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31 Dec 2012

Forward in 2013...

Another year gone, another apocalypse survived. Us humans are awesome at this survival jazz. ;)

I always love the new year because it really feels like a fresh start. Anything that you didn't get done in 2012 you have another chance to get it done. 

For 2013:

I want to complete the 100k in 100 days challenge, first using it to finish Inside the Broom Closet (it's so close to finishing!) and writing it's sequel straight afterwards.

Participate in Camp NaNo for June and then NaNo again in November. Overall I plan to get a lot of writing done this year and finish a few drafts.

Finish editing Beast Inside.   This year I'm being strict and going to try and commit myself to at least one hour of editing after I get in from work to keep on track. 

Pass my driving test.  Now that I've stopped panicking and going rigid once the car starts moving I think I'm close to sorting out my driving test. =D

Read 50 books in 2013.

Drop down to a size 10 and really get into Zumba. 

Survive another apocalypse.

Things I'm looking forward to:

The next part of Doctor Who.

Oz the Great and Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Catching Fire.

The release of the final book in the Divergent trilogy (Detergent for now) by Veronica Roth and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.

Participating in 2.8 hours later again.  This time I want to apply to be a zombie as well. =D

Hopefully me and Pete have saved up enough for our first holiday abroad.  Italy, here we come!

What are your resolutions for 2013? Anything you're looking forward to? :)

30 Dec 2012

Back in 2012...

Seriously, it's the end of 2012 already?

To sum up: what a great year. :) It's been my most productive year with no studies whatsoever.  My first proper year out of education and into the adult world consisting of early mornings, jobs, and taking those next steps into my teaching career and adult independence. 

I won't do a month by month list of what's happened but here's a list of what made 2012 awesome and productive:

Photo credit
1) Films

Some awesome films came out this year.  The Woman in Black, The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and SkyfallThe Woman in Black and Skyfall were pleasant surprises that I'd only learnt about very late and wanted to see.  I was never a James Bond fan so seeing Skyfall was more of a girlfriend duty to begin with.  I came out of that cinema absolutely hooked and vowing to try out more of Daniel Craig's Bond films.  The Hunger Games had intrigued me since the trailers came out and I finally gave into curiosity and read the book.  Again, hooked and I was eagerly counting the days until The Hunger Games came out in the cinema.  The Avengers was a film that I had been waiting a year for.  Totally worth the wait.  It was by far my favourite film of 2012.  But now I have to wait until 2015 for Avengers 2. =(

... I'll give it my best shot. 

2) Reading

This year I took on two reading challenges and I'm currently on my last book to finish my Off The Shelf challenge.  2012 was an excellent year for reading.  It wasn't just to do with cracking down and getting some of the books I've had on my shelf read but also due to taking part in RTW and TTT where I've been introduced to some amazing books and amazing authors that were either new this year or new to me in general.  If you take a look at my response for YA Highway's Christmas RTW I listed Ten by Gretchen McNeil as my best book of the year.  It was incredibly hard because there were so many amazing books that I read.  But I chose Ten because it was different to what I've read in a while.  It is classed as YA Horror but since it's a retelling of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None it has strong elements of a murder mystery/thriller which has got me in the mood to seek out more thrillers and see more murder mysteries in YA. 

3) Writing

I took part in WriteOnCon where I gathered some courage and tested out querying for Beast Inside, just to get an idea of how to write one.  Not only did I get a lot of help in writing a querying which benefited my query overall but it also helped me get a better understanding of what the focus of the WiP was.  The conflicts and problems were clearer. 

I also finished another WiP for NaNo 2012 and wrote 50k of another WiP in June that I'm going to finish for another writing challenge: 100k in 100 days

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4) Go, Britain, Go!

This year we've had two events that will make history.  First the Queen's Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years of her reign and made work a fun week with Jubilee dinners and celebrations.  Next we had the Olympics and Paralympics where heroes were made out of hard-working athletes, not just from Britain but from every nation that got involved.  We had a pretty rubbish Opening Ceremony to be honest but for our closing ceremony Britain honoured our artists of the past by projecting John Lennon and Freddie Mercury up on screens.  And Britain also had a chance to show the world that we're not entirely hopeless.  We can produce great athletes, even if it's the sitting down sports we're awesome at!

5) Travelling

I got to see some amazing places around England this year, some that inspired settings for WiPs.  Some of my favourite places that I visited:

The Lake District
Richmond, North Yorkshire

What was your 2012 like? =)

23 Dec 2012

Christmas RTW

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

I'm away for Christmas this week so I'll do the first three RTWs today. :)

Monday, Dec. 24
Best Book Of The Year: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

It was so refreshing to read a slasher/murder mystery and one that was a retelling of an Agatha Christie novel.  Very original for YA and it got me in the mood to see more thrillers in YA.  I love a good murder mystery and especially since it had a slasher edge to it I was hooked from the first page to the last.

Most Unexpectedly Delightful Book Of The Year: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

I have to admit I wasn't totally intrigued by the blurb and when the book mentioned a mysterious stranger I assumed that it would turn into a forbidden love.  I always worry that this romantic aspects will take over the book because in the past that's what the romance seems to do.  But The Near Witch took away those doubts and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was sucked into this almost magical and mystical town of Near where Nature was just as much of a character than Lexi and Cole.  And the tragic story of the Near Witch gave the story a horrific aspect, not just by what she was doing to the town in an act of revenge but the townsfolk who treated outsiders like her and Cole.  The story read like a spooky fairy tale.  Absolutely loved it.

