Writer’s journey – How did it all happen?

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This is  my writer’s blog about me and my crazy journey to becoming a half decent author.

Well how did I start writing? It was quite odd really. I used to write as a teenager. At the time I had a ginger tom cat called Chester, Mr. Popularity, everyone loved him. He liked to venture afar and we would often have to rescue him. I remember one occasion in particular, my brother and I ended up trudging through the woods, in Blackhall in Edinburgh, to pick him up from a house in the vicinity. He ended up at the most peculiar places. One time he chose to visit a house with thirteen cats!

I told you he liked company. So it seemed natural to  write about cats,  and I kept a diary. My dad was and still is one of my other great sources of inspiration.  He has travelled extensively to the Far East, and Middle East and is a wonderful raconteur.

As far as my writing is concerned the inevitable happened.  I was the typical teenager. I got distracted. I found boys, discos, parties, and my writing suffered. Somehow I didn’t pick it up again for a very long time. This is a regret. A massive regret. But what can I do? I can’t travel back in time, I don’t have a Tardis. So I just have to accept that the time is right now.  You see, I’m still this young girl at heart, just stuck in an older and maybe wiser body. I have experienced more, travelled more, lived more, so hopefully that will make me a better writer.

Several events came together to ignite my desire to write again. First of all I read a lot.  At the time I was reading Dorian Gray and it was definitely a novel that captured my imagination and set my mind free. Also my eldest daughter was studying GCSE Art and I took a sudden interest in art and photography. I’m not saying that I can paint or draw, though I wish I could. No, I enjoyed watching her artistic development and I enjoyed sharing ideas with her and encouraging her.

All of these influences helped me to write my first book, a YA fantasy set in Cambridge, which I hope to publish soon. The female protagonist in my novel is a teenage girl who paints a puzzle of art. But it is by no means a novel simply about Art. She expresses her sadness, and discovers her magical powers, through the medium of painting and well the rest you will find out when you read the book. Lets just say that an awful lot happens and I think that it will keep you entertained!  Well I hope so anyway.

Also I know this sounds crazy but my other source of inspiration was a black cat, a  throw back to Chester.  I had never seen this strange black cat before and suddenly he just started appearing in our garden. There was something different about him. He appeared  like a miniature panther, all glossy and splendid, looking for attention, with his mesmerising eyes, I fell under his spell. He liked to show off, he would disappear into thin air, climb to ridiculous heights, or chase his tail around the garden like a demented clown. He just had to play a part in this book too. Lets just say he has a subsidiary part to a main character, who is male, young and very interesting too, just like him. That was the beginning. Looking back I am amazed that from just a few initial thoughts my idea just seemed to grow and grow. Now my debut novel, is nearly ready for the final edit. How did that happen? I couldn’t be happier in fact if I had a tail, I’m sure I would be whizzing around and around chasing it with excitement!

Photo courtesy of Google Images.

My Kyrosmagica Review of It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

 

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.

Author Biography:

Vizzini grew up primarily in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. He attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, graduating in 1999. While still a teenager, he began to write articles for the New York Press, an alternative newspaper.

After he wrote an essay that got published by the New York Times Magazine, several of his essays about his young adult life ended up being combined into his first book, Teen Angst? Naaah…. Vizzini attended Hunter College, also located in Manhattan. Ned Vizzini lived in New York City. Vizzini’s characters and situations are said be based upon his time spent at Stuyvesant.

Sadly Ned Vizzini Died December 19, 2013.

My review:

I wasn’t sure about beginning It’s Kind Of A Funny Story particularly in light of Ned Vizzini’s suicide aged 32. It seems to me that comics, writers, poets, and creative individuals have a dark side to them which is often masked by a humorous persona. Obviously  the unexpected suicide of Robin Williams, on 11th August, instantly comes to mind, the funny relatable guy, that had us all in stitches. In light of this I wondered how I would respond to reading Ned Vizzini’s novel about a young, teenage boy on the brink of suicide. The title suggested that it would be a light-hearted read. Well only a person who had experienced depression first hand could have written a book that tackled the subject so well, managing to make it a true reflection on the awful tragedy of depression and mental illness, and the stigma that comes hand in hand. There were times when the sheer humanity of life made me laugh, particularly when Craig makes the decision to check himself into hospital and found himself admitted to an adult mental health ward. Ned Vizzini achieves this by making his characters so believable, and engaging. To begin with Craig is freaked out but it doesn’t take long for all his “Cycling,” his relentless thoughts, and his “Tentacles,” his pressures to fall away. The hospital routine is oddly therapeutic. He begins to relax, eat, make friends, starts to understands girls, and grows up. There is hope, and hope is a powerful word.  Sadly, even though there is this  glimmer of hope there is also a sense of Craig’s vulnerability, he could slip back , the depression is and always will be a part of him. Though, if he holds on to his “Anchors,” those things that keeps him steady, he might just be ok.

