book sale at that price point. If, on the other hand you go through Book Country the same book sold on Amazon will earn you $1.47. Most service providers to independent writers, such as cover artists and freelance editors, charge an up front fee OR a percentage of royalties. Penguin’s Book Country does both
The worst thing is, this venture will make money. As David Gaughran says on his blog: At BEA in July, Penguin CEO David Shanks said that he wanted to make Book Country “the most comfortable place for a new author to come.” Much like Authonomy, authors who receive the most favorable reviews rise to the top of the list, where there work will be reviewed by Penguin staff.

The carrot being dangled for new, unpublished writers is considerable – at least on paper. As David Shanks said in that same interview, “at the top of that list, we’ll start to look seriously at those people and say ‘here’s our new crop of potential bestselling authors’.” The site has been running for over six months, but no writers have been signed by Penguin. Instead, Book Country are now offering a rip-off self-publishing program, which will allow those writers to claim they are being published by Penguin. (Emphasis is mine.)

The fact is, there are a number of people out there who want to be published so badly, they’ll do anything to achieve it. You just need to look at the amount of money that phoney publishers and agents have made over the past few years to see that. This model preys on people who want to be published, haven’t done their research, and don’t realise that they’re being ripped off. Plus, the more money you spend publishing your novel, the more copies you have to sell to break even.
Book Country should be avoided like a particularly virulent plague.

What do you guys think? Am I being too harsh?

Friday 18 November 2011

Friday Fives: Things I need to write

The nice people over at Paper Hangover come up with a blog prompt every week. This week they want to know what five things we need to write (apart from the obvious).

1: Coffee. This is a common one I think. I never sit down to write without a double shot Americano.

2: My office chair.I have a lovely office chair that is possibly the comfiest thing I own. Plus, when I adjust it for my kitchen table my feet don't touch the ground making me feel like I'm about five.

3: Polly Pocket to be asleep. Newborns and creativity don't go together. Though I can now type while holding her, which I feel deserves some kind of prize.

4: Write or Die. Without this application my productivity would be even lower than it is now. Which, my friends is really saying something.

5: Wikipedia. Necessary for fact finding. It isn't without its perils, sometimes I fall down the black hole of procrastination and research crazy things like 1970s fish finger adverts. It's truly a double edged sword.

What about you? What do you need?

Thursday 17 November 2011

Regional Dialects And Why I Apparently Write Like A Leprechaun From Central Casting

I was working on my Nanowrimo project the other day, when I noticed one of those annoying little red squiggles had come under one of my sentences.

I looked at the screen, puzzled. I could see nothing wrong with the word in question. It was 'amn't', a contraction of 'am not'. Maybe Microsoft Word had made a mistake. But I looked and the spell check was set to English UK. I decided to Google it, and I found out that while amn't is an actual word, it's mostly used in hiberno English and Scottish English. (Hibernia is the Roman word for Ireland-land of winter). Apparently the majority of the English speaking world would use 'I'm not' rather than 'I amn't' to say I am not. Who knew?

Using that word identifies the writer with a certain strand of English, and I didn't know that word was one used mostly by Scottish and Irish people.

Do you guys have any words that you use that are particular toyour region? If they're not widely known do you avoid using them? Or do you think it gives your writing an extra flavour?

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Vocabulary and Society

In between changing nappies (diapers) and longing for a full night’s sleep I’ve been doing some of the preliminary work for my PhD. I study the social and cultural history of medicine, which involves looking at medical records, movements and advancements and using them to try to reconstruct ideas about the way people thought and regarded themselves in the period in question. I look at Ireland and Britain during the late Victorian period up until Irish Independence from Britain in 1921.

The late nineteenth century saw the establishment of ‘proper medicine’ as we know it today, and it was pretty controversial. Opponents claimed that the medical profession used Latin to describe medical conditions not because it was a lingua franca (a bridging language that two people with different mother languages could use to communicate), but because it excluded those who hadn’t received a classical education i.e. the vast majority. Therefore, language was used to protect the economic interests of a small minority while preventing the masses from making their own educated decisions about their healthcare.  It essentially made people unable to understand or learn about their own medical conditions, and reliant on doctors both for interpretation and treatment.

