Tuesday 28 June 2011


Ok, so I don't have a blogging schedule. In fact, I don't have a schedule at all. I see other writers have certain topics that they talk about on their blog on certain days. This sounds great in theory, but to be honest is probably more organisation than I could handle. I'm going to try and bring some order to my life, slowly though, in case it suddenly becomes too much for me.

I've decided that I'll do a weekly posting of where I am in my writerly journey. If nothing else it will keep me accountable. Monday may be the natural day for this, but it just doesn't have the same alliterative cadence of Check-in-Tuesday. And what writer picks practicality over sound and rhythm?

WIP: Despite the best intentions of Bunowrimo, I've only managed to write 11,224 words of my current WIP. This was because polishing my other novel for submission took longer than I anticipated. That being said, I've written a third of the first draft which is fairly respectable.

Works out on submission: One.

Rejections: Two. I was expecting to feel the crushing sense of doom that I've read about so often, but I didn't. Now that I'm feeling smug and happy with myself, the next letter will very probably send me running into the garden shed, sobbing and screeching that my life is over. Or something.

Plot Bunnies Avoided: One.

High point of the week: Feeling like a domestic goddess when I baked a batch of home-made cookies.

Low point of the week: Realising that bona fide domestic goddesses do not need the help of a Google search engine to work out how to change the bag on the vacuum cleaner.

What about you guys? How are you getting on this week?

Monday 27 June 2011

So the rain has finally stopped...

So the rain has finally stopped. Despite the past two weeks displaying the type of weather usually seen in mid-October, Ireland seems to have finally remembered that is actually technically summertime. Yesterday and today  have seen sun, blue skies and zero precipitation. For an island with a climate that is enticingly summed up as  'mild, moist and changeable with abundant rainfall and a lack of temperature extremes' this is pretty much as good as it gets. 

Hopefully it will last, because myself and the husband are going on holiday on Saturday to Wexford with my family. I have six brothers and sisters ranging from one year old to fourteen, so being cooped up indoors will not be good times. Last time my I went on holidays with my family, we ended up spending most of the holiday in matching navy rain jackets like a water-proof version of the Waltons, and had our traditional holiday ice-cream huddled in a doorway sheltering from the wind. This was on the west coast, where the weather tends to be more extreme. Hopefully Wexford, in the so-called 'Sunny South-East' will be a little bit more hospitable. How can you have a sunny south east coast on an island that has 'abundant rainfall and a lack of temperature extremes' you ask? Well, everything's relative.

Honestly, I'm really looking forward to it. The past year as been really tough, for a number of reasons, and it will be nice to get away from it all. If this will in fact be possible. I'm bringing my netbook with me, I'm worried about leaving it in the house while I'm away, and it may prove difficult to avoid writing something...

What about all of you? Do you find it hard to clock off on holiday?

On a side note, I'm up to 103 followers! Woot! I appreciate each and every follow, thank s so much :)  

Saturday 25 June 2011

Shelley Watters' First Page Critique Contest

Shelley Watters is holding a first page critique contest over at her blog. You can check it out here. The rules are listed there, but basically writers in certain genres post the first 250 words of their novel on their blog for open critique. Afterwards, the polished extracts go forward to win the chance of being looked at by a hot agent. Pretty cool right? So here's mine:

I woke up in a cold sweat, my heart racing. I’d had that dream again. It had been haunting me for the past few weeks, and I still had no idea what it meant.
            It started with me lying face down in a dark room, with a cold stone floor beneath me. I knew there were other people around me – I could sense them, but didn’t know who they were. I heard someone walk across the room, their footsteps echoing on the stone floor.
            ‘This is your last chance,’ I heard a woman’s voice hiss in my ear. ‘Or it will be all over for you and your friends.’
Her tone told me that, if I didn’t do as she asked, something terrible would happen. I got slowly to my feet, and faced her. Moonlight streamed through a window illuminating the voice’s body, but I couldn’t see her face. A black shadow came over the window, blocking out the moonlight. A second later there was a large crash, an explosion.
            Someone pulled me to the ground, away from the shadow.
            ‘Stay where you are,’ another voice whispered in my ear urgently. A high-pitched scream echoed above and I closed my eyes tightly, afraid of what I might see. When the screaming stopped, I opened my eyes. Just inches from where I lay I could see the unmistakeable glossy slick of blood.