I loved the idea of Craig’s “Cycling,” “Tentacles” and his “Anchor,” you will have to read the book to find out what his Anchor  is. I don’t want to spoil it for you. But his “Anchor” is just so Craig. We all need an “Anchor!”

So, a wonderful book. The characters are great. The dialogue is spot on. Can’t really find anything to say but positive, positive. Everyone should read it. Every parent, so they don’t push their child into doing something that isn’t right for them.  Help, encourage and guide them but don’t pressurise them into doing something that is alien to them. If only every person suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental illness could find their “Anchors” the things that keep them happy, and hold on to them for dear life maybe then they will never have to slip away as Ned Vizzini did. That is the sad truth. So much talent wasted. This is my tribute to Ned Vizzini, sadly,  I only discovered his writing now.

A Whopping, Deserved 5 Stars. Highly Recommended to Young Adult, Contemporary, Mental Health, Humour, Psychology, and Coming of Age Readers.
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4 Types of Prologues

marjma2014:

Reblogged from Ingrid’s Notes. Prologues, to keep or not?

Originally posted on Ingrid's Notes:

Satellite View Of StarsThere’s an ongoing debate about prologues. Do you need them? Are they superfluous? Do they set up the story, or should you cut ‘em and get to chapter one already?

Plenty of opinions exist, and many opinions have to do with taste. So, before we jump on the “prologues never contribute to the story” bandwagon, I think the first step is to identify what kind of prologue one is writing and the objective of that prologue. We need to know what we’re writing and why, before we let  the opinions of what’s “in vogue” influence our writing decisions.

Let’s take a look at four different kinds of prologues.

1) Future Protagonist

This prologue is written in the same voice and style as the main story and from the POV of the same protagonist. When done really well, this kind of prologue changes everything the reader thought. As the reader continues with the story…

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Writer’s resources, Twitter Hashtags and Memes

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I thought it would be useful to have a list of resources which would come in helpful especially for people like me who are new to writing, and blogging. So with that in mind here are some bits and pieces I would like to share with you, along with details of blogs who host weekly memes.

Starting of with Mxlexia: the magazine for women who write http://www.mslexia.co.uk. I subscribe to this and find it an invaluable resource for advice, information and interesting articles.

I found this particular on-line Mslexia resource very helpful : Workshop#2 Composing a pitch letter. https://www.mslexia.co.uk/getpublished/pub_wkshop2.php

Pauline Harris: I just came across Pauline recently via Netgalley, I will be reviewing her novel Puppet soon.  Anyway her website is http://paulinecharris.wordpress.com – where you can find advice on developing a platform, twitter, what its really like to be an author particularly from the perspective of a younger person. Pauline is 18.

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Twitter Hastags.

15 twitter hastags that every writer should know about. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/15-twitter-hashtags-writer/

40 twitter hastags for writers http://www.dailywritingtips.com

More!!! 40 twitter hastags for writers http://writeanything.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/twitter-hashtags-for-writers//40-twitter-hashtags-for-writers/

More unusual hastags I’ve come across:

#aryaclub I found this via http://theprettybooks.wordpress.com. The #aryaclub  “is a young adult book club whose members include Daphne, Stacey, Caitlin, Jim, Asti, Debbie, Caroline, Faye, Charlotte and Julianne. We meet once a month to talk about YA books (and occasionally children’s and adult fiction!), eat copious amounts of food and try not to freak out the only boy…! ” https://www.myindependentbookshop.co.uk/aryaclub

#MSWL: Manuscript Wish Lists from Agents. I Found this via http://ingridsnotes.wordpress.com

