Saturday, 31 December 2011

Things that make New Year's Eve fun

What with today being the last day before 2012, I thought I'd list out some things that might make a good New Year's Eve.
  1. Alcohol (I threw a party one year, and I've never seen my fridge so full of alcohol - it's never been like that again, either)
  2. Auld Lang Syne (can't see the New Year in without that traditional song)
  3. Food (whether at a party enjoying nibbles, or having a snack at home to make sure you stay awake until midnight, food is always good :)).
  4. Winnie the Pooh stories (bear with me on this - when my sister and I were little,  and my parents went out to a New Year's Eve party, we'd end up at my grandparents. Their neighbour always came in to see the New Year in with them, and my sister insisted on telling her a Winnie the Pooh story… every year! It became as much of a traditional for a while as wishing everyone a Happy New Year!)
  5. Someone to kiss at midnight (not necessary, but can be nice - even if it's the cat. Actually, thinking about it, maybe the cat is a better choice.)
Do you have anything to add to this list? I'm sure there must be lots more.

Whatever you're doing tonight, hope the New Year brings you lots of good things.

Image: Idea go /

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Tangled Tides - Karen Amanda Hooper

Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs, #1)Tangled Tides by Karen Amanda Hooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On her eighteenth birthday, Treygan turns Yara into a mermaid against her will… and that's just the beginning. Tangled up in an underwater world of mysterious merfolk and secretive selkies, Yara discovers both sides want her for her ability to fulfil a broken a promise and open the sealed gateway to their realm, but they are battling over how it should be done. The selkies want to take her life, but the merfolk want something far more precious...

I'm stingy with my 5 stars, I admit it, but this book certainly comes close. If I could award half stars, I would. As it is, I've got to settle on 4, but I do believe it deserves more.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It starts fast, with just enough time to introduce the main characters, before Yara is whisked away. As a new mermaid, we learn about her world along with her, the author adding information as it is pertinent to the story. I never felt as though I was being given a history lesson. The author's attention to detail, while never overstepping into the realms of the description detracting from the story, paints a stunning underwater world, with a hierarchy and a history - all the details needed to believe a place is real, including the mythology behind its creation.

Yara was very easy to like. A stubborn, compassionate girl, who wouldn't just take Treygan's word for anything in the beginning, she ultimately grew into a character who had the strength and courage to help everyone, if only she could summon it.

I loved watching Treygan change from being exasperated by Yara to letting his feelings for her grow, despite the side of her she didn't know - the side that would keep them apart.

I was also intrigued by Rownan. I think part of me expects a clean-cut villain, but I can't even describe Rownan as a villain. The author created a very rounded character, with strong motivations, that helped me understand why he acted the way he did… even when I didn't like it.

The plot kept up the pace, with moments of action interspersed with moments of learning and character development. I got to halfway and didn't want to put the book down. By the final third, the story hurtled on to a conclusion the author cleverly kept hidden from the reader, despite the first person POV.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, some romance, and has a love for all things under the sea, real or mythological.

Amazon: (UK) (US)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Night Before Christmas

"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

Merry Christmas, everybody!!

And to all of you who don't celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Image: digitalart /

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Flash Fiction - Casey and the Christmas Present

As we're only a few days from Christmas, I thought I'd be festive, and give you all a bit of Christmas flash fiction. This story features characters from my novel, "Casey and the Hereafter".

Casey is an unusual fourteen-year-old with some unusual friends, one of which she's decided to buy a Christmas present for. But what do you get for someone several millennia-old whose job involves erasing information from a book?


Casey stared into the shop window. The edges were framed by sparkling lights and potential Christmas presents littered the base, surrounded by a pile of white stuff, which she guessed was supposed to be snow. A book about some celebrity… a board game… a cute grey teddy...

Gah! She swung away from the window and walked up the street. She could just imagine Az’s face if she gave him a teddy bear: “Well, he’s great, love, but I’m not sure what I’ll do with him when I get back. Perhaps the Ferryman would like something to cuddle.”

She shuddered. The thought of those bony fingers wrapped around the soft toy, those empty eye sockets staring at its grey fur… Another shiver rippled through her. Yes, OK, everyone needed a little love, but the Ferryman was a walking skeleton! “And don’t you tell me I’m discriminating against the dead, Az,” she mumbled, and shoved her gloved hands further into her coat pockets.

The breeze kicked up, whistling through her jacket. Was that laughter? She rolled her eyes. Trust him to be listening.

So, back to her problem. What did a mere teenager get an all-powerful being that already had everything he could possibly want – except perhaps time?

Hmm… Time. She could work with that.

A few day’s later, after bundling her parents and that golden-haired demon known as her little sister, out to do some late-night Christmas shopping, Casey knelt on her bed, peering out the window. Fake icicles dripped from roofs, lights twinkled in trees, and a bunch of carol singers walked from house to house.  She hummed along to, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.

Her lightbulb flickered. She glanced at it. It dimmed, grew brighter, and died, cloaking the room in shadow. Beneath her, tiny quivers vibrated through the bed. Her chest of drawers shuddered, and the ornaments on her bookcase jangled together.

Casey returned to the street view and tried to suppress a smile. The guy had to make an entrance, didn’t he?

The mini earthquake came to an abrupt halt and light returned to the room.

“Ever heard of a door, Az?”

A deep chuckle came from behind her. “Most people expect the dramatics, Casey, love.”

“Doesn’t drama take more of your time?” She turned.

A man, who appeared to be in his late twenties, rested against her wardrobe, arms folded, as though he was part of the furniture. His pristine suit shone bright white on one side, while the other did its black-as-night thing. The grin stretched across his face spluttered into a frown. “Don’t get me started, love.”

