Friday, 31 January 2014

Review - Vicious by V. E. Schwab


Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.

Amazon UK

I’ve not read much sci-fi or superhero-themed fiction, but the premise of Victoria Schwab’s latest novel, Vicious, grabbed me from the start. It sounded utterly unique and, having read both of Schwab’s previous novels – The Near Witch and The Archived – I was already in love with her writing style. So I couldn’t wait to pick up Vicious. This is a story of two former college friends whose attempts to awaken extraordinary powers in themselves turned them into bitter enemies. The novel moves between past and present as the inevitable showdown between the two rivals approaches, and the short chapters and gripping prose kept me glued to the pages.

The characters are all flawed, complex and yet also sympathetic, especially Victor, who is, in a word, a sociopath. Through his and Eli’s experiences, the author explores the definitions of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ in a way that makes the concept of superpowers seem almost scarily realistic. All the characters have definable motives, be it revenge, obsession or the belief that they are in the morally right. Dark, twisty and compelling, this is a fantastic book and a great start to my 2014 reading list!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up on what we've been up to.
Bloodfever (Fever, #2)
What I'm reading

I read ACID by Emma Pass, which is a fantastic UK-set dystopia with an Orwellian government and a badass heroine. It's been a while since I read a YA dystopian which really gripped me, so I'd recommend this!

I'm also reading Bloodfever, the second in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. This is such an amazing urban fantasy series - I've downloaded the last three books already! (I think I'm addicted...)

 I also started the I am Just Junco series by J. A. Huss. It's my first time reading New Adult Sci-Fi, and it's great - dark, gritty stuff, packed with twists and turns. I finished Clutch and am starting Fledge, the second book.

What I'm writing

As I finished my YA post-apocalyptic fantasy draft last week, I started on a new WIP - a YA urban fantasy! So far, it's been slow but fun. I'm taking my time over the first few chapters, setting up a new fantasy world with new rules, which always takes forever, but I love the characters! Plus it's fun to be writing something more on the light-and-amusing side rather than a dark angstfest, like the last WIP.

Aaaaand the secret shiny mini-project is almost done! Hopefully I'll be able to reveal what it is soon!

What else I've been up to

Ugh. I've not had a great week. I think the word "querying" says it all, but add that to job rejections, reviews, life crises and everything else the universe sees fit to throw at me, it's been tough just to keep going.

On a more positive note, I've been editing and proof-reading some awesome books, for CQ and for clients. I love being busy - bizarrely, it makes me less stressed, because I'm channelling my angst into something else. Like typo-hunting and looking up word/phrase definitions and triple-checking details and such. I get weird looks from my family, who can't fathom why I enjoy these things...

Ah, well. I'm also the only person in my family who likes reading. Go figure.

What inspires me right now

Persistence and perseverance, because on some days, when every time you open your inbox you find another piece of unwelcome news, it's hard to focus on writing and it's tempting just to give up. But, as I've learned from experience, there's nothing more satisfying than getting a ton of work done on a day you could have given up. Nothing's better than getting 2000 words written despite the constant discouraging interruptions and moments of why bother? It's like a big F-you to the universe.

Also, when you're writing, it's easy to think you're totally alone in these things. But it's not true. The writing community on Twitter never ceases to amaze me. So supportive and genuinely nice - something amazingly hard to find elsewhere (the exception being my family and my boyfriend, who have been AWESOME this past week). :)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Some thoughts on originality

I've been thinking about originality a lot lately. In my #WIPMarathon update, I talked about how it's what a writer does with a concept that makes it original - there ARE no original ideas! This might seem like a paradox, as agents, publishers and readers all want good, original books which do something different...but the key is in the DETAILS. Like most writers, I've wasted a ridiculous amount of time fretting about the originality of my own ideas - and I was actually forced to shelve my first two manuscripts due to their being too similar to books already out. So I thought I might share what my particular experience (as a writer, intern and editor) has taught me.

