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?