He unfolded his arms and sat on the bed. “What with expectations and a rise in violence, I need all the time the Bosses can give me. Or, maybe just a way to pause it for a while.”

He gave her a wry smile, and she tried to look sympathetic, holding back the grin that wanted to make a break for it. Az was going to love the gift!

“I got you a present.” She pushed the small, gift-wrapped box towards him.

Az’s brows vanished into his black hair. “A present?”

“Goes with this little thing called ‘Christmas’. A season of giving? You might have heard of it?”

“I know what Christmas is, love, but we’re usually not involved with human affairs like these.”

“Well, consider yourself involved.” She grabbed his hand, and slapped the gift on his palm.

Az’s expression mirrored her sister, Lily’s, whenever Casey did something remotely nice for her.

She sighed. “It’s a present, not one of Marcos’s special packages. You see this?” She gestured to the wrapping. “It’s called ‘wrapping paper’”.

His eyes narrowed. “The Ferryman hasn’t been for a visit for a while, has he? Shall I fetch him?”

A shiver went through her. “That’s playing dirty, Az, but, fine. You open it when you want. I’ll just sit over here, and be all angelic sweetness and silence.”

Az’s mouth pulled up at the side. “I doubt you’re capable of that, love, but thanks for the laugh.”

Casey scowled, which only increased Az’s grin. She gave up trying to hold onto the expression when he removed the red, Christmas tree-dotted paper, and opened the little box.

Would he like it?

He extracted the small chrome object, and scanned the white face with its black numbers, followed by the large button on the top. One brow quirked. “A stopwatch?”

She nodded. Good? Bad? Not getting it at all?

“I’m the Angel of Death, love. Not an athlete.”

Not getting it at all. “You’re a jerk. Turn it over, will you?”

He twisted the stopwatch to view the back, and his eyes scanned the inscription engraved there: For someone who needs to stop time every now and then.

She held her breath.

A smile curved his lips, tenderness softening the lines on his face. He caught her gaze, and, for once, his eyes weren’t black holes of nothingness. Light sparked around the edge of the iris, and warmed the emptiness. “Casey, love.” His voice came out husky, none of the usual magnificent resonance. “It’s perfect.”

Monday, 19 December 2011

The magic of lights

When I was a child, I loved the Christmas tree lights. My mother, despite her dislike for Christmas and putting up decorations, would eventually get round to putting up the tree each year (this is why it happened all in one night - I think she wanted it over and done with ;) ). It stood in a corner of the room, brightly decorated, and, every evening, when it got dark, my sister and I were allowed to turn the lights on.

These lights were multi-coloured. Not plain white, or silver, or blue. They were red, and pink, orange and green… (and no, I'm not about to break into that rainbow song ;) ). I loved the way they lit up the tree and glistened off the tinsel.

As our artificial tree had a high base, I would spend a few minutes of most evenings lying on the carpet on my back, head beneath the branches, staring up at the lights through the green. To me, it seemed I'd entered a fairy land, and anything was possible.

Something happened a few years ago that put my love of Christmas on hold, but this year found me struggling to put my own tree together, spreading out branches, creating a bizarre pattern with the tinsel, and hanging up tree ornaments I'd gathered years before.

The best part?

Turning on those lights.

Still multi-coloured, still shades of red and blue and orange lighting up my tiny hall and playing over the plain cream walls. My tree isn't high enough for me to stare up through its branches, but something about those lights is still magical to me.

Do you find anything magical in Christmas decorations? Or do you have any ornaments for your tree that have special meaning to you each time you hang them?

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Favourite memories of Christmas

As Christmas is only a week away, I got to thinking about Christmasses of the past, and found I had lots of fun memories. Here are some of them:
  1. All my grandparents and aunts arriving Christmas morning, ready to stay with us until the day after Boxing Day. I loved having my family around.
  2. Going to bed at night to a plain house, and coming down the following morning to decorations and a tree in the living room. It was a present all in itself :).
  3. Playing cards with my family in the evening, and my sister (somehow in charge of my Nan's cards) speaking for Nan: "She's sticking."
  4. Watching my grandparents fall asleep, one by one, in the lounge after a very filling dinner.
  5. My nephew telling me quite early last year's Christmas morning that: "Father Christmas has come."
What about you? Do you have any favourite memories? Things that make you laugh, or feel warm and fuzzy inside?

Image: Idea go /

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A writer's retreat

While I could mean a retreat from writing here (and sometimes that sounds like a good idea), I'm actually talking about a place to go to write, or paint, or read, or just be you for a while.

Where is this absolute gem, you ask? I'll tell you (because I'm nice like that).

It's in a tiny little village called Sheepwash, near Okehampton, in Devon. I know for a lot of my friends outside the UK environs this is rather a long way to go, but if you're ever visiting…

Anyway, I've had trouble getting into my rewrite with all the distractions of everyday life intruding. I'd booked a holiday, but, inevitably, if I stayed home, I'd find chores to do. My plan was to get away completely - escape - and concentrate on my writing for a few days.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Season of giving

The lovely Murees Dupé, over at Daily Drama of an Aspiring Writer, was kind enough to give me the Liebster award! I'm really touched. Thank you very much, Murees!

With this award, you have to do the following:

  • Copy the award onto your blog.
  • Thank and link to the person that gave it to you.
  • Forward it to five bloggers that have less than 200 followers.
  • Comment on those five peoples' blogs to share the good news.

So, here are the people I would like to have this award. If you already have it, or simply would prefer not to have it, that's not a problem, but I think you all deserve it:

Thanks again, Murees!