Certain stories have stood the test of time for a reason. Christopher Booker argues in his 700-page doorstopper of a book, The Seven Basic Plots, that there is only one underlying plot, and you can see the same thing if you use something like the Save the Cat beat sheet to plan a novel. This isn’t restrictive – it’s a guideline to tell a story in a way that will keep the reader turning the pages until the end.

The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell StoriesWith that being said, it’s hard to think of an original concept. I’ve heard it said that publishers are looking for “the same but different” which, some might argue, is frustratingly vague. Certain trends – i.e. vampires, dystopias, et al, might be over, but that isn’t to say that a totally new spin on one of those concepts might not catch an agent’s attention.

Certain tropes resonate with readers. This is why certain ideas are continually cycled - star-crossed lovers, love triangles, etc. Are they original? Absolutely not. But they’re retold almost constantly in different guises.

The real question is, how do you tell if an idea is TOO similar to what’s already on the shelves? Like I did with my first novel, it might be time to ask yourself some honest questions. But the reason I shelved it was because I sent the book to a literary consultancy which told me the plot wasn’t sufficiently original, and that the voice wasn’t fully developed. I think the two are connected. I was eighteen at the time and it was my first novel, so I had a lot to learn. The bare bones of the novel were weak, and it showed. I hadn’t worked hard enough on creating an original and compelling fantasy world, and had stayed too close to the storylines of the books I loved reading.

What made my third novel (The Puppet Spell) work better was that I consciously pulled on a lot of influences, but deliberately gave them my own twist and paid attention to the VOICE. I think writing in first person helped, because using Lexa’s voice automatically gave the book more personality. And readers certainly seem to agree! It’s a whimsical adventure-fairytale-fantasy mashup with humour and magic, and although none of the agents I queried wanted to take on yet another portal fantasy (UK agents get a LOT of this kind of story), it found a home in the end.

For each of my books, I ask myself those honest questions before I even start writing, partly because I’m currently querying. What makes my book “the same but different”? (For example, the hook for the Darkworld series is that it’s a campus-set supernatural fantasy with a different take on demons; for the novel I’m currently querying, Beneath the Waves, it’s that it draws on some popular ideas, i.e. merpeople and zombies, but transplants them to a fully-realised alternative fantasy world with a unique magical system).

Which books can it be compared to? Agents like comparative titles, apparently – and marketing departments certainly do. So I recommend my Darkworld series to older fans of Cassandra Clare and Richelle Mead; I describe Beneath the Waves as like Sabriel  but with merpeople; and my current WIP is a post-apocalyptic fantasy thriller which will hopefully appeal to fans of Angelfall and The Immortal Rules. (If anything, this proves that I’m completely incapable of sticking to one sub-genre…)

Things I think are important? Voice and character. They give a book personality, and are often the tipping point between an acceptance and a rejection. I think that’s a matter for another blog post, though…

Saturday, 25 January 2014

#WIPMarathon Check-In #8

Last check-in word count: 58,000 words.

Current WC + CC: I finished my WIP at 66,300 words! :D And I also got 5000 words of my secret mini-project written, bringing me up to a total of 10,000. Close to finishing now, then hopefully I'll be able to tell you guys what it is! :)

And...I started a new WIP. One I outlined back in October, but put away to focus on the MG book I was drafting at the time. I intended to write it next but that post-apocalyptic plotbunny came along and took over...but I've always been meaning to get back to it! This one's a YA urban fantasy. Think of it as the YA version of The Puppet Spell - it's about a very dysfunctional magical family battling evil deities trying to reclaim the earth. I'll say no more for now! But I'm 2000 words into the first chapter already. ^_^

WIP issues this week: I always struggle with starting a new book, and as I'd written two different beginnings for this one, I had to piece the right parts of each one together while trying to do all the million and one other things a first chapter needs...argh! I'm still not convinced I've got it right. But I can always fix it later (as I nearly always have to do!).

What I learned this week in writing: That I don't have to work on one piece exclusively - sometimes it's good to switch around. Several days this week I've got a lot more writing done just through jumping between two projects - if I get stuck on one, I go to the other.