Friday 24 June 2011

Friday Fives: Creative Inspiration

Every week, the lovely people over at Paper Hangover give a blog prompt to help those of us who, very occasionally, run out of ideas for posts. This week they want to know: What are the five things that get your creativity juices flowing? Because Paper Hangover is predominantly YA, I'll be listing things that help me write YA urban fantasy, rather than my other genre, women's contemporary fiction.

1. Music: When I get stuck in a scene, I find playing music can jog my brain. Maybe it's because music appeals on an emotional level? 

2. Rain: I find that I get inspired by the rain, and I find it easier to get write on cold, damp days. Good thing I live in Ireland then.

3: Reading history and mythology: I find that my YA fiction depends more on my university education than my adult fiction does. The political situation in Ravensborough is inspired by historical research, and my steampunk WIP is based in an alternative Victorian era, a period I've specialised in. So non-fiction comes into play.

4: Eavesdropping: It's amazing how many ideas you can pick up from listening to people talk in public. Not that I would lift an idea completely, but if gives you a starting point. Then you ask 'what if...' and a plot strand begins to take shape.

5: Life: This sounds like a bit of a cop out, but it really isn't. The more things you do, people you meet, and places you see, the more your imagination grows. Like any living thing, creativity needs fuel.

What about you guys? What inspires you?

Thursday 23 June 2011

Guilt-Free Cookies

Inspired by Jen the Cupcake Queen I have decided to celebrate sending my manuscript out with home-made confectionery. Nothing too demanding, mind you, as I'm exhausted. Chocolate chip cookies, for the win. The guilt-free aspect has nothing to do with low-fat ingredients, as anyone who has seen the recipe will attest, but more to do with the fact that I've earned them. Hours of my life went into that manuscript, and let's face it cookies may be all I get to show for my troubles. That and the evening off.

Was sending off my sample chapters a proud experience? In a word: no. This had nothing to do with the significance of the moment, as much as the cantankerous postal worker who processed the envelopes. In fact, this woman seemed to hate her job so much that I have no reason to believe that my submissions are anywhere else but in a rubbish bin out the back. On the bright side, that means I'll get no rejection letters. It's an ill wind...etc.

Enjoy your evening all!

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Five Things I'd Rescue From A Housefire

The nice people over at YA Highway have a road trip Wednesday every week, and this week's question is:  The house is on fire and you've only got time to grab five things. What are they?

1: My husband, obviously. 

2: Roxie my Labrador. Of course, she should really be saving me Lassie style, but as my girl is afraid of her own shadow that's not going to happen.

3: My netbook. All my work is on it and, though I have everything backed up, I'd hate to loose it. Not to mention the expense of getting another one.

To be honest, but boring, I can't think of anything else. Material possessions? Apart from my netbook, I can't prioritise them. And if my husband and dog are ok, I couldn't really ask for more than that.

What about all of you? What would you save?

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Episodic Television and Instant Gratification

So, my husband and I aren't exactly hip. You'll see that this is true by dint of the fact that I used the word 'hip'. We're usually not on the up with whatever is currently fashionable, we're always a season or five behind. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to our television watching.We watched The Wire after it had been cancelled, we started Mad Men series one during Mad Men series four, and we finished watching the last episode of Arrested Development on Sunday.

Ok, so watching television series later than everyone else has its downsides. You are at constant risk of spoilers. The jokes that your friends tell go right over your head. You feel out of the loop. But that's balanced by the fact that, when watching a show later, you can set the pace yourself. Cliffhanger at the end of an episode? Well, you can find out what happened right now. Sure, you may miss out on an hour or two of sleep/household chores/other important things, but it's still your choice.

Recently. my husband and I started watching Game of Thrones. Yes, it's current, but two historians tuning into  a fantasy show based loosely on the War of the Roses does not make us hip. Or whatever the cool kids are saying these days. But because of this, we're watching it at the same pace as everyone else. Almost every week there's a cliff-hanger and we're left, open-mouthed, staring at the credits in shock. 'What can we do? ' we ask each other. 'How can we find out what happens next?' But there's nothing we can do.

My husband cracked, and got the book a few weeks into the series. He finished earlier than the series, and is now on book two. He's dreading the moment when he reaches the end of book four...although book five is due to be released this summer.

Have we all become spoilt? There was something nice, albeit frustrating, to looking forward to something all week. It reminded me of the serialised stories that used to be released in parts during the Victorian age. What do you guys think? Is it better to get an entire story in one go? Or rationed out?

**After all the opinions I got in comments yesterday, I decided not to review the book. Thanks for the help guys!**

Monday 20 June 2011

In Review: When Does Being a Writer Trump Being a Reader?