On another note, Cherie Reich is hosting a giveaway on her blog. A professional freelance editor, Cherie is offering the following:

3 - 1st page critiques
2 - 10 page critiques
1 - 25 page critique

You have until the 21st December to enter, so don't miss out on this great opportunity. Thanks very much, Cherie!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gods and Goddesses in Norse Mythology

In celebration of Coral Moore's book, "Broods of Fenrir", and the fact that I recently finished Ali Cross's book, "Become", here are a few gods from Norse mythology. (In case you're wondering about my choice, Norse mythology features in both books :).)

  1. Odin - Chief god, and the most powerful in Asgard. The world was created by Odin and his two brothers. You can tell him in pictures, because he only has one eye (he traded the other for infinite wisdom - think I'd rather have the eye and a steep learning curve ;)).
  2. Frigg - Wife of Odin and queen of Asgard. Goddess of marriage and fertility. Her name means "beloved one".
  3. Thor - Thunder god, the god of storms. Son of Odin and Fjorgyn (Earth). Strongest of all the gods, and known to be ill-tempered. He owns a hammer, called Mjolnir, which can hit any target, and always returns to him.
  4. Freyja (also known as Freya) - Goddess of love, lust, beauty, sorcery, and death (busy girl!). Daughter of the sea god, Njord, and twin sister of Freyr.
  5. Loki - Trickster god. He was not an Aesir, but Odin took him in and made him his blood brother. Hence, why he lives on Asgard. Not to be trusted. Full of mischief, and heads towards evil as time goes on.

So, there you have it, and here endeth today's lesson in world mythology ;). What myths do you like reading about?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Guest post by Coral Moore: Werewolves in Mythology

I'm excited to welcome Coral Moore to my blog today. I was fortunate to meet her while she was writing her new novel, Broods of Fenrir, which has roots in Norse mythology. Here's the blurb for the book:

Shapeshifter Brand Geirson was raised to rule the Broods of Fenrir, but he refused his birthright. Instead, he killed their brutal leader–his own father–and walked away. For hundreds of years he’s avoided brood society, until a werewolf kills an innocent human woman and Brand finds himself dragged back into the violent politics of the shapeshifters. When the two brood women who mean the most to him come under threat, he must take up the throne and risk becoming the kind of vicious bastard his father was, or let the broods descend further into chaos–taking the friend he swore to protect and his lover with them.

Now, I'll let Coral tell you about the influence of mythology on her werewolves.

Monday, 5 December 2011

SantaFest 2011!

Laura over at Daily Dodo had the wonderful idea of a blogosphere-wide Secret Santa on Friday. Yesterday, in collaboration with Loralie at Apathy's Hero, she made it a reality!

The idea is to create a gift that's all about your creativity and not money. So, for example, a gift could be a piece of short fiction, or a photograph, etc. Everyone who wants to be involved signs up to the Linky List, and then chooses who gets to create a gift for who. Everything remains anonymous.

I love this idea! I think it'll be a lot of fun to create a gift for someone in the blog community, and nice to be involved in such a wide-reaching Secret Santa at the same time :).

If anyone else would like to join in, just hop on over to Laura's site, and sign up by the 12th December (next Monday). There's more information over on her site too.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A few UK cities

I'm not really one for cities. To me, they usually look like a haven for concrete. However, I've found a few across the UK that are the exception, and here are some of them.
  1. Edinburgh (beautiful architecture, rich history, and close to stunning countryside)
  2. Cambridge (a mixture of modern and historic, urban and rural, it's hard to believe Cambridge is missing anything)
  3. Oxford (another example of the seamless blending of history and modernism)
  4. Bath (stunning Georgian architecture and golden stone, gorgeous views, and a real sense of history - that would be Bath in the picture :))
  5. London (despite being the capital, it manages to have havens of peace in the many parks, a river in the Thames, a theatreland unrivalled in the rest of the UK, and lots of amazing buildings dating back hundreds of years)
What about you? What cities do you like? And would you prefer to be a rural- or urban-ite?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French KissAnna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anna is sent by her father to the School of America in France - away from her family and friends. As well as having to adjust to a new life and a foreign language, she meets St Clair, who, with his kindness and ability to make her laugh, fast becomes her best friend. He's already got a girlfriend, so there's no way she could fall for him, is there?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Christmas and cartoon piggies

Yesterday was my birthday. What did I do? I went to see Father Christmas. Now, I realise this sounds a little bit strange. A thirty-something-year-old going to see Father Christmas, but I have an excuse. It was also the day my dad had booked to take my nephews to the Christmas event at Paulton's Park.

Consequently, my sister and her family, and my dad, my stepmother, and me all tottered off to Hampshire to give the little ones a treat.

What's up with the pigs? Well, Paulton's Park has a shiny new section, and it's devoted to Peppa Pig - a British TV programme that has gone viral in terms of books, toys, and now, even its own theme park.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A few things to be thankful for

In the spirit of my friends across the pond aptly-named holiday, Thanksgiving (which I think is a great idea, and we should adopt in the UK, even if we don't have the history that goes with it), I decided to consider what I'm most thankful for, and list them out here:
  1. My dad (there have been rocky times, but he's always supported me, been there for me, and he even reads my stories - sometimes several times. I don't know what I'd do without him.)
  2. My sister and her family (she and my nephews make me laugh, and my brother-in-law is great for talking computers with)
  3. My best friend (I've known her since I was ten, and she's always there for me to talk to if I need her. She's believed in my writing from the very beginning, and has always encouraged me in it.)
  4. My job (I'm very thankful I'm employed doing something I enjoy)
  5. My writing (it lets me visit some amazing worlds, meet interesting characters, and takes me out of myself for a while)
So, that's me, even if it's a little late. Did you do anything nice for Thanksgiving?