What distracted me this week when writing: Querying. Lovely anxiety attacks made a reappearance and I'm now suffering from insomnia again... Rejections are never fun, but it's that horrible sense of anticipation and dread whenever I open my inbox which makes it difficult to concentrate on anything else. But, gotta soldier on...

Last 200 words: My new WIP is all over the place at the moment and of course, the end of the last one is kind of spoilerific. ;) But I'll be able to share something of the Secret Mini-Project soon!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Review - Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

 Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Amazon UK

In a world linked to ours through portals, an endless war rages between the seraphim and the chimaera. Although thanks to Akiva, the chimaera are dead, the fight continues as Karou has taken over Brimstone’s role as a resurrectionist, determined to avenge her people. Devastated at Akiva’s betrayal, she works to rebuild the army – but is forced to ally herself with her own murderer, Thiago, who killed her in her previous body as Madrigal. Thanks to him, her fellow chimaera see her as a traitor and an angel-lover, and on the other side, Akiva is having similar problems, and is also struggling with his conscience. He longs for a way to end the fighting, but after his and Madrigal’s/Karou’s dream of a different kind of world ended in tragedy, is there any hope left?

This book is very different in tone to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, although the writing style is as beautiful as ever. Once again, Laini Taylor has left me speechless. There’s no attempt to hide the brutality of the conflict, and we get to see both sides through different characters’ eyes. I loved the inclusion of Karou’s zany human best friend Zuzana and her boyfriend Mik, as their chapters add lighter moments to what would otherwise be a rather bleak tale. As before, the world-building is stunning, and the angels and the chimaera are both sketched in intricate detail.

I thought this book started out a little slow, but soon developed into an exciting story with plenty of surprises and heart-wrenching moments. A must-read for fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone with a jaw-dropping cliffhanger of an ending! I need the third book now!

Rating: ****1/2*

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome to my third What's Up Wednesday of 2014! It's a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up on what we've been up to.

Unwind (Unwind, #1)The Ocean at the End of the Lane
What I'm reading

GrimThis week, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and I loved it! It's strange and moving and beautifully written, like all Gaiman's work. 

I also read Unwind by Neil Shusterman. It's the first time I've been really gripped by a dystopian in a long while, but this is one intense and thought-provoking read. Brilliant stuff.

Now, I'm reading an anthology, Grim, which features dark and awesome fairy tale retellings from some amazing YA authors.

What I'm writing

Well... yesterday, I FINISHED the first draft of my YA post-apocalyptic fantastical oddity of a WIP!!!!!!!!!

Yes, it's only a first draft, and it's genre-confused and weird to say the least, but it's done! Now I need to get it to my CP's so they can help me decide what to do with it. :P
Photo: Am now a redhead ^_^

What else I've been up to

Not much! I spent most of the week at that point in the WIP where it commandeered 90% of my attention and everything else fell by the wayside for a bit. I did get my hair dyed red last week, however. ^_^ 

I was also interviewed by Lindsay at Burning Tree Reads about the Darkworld series, which was fun. :)

What inspires me right now

Being SO CLOSE to finishing a book that it's all I can think about and it's like a crazy adrenaline rush. I literally can't stop writing/trying to pull all the plot threads together. Possibly, it's impeding my ability to do things in the real world like interact with other human beings.

And then finishing that book and being really confused. Solution? Start another book!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Monday Mini-Reviews - Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans and The Memory Game by Sharon Sant

It's time for my third Monday Mini-Reviews post of 2014 (in which I attempt to both keep up with my out-of-control TBR pile AND help out my fellow authors!), and this time I'm reviewing two books which, interestingly enough, both feature unique approaches to life after death. First up is Afterlife Academy by Jaimie Admans!

Afterlife Academy

Even being dead isn’t enough to get you out of maths class. 

Dying wasn't on sixteen-year-old Riley Richardson's to-do list. And now, not only is she dead, but she's stuck in a perpetual high school nightmare. Worse still, she's stuck there with the geekiest, most annoying boy in the history of the world, ever. 

In a school where the geeks are popular and just about everything is wrong, Riley has become an outcast. She begins a desperate quest to get back home, but her once-perfect life starts to unravel into something not nearly as great as she thought it was. And maybe death isn’t really that bad after all... 