This is probably too simplistic an explanation of opponents, but it does show the power of language to include or exclude. It doesn’t even have to be a different language such as Latin it can be as simple as the type of vernacular you use. Anyone who has read Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four remembers how the aim of Doublespeak was to reduce language to so few words that resistance to Big Brother couldn’t even be articulated, let alone carried out. Every country has a section of disadvantaged youth who are frustrated that their lives seem to have so few options available to them, yet don’t have the vocabulary available to communicate this. On the flip side, street-speak or slang can be sometimes used to exclude older generations.

I suppose it brought home just how much the vocabulary that you use, or that you have your character use tells the reader something about that character. The type of vocabulary you have, the language you speak, the accent you have, how you address people around you – it all helps give a picture of the social groups that your character belongs to, wants to belong to, or opposes.

How do you guys approach language style in your work?

P.S. That lolcat has nothing to do with the post, just thought it was cute.

Friday 11 November 2011

Storms in Teacups Release Date

I have been unbelievably flaky with this blog lately. I’m not even going to try to justify it (read: blaming it) on Polly Pocket, as I know loads of you juggle a ridiculous amount of things (two jobs, kids, charity work) and still manage to keep on top of social media, writing, editing, and social lives. I think I’ve adjusted to having a newborn in my house now, which is a good thing because I found out on Wednesday that she’ll be with us until at least February, which I’m really happy about.

I’m working on final editing for my novel that I’m self-publishing in December. One of the great things about self-publishing is that you can decide when you want to release your book, so I’m going to choose December 30 for my book, which is also my 25th birthday. Kind of like a present to myself.

My new novel is going well too, even if it’s a little bit slower than I’d like. I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by Christmas.

Hope everyone is having a productive week J

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Priorities, Priorities...

Life as been fairly crazy lately. I've been editing, designing websites and getting used to living with a baby. It's been a juggling act, but I managed to achieve my most important goal - I dressed Polly Pocket up as a miniature witch for Halloween.

Despite being twelve weeks old, she'll only have reached full-term next week. Her costume was for a bigger baby, but I altered it (read: cut of the sleeves) and it looked fairly impressive.

Anyway, I've been so busy that I'm starting Nanowrimo tomorrow, a little late but it could be worse.

So in the morning ultra strong coffee will be brewed, and I'll start my November project in earnest. Best of luck to everyone taking part!

Monday 24 October 2011

In Which I Decide To Self-Publish

Yep, in December Storms in Teacups will be available for sale on Amazon. I'm a little bit scared about my decision, but I'm also kind of excited.

I made the decision after I received some 'good' rejections from agents. I got requests for pages, but was ultimately told that my genre (women's fiction/chick-lit) is a hard sell to publishers in the current economic climate, but that I should try again when the market improves. One mega agent told me they wished I'd submitted it a couple of years ago. Lots told me how much they liked it. So I don't think I'm completely deluding myself by thinking I should self-publish.

Am I prepared to wait until the market recovers? In a word: no. I don't know about other countries, but conservative estimates for Ireland's 'recovery' are ten years away. I have always wanted to be a writer, and holding out on a chance that it may happen sometime in the future doesn't really seem appealing to me. Self-publishing is a lot more realistic now than it ever was before, and it offers me a chance to make a living writing  in the near future.

Yes it's a gamble, and it's far from certain that it will be successful. But I'm not afraid of hard work, and as my husband has set up his own company I have some knowledge of that end of things.

I don't think traditional publishing is dead - far from it - but for me this seems to be the best decision right now.

What about ye? Any of you tempted?

Monday 17 October 2011

It's halfway through October. Really?!

I can't believe that it's already October 17th. There's so much that I still have to do. Finish edits, finish first draft of Guildhall, plan my Nanowrimo stories, get a start on the Christmas shopping, buy a tiny Halloween costume in the shape of a cute bug for Polly Pocket... I also have to catch up on my social media, write some articles and do some historical research. I also, crucially, have to sleep. I have no idea how I am going to do all of these things before midnight on October 31st. 

Has time sped up? I don't know why, but the past couple of months seem to have just flown by.

What about all of you? How are you doing on your goals?

Tuesday 11 October 2011

On Pubslush and Inkubate

So, the endless rounds of querying can get you down. Self-publishing is an option, but it's highly labour intensive and you have to do a lot of the work yourself. Yesterday I read an article in The Huffington Post talking about Inkubate and Pubslush.