Image: David Castillo Dominici /

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Promo - Spotlight on "Saving Fort Smoky"

I have a treat for all of you today.

I first heard about Jenna Gustafson on Shannon O'Donnell's blog, Book Dreaming. Jenna has written a book, called "Saving Fort Smoky", and - get this - she's only 15 years old! The story started off as a class assignment, then she decided to turn it into a book.

I think this is a major achievement! When I was fifteen, I was still working on getting stories finished. I didn't get anywhere near having them published.

Here's the book blurb (from Goodreads):

There's only one hope for Fort Smoky to survive. After a devastating fire ravages the homes of Fort Smoky, it's up to young Ben Clearwater and his sister and friends to help the residents and get to Fort Futureland to save the people before the harsh, cold winter sets in. To get there, they will have to trek through unknown mountains, relying on Running Wind's compass and Big Jim's maps of the land while struggling against the harsh forces of Mother Nature.

Fort Futureland is a place of new and interesting contraptions, like cars and computers, the four children have never seen, and they are captivated. But the children soon uncover a sinister plot to destroy their beloved Fort Smoky. Will they be able to stop the evil leaders of Fort Futureland? Will they ever make it home? Will they be heroes for Saving Fort Smoky?

I think it sounds a heartwarming adventure story for children, and I might find myself buying it for my nephews when they're a little bit older. Here's where you can get it from:

Amazon: (UK) (US)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Where I'd rather be

As the nights draw in and the temperature drops,  I find myself stepping into the chilly morning air each day with one thought in my mind (besides "I'm cold"): I'd rather be in [somewhere] right now.

Currently, my [somewhere] of choice alternates between the Canary Islands, which I'm told are great for sun and warmth at this time of the year, and New Zealand, which is a country I would love to return to, and they're just heading into their summer, making it doubly desirable.

My parents have previously headed off for cruises to the Caribbean in January - another [somewhere] that appeals courtesy of its sun and warmth. I also know of some people heading off to visit their Time Share in Portugal or their friends in Cyprus, both of which sound warmer to me than England does right now. If my face starts turning the slightest shade of green, you'll know why ;).

So, what about you? Are you enjoying the drop in temperature and seeing your breath appear as mist in the mornings? Or are you, too, dreaming of a warm sunny location to escape to? And where would that escape be?

(N.B. For those of you lucky enough to be heading into summer right now, colour me jealous ;).)

Image: Witthaya Phonsawat /

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Bad things that happened to good TV shows

It seems I either get into shows just as something happens to change them, or I start a show that doesn't get to fulfill its potential. Here are a few of those.

  1. Blood Ties - got cancelled and I loved this series. Plus it ended in a very unfinished sort of fashion.
  2. Charmed - Prue dying. Even though the writers had a great premise for introducing Paige, and I don't know what happened between the actresses, I still really missed Prue.
  3. Charmed - Cole. I used to tune in each week just to watch Phoebe and Cole; I thought they were so sweet. They were my absolute favourite couple. Then, it all went to Hell. Literally. And she ended up with someone else? Bah!
  4. Kindred: The Embraced - another cancelled show, and after hardly any episodes. It seemed to have great potential, but didn't get the chance to develop it.
  5. Lois and Clark: New Adventures of Superman - the wedding that wasn't. I'm not too sure what happened here. There were rumours of the network wanting it drawn out, but it resulted in a lot of angry fans, a severe drop in viewers, and some crappy storylines (clones and frogs, anyone?).

Did you think these were bad things? Or did they help the shows? Any others you'd like to add?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

What's on "Show"?

As writers, there's a little suggestion that's almost a rule: Show don't tell. When it's so much quicker to tell, this can be quite hard, so I thought I'd illustrate an example of what someone can learn without being told a thing.

On my regular commute home, a week or so ago (You wanted a story, didn't you? Don't groan.), I got on a train with a mother, a pram (holding a very young baby), and her four or five year old daughter.

I couldn't see them as my back was to them, but the mother cooed over the baby repeatedly, told him he was lovely, gave him kisses, and probably made him feel like the most loved baby in the world.

What did this show me? Well, how about that she adored that child?

Monday, 14 November 2011

Getting back some "me" time

Recently, I read a post by Claire Legrand, and it brought home to me how much my life had become work and writing, with no time for anything else. Don't get me wrong, I love my writing. The creating new worlds, characters, and following their stories - there's nothing like it.

Still, I used to do other things, and what with work taking up such a lot of my time, every other moment has become writing-oriented just to get something done. That post reminded me to do something else every once in a while - get back to other things I enjoy.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Nursery Rhymes

Someone asked me a while ago to name five nursery rhymes I could still remember, and name them in a minute. I was surprised how difficult it was, as I thought these sort of things stayed with you (maybe I have too much stuff in my head already, and it's pushing the old stuff out ;)). Also, I'd read a few to my nephew not that long ago. Anyway, here are the five I could remember quickly.

  1. Lavender's Blue
  2. Bar Bar Black Sheep
  3. Sing a Song of Sixpence
  4. Hey Diddle Diddle
  5. It's Raining, It's Pouring

Can you name any more? How many can you get through in a minute?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Short vs long

I'm one of these people who can set out to write something short, but still end up with something way over the word limit for that "short" descriptor.

I admit that I never had that problem with essays set as homework. Then, I tended to have trouble getting them up to the word count. Writing stories for English, though, or writing something for a competition… Inevitably, I'd have to take the editing scissors to my work before it could be handed in.