Welcome to Afterlife Academy, where horns are the norm, the microwave is more intelligent than the teachers, and the pumpkins have a taste for blood. 

I read and reviewed Not Pretty Enough last year, and I was excited to read this – I love a good boarding school story! The idea of having to return to high school after death is a fantastic concept for a book, and I wasn’t disappointed. Sixteen-year-old Riley was looking forward to going to prom with her boyfriend Wade, but after a joyriding accident, wakes up dead. To her horror, high school doesn’t end when life does, and her only company is Anthony, the nerdy boy she used to bully.

Admans does a great job of making Riley a likeable character despite her previously being judgemental and cruel to others. Riley goes from being popular to being shunned for her bright blond hair in a world where everything is grey. The narrative voice is great and there’s plenty of humour – I love the creative touches, like the microwaves, biting pumpkins, and dinner lady with horns!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a fun romantic comedy with a paranormal twist!

Rating: **** 

The Memory Game

'If there is a hell, I think maybe this is it.' 

Weeks after fifteen-year-old David is killed by a speeding driver, he’s still hanging around and he doesn’t know why. The only person who can see and hear him is the girl he spent his schooldays bullying. 

Bethany is the most hated girl at school. She hides away, alone with her secrets until, one day, the ghost of a boy killed in a hit-and-run starts to haunt her. 

Together, they find that the end is only the beginning…

My second read of the week is The Memory Game by Sharon Sant. This life-after-death story follows fifteen-year-old David as he adjusts to being a ghost. He’s trapped on Earth with no idea why he can’t move on; or why only Bethany, a girl he used to bully at school, can see him. Sharon Sant does a wonderful job of making the reader really feel the emotions – David’s frustration, anger and sadness jump off the page. He’s a flawed character but ultimately likeable, and I enjoyed reading about his friendship with Bethany as it develops.

This is a really well-written story with characters who feel like real people. I read it in one sitting and was completely drawn in. The story touches on some dark themes and my heart broke for the characters more than once, but it was an emotionally satisfying read with a fitting ending.

Rating: *****

Saturday, 18 January 2014

#WIPMarathon Check-In #7

Last check-in word count: I was at 45K after a great writing week!

Current WC + CC: 58K! 2000 words almost every day this week! Yay for productivity! :D

WIP issues this week: Oh first draft woes, why must you torture me? The inner editor's been on the rampage this week, interrupting my writing by whispering in my ear that I'm using the same descriptions over and over again and have forgotten how to use words, that my writing makes no sense, is cliche, etc... So it's been tough trying to shut those voices out and concentrate on just getting the story down. 

One of the pitfalls of jumping between projects at vastly different stages of the writing process (when editing the second Darkworld book and sending queries for Beneath the Waves to agents) is that it's easy to forget that a first draft doesn't have to be perfect! I tell myself this so often, I should probably stick it on my ceiling or something...

What I learned this week in writing: That no idea is original! It's something I need to remind myself CONSTANTLY, because, even after publishing two books and having readers comment on how original my ideas are (YAY READERS! :D), I still have days of Oh God everything I write is unoriginal and crappy. But there are NO original ideas!

I read a blog post this week (and can't for the life of me remember where) which reduced some of the most popular books (i.e. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, etc.) to their basic concepts - and suddenly they don't sound unique! That's because it's what the writer does with an idea - the characters, the story, the details - that makes it original. Hell, I've read Booker's Seven Basic Plots three times all the way through (the joys of a literature degree!), and according to Christopher Booker, there's only ONE basic plot, common to all stories. He gives dozens of examples of stories which couldn't be more different, yet all of them share this same core plot. It's definitely something to keep in mind!

What distracted me this week when writing: First draft woes. That pesky story trying to get away from me (I made a slight deviation from my outline earlier in the draft and it came back to hound me...). The Darkness Watching sale and all the promotion insanity that involved. Also, signing the contract for Walking Shadow and subsequent exciting things like cover design worksheets and marketing plans. :)

Last 200 words: ...are off-limits. Well, I'm at the final 1/4 of the book, wouldn't want to spoil it. ;)

Friday, 17 January 2014

Review - Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Amazon UK

I really enjoyed the Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, so I was keen to pick up Sarah Rees Brennan’s latest book. And Unspoken was even better than I expected!