Now these endeavours aren't new, I've read about them before. I'm not sure their methods are going to get that much traction. How many people would think a book premise was that good that they'd preorder it without being sure that they'd ever see the actual book in question. It might work for established authors, but maybe not so well for newbies.

What do you all think?

Sorry for the brevity of this post, I'm learning the art of typing with a baby on my shoulder. I'm sure I'll get better at it :)

Thursday 6 October 2011

Introducing Polly Pocket

I've been somewhat absent for the past week because I was preparing for my new foster placement. We brought home a premature baby girl today, who's only slightly more than 2 kg. She's the tiniest thing, but so beautiful.

I spent twelve hours in the maternity hospital waiting for paperwork to come through and learning to care for a baby that technically should still be in the womb. I'm exhausted. Therefore, this post will be fairly short.

I'm not allowed post anything on the internet that would identify a child in my care or breach their right of privacy. Which is good - otherwise you may have to hear about my foster daughter at length (I managed to feed her 90 mls tonight - I was prouder of that than I was getting my undergraduate degree). As I can't use her name online, if I'm referring to her at all I'm going to call her Polly Pocket. Because she is the tiniest thing.

It's twenty to midnight, so I'm going to go to bed. I hope to get around all your blogs tomorrow.

Night all! :)

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Spin-off Characters

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week they want to know which supporting character would you like to see in a novel of their own.

I'd go for Alice from The Twilight Saga. She was my favourite character, and she'd have a lot of potential as a primary character.

What about you?

Tuesday 4 October 2011

On Audiobooks

For those not in the know, fibromyalgia is a syndrome. This means that it has a number of characteristic symptoms, and patients have a selection of them. One of mine - visual disturbances.

This can lead to migraines, floaters, light sensitivity and muscle tiredness. At the end of the day, when I'm tired from having looked at a computer screen for most of the day, I find it difficult to read. I've carried books around with me since I was a toddler, so not being able to read is uncomfortable to me. What to do with the time?

So I decided to download a couple of audiobooks. This rankled for three reasons.

First of all, I'm a traditionalist. Despite the fact that owning a Kindle would be easier on my wrists (because it's lighter - the weight of paper books can hurt me) I still haven't managed to bite the bullet and buy one. I have an emotional block. I like ink, paper and being able to mark my page with a bus ticket. Audiobooks are the same deal for me. It's like someone trying to convince you that paper plates really are the classier alternative to ceramic.

Secondly, it makes me feel old. I'm 24, and I already feel like a pensioner the majority of the time. I have fibro and inflammatory arthritis. I wear glasses, sensible shoes, and occasionally have to use a walking stick.I have to pace myself, and not over exert myself or I may need to go for a nap. I've come to terms with all this, but nothing, NOTHING has made me feel as old as downloading audiobooks.

This is irrational. Plenty of people download books to listen to while commuting to work or doing household chores. It makes sense. It's only in my head that I see my ninety year old great grandmother listening to her Catherine Cookson tapes.

I found the audiobooks ok, but the price was ridiculous. You can pay twice as much for an audiobook as you do for a paperback, and that's a conservative estimate. Considering an average book is five hours long when read aloud, this is pretty steep.I know you have to pay the narrator, sound engineer and get the book adapted but it makes reading expensive for those with eyesight issues. At least I have a choice.

What about you? Do you 'read' audiobooks?

Friday 30 September 2011

Banned Books

Yay! It's Friday again and that means - among other things - that it's time for Paper Hangover's Friday Fives. This week they want to know what your favourite banned books are. So here are some of mine.

Honestly, when I find out a book has been banned it makes me think that this book must be good. Most books are banned because they're controversial and challenge the status quo. Anything that challenges the way you think - regardless of whether it ultimately changes your mind - is a GOOD THING.

Nineteen Eighty Four is a fantastic book. It's one of those books that you read and realise you will never think of society in the same way ever again. Double plus good on the banned book scale.

It's no secret that I love Richelle Mead. Her books have been banned from many high schools, but Last Sacrifice has the distinction of being banned before it was written. Ok, it was part of a series, but that's still overkill in my opinion. 

The Great Gatsby is another classic. Great book.