I think this is why writing novels appeals. OK, so no one wants a 250,000 word opus, so I can't get carried away when writing, but I do get to explore the story without worrying about the word count.

On the other side of the coin, "short" reins in my tendency to over-write, and makes sure I squeeze every last ounce of meaning out of every word.

Which format do you like writing best? Short or long? And which do you prefer to read?

Monday, 7 November 2011

The influence of the older generation

I'm talking parents here, or grandparents, or your dad's friend who's almost part of the family. Not simply someone in the next age bracket up from you. Although, for all I know, they might fit into my little theme today too.

Inevitably, when your parents were kids, an entirely different selection of books was available - books you might never have thought of, had it not been for your mum reminiscing about how she read such-and-such as a child. Or your nan pointing out some books while out at a school fete.

One such book series I discovered in this fashion was Lorna Hill's "Sadlers Wells" series. Mum started me off on this when she gave me the first book, "A Dream of Sadlers Wells". It was her own hardback copy that she'd read several times when she was younger.

I loved this series of books. I loved reading about Veronica and Sebastian. Then, later (as I went through the entire series), about Caroline, Ella, Rosanna, and Vicki.

But if not for my mum, I'd never have found these stories.

Do you have any books like that? Jewels discovered courtesy of the older generation?

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Lovely things about Autumn (or Fall :) )

This is a little tough, as whenever I reach Autumn I know the nights are drawing in and it's going to get colder, so it's not my favourite season, but there are still great things about it.

  1. The colours (those leaves - all red, orange, and yellow - so beautiful.)
  2. The clocks go back. (an extra hour in bed, which I'm all for.)
  3. Halloween (celebrated a bit more in this country this year - I saw a great front garden, decked out as a cemetery!)
  4. Bonfire night (fantastic firework displays around the warm flickering flames of bonfires)
  5. My birthday *grin*.
What about you? What makes Autumn a great season for you?

Image: Evgeni Dinev /

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Rewrites from the ground up

I thought I'd give everyone a little writing update to let you know what I've been doing with my writing time (besides devising blog posts and losing countless hours to critiquing and Twitter).

My current project is "Racing the Dark" - book one in my "The Mortal Cure" trilogy. I started planning it out at the end of 2008, and finally began writing in October 2009. The first draft was finished in January 2010, and I began rewrites later that year. Just when I figured I'd sorted it out, I discovered Critique Circle, and some incredibly helpful people who offered some fantastic comments on how I could improve it.

Monday, 31 October 2011

So, where did Halloween come from?

As it's Halloween today (cue spooky music, creaking doors, and Vincent Price's cackle, which never fails to send shivers down my spine), I thought I'd delve into a bit of its history.

The word, Halloween, comes from a mash-up of All-Hallows-Even (evening) (first use recorded way back in 1556) and the name of Celtic festival, Samhain (pronounced sow-een, whatever the actors on "True Blood" call it).

Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the lighter half of the year, and the beginning of some seriously long dark nights. It was also known as a festival dedicated to the dead, and some people still set a place for the dead at the Samhain feast.

The Gaelic custom of wearing a mask and costumes was often an attempt to placate evil spirits. Another method of warding off evil were the candle lanterns. Large turnips were hollowed out, carved with faces, and placed in the window to frighten away the spirits.

In Scotland and Ireland, guising (dressing in costume) is a Halloween custom recorded as far back as  1895 where masqueraders in disguise visited homes to be rewarded with cake, fruit, and money (sounds good to me!).

So, now you're all nice and knowledgeable about where our Halloween name and customs came from, I hope you have a wonderful spookfest this evening. I think I'll be looking out my (admittedly tiny) collection of scary films. If you hear blood-curdling screams, that'll be me, hiding behind a cushion. Did I mention I'm useless with horror films?

Image: zirconicusso /

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Halloween fun

As Halloween is on Monday, I thought it a good time to list a few fun things to do :).
  1. Trick or Treating (Gee, I bet no one thought of that one ;). Generally, better to do with kids in tow. You might get a few strange looks otherwise.)
  2. Scary movie night (And I don't mean the Scary Movie collection, but some movies that can make you jump - great when having a sleepover.)
  3. Ghost Walk (Lots of places have them, particularly if there's a long history, and walking through a dark cemetery at midnight, even with other people, is pretty spooky.)
  4. Atmosphere (I might be out of touch with its modern incarnation, but this game, that involved a video playing on the TV as the game progressed on the board was great for some frights when the character would flash back onto the screen accompanied by a sudden thunder clap.)
  5. Themed costume party or dance (Great fun dancing to Michael Jackson's Thriller along with a guy in a Scream mask, a vampire, and a couple of zombies :))
Whatever you're doing, I hope you all have a fun (but safe) night.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A Most Improper Magick - Stephanie Burgis

A Most Improper Magick (The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, #1)A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kat Stephenson is headstrong, forthright, and a tom boy in a time of balls, simpering misses, and convenient marriages. Rather than let her eldest sister marry a man old enough to be her father (not to mention the fact he might have murdered his first wife) in order to save the family from financial ruin, she sets out to find another way to save them, and stumbles upon her mother's magic books.

Monday, 24 October 2011

First blog award!

I feel so lucky right now! Not only have I gathered lots of new followers (hi new followers!), but not one, but TWO great bloggers have given me a blog award. And here it is:

Isn't it fantastic? All roses and pink and lovely :). Thanks very much to Beth at Thoughts from the Hearthfire and Laura at Daily Dodo for giving it to me.

This award requires you to pass it onto 15 recently discovered blogs. Now, I know this award has been going round lately, so to the people I'm about to recommend, feel free to ignore it if you want to.

