Saturday, 29 December 2012

Highlights of 2012!

Well, it's been quite a year. Looking back, I'm amazed at how much has happened, especially with my writing. I started out with half a novel and an undying dream. Now I'm an almost-published author with nearly three novels completed this year! How on earth I managed that, I've honestly no idea. I guess it's time to look back on some of the highlights of 2012...

  • Work Experience at Macmillan Children's Books: This was one of my proudest moments. I'd applied to over 30 publishers for work experience but without any prior experience, I wasn't having much luck. Then Macmillan contacted me to offer me a 2-week placement in Marketing and Publicity, and I finally got the chance to experience working for a major publishing company! A fantastic two weeks! :)
  • Finishing my third completed novel, THE PUPPET SPELL, and uploading it to Authonomy for feedback! I managed (through hours spend critiquing other people's work) to get over 100 comments and some fantastic advice on improving the book.
  • Having some amazing times with people from uni, including cinema trips - the best was definitely The Hunger Games! (except now I've seen The Hobbit, I'm not so sure!)
  • Hiking in the Lake District and Yorkshire :)
(this was taken in Malham, Yorkshire!)
  • Going on a road trip to Haworth (home of the Bronte sisters) with my friends!
(Outside the Bronte Parsonage Museum!)
  • Epic day at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with my boyfriend. Pouring rain meant no queues and a whole day of rollercoasters! (adrenaline junkie that I am :P)
  • Passing my second year at university with a 2.1!
  • Starting this blog! (can't believe it's been 8 months!)
  • Getting my first short story published in an online magazine, Inkapture!
  • Dressing up as a Powerpuff Girl for the end-of-year celebrations, watching the sun rise from campus, and watching some awesome bands for my last night in Lancaster before summer!
  • (The theme was superheroes and supervillains :P)

  • Spending 5 weeks in Costa Rica, learning  Spanish, volunteering, and travelling around doing awesome adventure activities! Certainly an unforgettable experience!
(abseiling down a waterfall in Arenal Adventure World, Fortuna!)
  • Going to Italy for a week with my family and visiting Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Rome! Best family holiday in ages. :D

  • Celebrating my 21st!
  • Returning to Lancaster for my third year of university! Crazy times despite having no money, ending with the awesome Winter Ball!
  • Finishing another book (Darkworld Book 1: Darkness Watching), and starting another (Book 2 - first draft now finshed!)

Wow! I know I've been lucky. I'm now permanently skint so no more travelling for a while, but I'm hoping next year brings even better things (like a publishing contract for my next book series! Please. Please...). I guess the most important thing 2012's given me is a real sense of direction. Having done work experience at a publishing house, I can safely say that's where I want to work! And I finally achieved my dream - a publishing contract. I even finished three books in a year!

I'm really grateful to everyone who's helped make this year awesome, including everyone who's followed me on Twitter, followed this blog, added my book on Goodreads and liked my Facebook page. You guys are fantastic. Here's to another year of reading/writing!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Best books I've read in 2012

It was difficult, but I managed to narrow down my list to a few of the best books I've read this year (doesn't mean they were published this year, fact, I've spent rather a lot of time catching up on LAST year's reading!) But here's the list! (in no particular order)
The Iron Knight (Iron Fey, #4)

I loved that I finally got to read the conclusion to Julie Kagawa's fantastic Iron Fey series this year - The Iron Knight was brilliant, an imaginative, tear-jerking journey, and wow...what an ending! Read my review here

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5)
Cassandra Clare's latest Mortal Instruments book was well worth the wait! Definitely one of my favourite YA urban fantasy series. Read my review of 'City of Lost Souls' here

Divergent (Divergent, #1)

I read the first in Veronica Roth's dystopian trilogy this year, and finally discovered what all the fuss was about! If you like thrilling, action-packed dystopia, you can't go wrong with this. Read my review here.

Forsaken (The Demon Trappers, #1)Forbidden (The Demon Trappers, #2)

I discovered this witty and inventive urban fantasy series earlier this year and I intend to read the next two books soon! Read my reviews of 'Forsaken' and 'Forbidden'. 