Reading is something I've always done. I always have a book on the go, I panic if I don't have books lined up for after I finish, and I would truly hate to see the figure for the amount I spend on books in an average year. It might be so high that I get truly upset. And then I may have to console myself...by reading yet another book.

Now, I've just finished a book that I thought was truly awful. I'm not going to name the book or the author, because this isn't the place to do that. But it was bad. The characters were unbelievable, the dialogue unrealistic and the same 'jokes' were repeated a number of times so that, despite being from a respectable publisher, I suspect the book wasn't properly edited.

I went to the Amazon page for the author (this seems very involved for a book I don't like, right? But in my defence I was desperately trying to avoid doing some actual work) and noticed that there were only a handful of reviews for the book. Even worse, they were all five star reviews, which I suspect means that these people were friends of the writer. Not that this is generally a bad thing, but good friend reviews are usually diluted somewhat by those from regular readers.

I was going to give a review giving my opinion on the book. Not a 'This book sux!!!!!' review, but a constructive layout of why I didn't like the book, phrased as nicely as possible. Why? So readers wouldn't see an unqualified high review, a different opinion. The idea of having a customer review function is, after all, to find out what customers think.

But, I stopped. While there was a part of me that was saying that I had a duty to my fellow readers to help them by giving an honest opinion, I also felt I had a duty to the writer. My desire to give a negative review was not motivated by spite or jealousy. I am not so self-important as to think that my opinion is the definitive opinion on anything, there may be something about this book that I didn't get. I'm not saying this author doesn't deserve her publishing deal, because she does. She isn't a debut author, so I'm sure my review would not be the first negative review that she received. I just wanted to give my opinion to other readers, because I like to read customer reviews myself, and because I thought it might be good to give something back to the reading community.

But as a writer (albeit an unpublished one) I couldn't do it. I know how hard it is to write a book, even a bad one. I wouldn't lie and give the book a positive review, but I couldn't give it a bad review. I don't know this woman. When I read The Hating Game by Talli Roland, I decided that if I liked it I would review it, if I didn't I wouldn't. Because I know her online, I'd feel awful saying something bad about her book. But I would feel awful lying with a fake review. Luckily, it was a great book, so there was no conflict there. But with a writer I didn't know, what was the problem?

What about all of you? Do you review books, and do you find that being a writer affects your reviews? Which is more important, solidarity to the reading community or the writing community? And is it possible for writers to be full members of both?

Sunday 19 June 2011

How to know what genre you write in...

Apparently there is a Facebook quiz to determine just about everything else, but none to help me put my book in a nice little slot.

I'm writing a synopsis and I need to state my genre in the opening line. Now, I know that I either write in chick-lit or contemporary women's fiction. But I'm not sure which one my book falls into. And Google is being no help at all.

My book is written in a light-hearted, irreverent register. That kind of points to chick-lit. But there's quite a dark event in the book. Does that point to contemporary women's fiction?

Does anyone know what the differences are between the two? I don't care which genre my book falls into, just don't want to get it wrong on my cover letters.

Friday 17 June 2011

Things I Love: Jambalaya and Mad Men

So, my husband's having a pretty tough time at work. He's in the middle of setting up his own company and as Ireland is, to put it mildly, not in the best economic shape, it's been a fairly uphill endeavour. It's getting there, and I'm really proud of him, but this week has been a bit difficult. There's nothing I could do to practically help, so I did something to impractically help: I cooked food.

Now, cooking is probably the only bit of housewifery I'm actually good at. I was never great at the whole cleaning, laundry, ironing thing. I do a certain amount, but I tend to lose interest halfway through and go off and read a book. This may be the main reason why I want to become a writer, in fact. So I can retrospectively justify my laziness as research.

So I made jambalaya, which may well be one of the most hearty and comforting dishes known to man. It cheered husband up a bit (thankfully, I walked around half of my suburb trying to track down the right type of chorizo) so it served it's purpose.

Which brings me on to Mad Men. I love this show for many reasons, but today I'm specifically talking about it's influence on fashion. I, for reasons not completely removed from my love of jambalaya, have a figure that was last in fashion circa the 1950's. I have a big bust, wide hips and a relatively small waist. My wedding dress designer told me that the ratio between my hips and my waist was perfect. Unfortunately, the ratio between my hips and my height are not- but I'm starting to get on top of that.