Brave New World is another  book that changed my world view. It was banned in Ireland in 1932.

Orwell again, but then the man was a genius.

What are your favourite banned books?

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Sexism in Writing

I've recently started preliminary research for my history phd, which is very exciting (to me, anyway). My research doesn't centre around gender, but the growing role of women in medical practice during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is part of the background. Women were viewed (by men who were afraid of more competition for jobs) to be too emotional for the meticulous scientific practice of medicine. Seems strange to think of now, though many women of the time held that view too.

Nowadays, western women live in societies that purportedly embrace equality. And I think that men and women are generally different. But the way in which chick-lit writers are regarded shows that in writing, at least, there is still a long way to go.

Novelist Talli Roland wrote an insightful (and brilliantly titled) blog post last week that asked the question: why do women feel the need to apologise for the type of books they write. Men can write light fiction, and it isn't viewed as a sum of their total intellectual abilities. With women, a pastel cover apparently indicates: stupid, frivolous content.

Why haven't we moved on from this pettiness? I'm not going to get into the many issues that chick-lit has covered, because Talli is right. It shouldn't need  to be defended. And honestly? The people who spout this ridiculousness tend to have a chip on their shoulder, and their comments say more about them than the genre they're taking shots at. Like with the nineteenth century medical profession, these comments are more a sign of their fear of becoming irrelevant to the discussion.

Monday 26 September 2011

Jane Eyre

Have you ever seen a film so beautiful that it makes you feel like crying because you know you're never going to be able to create something so heartbreakingly perfect?

That was my experience with watching Jane Eyre.

I was a little apprehensive about seeing this movie, because I really enjoyed the book. The book is quite dark ( I mean, come on - it was written by a Bronte sister) and I find that some adaptations try to lighten up the story. Which I really don't like. Also, the story is quite melodramatic in nature, and it's hard to do well without going ridiculously overboard. But this adaptation managed to retain the dark threads of the story while remaining believable at all times.

The book starts off very slowly, and the film dealt with this very well. It started with Jane fleeing Thornfield and arriving at the home of St. John Rivers. Most of the story is told through a series of flashbacks, which deals nicely with the slow start. The film is beautifully shot, with fantastic performances from Michael Fassbender and Judi Dench. The real strength of the film, however, lies in Mia Wasikowska's performances. She portrays the multi-faceted Jane Eyre so well that it's hard to credit the fact that she's only 21. It's lovely to see a film adaptation of a book that adds to your understanding of the former, rather than failing to live up to your expectations.

What about you? Do you ever get disheartened when you see genius that you can't hope to replicate? Or do you find it inspirational?

Friday 23 September 2011

Blog Awards

Despite being missing and grouchy for most of the past fortnight I've managed to get not one but two awards! Yay! I got the Liebster award from the lovely Scott Stillwell, which is lovely to get. I won't pass it on though, because I've done that a few weeks ago when I received it before.

The second award was from the fantastic Alicia Gregoire. It's the 7x7 Link Award, where you pick 7 blog posts to fit the superlative given. So here are mine!

Most Beautiful: I don't really do beauty, even in blog posts. If my blog posts were a cartoon character they'd be Velma Dinkley. (Note to self: if I got my hair cut in a bob/pudding bowl I could totally carry this look off, btw)

Most Helpful: Five Top Twitter Tips for Writers In my pre-campaign days, this was also my most popular post. The internet loves advice posts, people.

Most Popular: My entry for the first campaign challenge, The Door Swung Open. I think it's going to be the prologue for Ravensborough II.

Most Controversial: 
 Any post where I attempt to point out that Ireland is not all Riverdance, Guinness, thatched cottages and shamrocks does not do well. Oh, and that Jameson is pronounced 'Jem-eh-son' not 'James son'. Maybe I'll pretend that I do indeed operate my blog from a tiny cottage surrounded by sheep, potato fields, and a group of peasants singing Danny Boy. Which just happens to have a fast broadband connection.

Most Surprisingly Successful: My post on How First Aid Ruined My Life

Most Underrated: I have low self-esteem. I think all of my posts are over-rated.

Most Prideworthy: 
 Any post where I attempt to point out that Ireland is not all Riverdance, Guinness, thatched cottages and shamrocks. Oh, and that Jameson is pronounced 'Jem-eh-son' not 'James son'.