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1)
This trilogy blew my mind. Astonishingly original and compelling, this is a fantastic fantasy series by a great author. Read my review of the first book here. 

Kingdom of the Wicked (Skulduggery Pleasant, #7)

Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant series is just plain brilliant. Every book is hilariously witty, action-packed and full of bizarre characters with fun names. This is inventive fantasy at its best, and with a racing plot, dark magic, and plenty of horrible monsters, 'Kingdom of the Wicked' is a fantastic addition to the series. 

Switched (Trylle, #1)

Amanda Hocking's Trylle trilogy gets a thumbs-up from me for being an example of how self-publishing can really pay off. The books sold over a million copies before being re-published by St Martin's Press, and Macmillan in the UK (incidentally, I actually received my copies of the books whilst on work experience at Pan Macmillan and it was only when I discovered Amanda Hocking's blog later on that I made the connection!). Switched is the first in a paranormal romance trilogy about trolls from legend - a pretty awesome concept!

 Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)

I reviewed this a few weeks ago, and it remains one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I've ever read. A gripping and thrilling tale of one girl's quest to rescue her sister from evil angels of the apocalypse - read my review here! 

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, #1)

Another by Julie Kagawa, but The Immortal Rules, the first in the Blood of Eden series, couldn't be more different from the Iron Fey. Vampire dystopia? Hell yeah! My review's here

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

I've just finished this one - review on the way soon!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Winter is coming!

...had to get in a Game of Thrones reference there...

Yep, it's that time of year. I'm going home for a month on Saturday (waaaah! Not that I don't want to see my family...but it's a whole MONTH away from all the awesome people at uni!), and I'm planning to use that time to get some serious writing done. I realise I have a 5000-word essay and a dissertation to work on, too, but this is supposed to be about my personal writing goals! (I will get the essays done. Even in the holidays, I'm an insane workaholic - probably more so than in term time because at home I'm 200 miles away from most of my friends!) So here are my goals:

  • Finish Darkworld Book 2, then put aside.
  • Start Puppet Spell sequel, and decide whether to make a duology or trilogy! (according to spellcheck, duology isn't a word. I like it, however, so I'm keeping it)
  • Wait for responses from publishers for Darkworld Book 1 (sits rocking in corner chewing fingernails)
That's it!

Meanwhile, I shall be enjoying the festivities. The university sure know how to get into the Christmas spirit! Last Sunday I watched the most hilarious Christmas pantomime of Cinderella ever, put on by people from my university, and had a fantastic time at the Winter Ball last night, with all my friends and my boyfriend, Jed. Hope everyone else has a fantastic holiday!

And here's a lovely picture of a Lancaster sunset, to remind me of why I don't want to leave!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Interview and Review - Renhala by Amy Joy Lutchen

Today I'm interviewing the lovely Amy Joy Lutchen, author of the wonderful fantasy novel Renhala!


Goodreads summary: Kailey Rooke, timid accountant, dedicated to philanthropic work, finds herself spiraling into a deep depression after she suffers a horrifyingly odd and humiliating assault, to only discover more of these freakish assaults occurring across the globe.

A chance discovery leads Kailey to a meeting with elderly Gunthreon, actual master of persuasion. Gunthreon, who seems to know too much of Kailey's history for her liking, opens Kailey's eyes to a coexisting realm she never knew existed: Renhala, while entrusting her with the knowledge of her newfound power as karmelean, serving as a beacon to the Higher Ones. Kailey slowly starts revealing new talents, and Gunthreon is fascinated with what she starts achieving.

She soon discovers that Renhala is in danger, and this danger has been leaking into her own realm. As she uncovers secrets within herself, and attempts to toughen up, she fuses with an unlikely band of fellow travelers (including a dragon, woodsprite, six-hundred-pound greble, her faithful female canine companion, and a "giver"), falls into an unexpected love triangle, deals with her sexy and flirtatious best friend’s “issues,” and finds the courage to master a new deadly weapon. 