Up until recently, getting clothes has been really difficult for me. Jeans that fit my hips gape at the waist. Tops that fit my bust are too big for me in the stomach area. Tops that fit my stomach are to small at the bust, and squeezes my boobs up in way that is not a good look outside of a red light district. The dresses in the shops until recently have been made to drape on slender figures, and generally make me look like I have accidentally got myself entangled in a curtain. Frumpy. Though I love shopping, it's horrible to go into a shop and have to discount most of the clothes, not on size but on style.

It was my mother in law's sixtieth birthday last weekend, so I went out to find myself a dress to wear for the night. I went into River Island to start the long hunt for something half-way suitable, and to my surprise found about six dresses I could have bought. The Mad Men style has caught on, and happily there are clothes made for those of with figures close to both Betty Draper AND Joan Holloway. I don't know how long this is going to last, but I'm liking it.

What about you? Do you like shopping, or is it a chore? And am I the only woman I know who doesn't find Don Draper attractive?

Thursday 16 June 2011

One Day More!

I love the musical Les Miserables, and I love the song One Day More. And I'm in a very dramatic vein today, because my edits for Storms in Teacups will be completed today. One more day of edits may be less dramatic than one more day until revolution, but hey I'm excited.

I'll spend the next few days putting together my pack for each agent, because each agency wants a different collection of things. Some want query letters. Others want email submissions. Most want a cover letter, synopsis and sample chapters. Some want stamped addressed envelopes. Others want email submissions. Then there are some want you to include CV's (resumes) and short biographies. What is certain, is that no two agents want exactly the same thing.

So on Monday, I will finally send the novel out on query. Hopefully I won't get too emotional in the post office sending it, because I'm not sure Irish postal workers are equipped for a crazy woman crying like her baby is heading off for its first day at school.

Oh, and happy Bloomsday everyone!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

ABNA in retrospect

So, today I got an email from CreateSpace, offering all participants in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award a free proof copy of their book. This is because, as well as finding two breakthrough novels, the contest also serves to publicise CreateSpace as a self publishing platform. A lot of entrants to the contest have gone down this route, but I'm holding off for a while at least. I'm going to give traditional publishing a decent attempt first.

So now that the winners have been announced, was it worth entering? Definitely. The odds of winning are low, after all there are 5,000 entries in each category. But there is a certain amount of buzz when you get past each level. I made it into the quarter final stage, which is roughly the top 5%. Before I entered I was a mass of neuroses about my work, so to actually get through to that point gave me a more confidence in my work. The reviews from the Vine reviewers were helpful, and I even got some constructive criticism from Publishers Weekly. I may not have won, but I got some confidence and my manuscript will be in better shape as it goes off on query.

I also met  a lot of nice people on the ABNA forums, and discovered a lot about building a platform, self-publishing, and how to write queries. I started my blog here, after seeing how many entrants had their own already.

The negative parts of the competition? ABNA is an international competition, and some of my criticisms in my reviews said that I had many spelling 'errors' when in fact I was just using British spelling conventions. If we have to use North American spelling conventions, we should be told at the start.

Another issue, though not in the control of Amazon, is that when you cull so many entries in each round you're going to have some very disappointed people. 8,000 entries are cut in the first round, 1,500 in the second, 400 in the third. A lot of disappointed people started criticising other entries, and saying the contest was unfair. This took some of the good away for those who had gotten through. Fortunately, these people were a minority.

All in all, I'm happy with my ABNA experience. I'd definitely recommend it to any aspiring novelist.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Last Minute Inspiration

So, I had a plan to send my novel out to agents on June 1. I overshot that, realising that I still needed to tie up some loose ends. Unfortunately, the loose ends have taken a longer time to sort out than I thought. I was all set to finish up this week, when I had inspiration for another couple of scenes. Fine, grand. But, these scenes have since taken on a life of their own. They're now fully formed chapters, with a subplot, and I felt like crying yesterday when I realised that if I wanted to write these chapters properly, then I was going to have to do some research.

And if it wasn't bad enough that my own book seems to be conspiring against me, there have been other things getting in my way.My mother-in-laws sixtieth (and the accompanying hangover) took up most of my weekend. My hands are cramping up again, and I'm getting shooting pains in my wrists. I have news articles to write, and a husband who keeps trying to persuade me to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones with him. I've made little or no progress with my two works in progress, and if that wasn't bad enough I have another novel that I need to get out on submission before the end of June. Try as I might, life just seems to get in the way.

What about you? What things get in your way when you try to write?