#IWSG. Insecure writers support grouphttp://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com – first Wednesday of each month Twitter hastag

#8Sunday Weekend Writing Warriors share an 8-sentence snippet of your writing on Sunday. http://www.wewriwa.com/

#BookadayUK via http://prettybooks.wordpress.com

#RBRT Rosies Book Review Team  – below are some useful information about reviewing http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/rosies-book-review-team/  Also http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/resources-for-writers-editing-publishing-and-more/

#30authors. Hosted by the Book Wheel. 30 Authors in 30 Days is a first of its kind event aimed at connecting readers, bloggers, and authors. Hosted by The Book Wheel, this month-long event takes place during September and features 30 authors discussing their favorite recent reads on 30 different blogs http://travelingwitht.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/30-authors-in-30-days-author-ariel-lawhon-on-the-distance-by-helen-giltrow/

#SOTuesday Shout out Tuesday. ” Tuesday so often gets left out of things on Twitter and in real life. Music Monday  Hump Day. Follow Friday. Hungover Saturday. Hungover Sunday. And never forget about Throwback Thursday. Never forget.” http://www.20somethingawesome.com/tag/hashtags-that-should-be-trending

Weekly Memes:

Teaser Tuesdays meme I discovered via http://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com. It is hosted by MizB of Should be Reading. Who has the following weekly memes: Musing Mondays, Teaser Tuesdays, WWW Wednesdays, (three questions – what reading what finishing what reading next)  Friday Finds, and My favourite find Saturdays. http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/

Top Ten Tuesday “Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!”  Broke and the Bookish. http://www.brokeandbookish.com/p/top-ten-tuesday-other-features.html

One liner Wednesday Linda Gill.

” The rules  are as follows:

1. Make it one sentence.

2. Make it either funny or inspirational.

Have fun! “

http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/

“Waiting On” Wednesday Found via http://lunaslittlelibrary.wordpress.com/ Waiting on Wednesday #39 Weekly meme hosted by Jill on Breaking the Spine. http://breakingthespine.blogspot.co.uk/Upcoming releases that you just can’t wait to  read.

Celebrate the small things. Friday don’t take things for granted – – – Found via /mscoffeehouse.wordpress.com. Hosted by http://viklit.blogspot.co.uk/  Co-hosts: http://dianawilder.blogspot.co.uk/   http://www.thecyborgmom.blogspot.co.uk/ http://lgkeltner.blogspot.co.uk

SOCS Streams of consciousness Saturday posts SOCS. This one I found via irenedesign2011.com. Host is http://lindagill.wordpress.com

The Sunday post: ” It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead.” http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/2014/09/sunday-post-124.html

Inspiring places blog hop http://cateartios.wordpress.com #inspiringspaces bloghop.

Sharing The Bloggy Love http://confessionsofabookgeek.wordpress.com/features/sharing-the-bloggy-love/

@fantasyfaction. Lots of interesting Writing articles http://fantasy-faction.com/category/writers

Romancing September – Rosie – http://rosieamber.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/romancing-september-romancingseptember-day-9/

The bookshelf Tag – Answer questions about books than tag 5 other bloggers to do the same. http://justinaluther.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/bookshelf-tag/

Stacking the shelves via confessions of a book geek – tynga’a reviews.  “We are all book lovers and the need to share our enthusiasm is sometimes overwhelming. Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!”  http://www.tyngasreviews.com/2012/05/staking-shelves-official-launch.html

And lots of resources on Sherrey Meyer’s site:

http://sherreymeyer.com/suggested-reading/general-writing-resources/

http://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/self-publishing-guide/

http://goinswriter.com/resources/

http://janefriedman.com/writing-advice-archive/

http://www.joanhallwrites.com/writing-resources/

http://www.myriteofpassage.com/

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/

http://thewritepractice.com/resources/

http://wegrowmedia.com/

http://writershelpingwriters.net/

Tips on book covers – The Glasshouse http://jaglassbooks.wordpress.com

List of small press publishershttp://madeleineswann.wordpress.com

The womentoring project http://womentoringproject.co.uk/

There are still a few publishers accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Lou Treleaven has compiled a very useful list: http://loutreleaven.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/childrens-publishers-accepting-unsolicited-manuscripts/

No doubt I haven’t mentioned everyone! Too numerous to include but I will be adding to this list in future posts. Hope it proves a helpful resource to fellow writers and bloggers.