The seven people I'm passing this award on to are:

Scott Stillwell

Laura Toeniskoetter

Alleged Author

Krista M

Charissa Weaks

Caitlin Vincent

Alexis Bass

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Judging Books Completely By Covers

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week they want to know your all time favourite book covers. As it's 'YA' Highway, these are some of my favourite covers from young adult novels.

As you can see I have a thing for paranormal/dark fiction/steampunk ya fiction. I'm not all that gone on contemporary YA.

Which of the above (if any) do you like?

Saturday 17 September 2011

When did life start to involve so much juggling?

It's been a difficult week. I'm still in flare, but I'm not going to dwell on that. My foster daughter went home on Monday, which was also difficult. I've a number of self-imposed deadlines for my writing from here until Christmas, and I've - crazily - taken on a couple of new projects work wise. I'll talk about them in October.

My biggest news is that I'm going to have a new foster placement! He's an infant with high medical needs, and we'll have him for six months. It's very exciting (if a bit daunting) and I can't wait to meet him.

I went to see the new Jane Eyre film on Thursday, which was so amazing it deserves its own blog post. Which it will get tomorrow.

Have a great weekend everyone! :)

Wednesday 14 September 2011

If I could be anyone...

The amazing and talented Talli Roland is having a launch today for her amazing new book, Watching Willow Watts. If you haven't heard of her, you should really check her out. Apart from being a talented writer, she's also a lovely person.

I've read this book, and it's fantastic. I'll write a proper review when my pain levels are back to manageable, but today Talli is having a blog splash and wants to know: if you could be anyone else, who would it be?

Now, I wouldn't want to be anyone else. You never know what's really going on in other people's lives.You do, however, know what goes on with fictional characters. So, I'd like to be...James Bond - the female version.

I always wanted to be a spy when I was younger. I don't know why, because I'd make a pretty bad one. I'm not fearless, I'm fearful. I need a good night's sleep. I like travel, but I'm a home bird. One threat of torture and I'd give up all secrets immediately. I do like a good Martini, though. Shaken, not stirred.

I'd like to be someone like that, just to know what it feels like. That's what I love about writing fiction, you get the chance to experience what it's like to be another person. So, Jemima Bond. That's who I'd be.

What about you?

Tuesday 13 September 2011

I'm back!

So, you may have noticed that I haven't blogged in over a week. This isn't like me, I usually blog most weekdays and visit as many blogs as I can. Unfortunately, I had a flare last week.

Flares are where most of my fibromyalgia symptoms kick-in together. I get pain in my limbs, cognitive function is slower and I can get visual disturbances and migraine. Energy levels are usually low. When this happens, I can usually get on with life but at a slower pace than normal. Unfortunately, I'm in Super-Flare! I had two migraines last week, and the pain was so bad last night, that even with heavy duty painkillers it looked like I needed to go to hospital.

My number one priority was minding my foster daughter, and that's what I did. She didn't even know I was sick, and I'm proud of that. (She left yesterday) But it did mean a lack of posts, and that I haven't checked up on my online friends. I'm really sorry. But as you can tell from the repeated phrases in one short blog post (unfortunately, last week, etc) I'm not myself.

Normal service will be resumed shortly :)

Monday 5 September 2011

The Door Swung Open...

It's time for the first challenge in Rachael Harrie's platform building campaign!

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

The door swung open, and she could see nothing but darkness. Not ordinary darkness, the type that came with the absence of sunlight. This darkness was thick, cloying. As she walked the doorway she became coated with it. Thick and gloopy, it clung to her hair, her clothes and the bare skin of her arms.

She slid a foot out with trepidation. Every fibre of her being was urging her to stop, too go back. There was no way that a simple promise could lead her to so much danger, was there?

But she had promised. No one had forced her to give her word. She had even been given a way out. But a promise made in the cold light of day was easy to give. Carrying it out was another story.

There were steps made of cold stone beneath her feet. A fumble to her side revealed a handrail. Each step brought her further away from safety. Each step made her question her judgement.

Then she heard a movement behind her. A breath. The door swung shut.

Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award

I love this award! It gives me an insane craving for meringue, but hey what else is new?

It was given to me by the fantastic Miss Cole. Her blog is great, by the way. Definitely one to check out.