Monday 13 June 2011

Review: The Hating Game by Talli Roland

Do you remember the book that I was saving for my holiday in July? I didn't manage to get there. Or even close. I started reading this book on Saturday and I finished it this morning. I have no willpower when it comes to books, which is why when I was younger my Mum used to put my books for my holiday on top of my wardrobe where I couldn't reach them.

Anyway, lack of holiday reading material aside, The Hating Game by Talli Roland is a great book. It follows Mattie Johns, a woman with a reputation for going through men faster than some women eat chocolate, as she goes on a dating show in order to save her ailing business. Little does she know that the show will require her to go on dates with four of her exes. When she discovers this, she's unhappy but consoles herself with the thoughts of the prize money. After all, having her personal life splashed all over the national media is worth it for the money, right?

What's really interesting from the get-go, is that Mattie is not instantly likeable. If anything, she's the opposite. I didn't like her at the start of the book, and I couldn't warm to her. The plot was interesting though, and that carried me along until I gradually found myself softening towards the character as we discover exactly what's gone on in her life to bring her to this point. Just at the point where you start to root for her though, it turns out that not only is Mattie using the show for her own agenda, but she's just a pawn in the production team's plan to further their own careers. This may be her life, and the lives of the other contestants, but nothing is too personal to spin for publicity. But who will prevail?

This is chick-lit at it's best, light and entertaining but with serious issues at it's centre. The book looks at how traumatic events can change you. It also shows how judgemental society can be. I didn't like Mattie at the start, but as I learned more about her I realised why she acts the way she does, I made a harsh judgement without knowing the facts.  It also looks at the darker side of reality television, and how the general public laps up the humiliation of others as entertainment. There are enough twists and turns to make the books ending a bit unpredictable, but the ending still feels natural. The language is sharp and witty, and Talli paces the plot perfectly.

The one criticism I have of this book, and to be honest I think the book should come with a disclaimer simply for this very reason, is that it is impossible to read this book without getting I Want You Back by the Jackson 5 stuck in your head on a loop. I'd thoroughly recommend it though, it's definitely a good summer read.

In other exciting news, remember how I said that I'd read some of my friend Krista's manuscript and loved her writing style? It seems that I'm not the only one. She's just gotten an offer of representation from an agent! How exciting is that? You should check out her blog here.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! :)

Friday 10 June 2011

'It's Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday...

...Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend.'

Say what you like about that song, it's seriously catchy. Anyway, every Friday the nice people at Paper Hangover give a blog prompt. This week's prompt is your five best summer reads.

Summer reads conjures up visions of lying on a beach, under a baking hot sun. That's a far way from the weather here which, even for an Irish summer, is disappointing. We've had thunder and lightening this week (twice), hailstones (twice) and rain every day. Still, here are the books I'd recommend for summer.

1.Sophie Kinsella Can You Keep A Secret?

This book is really good fun, and laugh out loud funny. It follows Emma Corrigan, a woman who goes on an airoplane and, thinking that some mid-flight turbulence means that she's going to die, she tells a stranger beside sitting next to her all her secrets. When she survives, she goes into work to find out that the stranger was in fact her boss and he now knows all the things that she keeps secret, like her tactics for skiving off work. Emma goes into damage limitation mode, and ends up tying herself up in more knots. Sophie Kinsella is a fantastic writer, and this is one of my go-to feel-good books.

2. Marian Keyes This Charming Man

Marian Keyes is my favourite women's fiction author, and this is in my opinion her best book. It has her trademark wit throughout, yet deals with a very dark theme in a sympathetic way. I've loved her books ever since I read Rachel's Holiday when I was thirteen. This story is told from multiple points of view, including in an abrupt diary-style from Lola's POV, which you either love or you hate. Can't recommend this book enough.

3. Jodi Picoult My Sister's Keeper

This isn't quite as light as the other's, but it's a great book. I love the way Picoult manages to put over multiple sides of the same story, and can make you see where all her character's are coming from in amazingly difficult situations. Plus, her style of writing is so beautiful it makes me want to cry with envy. Sigh!

4. Richelle Mead Succubus Blues (Georgina Kincaid Series)

I love Richelle Mead. She writes really witty urban fantasy that keeps you reading late into the night to see what happens. Five of the six books in this series have been released, and the sixth book is coming out in August. The premise is that the heroine, Georgina, is a succubus who falls in love with a mortal man. Unfortunately, she can't touch him in case she takes away his soul. Add in some adventure and danger, and you have a great series.