Kami is a wannabe-journalist who sees her chance for a great story when the infamous Lynburn family return to her hometown of Sorry-in-the-Vale for the first time in seventeen years. But the last thing she expects is to meet the ‘imaginary’ friend she talks to in her head in real life: Jared Lynburn. Soon she’s caught up in a mystery that no one seems to want her to be involved in, concerning the town’s history, dangerous magic, and the Lynburn family.

It’s incredibly difficult to describe this book because Sarah Rees Brennan is brilliant at reworking clich├ęd ideas in a completely different way. For instance, the idea of an imaginary friend turning out to be real, a hot guy with whom the MC has an irrecoverable connection…it isn’t what you’d think! In fact, it’s downright embarrassing and awkward for both Kami and Jared to suddenly discover that the voice in their head is a real person! As a character, Kami is curious, independent and brave, and the supporting characters were well-developed and unique. Jared has the typical bad-boy image that the other characters mercilessly make fun of, and Kami’s interactions with her family are hilarious. I felt like the author has put a lot of time into crafting these characters and making them believable. The same goes for the plot, which has plenty of twists and turns and a real cliffhanger of an ending!

The plot is fairly slow to unfold, but there’s enough mystery and intrigue to keep the suspense building. I like the Gothic creepiness of the town and I tend to love a good supernatural-focused mystery, so this book was right up my street! The easy writing style, the humour, the great characters – everything about Unspoken was spot-on. Five stars!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Welcome to my second What's Up Wednesday of 2014! It's a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up on what we've been up to.

What I'm reading

I read some great CQ titles in the past week - check out my Monday Mini-Reviews post! :)

Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1)
I've also been reading Poison Princess by Kresley Cole. I went into this not realising it's close, genre-wise, to my current WIP -not only that, but it's AMAZING. So I'm torn between feeling awed and inadequate! :P

Debt Collector Season One (Debt Collector, #1-9)I'm currently halfway through Susan Kaye Quinn's fabulous e-serial future noir, Debt Collector, since I picked up Season 1 a while ago. It's original and gripping!

My copy of The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa arrived the other day, too, so I've been rereading The Lost Prince in preparation. I've been waiting almost a year for this one! :)

What I'm writing

I finished the latest edit of Walking Shadow (Darkworld #2) and sent it to my publishers. Nothing major needed changing- just some continuity errors from the last revision I did (they always manage to sneak past!) and another revision of the climactic battle scene... now, it's onto the next stage! Meanwhile, shiny secret mini-project is going well, and I've set myself the same deadline for that as for my WIP (mid-February). Speaking of which, I'm onto the final third of the WIP and things are heating up! (btw, the book involves fiery monsters... #badjoke).

What else I've been up to

Editing (other people's work, not mine!). Getting distracted by le interwebs. Checking emails. Freaking out. Sending out review copies of my book. More freaking out. Oh, and PitMad. Querying. Yet more freaking out. (Need to work on my New Year's Resolution to freak out less, methinks!)

Also, SHERLOCK. Need I say more?

What inspires me right now

The awesomeness of the online writing/book blogging community. I've received so much support for my book sale (shameless plug moment) and I've also given away a bunch of review copies to lovely bloggers. This is why I write! :)

And today, I signed the contract for Walking Shadow! Yes - it's happening, people! :D

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Curiosity Quills New Year New Books Sale!

New Year Sale

Today and tomorrow only, Curiosity Quills are hosting a fantastic book sale! Selected titles, including Darkness Watching, are reduced to 99 cents (ebooks) and under $12 (paperbacks). If you haven't picked up a copy yet, I'd love for you to check it out! :)

Darkness Watching on Amazon
Darkness Watching on Amazon UK

As I've now been officially offered another contract by CQ, I've put the second book in the Darkworld series, Walking Shadow, on Goodreads! Here's the blurb:

"When you have a connection to the Darkworld, nowhere is truly safe.