On her mission to save Renhala, Kailey will find herself running from life-threatening disasters, such as greble Tartarin, who likes to remind Kailey that when he catches her, he plans on eating her brains with ice cream; she'll run from the deadly meeples: small cute bunnies with talons and an undeniable thirst for imposing self-destruction on others. Kailey will also run into the possibility that a centuries-old Renhalan rumor is true, that advanced technology existing in Kailey's realm shortens all life spans.

As blood is shed and puzzles near completion, Kailey pulls from deep within herself, conjuring up mystical qualities that enable her to astonish as once predicted at her birth, but despite the newfound strength, Kailey will discover that monsters not only come in ugly packages, but can be easily disguised as those she has come to love and trust.

My Review:

Renhala, by debut author Amy Joy Lutchen, is an inventive and imaginative fantasy that spans two universes: our own, and an alternative realm known as Renhala. The narrative begins with Kailey, who is recovering from a horrible, bizarre assault which has left her broken. But things take a turn for the weird when she meets a mysterious stranger at a party who reveals to her that she possesses strange powers, somehow connected to the alternative universe known as Renhala. Kailey learns that she is a karmalean, and that she might be the only hope to save both worlds.

The novel is populated by a variety of fantastic characters, from her flirtatious best friend Amber to Bu, an eight-foot, green monster with poor hygiene yet who somehow manages to be adorable. There are killer bunnies, a dragon, and a love triangle. With great world-building, the author weaves an original fantasy tale set in a vividly-imagined alternative realm. This is definitely worth a read for anyone looking for their next fantasy adventure.

Rating: ****

About the author: 

Was born in Chicago and slept in a dresser drawer for the first few weeks of my life, marking me as a future claustrophobe. 

I studied at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (man I grew up quick), where I became a number, but decided it was a good number.

I now write in my spare time as I eat snacks, making sure they are not in multiples of three. That number makes me nervous.

Amy Joy Lutchen
Website/Blog Goodreads


Could you tell me a bit about yourself?
Hmmm. Such a hard question to start off with! I never know what to say about me. Well, I am a female, in her thirties—maybe at the end of that decade, BUT STILL IN MY THIRTIES! . . . for now. I love sweets, especially European chocolate. OMG! Chocolate *drooling*. Oh, and I LOVE tea! It’s unnatural how much I love tea. I’ve basically built my house out of tea. It’s absolutely everywhere . . .

I am also a wife and mother of two boys (see the gray hair?).

When did you start writing?
I’ve always been full of characters bursting to get out. Within the past five years is when I knew I had to release them in order to help me deal with some of my own personal issues in an unbelievably therapeutic way: writing. I can’t stop! Guess that’s good for all those waiting for the second book in the Renhala series. *wink wink*

What inspired you to write the book?
Renhala started as a single piece of paper littered with a hodgepodge of written fears and tragic events from my life—things that were haunting me, things that I just couldn’t get past.You see, years prior to me writing down these events, I suffered a horrible assault by the hands of a total stranger and it was eating me alive. Simple things like meeting eyes with someone new or watching an attack scene on television kept driving me into dark corners inside my mind.

But one day, out of the blue, on a train ride home from work, I gathered my strength and flipped that same stupid piece of paper over and began writing more words, different words. As the magic began flowing freely from my fingertips, and Renhala was becoming more and more concrete, my destiny was changed forever. I finally felt better about myself—felt better about life—for I was shaping future events. And the characters that emerged were exactly the healing friends I needed.

Who is your favourite character in your book?
Well, apparently Bu is a favorite of everybody . . . but I can say that Kioto, the Akita, holds a special place in my heart. Unconditional love is like no other gift in this world.

Which authors have inspired you?
Every author I read inspires me in one way or another, whether it be this particular author’s rendition of a scary-ass clown, or this author’s ability to bring tears to my eyes, or that particular author’s ability to make me feel dumb ‘cause I just don’t get it.

Tell me about one of your favourite books of all time.

One of my favorite books of all time is a really strange book, SERIOUSLY. Have you ever heard of the book Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott? I don’t know what drugs that man may have taken, but it’s genius! The women in the book are straight lines and they have to wiggle back and forth so that if they walk toward you, they don’t pierce right through you. See? Genius!