Here goes:

1. Christine Rains
2. Creepy Query Girl
3. Flutey Words
4. Gap Years The Book
5. Jenn Nixon
6. LynNerd's Random Act of Writing
7. Nerd Girl Reads and Writes
8. Pensuasion
9. Ramblings
10. Rebecca Mahoney
11. T F Walsh - Fantasy Writer
12. The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment
13. Victim of Writing
14. Wicked, Tricksy, and False
15. Welcome to my World

Well, some might not be as recently discovered as others, but they're all equally worthy.

Did everyone have a nice weekend? I actually managed to spend some time just reading. I read straight through "Anna and the French Kiss", by Stephanie Perkins. I loved it! When's the last time you whizzed through a book, because you couldn't bear to put it down?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Some classic first lines

Sometimes a book is so well known, even the first line, without any context, is recognised. Can you recognise these?
  1. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
  2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a  good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
  3. There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
  4. Marley was dead, to begin with.
  5. All children, except one, grow up.

How well did you do? Here are the answers:
  1. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (C. S. Lewis)
  4. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
  5. Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)

Image: nuttakit /

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

NaNoWriMo is coming!

For anyone who doesn't know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, although it might as well be International Novel Writing Month now, as people all over the world participate.

The aim is to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. It's a personal challenge, so there are no tangible rewards at the end of it, save a definite sense of achievement.

For anyone who's always thought, "One day I'll write a novel", NaNo is the opportunity to make that one day today.

Monday, 17 October 2011

A huge thank you

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to say a huge thank you to all my new followers and everyone who commented as a result of the Pay It Forward blogfest.

I was stunned (stunned, I tell you) at the response from it. I think I gathered more followers in one day than I've done in two months! As a first blogfest, it's been a great experience. I've got to know so many new people, and discovered loads of amazing blogs I never knew existed.

An extra special huge thank you with hugs to Matthew at QQQE and Alex at Alex J. Cavanaugh for arranging the blogfest, coming up with such a good idea and making it happen. Thanks so much, guys!

Image: Felixco, Inc. /

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Pirate party games

My newly four-year-old nephew is having a pirate-themed birthday party today, and my incredibly organised sister has worked out some special pirate party games. I thought I'd place them here in case anyone else finds them useful.
  1. Pieces of Eight (find a picture of a pirate, cut it into eight pieces, write a number on the back of each piece to show they belong to the same puzzle, and then hide them around the house or garden. The children have to find their number and piece together the puzzle.)
  2. Musical Islands (a variation on musical chairs - the children sit on cushions)
  3. Pin the Patch on the Pirate (a variation on pin the tail on the donkey)
  4. Pass the Booty (a variation on pass the parcel)
  5. Treasure Hunt (what would a pirate party be without the ability to hunt for treasure?)
Does anyone else have some fun games to add? Or anyone use some of these to great success?


Friday, 14 October 2011

Pay It Forward blogfest

"Pay It Forward" is a blogfest dreamed up by QQQE and Alex J. Cavanaugh, and, what's more, it's the first blogfest I've taken part in! It's designed to help highlight three blogs you think worthy of more attention. Here are mine:

Surrounded by Books
Blog for author, Cherie Reich. A great blog that promotes writers, offers helpful insights - such as the "Ask an Editor" sections - and has flash fiction on a Friday that I always enjoy reading.

In Shadows
Blog for romance author, Brynna Curry. A nice variety of posts, including interviews, short stories, and, currently, some very pertinent recipes for Halloween :).

YA Book of the Day
A blog focusing on the YA market, with some fantastic posts on YA books, including reviews, recommendations, and giveaways. Also, some general discussion on writing/reading-type topics.

I'm now off to check out everyone else's recommendations :).

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

How to write on trains

I don't usually write poetry, but this came to me after trying to write on a train on a particularly bumpy trip, when all I had was a notepad and pen. Hope you enjoy :).

I have my notebook at the ready.
Now, if only the ride could be steady
My work would be on one line and not
Up and down and full of ink blots.

I thought I would use this journey to write,
But instead of simply left to right,
The words are now all over the show
Often in a language I don’t know.

I’ve done my best through rickety trips,
Clattering over rails, and up and down dips,
But my pen is all over the page in a mess.
Perhaps not my best idea, I confess.

So, this is my advice to writers on trains
Who need every bit of time they attain:
Write all you like, but follow this creed
Don’t write anything you’re hoping to read!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Comfort Films - "Clue" (1985)

While one of my favourite things when I need comfort is food (chocolate works wonders!), I also turn to films when I need a laugh or that feel-good warmth.

Today, "Clue" popped into my head, and it's perfect for the way I'm feeling now - tired, irritated, frustrated... - Why are you all running for the hills? I'm not THAT grumpy. OK, maybe I am, but I have "Clue" to make me giggle and restore my good spirits, so you're all safe.

Just the thought of the manic nonsense of the plotline, Tim Curry as the butler, Wadsworth, and those great lines ("Who's there?" "Nobody." "What do you mean?" "Nobody. No body... Mr Boddy's body. It's gone.") has me smiling.

Saturday, 8 October 2011


I admit I haven't really taken to these just yet. I'm being swayed by the Kindle, but it's still out of my price range, so I'm not about to get one. However, I thought I'd do a little list of those available at the moment.
  1. Kindle (Amazon's offering, and available in both the US and UK)
  2. Nook (Barne and Noble's reader, and I've heard good things. Only available in the US though)
  3. Sony (I see a lot of these in shops, particularly Waterstones)
  4. Elonex (Unfortunately, I don't think this stands a chance against the others, particularly as its features are far outweighed by those of the Nook and Kindle)
  5. Waterstones (Yep, they're releasing their own according to this article. As they mention the Nook as their inspiration, I'm hopeful.)
Have you moved onto an eReader yet? Which is your favourite and why? Any I've missed (probably several) that you think deserve a mention?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A bit of research - Allergic to the sun

In "Racing the Dark", the world is ruled by vampires. While my vampires don't follow every rule the myths lay out for us, they do follow the "burn in the sun" bullet point.