Ashlyn has found a new home in Blackstone, but when a spate of grave robberies across the country spark fears that someone is practicing illegal sorcery, she comes under the radar of the Venantium, the protectors of the Barrier between her world and the Darkworld, who are suspicious of any sorcerer who doesn’t know their origins.

The trouble is, what Ash does know might just get her killed.

Sufferers of the dangerous condition known as the vampire’s curse are being brutally killed, and the latest victim is Leo’s guardian, the ex-head of the Venantium. Ash determines to help Leo find out what’s really going on, but it isn’t long before events are spiralling out of control. The dead are rising from their graves, and the barriers around Blackstone are threatened by a demon which looks exactly like Ash herself…"

I'm really excited to share this one! Hope everyone's having a great week!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

#WIPMarathon Check-In #6

Last check-in word count: Last time, I was at 32,000 words of the WIP.

Current WC + CC: Now I'm at 45K! I'm thrilled that I've got 2000 words most days this week, especially after having so much trouble with motivation in the last couple of weeks of 2013. But if I keep this up, I'll be done with my draft by sometime in February - I've set myself Valentine's Day as a deadline. :)

WIP issues this week: The usual first-draft woes - not enough detail, repetition, telling not showing, overuse of the word 'was' (my mortal enemy!), etc. I just have to shut off the inner editor and concentrate on getting the story down. Also, I worry about not being able to categorise this WIP. It's post-apocalyptic, set in our world but with a fantasy/sci-fi-ish element (advanced humans fighting monsters from another dimension) - not sure whether it leans more towards sci-fi or fantasy! I don't make things easy for myself! :P

What I learned this week in writing: That, with this being the eleventh (!) first draft I've written, I think I'm s-l-o-w-l-y learning how to incorporate lessons learned from editing my other books to writing a first draft. Normally, my first drafts are short and insubstantial, and I have to add in a lot of scenes and details to flesh out the characters and plot. But after editing so many of my own books and reading a TON of writing articles along the way, I find that my first drafts are starting to become longer and more detailed, with (hopefully) less things that drastically need changing! (Maybe I'm actually getting better at this. Who knows?)

What distracted me this week when writing: 

Getting my second set of editorial notes on Darkworld Book 2! wasn't devastating. Though if I have to reread that final battle scene one more time, I may scream. (note: I have to reread it at least three more times for more edits. Fun times!)

Also, #PitMad. And querying. *bites nails* *refreshes inbox*

Last 200 words: ...and we're entering spoiler territory here. Let's backtrack to Chapter 3!

I want to ask where we’re going, how he and Cathal defeated the fiends, but my mouth isn’t working properly, and my head hangs limp. Consciousness fades in and out, pain followed by numbness followed by more pain. During one of the bursts of pain, a screech cuts through the buzzing in my ears, telling me the fiends are on our trail again.
That should strike me as important. But I’m too tired, too numb. I drift off again.
Next time I wake, Nolan is yelling at Cathal. I can’t make out the words, but I catch a blurred glimpse of Cathal’s face and he looks angry. The trees have thinned out, and the sky above blazes, as though reflecting my pain, the moon a mocking eye staring down at me. The world is painted in angry red-and-black stripes. My companions’ argument forms a background noise.
A screech jolts me to full awareness again. Somehow, I’m in Cathal’s arms, not Nolan’s. I blink up at him, confused, as he hisses at me through clenched teeth. I catch the words, ‘Don’t ever tell anyone about this.’
I think I nod. I can’t feel my head at this point. My world is a haze of pain. I can’t breathe.
Next thing I’m aware of is that Cathal’s holding a knife over me.

*evil writer laugh*

Friday, 10 January 2014

Review - The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)
 Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Amazon UK

Wow. This book pulled me in and refused to let me go until I finished! It’s a fabulous blend of mystery, murder and occult powers set against a 1920’s New York backdrop, and I loved every one of its 600-odd pages.