My Kyrosmagica Review of Anne Frank’s Diary

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Goodreads Synopsis:
Anne Frank’s diaries have always been among the most moving and eloquent documents of the Holocaust. This new edition restores diary entries omitted from the original edition, revealing a new depth to Anne’s dreams, irritations, hardships, and passions. Anne emerges as more real, more human, and more vital than ever. If you’ve never read this remarkable autobiography, do so. If you have read it, you owe it to yourself to read it again.

Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank was a German-born Jewish girl from the city of Frankfurt, who wrote a diary while in hiding with her family and four friends in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

She lived in Amsterdam with her parents and sister. During the Holocaust, Anne and her family hid in the attic of her father’s office to escape the Nazis. It was during that time period that she had recorded her life in her diary.

My review:

My first impressions of the diary. It surprised me. Anne Frank’s strength of personality, humour, and compassion, are deeply engrained into her moving words in The Diary of A Young Girl. In many ways she is a typical teenager discovering who she is. I was saddened by her poor relationship with her mother.  She experiences so many emotions and irritations, magnified in intensity due to the close nature, and length of time spent together hiding in the Annexe in Amsterdam.  These petty quarrels become even more evident as time progresses. It is hard to imagine how it would be possible to have even fleeting moments of happiness after being shut away from the world for such a long period of time, under such difficult  and dangerous circumstances, but Anne manages to do this and so much more besides. The enforced captivity of the Annexe allows her time to reflect on her shortcomings and she becomes more and more aware of her own faults and self limitations. Locked away in this alien environment, she grows up and her diary grows and blossoms with her.

There is a mounting sense of her frustrations, her fears for the future, guilt at hiding away, and above all else her deep passion for life. Her love of nature, writing and books comes across so vividly. In photographs Anne looks fragile, yet I think this young lady was anything but, from her words alone I get a sense of her strength of character. I was amused by her developing relationship with Peter, who is several years older than her. In effect she bypasses her older sister Margo and manages to steal Peter’s affections right from under Margo’s nose. Feisty indeed! Sadly Anne died just before the liberation, as did all of the other Annexe hideaways apart from Otto, her father. Her diary is so poignant because of the terrible, inevitable outcome. In light of this I found some of the passages in the diary very difficult to read, yet I kept on returning to  her diary as I sensed that I would be doing Anne’s memory a terrible disservice if I didn’t read it all. I found the final few words of the diary very sad indeed, her words became lighter, little glimmers of hope that sadly did not match the reality of her final days.

I shed some tears, wept for this promising teenager whose life was cut short in such a cruel way, robbed of her chance to live a full and enriching life. I can’t help but feel that Anne Frank would have had such a promising future if she had lived. I have no doubt that she would have become a writer. Moreover, some of the passages in the diary reminded me of my teenage self. I too kept a diary, but my diary was free to roam whereas Anne’s was constrained by her circumstances. I was so lucky, so blessed. In my diary I wrote about so many things that poor Anne never had the opportunity to see or experience. My father worked abroad and I kept a diary of our travels visiting him in diverse regions of the world, the Caribbean British Virgin Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, are a few that spring to mind.  I don’t know what became of my diary, (I was the same age as Anne),  it may be up in my parents’ house in Edinburgh. I hope one day I will find it. I feel so careless to have lost it. My teenage diary was a feeble affair in comparison to Anne’s. It makes me wonder whether we write best when we are challenged, when life isn’t easy. Do we need to experience suffering to write? It is an interesting question. I sense that we do to some extent, but not in the way that Anne did. Nobody should have to suffer like that.

Each of us should have a fundamental human right. A right to freedom, the right of every human being to live without fear of being judged or hated for the colour of their skin, their religion, their cultural heritage, or sexual orientation. A diary should be a personal affair,  not read, and discussed by a stranger. But in Anne’s case I am sure that her father Otto did the right thing in making Anne’s words available to all. I feel sure that Anne would be happy to know that her diary is being read, that a little piece of her lives on, albeit an edited version of her true words.  She longed to be a writer and in this she has succeeded. Her words are without doubt a snap shot in time, a representation of all the hopes and fears of all of those who suffered and died in the Holocaust.