The rules say that I need to share ten random facts about myself. I'm not sure if I've mentioned some of them before, if I have I apologise.

1: I didn't drink much coffee until March of this year. Now, myself and my husband spend so much on ground coffee that it doesn't bear thinking about. I actually avoid thinking about it.

2: I was an only child until I was fourteen. Ten years later I'm the eldest of seven. I got the benefits of being an only child when I was growing up, and now I have the benefits of being part of a large, close family.

3:  My husband is a journalist and editor. He edits my fiction to catch my grammatical errors. We have geeky conversations about the many roles of commas.

4: When I was a teenager I went on a school trip to Belarus. The hostel we stayed in was in the middle of a forest with Chechen rebel soldiers surrounding it. Luckily, they didn't bother us.

5: I prefer the world in my imagination to reality.

6: Winter is my favourite season, and I like the rain.

7: My grandad worked in the Guinness brewery.

8: My favourite musician is Bjork. I saw her play in Belfast three years ago, and she was amazing.

9: My dream house would be beside the sea. Still in Dublin, but beside the sea.

10: I started writing seriously a few days after my fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2009.

I said last week that I'd hold a contest to celebrate reaching the 150 follower mark. I'm now at 174, thanks to the campaign. I'll pick some books this week and hopefully announce it on Friday.

Friday 2 September 2011

Friday Fives, Attention Grabbing Titles, and Writing Update

I can't believe it's Friday already. But it is, and that means that it's time for the Paper Hangover blog prompt. Every week the people at Paper Hangover come up with a question for writers and readers of young adult fiction to answer on their blogs. This week they want to know the five book titles that caught my attention.

1: Across the Barricades by Joan Lingard: This is a story about two teenagers who fall for each other in 1970s Belfast. Sadie is Protestant and Kevin is Catholic, and in the political climate of Northern Ireland in 1973 this makes their relationship very difficult. I love the title because it sounds so stark. It lets you know at the start that there are high stakes and possible violence in the story.

2: Divergent by Veronica Roth: I love this title because it works on two levels. Not only is the word used to describe the protagonist, but because it literally means 'going the other way'. Again, this tells you that this is a story about going against the grain of society.

3: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: I love this title, really atmospheric. It also describes that period in adolescence where you're not quite a child, but not quite an adult either. A time of transition, which is really what the series is about underneath it all.

4: The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman: This is the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, known as The Golden Compass in the US. I've always been fascinated by the northern lights, and was taken in by the mysteriousness of the title.

5: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: This is a book that I haven't read yet, but the title is attention grabbing. Especially for a book concerning eating disorders.

Writing update: I have my foster placement 24 hours at this point, and I've managed to get 2,000 words down. So I'm not doing too badly. Hopefully I'll get some more work done this evening.

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday 1 September 2011

Back to School (Kind of)

It's September! That back to school time. The one thing that I miss about school and university is the fact that I no longer have a month when it was acceptable, nay responsible, to buy a cupboard's worth of stationary. I did succumb to my love of papers and pens the other day by buying an armful of folders and labels, but they were for household organisation. Essential, no?

But the thing about the academic year, is that in some ways it feels more like a fresh start than the beginning of the calendar year. So I'm going to try this whole goal thing again. There's a number of things that I need to get sorted in September, but as this is a writing blog I'm going to concentrate on my writing goals.

1: Write entries for two writing competitions with deadlines in September.
2: Finish the first draft of Lemons
3: Finish half of Guildhall first draft (with steampunk conversion)
4: Resist new plot bunny (no matter how cool I think it is)

I don't know if my list is under-ambitious, or realistic. But if I get that much done, then I'll be happy.

What about all of you? Any 'back to school' goals?

Wednesday 31 August 2011

I Should Probably Talk About Writing...

So yeah, I haven't really talked about my writing lately. Possibly because it's getting rather complicated. I'm progressing well with Lemons, my contemporary fiction novel, and I'm changing Guildhall over from an urban fantasy young adult novel, to steampunk. The steampunk genre suits a lot of my plot points better, and it's nice to think that my knowledge of Victorian Britain is being put to some practical use. I'm starting to outline plans for Ravensborough II. I also have a plot bunny for an adult urban fantasy series that I'm trying to resist, because I have way too many projects going on now as it is.