There are several main narrative threads. Evie, the main protagonist, has been sent away to live with her uncle in New York, where he manages the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult. She soon finds herself in the middle of an investigation into a string of creepy ritualistic murders. Meanwhile, there are whispers of a group of people with strange abilities, the Diviners. As Evie has an unusual power, she starts to think she might be one of them, and that she can use her abilities to help catch the killer.

Evie is flawed yet sympathetic, fun-loving but with a darker side which is grieving for her brother, James, killed in the war. The other characters are equally well-developed and three-dimensional, especially the aspiring poet, Memphis, who once had the ability to heal at a touch, before it failed him when he tried to save his mother’s life. Then there’s Henry, Theta, Jericho, Uncle Will, Sam, and a whole crew of other intriguing characters.

The murderer, Naughty Jack, is a sinister serial killer who also happens to be a ghost. We know that he’s the killer from the outset, yet it doesn’t make him any less terrifying. The gradually enfolding mystery had me glued to the pages. The murders are creepy and a certain haunted house had me reluctant to turn off the light at night!

I’m not usually a fan of dense historical novels, but this is a book which is immersive without being overwhelming. There are so many elements that drew me in – the mystery of the Diviners, the detailed world-building, the gruesome murders. This is a fabulous read and one unlike anything I’ve read before!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

What's Up Wednesday & IWSG!

Welcome to my first What's Up Wednesday of 2014! It's a weekly meme run by Erin L Funk and Jaime Morrow and is a great way for readers and writers to catch up on what we've been up to.

What I'm reading

My first read of 2014 was Vicious by Victoria Schwab, and it was amazing! It's dark and twisted and makes you reconsider the definitions of terms like 'hero' and 'villain', as well as making the idea of developing superpowers almost scarily plausible! I'm writing up my review on this one. :)

What I'm writing

Back to making progress with the YA post-apoc/fantasy WIP. I really need to figure out the genre. :P But I'm around the halfway mark (I think) so things are definitely getting somewhere! Other than that, I'm working on something short, top-secret, and hopefully very exciting. ;)

What else I've been up to

I finally watched The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug! I loved it, especially Smaug, the barrel scene, and getting to see Legolas kick ass. My boyfriend and I also watched Frozen, which was amazing! I now have the soundtrack stuck in my head...

After that, getting back into a working routine after the holidays! I'm editing and proofreading some exciting manuscripts for CQ (I can't get over how awesome it is that I get to do this! :D). And I'm playing Final Fantasy X. Which...isn't work. But is very fun. :P

What inspires me right now

This fantastic, honest post by Jessica Spotswood about managing expectations as a writer. Every writer should read this!


It's also the first IWSG of 2014! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the creation of Ninja Captain Alex, and is a great way for writers to share their worries, support and encouragement.

The timing of this is opportune, because I've just received my second editorial letter on the book I'm talking about with my publishers. This is a book I've revised extensively at least four times, and the last edit letter had me tearing my hair out. Even published, with a book under contract, there are moments which make me doubt myself as a writer - like finding that something I've rewritten 5 or 6 times STILL isn't working!

I can still remember the moment of despair after I received my first editorial notes - my first thought was, if there are so many things wrong with my writing, how did I get a contract in the first place? But that's what editors are for. By focusing on your weaknesses, they help you make the book the very best it can be, and it'll be worth it in the end! Now, as I tackle Edit #5, I just have to remember that...

Saturday, 4 January 2014

#WIPMarathon Check-In #5 (New Year Update!)

Things I’m Glad I did in 2013: Hmm...I already posted about my year in writing, but one of the best decisions I made was signing with Curiosity Quills! I also published two books (The Puppet Spell and Darkness Watching), and challenged myself as a writer and wrote my first YA fantasy with an entirely new world, and started my first post-apocalyptic YA book (with a fantasy twist). I also did several publishing internships, started freelance editing, and graduated from university with a 2.1! :)
In 2014, I’d Love to Do/Be:  Again, I did a post with my new year plan. I'm hoping to draft 3 books this year, but I'm being flexible with what projects they actually are (since two of my finished projects last year weren't what I expected!). As well as that, I'm hoping to finish my current WIP by February at the latest, and to publish Darkworld Book 2 and maybe another special project for Darkworld fans (publishers permitting!). But my big goal of the year is to get an agent (keeping my fingers and toes crossed that I'll hear back on some of my queries now that the New Year madness is over!).
Current WC: 32K. So I've managed 12,000 words in two weeks - I suppose it isn't terrible, given all the distractions!
WIP Issues this week: Distractions. I've been staying with my boyfriend and family, which has been fun, but has made sticking to a writing routine impossible. Especially with New Year celebrations going on!
What I learnt this week in writing:  That sometimes, 500 words a day is an achievement. And that's OK!
What distracted me this week while writing: New Year and various other things - including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Which was amazing!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Review - Before I Wake by Rachel Vincent