Calling all 13-15 year olds. Why Should You Read Anne Franks Diary now?

The Anne Frank Trust are on a mission to create the world’s biggest ever digital diary aimed at giving 13-15 year olds a voice. Please visit the Digital Diary website. My lovely friend Val Ross works for the UK branch of  the Anne Frank Trust and only recently I  was fortunate enough to listen to her very moving talk.

So if there are any 13-15 year olds reading this, please read Anne Frank’s Diary, join in the Generation Diary, spare a moment to look back into history and to reach forward into the future when hopefully mankind can join together in a shared purpose to celebrate all that life has to offer and to embrace diversity rather than be frightened by it.

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http://www.annefrank.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/generationdiary

http://www.annefrank.org/

Goodreads Giveaways: Don’t Do What You’re Told

marjma2014:

Reblogged from Catherine, Caffeinated. Great tips about running a Goodreads giveaway.

Originally posted on Catherine, Caffeinated:

This summer I’m working on revising and updating my self-publishing ‘how to': Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing. Edition #3 is scheduled for release in a few weeks’ time. (I will definitely be taking advantage of KDP’s new pre-ordering function, so stayed tuned for that.) When I did the second edition back in 2012, only one year had passed since the first but still, so much had changed. This time around, the entire landscape has changed, and there’s so many new and exciting opportunities for self-publishers to take advantage of. I’ve completely changed my mind about some of my advice, and believe more than ever in the rest of it. One thing hasn’t changed at all though: I still think self-publishing is something every author should be involved in, whether it’s their main career or a sideline, and I still think that with great power comes great responsibility…

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17 Bestseller Tips – from Trade Publishers

marjma2014:

Tips from Savvy Writers on selling books.

Originally posted on Savvy Writers & e-Books online:

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If you ever see Marketing and Advertising from traditional puplishers, it’s for their Bestseller authors only, such as: Advance Book Reviews, posted on their book’s cover, Book Tours and Signings of celebrity authors, media coverage including reviews, speaking engagements, and placing at major bookstores who report to Bestseller lists.  How can author-publishers use the methods of global trade publishers to promote their self-published books?  You don’t need to travel to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, like Johannes Kepler did in 1620 – yes, self-publishing was en vogue already four hundred years ago!

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7 Million Self-Published Titles:  Stiff Competition
Since 2010 roughly 7 million new self-published books appeared, almost all at online retailer’s websites.  And these titles will be offered for many years to come, as most of them are in digital format. The “gold rush” seems to be over and self-publishing has been dropping almost 50% per…

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My Kyrosmagica Review of The Archived Victoria Schwab

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what she once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My review:

Well before I even start my review I would like to say that I just loved the cover art, and the title too!  In Victoria Schwab’s The Archive the library isn’t just a place to store books, no it is so much more than this, it is a mysterious place where people’s dead loved ones are archived away like precious memories. More and more of them are waking up, and it is Mac’s job as a Keeper to make sure that they return to the Archive. As you can imagine this is no easy task, but Mac has been trained well by her grandfather Da who has every faith in her.

This is the second Victoria Schwab novel that I have read, my first being Vicious, so I had high hopes. Like I said, The Archive is a truly fascinating concept and I think Schawb really pulled it off well.  I think every single person would do what they could to keep the memory of their loves ones who have passed away alive.  Mac is just so relatable, and so  human, of course she can’t bear the thought of her dead brother being locked away in a drawer. But is her brother really her brother anymore? Or is he something else entirely?

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In the Archived we have a world in which the Histories, the Librarians, The Archive, The Returns,  and the Outer exist alongside a family still coming to terms with the sudden death of Mac’s brother.  We sense the personal and individual responses to  grief in Mac’s relationship with her mother and her father. Along the way Mac meets Owen and Wesley, (super cute guy-liner guy), and these three characters drive the plot forward. Mac’s father seems to do his best to encourage Mac to spend time with Wesley. Not the way most fathers behave!  I found this quite touching and cute.

To begin with I  have to admit that I struggled with some of the details of the novel. I found Da a bit confusing, I started off thinking he was Mac’s father but realised that he was in fact her grandfather. I also thought that Mac sounded more like a boy than a girl. BUT, and this is a big BUT. Victoria Schwab knows how to write, she writes amazing characters that draw you into the story and her dialogue is just spot on. I am so jealous of her dialogue! I really enjoyed the second half of the novel, very mysterious and exciting, with a great plot twist, and Mac is just so fearless in solving the mystery. A big high five for Mac!