5. Richelle Mead Vampire Academy Series

This is Mead's YA series, and it's excellent. The protagonist has a lot of conflict going on but, unlike some other YA novels, has ambitions outside of her love life which I really like. I have read most of these books in one sitting, they are totally escapist and this series inspired me to write my own YA novels.

What about you, have you any summer book recommendations? Hope everybody has a great weekend :)

Thursday 9 June 2011

In which Christine Discovers The Secret To Success...

First of all, I'm really excited because my blog has now had over a thousand page views! Which is great because, I love blogging. In fact, it may have overtaken perusing internet for as my number one form of procrastination. I really enjoy reading other people's blogs, because I'm inherently nosy. I've only been writing
here since March 23, but I've met so many great people in the blogosphere.

But anyway, the secret of success. As I've mentioned before I have fibromyalgia, which is basically a disorder of the central nervous system that affects how the body interprets and deals with pain. Right now I'm going through a rough time, but I won't bore anyone with the details here. Right now, I can't sleep, which is a pain, but it means I get all my journalism work done in the small hours of the morning, leaving the rest of the day for fiction work. It's amazing how productive insomnia makes you. Of course, this is a ll short lived and pretty soon I'm going to look like an extra from Dawn of the Dead, but right now it's working for me.

The second secret of success, I take no credit for. Ever wished that the whole story-telling business was less subjective and unwieldy? Well, then rejoice, for Computer Sherpa  has drawn up a Periodic Table of Storytelling. Cool, eh? It's even available in a print out format for those of us who like to prettify our workspaces. Seriously, you should check it out. You can't see it here, because the image is too small, but some of the 'element' listings are really funny. You can find it here.

Off to edit and to try in vain to increase my BuNoWriMo word count. If anyone else has any new 'secrets of success,'feel free to share them in the comment section :)

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Are You A Plotter or Pantser?

The nice people over at YA Highway are talking about the planning process when writing a novel for today's Road-Trip-Wednesday.

Generally speaking, writers tend to fall into one of two camps: plotters or pantsers.
Plotters tend to have a very organised approach to their writing, and spend a lot of time writing up outlines of how the story is going to go. Outlines can vary from being a one or two page document with the main storyline written in, to multi-page manuals on how the story will be written, chapter by chapter, from beginning to end.

Pantsers are different. They literally write by the seat of their pants. They have a nugget of an idea, and just sit down and start writing from there. The plot forms as they write, they invent it as they go.

There are pluses and minuses to both. Those who plot and outline generally have less rewriting to do. Pantsers may find that their story takes a turn half way through that means entire chapters have to be consigned to the waste-paper basket. But they can  also allow their characters to set the pace, and make decisions on plot as they evolve. Plotters work can be more rigid.

So which is better? Honestly, whatever works for you. Personally, I tend to write the first half of a novel without a roadmap. Half way through, my momentum starts to give out and I need some structure. I sit down with a paper and pen and sketch out a plan for the remainder of the book and continue from there.

When you research the whole novel-writing process, you'll find a lot of 'rules'. The only ones I found that I think should be set in stone are 'make time for your writing', 'write regularly', and 'edit, edit, edit'. Everything else you have to try out and see whether or not it works for you.

What about you guys? Are you plotters or pantsers?  

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Thematically Speaking...

Anyone who stays on top of happenings in the on-line book world is probably aware that an article was published in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend criticising contemporary young adult fiction. Now, I'm not going to take the article point by point and refute its claims, because many bloggers in the YA fiction community have already done so, more eloquently than I could put it. Instead, I'm going to look at the purpose of exploring 'dark' themes in books.

Outrage over the reading material available to our youth is nothing new. The Harry Potter series received a lot of criticism from parents who argued that the books promoted the occult. Just last year urban fantasy writer Richelle Mead, bestselling author of the Vampire Academy series, had the latest instalment of her series banned before she had even finished writing it.

One of the arguments in the article, was that the depiction of activities such as self-harm normalises the practice. I would argue that this is no bad thing. I knew girls who cut themselves when I was in school, and they were regarded as freaks. A well-written fictional story that includes cutting gives a voice to the practice, and develops a readers sense of empathy. The next time they see someone with cutting scars they might not think 'freak', they may realise that there is a lot going on inside that person's head and feel some compassion. Is that not what we want to instil in the young generation? Compassion? Dark issues happen in the teenage world, it doesn't do anyone any good to deny that.

Not every book is suitable for every teen, true. But parents should know what their kids are reading, and maybe read some of them too. If a book covers issues such as self-harm, talk about it with them.