Part-way through the story, Darin comments that, "It is derived from a human genetic disorder." That disorder would be Xeroderma Pigmentosum, and the short explanation of it is that the person's body can't repair the damage caused by UV light.

The MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopaedia defines it as "a rare condition passed down through families in which the skin and tissue covering the eye are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light."

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Phantom of the Opera is here

Anyone else love this story? Or the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical? I confess I saw the musical first, but I still love Gaston Leroux's original book.

Well, as you probably already know, the musical of Phantom is celebrating its 25th anniversary in London this year. Yep, it's been 25 years since it opened at Her Majesty's theatre with Sarah Brightman as Christine and Michael Crawford as the Phantom. To celebrate, a production - specially designed for the Royal Albert Hall - took place over the weekend. Sunday's evening performance was also broadcast live in cinemas across the UK.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Nonsense words

When I was growing up, my dad could always make me laugh (still can, in fact), and one of the ways was these nonsense words. Between him and my mum deliberately mixing up syllables and mispronouncing words, it's a wonder I ever learnt to speak proper. But they always made me smile. In the hope these give you a bit of a laugh, I've laid them out for your delectation. Enjoy!

  1. Gatport Airwick (Gatwick Airport, a UK airport)
  2. Presactly (when either "precise" or "exactly" on their own just won't do)
  3. Flutterby (Butterfly)
  4. Skissors (hard 'k' as opposed to soft 'c')
  5. Electrickery
Anyone else play this game? Or have any other words to add?

Image: vichie81 /

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Die For Me - Amy Plum

Die for Me (Revenants, #1)Die for Me by Amy Plum

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kate Mercier lost both of her parents in a car crash and, wracked with grief, goes to live with her grandparents in Paris. There, she meets Vincent - the most handsome and enigmatic boy she has ever seen.

But Vincent hides a secret - something that could break Kate and Vincent's fledgling relationship apart. Can Kate take a chance and risk her heart again when she knows what Vincent is and the destiny he can't deny?

Monday, 26 September 2011

A ratty's tail

Guess I'm going for controversial today. I know, beyond a doubt, several of you will look at this post, and think, "Rats? Yuck! Keep them well away from me - about a universe will do."

Fair enough. I have the same reaction to spiders.

However, I find there are a lot of misconceptions about rats that lead to that response. Unlike spiders, when - really - how can you have a misconception about a creepy thing with eight legs that invades your bath just when you want to get in it?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Things that help me write

  1. A pen (always useful to have some form of writing implement)
  2. A notepad (or a computer of some kind, but notepads are trusty standards and don't require power for me to write)
  3. A large chunk of undisturbed time (I write best when I have time to get into the story)
  4. A coffee (I also write best when I've made a cup of filter coffee to start me off  ;))
  5. A fair amount of energy (I fall asleep over the notepad if I'm tired, or end up writing nonsense, and having to rewrite it later to get it to make sense - neither of which make for a good story)
What about you? What makes for a good "butt-in-seat" session when writing (stories, blogs, essays, anything else you might be writing)?

Image: Paul /

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Promo - "Hushed" and "Glittering Ashes"

This was going to be a spot for one book, but I found two this week that deserve a mention, so here I am. They both happen to be by authors named Kelley - how weird is that?

First, "Hushed" by Kelley York.

He's saved her. He's loved her. He's killed for her.

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The road to Hell... paved with good intentions. Who wrote that? Hmm. Now, I'm going to have to look up the author.

Good intentions. Everyone has them. Whether it's as innocuous as a plan to get the laundry done or get that English essay out of the way, or as high-faluting as devising a cure for cancer or banishing that Terrible Thing otherwise known as Reality TV.

The problem is the outcome.

How many times is the laundry put off due to a coffee and chat with a friend? Or the essay buried under a pile of much-more-exciting X-Box games? (Or my dream of ridding the world of the Terrible Thing blown apart by the knowledge that some people actually love it?)

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Classic animated films

Yes, I admit it *holds up hand* - I'm a long-time fan of the Disney classic animated films. I've loved them since I was a child, and still enjoy the stories, music, and characters held within the spectacular artwork. The animated films in latter years? Hmm, not so much. Perhaps I just prefer the hand drawings to the computer's influence. Anyway, here are a few of my favourites.

  1. Beauty and the Beast (1991 - For me, this has everything - great characters, humour courtesy of the enchanted objects and the Beast's initial attempt at porridge, amazing songs, and the lovely underlying message about beauty being in the eye of the beholder.)
  2. The Little Mermaid (1989 - Hands up who loves Sebastian? I adore that crab! This film really felt to me like a Disney return to form when it was originally released.)
  3. Snow White (1937 - Talk about an amazing debut! An animated film that could make the audience cry; who'd have thought?)
  4. Sleeping Beauty (1959 - I know this isn't as well regarded as some, but I liked that the prince actually had a character (look at Cinderella's prince), and that he and Rose didn't know who the other was when they met in the forest.)
  5. The Lion King (1994 - Timon and Pumbaa, stunning visuals, and Tim Rice's and Elton John's song "Circle of Life" - what's not to like?)