So overall my advice would be to read The Archived, not to shelve it, go on read it! Most definitely. I will definitely be picking up the second in the series, The Unbound.

Highly recommended for readers of YA fantasy, paranormal, romance, mystery….

My star rating:

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Author’s website – very unusual opening page! See how quickly you can uncrumple the paper.

http://www.victoriaschwab.com/

and her WordPress blog:

http://veschwab.wordpress.com

Book Blogger UKYA Awards – GET VOTING

marjma2014:

Reblogged from Luna’s Little Library UKYA awards – your chance to vote.

Originally posted on Luna’s Little Library:

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VERY exciting news! It is the shortlist of the Book Blogger UKYA Awards!
This is the time for YOU to vote for your favourite from the list!

Voting is open until 21st September. Make sure you don’t miss out!

The voting will be a little different from the nominations.
On this blog you will be voting for:
Funniest Book
Most Heartbreaking Book
Best First Sentence
Best Ending

And then you will hop along to the next blog to vote for more awards! :)

There are five different awards to jump to (and five/six bloggers hosting each group, but you only need to visit five blogs!).

This doesn’t have to happen all at once, it gives you the chance to vote in your leisure – but make sure you do so before 21st September.

Can’t see the voting form? Click the link HERE

Jump To

(choose which blog…

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Edinburgh Book Festival – Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson

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On Sunday  I was lucky enough to be listening to two American New York Times best selling authors Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson, talking about “Alternative Worlds,” at the Edinburgh Book Festival.   Leigh Bardugo’s debut series “The Grisha Trilogy, Shadow and Bone,” is set in an alternative, magical, Tsarist Russia. At the moment this debut series is in the hands of Harry Potter producer, David Heyman, who is considering a film version.  Though it is not confirmed as yet, a movie may be scheduled to release in 2014 or 2015.

Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series is a bloody, paranormal thriller:

  • The Name of the Star
  • The Madness Underneath
  • The Boy in the Smoke (World book day novella)
  • The Shadow Cabinet

My first impressions were interesting to say the least. Maureen Johnson sat to the right of Leigh Bardugo with a serious expression on her face, the interviewer appeared a bit unsure just how this conversation was going to progress. But as soon as Maureen spoke all those fears were dispelled. Maureen’s first words about her historical tour of London, were ghosts were mentioned at each and every opportunity, was an absolute riot. Maureen doesn’t believe in timid ghosts that genteely move furniture, or boohoo quietly in a corner, no only murderous ghosts are good enough for her! If she ever gets sick of writing I’m sure she could inflict her sense of wit on us as a very successful female stand-up comedian. Anyway the outcome of all these ghosts was a ton load of research. Maureen researched the history of London, ghost lore, and the Jack the Ripper case files. And the result was . . …….. The Shades of London series.

Leigh and Maureen talked about writing research, and world building. We had Leigh falling in love with her book ideas and Maureen reading her work for the tenth time and just dying. Murder, dying, you name it Maureen inflicted it on her poor unsuspecting audience.

Leigh started writing in her thirties after pursuing various careers, latterly she worked as a make up artist, concocting stories whilst she was applying make up to her clients. Maureen is so multi-talented that she writes scripts for the Nintendo DS and PSP versions of the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood prince video game.

Initially Leigh had problems finishing first drafts of novels that she’d started. I really relate to this, sounds so me! Luckily Leigh went on to write not just one stand-alone book but three,  her Shadow and Bone series, “feels like a trilogy,”  and boy does it deliver.

They talked about plotting, and planning. Maureen’s style wasn’t too structured to begin with but she was soon compiling character dossiers, and histories. Leigh commented that Lainie Taylor doesn’t plot at all. She observed that this could only possibly work if the author had a natural sense of story. Well, I’m a weak plotter, but only time will tell if I have what it takes to get away with this. In my case, a lack of initial plotting wasn’t such a good idea, I had to do loads of re-writes. I’d agree that in that first draft you are telling yourself the story, as Leigh suggests. Maureen referred to “a little toolkit,” to hammer her story into our consciousness. Ouch, sounds painful, steady on there Maureen.