I took a course on understanding literature, and one of the themes that we covered was the importance of the 'scare factor' in books for children and young adults. Part of their emotional development rests on 'experiencing' scary things in a safe environment, such as fear, despair, anxiety. As they follow a character on screen or in a book, they 'rehearse' the emotions that the character is feeling, and usually see a resolution in the happy ending. This means that when they themselves feel the emotions in real life, they're not completely knocked. And they keep their sense of hope. This is recognised by psychologists.

Plus, take an issue like drug-taking. Your parents may tell you about the dangers of taking drugs, but do teenagers always listen to their parents? If a character they admire in a book takes drugs and something bad happens, that will strengthen their resolve in a way that parental lectures (however well-meaning) won't.

I think keeping 'dark' issues away from teens underestimates their intelligence.

Monday 6 June 2011


I didn't even know that virtuosity was a word...you learn something new everyday. I am feeling especially virtuous because, despite the fact that it is a bank holiday in the Emerald Isle today, I actually did some work. I edited more of Storms in Teacups, a job that is proving so arduous it could have been one of the ten tasks of Hercules. But, I also got to read the opening chapter of a novel by my friend Krista, which was much more fun. It was so engrossing and well-written that I may have to hack into her hard drive to retrieve the rest of it. Don't worry, I'm only joking. I don't know how to hack.

Anyway, I have a busy week ahead so I'm going to settle down and read a Cathy Kelly book to unwind. Then I'm going to sit down with my husband and watch the latest instalment of Game of Thrones. Is anybody else watching it? It's brilliant stuff. It's nice to be able to watch a period drama as a historian without being irritated by inaccuracies. The wonders of fantasy! I especially love Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister. I may have an espresso martini too, which takes a little of the shine off me being virtuous, but hey, it is a bank holiday weekend.

Hope everyone else is having a happy Monday ;)

Sunday 5 June 2011

Tag, I'm it!

Thank you all so much for the kind messages yesterday. Today I'm feeling much the same, but my attitude is more upbeat. Which is good news, because self-centred pity gets old after more than a day.

The lovely Kate Larkindale tagged me, which means that I have to answer some questions and pass it on. So here we go...

Do you think you're hot?

Of course I don't, I'm Irish. We're generally a self-deprecating lot. If someone gives you a compliment, we consider it impolite to take it at face value. We have to argue with the person, repeatedly insulting ourselves and driving down our self-esteem. Here's an example:

Non-Irish person: 'You look really lovely in that dress.'
Irish person: 'This old thing? I have it ages. It's horrible, really.'
Non-Irish person: Yeah, well it sets off your skin tone.'
Irish person: Really? I think I look really pasty. Like I have some type of disease. A contagious disease.'

So no, I don't think I'm hot. If I did everyone here would think I had 'notions above my station', a term used for people who think too highly of themselves.

Upload a picture or wallpaper that you're using at the moment.

This is something I have everywhere at the moment, because I need all the motivation that I can get. In typical me style I have bitten off more than I can chew and am struggling to get one book out on submission, another edited and to write 50,000 words of my current WIP before I go on holiday on July 2. Sensible is not my middle name. As a matter of fact it's Nicole.

When was the last time you ate chicken meat?

I had a lovely chicken burrito from one of my favourite Mexican places yesterday. I like my food spicy, and they do frozen margaritas. What more could you ask for?

The songs you listened to lately

I'm a big fan of Florence and the Machine. My favourite songs are Howl and Drumming Song, so I played those today. I also love Bjork, especially her Vespertine album.

What were you thinking as you were doing this?

That I married a geek. My husband is currently painting more models for one of his Warhammer armies, and I just realised I know the names of a lot of them. I can tell a night goblin from an orc. I'm a normal 24 year old woman, I shouldn't be able to do this. Then again I write YA urban fantasy, so we're probably well matched.

Do you have nicknames? What are they?

The only person who has nicknames for me is my husband. He calls me 'C' or 'kitten'. Some people call me 'Chris' occasionally.

This is the part where you usually tag eight people, but I don't want to burden anyone by making them do this. I found it quite fun though, so feel free to take the questions and answer them on your blog.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend. It's a bank holiday here, so I have no day job tomorrow. Woot!

Saturday 4 June 2011

How was my day? Honestly, I've had better.

Today was a mixed bag of a day. It started off well, because it's a bank holiday in Ireland this weekend. So straight away that puts me in a good mood. And the sun is shining, so that's another plus.