Does anyone else have any favourite animated films? Or prefer the computer generated films over the classic hand-drawn ones? Anyone else have "Beauty and the Beast" in their list of top 10 films ever?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Star Book – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Genre: Classic Literature

Plot Summary: Jane Eyre is a mistreated orphan who learns to survive by relying on her independence and intelligence. Her first job in the outside world is governess to the ward of Mr. Rochester, a man of mercurial moods. The tentative trust between them slowly develops into romance, but their hopes for happiness will soon be jeopardised by a terrible secret.

Buy Online: |

Monday, 12 September 2011

The law of threes

I'm going to start with a true story.

In 1997, a small team banded together to save a piece of England's history - an aircraft. The XH558 is the last flying Avro Vulcan in the world, and it relies on donations to keep it in the air. To attract people to give these donations, it needs to appear at major airshows around the country. Understandably, these are in the summer when (it's hoped) the weather is at its best.

This year, as with others, the group of volunteers struggled to meet the donation target they needed in order to keep the Vulcan in the air, but they met it. Just.

So, aircraft ready to go. Airshows booked. All looked good.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Things I hate to see in stories

  1. The new cute / hot boy in school - This device is everywhere these days; I'm over it already.
  2. Love triangles - Maybe it raises tension, but I get a bit miffed to think the heroine (or hero) proclaims undying love for someone, and then thinks perhaps the other guy (or girl) would be a better choice. Seems flaky to me.
  3. Adverb ardour - yes, they can be useful, but does the author really need three in a sentence, one after the other?
  4. A prologue or beginning snippet that tricks me into thinking the book will move quickly, only to find I have to get to chapter 17 before anything happens - I know it's a way to sell books initially, but it's also a way to make sure I never buy a book by the author again.
  5. Characters who, after being silly and not bothering to think things out for themselves, get proclaimed "special" - Why? Why are they special? They didn't do anything to earn it.
Well, that's my pet moan for the day. What do you guys see in stories that make you want to hurl the book across the room (or the eReader for that matter, but then it might break - hmm, not such a good idea…)?

Image: Surachai /

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Blog Takeover: Amanda - No such thing

Amanda lives about one hundred years in the future. The world is ruled by those the humans call vampires. She's eighteen and a human, so you might be able to guess life isn't exactly great for her. Amanda is a character in my "The Mortal Cure" trilogy.

Journal Entry - 18th October

There is no such thing as freedom.

There is no such thing as a world without vampires.

Monday, 5 September 2011

The train and the writer

I'm on a train today, heading up to England's capital of London. The snack trolley has just gone past and the aroma of strong coffee is swirling about the carriage making me wish I'd bought one.

My favourite trick when I'm on a train, even when I've been on the journey several times before, is to stare out of the window. I don't know what I'm looking for. I'm pretty sure the trees and buildings won't have changed that much from the last trip, and the rail network is unlikely to have decided to reroute the railway lines so I get a different view each time. Still, as standard, me on a train equals me looking out the window.

Today is different. Today I have my NetBook. And more than that. I've actually got the NetBook out!! (Cue stunned gasps.)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Quotes from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

I used to love this series! For me, it lost something in the latter series', but the team of writers' way with words never failed to produce new and shiny jewels. Here are a few that always make me laugh:
  1. So he is a good vampire! I mean, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being someone who's killing and maiming every night, and 1 being someone who's...not. (Willow)
  2. I laugh in the face of danger. Then, I hide until it goes away. (Xander)
  3. Demons after money? Whatever happened to the still beating heart of a virgin? No one has any standards anymore. (Giles)
  4. Gee, can you vague that up for me? (Buffy)
  5. Tact is just not saying true stuff. I'll pass. (Cordelia)
How about you? Was this a show you enjoyed or you passed on? Any gems you want to share?

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Devil.May.Care - Jolene Ballard Gutierrez

Devil.May.CareDevil.May.Care by Jolene Ballard Gutierrez

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At sixteen, Ana not only discovers she's an angelic spirit in human form, but falls in love with a demon, Dylan. As demons are supposed to be the bad guys, this doesn't seem to be a good idea. However, Ana soon discovers good and evil are very much in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Running and rides

Yes, OK, so I'm horrible at keeping to a schedule. Time has this little habit of running away with me (or maybe that should be from me).

I started this blog with all good intentions, and then got bogged down in other things, among them design issues and the competing benefits of WordPress and Blogger. Now Blogger has won out, I am going to strive to run alongside Time, rather than let him streak off and leave me coughing in his dust.

I have a plan - it's not a very cunning plan, but it's a plan all the same. Let's see whether I can pull it off.

My schedule (*subject to change):
• Mondays - Miscellany (ramblings about bits and pieces)
• Wednesday - Writing Randomness (excerpts, research, reviews, etc.)
• Saturdays - Selections (top fives of whatever's on my mind)

Please excuse me while I get used to setting the pace. I was never very good at running. But the main point here is that I'm back to running - taking part in the Blogosphere - and I hope you'll all come along for the ride.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

A plan's afoot!

Bear with me, people. I'm working on a plan *furtively glances from left to right*. Look for some updates early next week.

Monday, 9 May 2011

If music be the food of stories...

Picture this:

Me in my car. CD player finishes a track (as it's prone to), and starts on Within Temptation's "All I Need". My thoughts instantly deviate away from the thrilling traffic jam I'm stuck in, and I'm back with the characters in one of my stories.

For me, music fuels my imagination and enhances story sequences. I've lost count of the number of scenes that have sprung from some lyrics or the melody of a tune I've been listening to.

The same goes when I'm reading. How many of you read a chapter of a book and think, THAT song would be perfect for THAT scene? Or watch a book dramatised into a film or TV production, and find a scene much more potent thanks to the tune spun by its wizard of a composer?