Leigh’s trilogy is written in 1st person with a third person prologue and epilogues. The voice of her novel was hard to find. To begin with her main character’s voice was nice, quiet, and sweet but she soon found a more sour, pragmatic voice for Alina, her main protagonist, a teenage orphan.

Maureen killed off one of her characters before she even got a chance to appear in print. The fifth Martin, the youngest, was obliterated straight away. Well, Maureen jokingly said that babies don’t do much anyway! As an only child herself she was drawn to writing about a big, family, and a wacky one at that.  Her final novel, in her Shades of London series, is now in the hands of someone. She jokingly said that she hopes it was actually a Penguin representative and not some random manuscript stealer.

According to Leigh there are some wonderful benefits of being an author, living in your pyjamas is one of them, but killing your characters can be tough. Absolutely agree Leigh, you just live and breathe those characters, they become engrained in your thoughts. Maureen advised us to “Just do it!” No second thoughts or holding back there, Maureen.

Maureen and Leigh closed off the proceedings with a reading. Maureen kicked it off with a very amusing passage from Scarlett Fever and Leigh took us to a dark place to inflict the darkling on us, and I’m still there, hoping that I will eventually manage to escape!

Then finally the discussion turned to the professional aspect of writing that is often overlooked, touring, and social media. Is this a fun aspect or a chore? Leigh said that she didn’t have to do this but she loved it. Oh, and of course her publishers encouraged her to do so. She said that when you’re on a tour you get to see a new city everyday. It’s the best job ever! Be yourself on line, find out where you should connect with your readers, Leigh felt most at home on tumblr.

To begin with Maureen answered this question dead pan. Writing and being a writer are very different, she said. Do what feels right to you.  People found me on twitter, and their response seemed to be, you’re a writer?

The question and answer section followed next. There was a bit of a reluctance from the reticent Scottish audience but one brave soul asked whether Maureen had been on one of many of Edinburgh’s haunted ghost trips? Maureen hadn’t had the opportunity but yes, she would have liked to, but she had a feeling that Edinburgh’s ghosts might not be up to scratch. It sounds like Maureen takes a lot to scare her.

The next question touched upon strong female characters, a topic that is most definitely a popular one. Maureen doesn’t like classifying books as boys books or girls books. That just makes her crazy. Leigh made the very valid comment that nobody talks about strong male characters, and Maureen even mentioned that there is some anger towards female characters. I think that we expect so much from our female characters, come on they’re just like us they’re flawed, nobodies perfect. In my opinion that’s what makes them interesting.

Then a young lad in the far corner asked the final question, the one that was no doubt pressing on the lips of many amongst us in the audience, myself included. It went something like this: “Have you any advice for young writers?” Well the tips went along these lines. Maureen told him not to expect too much. She said that her writing was “so bad” to begin with that she deserved these terms: “Arrest me,” “Kill me.” So if you’re writing terribly Maureen suggests that you’re on the right path because as Maureen says this will lead you to your goal of writing well. Thanks, this is so true, totally agree.

Again Leigh touched a chord with me, she said there’s “no expiration date on talent.” Thank you so much Leigh! Again she went on to say that you don’t have to be cute, popular or media genic, (is this even a word, and if so how do you spell it?)

Maureen carried on this tide of inspiration with “Don’t give up,” “Just finish,” Carry on to your “Eyes bleed,” finish that first draft. Maureen were you speaking to me?

Well it was a sunny day, and I came out smiling even more than when I went in. Such an inspiring, talk. I loved it, and guess what, I finished my final edits last night. Yes finally got there and my eyes didn’t even bleed they just blurred a bit. Now, just have to find a publisher. This is going to be the hardest part, but now I feel more prepared for it. I’m writing this in my pyjamas and I have this strong sense of belonging, I think I’ve already joined the writer’s club! Leigh Bardugo and Maureen Johnson were so entertaining and a absolute delight to listen to. I left feeling both inspired, and sure that I have finally chosen the right career path to an Alternative World.

If you could write about an Alternative World what would it be? Do tell, I’m sure it would be fascinating.

To find out more about these great authors websites, click away:

http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com

http://www.leighbardugo.com