Unfortunately, I'm really not feeling well today. I can't complain really, because my fibromyalgia has been fairly quiescent lately. They upped the dosage of my meds and I've been feeling really good. I've had lots of energy, and my mobility has been very good. This is somewhat of a mixed blessing, as I find little old ladies are much nicer to me when I'm using a walking stick. They tell me things at the bus stop, things that little old ladies seem to intuitively know. Like why the postal system is bad in our area right now, and what's going on in the private lives of our neighbours. One in particular told me that the bus system is getting worse in our area because the government our secretly selling our buses to the Russians...you heard it here first.

So while I had loads of things planned to do today, most of them fell through. Though I went to my favourite cafe with my husband and sketched down some rough idea for Ravensborough edits which was kind of productive. Bunowrimo took a back seat today, but I hope to catch up next week. I went to a production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicoloured Dreamcoat with my in-laws, which was awful, unfortunately. The pain got worse during it, so my husband and I had to grab a taxi straight home.

I'm a bit down about the pain. It just seems relentless, I've been in pain everyday for two years now. But when I get really bad, like tonight, I start to get scared that the pain won't die back down. Or that I'll deteriorate to the point where I can't write any more.

Anyway, enough pessimism. I have a job, a hobby I love, a fabulous husband and great family and friends. That should be enough for most people.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Friday 3 June 2011

The Five Excuses You Have To Give Up To Be a Better Writer

The nice people over at Paper Hangover give a blog prompt every Friday. It's really cool, because it gives you a question to think about and you also get to read what other people think about a topic. It's seriously worth checking out.

Today's prompt is about excuses. What are the five excuses that you needed to let go of in order to be a better writer?

1) I'm too busy to write: This is a common excuse. We all have other commitments such as work, school, and family. But the truth is that you have to make time to write. Everyone can clear space in their schedule, even if it's just fifteen minutes a day, to commit to writing.

2) I'm not good enough: This a common thought that runs through a writer's head, and I'm not sure that it ever really goes away completely. It is an excuse though, because convincing yourself that you aren't good enough gives you an excuse not to try.

3) It's too hard: Writing a novel is hard, but that's not an excuse not to give it a try. And the more you write, the easier it becomes.

4) You need to wait for the muse to strike before you start writing your novel: If you have had an idea for a story, then the muse has already struck. You need to work at the rest. Though the more often you sit down at your computer and tap out words, the more often she'll stop by to visit. She's a fickle mistress, though. Don't rely on her too much.

5) I'll start writing...tomorrow: Much like the diet that you promise you'll start tomorrow, tomorrow rarely comes. Just start right now.

What excuses do you use to put off writing? Or are you all more virtuous than me?

Thursday 2 June 2011

I think my characters are sulking...

I started Bunowrimo as a rebel, that is that instead of writing a 50,000 word novel from scratch I will write 50,000 of my current WIP, If Life Gives You Lemons. I expected that this would jolt be back into writing, as I took May off from writing in order to prepare another book for submission. But, despite me rereading the 30,000 words that I had written to date, every word I wrote felt heavy. It was an effort to write. And seeing as I couldn't possibly be at fault, I've decided to lay the blame where it is deserved: my characters.

They're sulking, you see. I've been gone for an entire month, editing Rose, Alex and Shannon, and I've neglected my current batch of characters. So they've decided that they are not going to make this easy for me at all. They're taking industrial action and are going on a go-slow.

I'm wondering what will work to shake them out of this. Appeasement? Scenes with cocktails, chocolates and a lottery win?

Let's just hope they snap out of it by tomorrow.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Goals for June

Well, today marked the deadline for sending out my agent submissions. Unfortunately, while I'm almost done, I came up with a few changes for the novel in question while writing the synopsis. I know it means breaking a deadline, but making the changes will make my book much better. I have spent so much time on the manuscript, I don't want to scupper my chances for the sake of a few days.

So my new goals for June are:

1)  Finish Storms in Teacups edits and send off submissions by June 8th
2)  Complete Bunowrimo by adding 50,000 words to If Life Gives You Lemons
3)  Edit Ravensborough so I can start submitting it in July

I'm going on holiday on July 2 with my family. Four adults and six children in a converted castle with a hidden medieval staircase on the Irish coast. And, bizarrely yet importantly, a built in Nespresso machine. Hopefully the holiday will act like a carrot so I can do the ginormous amount of work that I've landed myself with.

Anyone else got any crazy plans for June?