I'm writing first drafts, which I love. I plan my plot as I type, so I never really know where my story is going. I find out along the way. First draft involve large word counts, fast typing, and can be really tough on my hands. They're already cramping today, and I haven't even written anything, but I hope they hold up so I can get a good bit of work done. I have a ten day foster placement starting tomorrow, and three year old girls who talk a lot aren't conducive to hours of writing. Though I hope to manage an hour or two a day, anyway.

What about all of you? How is your writing going?

Tuesday 30 August 2011

How First Aid Ruined My Life

As part of being a foster carer I had to go on a paediatric first aid course. This is good, everyone always means to do these things  but life gets in the way. I've babysat my siblings for ten years, but what do I do if a child in my care starts choking? Screaming for my mother somehow doesn't seem like the right answer.

So I did my course a few weeks ago. It was on a Saturday when my husband and I were looking after my six siblings for the weekend. I got up, wished him luck and left the house, laughing to myself as I went.

My laughing was, however, short-lived. The instructor was an amiable enough man, who responded to my informing him that I was a foster carer by going off on a tangent about the horror he'd felt when his friend came out to him just before they were due to move into a flat together. I don't see the connection, but there you go. We had to perform CPR repeatedly on adult dummies, child dummies, and infant dummies. My hands, neck and shoulders were killing me. You have to push down unbelievingly hard to restart an adult heart, and while I'm glad to have that skill now the part of my brain that remembered I had fibromyalgia was frantically screaming 'This isn't an emergency! Why are you hurting yourself if this isn't an emergency?!'

I could have told my instructor, and he probably would have let me off some of the rounds, but that's not the point. In an emergency I'll have to keep going, and if I give up in a practice what hope have I got? Sure, in a really sticky situation adrenaline would probably sink in, but still.

The worst part was going through the numerous potentially fatal accidents that can occur in the home. Breaks, allergic reactions, asthma, burns, chemical burns, ingestion of solvents, things in the eye, falling downstairs, getting burnt by hair straighteners, choking on pretty much anything, getting bitten by dogs, run over by cars, hypothermia, hyperthermia...the list goes on. At lunch break I ran out and frantically called my extremely capable husband to check that one or all of those things hadn't happened to one or all of my siblings. Of, course none of these things happened.

It's scary realising how fragile the human beings we care for are, and how easily the bad stuff can happen. But you can't let it run your life either. How do you guys cope with the fear that surrounds everyday living?

Of course, if this happens then you may really be in trouble.

Will post an update on my writing tomorrow.

Monday 29 August 2011

Followers, Fibro and Purple Hued Cocktails

No real bunnies were injured in the taking of this photo.

My weekend was fairly uneventful, because I was sick for most of it. My fibromyalgia hasn't been bothering me much lately, but it has come back this week and seems to want to make up for lost time. Great.

I had a good week though. I am now godmother to my beautiful brother Jack. There's almost twenty three years between us, but as I plan on sticking at 25 for at least a decade the gap will soon narrow.

I got my husband an Xbox for our anniversary, and he's been solving crime in 1940s LA ever since. We did manage to squeeze in a meal at a nice restaurant to celebrate two years of marriage and many cocktails were consumed. My new favourite is an Avation, a mix of gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon and crème de violette. It's a pre-1916 cocktail, which means it comes from my period of history so could conceivably be called research. Unfortunately, it doesn't come from the right continent, as it originated in New York instead of Europe, but there were a lot of Irish people in New York then, right? All I need to do now is link cocktail bars to the spread of smallpox and I can come at my historical research from a whole new angle.

 I also got a new iPhone, which I love. I had an iPhone before, but I lost it in the Big Snow of 2010 (for my North American friends, the 'big snow' was around five inches, and the country ground to a halt. Ireland doesn't usually get snow). It's handy because it means I can check my email on the go and I don't have to be at home to update my Facebook or Google+ status. I can also take pictures for my blog, like the one of my dog at the top of this post.

And hello to all my new followers! I've broken the 150 follower mark, so a contest of some description is called for. I'll try to come up with a suitable prize. And for those of you who want to take part in Rachael Harrie's Platform-Building Campaign there's still time to join in. You can sign up until August 31st.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! :)