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.