Before I Wake (Soul Screamers, #6)


This is the second-to-last book in Rachel Vincent’s Soul Screamers series, and after the ending to the last one, I had to buy this right away! (warning: contains inevitable spoilers for the earlier books in the series!) Kaylee is struggling to adjust to living in the human world whilst no longer being really alive, and her new job reclaiming souls is complicated when Avari, the demon of greed with a grudge, starts stealing souls again. She has her new relationship with reaper Tod, but feels guilty about what happened with Nash, who still hasn’t forgiven her for unintentionally getting him framed for her murder. But now Hell literally is breaking loose, all the group have are each other…

Again, I was completely hooked from start to finish. The characters are as complex and believable as ever, and fans of Tod will be pleased that we get to see a lot more of his and Kaylee’s new relationship. Kaylee’s biggest struggle is to find a reason to maintain a human life despite no longer being alive. Although the plot is perhaps a fraction less intense than If I Die, the shocking finale prepares us for what I can tell will be a rollercoaster of a final book! 

Rating: *****

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2014 New Year Plan!

Happy 2014, readers! Here's hoping for a fantastic year of reading and writing. :)

Because I'm an obsessive list-maker, I've decided to take a look back at my resolutions for 2013, and look ahead at the coming year!

My 2013 resolutions were to:

  • Find a home for Darkness Watching (I did, yay! :D)
  • Prepare for the publication of my first novel, The Puppet Spell (I did that, too!)
  • Work on the sequel (that fell through...)
  • Make a post-graduation plan (kind of did that)
  • ...and believe in myself. Well, I'm still learning to do that, but I'm further ahead than I used to be!
I actually achieved a lot more than that - I drafted 5 books, edited 6 (most more than once, with feedback from beta readers, publishers etc), published 2 and entered my first writing contest. Wow!

This year, I'm going to be a bit more specific! I've made a list of general goals on this awesome site, so I'm picking out a few...
  • Draft at least 3 books. (This depends on edits on my other books!)
  • Fully edit and publish Walking Shadow (Darkworld #2) and hopefully Darkworld Book 3, as well. (This depends on the Emails of Doom currently messing with my sanity!)
  • Get Darkworld books 4 and 5 ready to send to publishers.
  • Decide on the publication path for Beneath the Waves.
  • Read 250+ books (trying to maintain my 2013 goal!)
  • Try not to stress out so much about not being able to plan ahead! (This is the bane of my existence. I'm an obsessive planner, but pretty much everything in my life is virtually impossible to plan ahead of time because it's always open to change. Publishing is a notoriously unpredictable business, so I'm trying to learn to be patient!)
  • Make a marketing action plan, and try not to get too obsessive about it! Mostly, I'm going to try to be more active - I tend to go through phases of trying to do ALL THE THINGS - comment on every blog, participate in every contest - and then suffer from being overwhelmed. So I'm going to try and be active and engaged in the online writing community without overdoing the social media and ending up despairing over random internet articles on the publishing industry and not being able to write.
  • Linked to the above: find balance! Specifically, between writing and non-writing-related things! Spend less time freaking out.
  • Do something challenging
  • Apply for new opportunities, and don't let fear hold me back!
  • Get a tattoo
  • Go travelling (depends on budget, but there a LOT of places I want to go!)
  • Go on a research trip (see above)
Mostly, I'm hoping for a year of adventure, surprises, and lots of WORDS.