Book I Can't Get Out Of My Mind: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I've been dying to read some good old YA Horror.  It seemed like the cheesy 90s Point Horror had come to an end but Kendare Blake has brought that genre right back on the shelves.  But Anna Dressed in Blood is also nothing like the cheesy 90s horror.  I felt a Supernatural-esque feel to the story, especially in the lives of Cas and his mother.  I love Supernatural so of course I enjoyed this.  Like the television programme the book had a great mix of horror, gore, tragedy, and humour.  And the book introduced me to the next awesome Scooby gang.  I love that little trio of Carmen, Cas, and Thomas - all different personalities merging together to bond and defeat ghosts together.
Best "New To Me" YA Author: Gretchen McNeil

I know Ten wasn't Gretchen McNeil's first novel but it was the first novel of hers that I read this year.  And I'm definitely going to be reading more of her work next year.  Possess is on my TBR list!

Tuesday, Dec. 25
Best Sequel: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Sequels can normally disappoint me but I loved Insurgent.  It followed straight on from the events of Divergent and I loved the fast pace action of the sequel.  I thought it fitted well with the situation and while it confirmed some of my suspicions about Chicago it's left me with so many more questions that I can't wait to find out about in the final book.
Best Debut: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

A sci-fi fairy tale.  How could you not love that mix? Cinderella is now Cinder, a cyborg into a futuristic Beijing and the story of Cinderella basically gets a science fiction retelling.  And that doesn't end there.  Scarlet is coming out in 2013 and will involve a retelling of Red Riding Hood.  All your well-known fairy tale girls are coming together. 
Best Book Cover: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

I think it's the colours on this one.  The green and pink really contrast against each other but I love that and it's quite attractive.  I quite like the theme going on with Keplinger's book covers.  It links them up quite well.   
Wednesday, Dec. 26
Best "I Want To Go To There" Setting in a Book: Wonderland in The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
This world that Beddor has created for Wonderland has been thought about in great detail.  Wonderland becomes this entire world with cities, shadowy corners of the world, and great Kingdoms.  While I wouldn't want to go anywhere near the area that the jabberwockys live in I'd be quite happy wandering through the city of Wondertropolis.  Incredibly fantastical with the familiar oddity that Carroll introduced us to.

Favorite YA Characters:

Tris (Divergent/Insurgent): A remarkable female heroine who wasn't the strongest to begin with but worked hard to become one of the best Dauntless initiatives.  She didn't magically become a strong fighter.  Tris had to put in the hours to get physically strong.

Nathan (A Midsummer's Nightmare): Nathan is a genuine nice guy.  Finally we have a male LI who isn't a complete jerk.  There are too many Edward Cullens and Jace Waylands out there who are just broody and a complete arse to people.  And finally we have Nathan, a friendly nice guy who cares about people and isn't afraid to show that.  We need more Nathans in YA.  Plus he's a total sci-fi nerd.  Hot! =D

Carmen (Anna Dressed in Blood/Girl of Nightmares): Carmen could have easily fallen into that Queen Bee bitch status.  She was popular and very involved with school and her social life.  But Carmen became more than that.  She was happy befriending Cas and Thomas and working with them to stop Anna and hunt other ghosts as well.  She had one moment of weakness when the stress of it all got to her but in the end she was ready to stick by her LI Thomas and best friend Cas.  She cared about them and she cared about protecting people from these dangerous ghosts.

Gale (The Hunger Games trilogy): I still like Gale.  I thought he was interesting and his character developed well, much better than Katniss' did and I still believe that maybe he would have been better taking the spotlight in Mockingjay.  This dictatorship that President Snow was responsible for has angered him his whole life but when Mockingjay comes around you can see that it's really damaged him mentally and he's full of hatred.  It turns him into quite the active character and he believes that his actions are the right thing to do.  I definitely think he would have made a better narrator than Katniss.  She was fine for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire but by Mockingjay she was so passive that nothing was happening around her narration.  I wanted to see action and the war but that was just in the background. 

Thursday, Dec. 27

Best in YA films/television: I'm loving Awkward at the mo for YA television even though the love triangle was really starting to get to me.  But it's quirky with some insane yet loveable characters.  For film Easy A is top of my list.  A sassy heroine who has a quick wit yet makes mistakes and learns from them.  Yes, she brings some of her dilemmas on herself but she's a teenager learning a lesson.  They need to. 


Best Music to Write To/Be Inspired By: Since I mainly write horror these are my favourite tunes to listen to:

Friday, Dec. 28

Most Anticipated Book Releases in 2013: The final book of the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.
Most Recommended: Ten by Gretchen McNeil, The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, The Duff by Kody Keplinger, Divergent by Veronica Roth, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Trick or Treat by Richie Tankserley Cusick, and Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake.


19 Dec 2012

RTW - Naming Characters

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:
The list of top baby names in 2012 had us talking about naming characters. How do you decide on names? Would you ever name a character after a friend/family member/ex?
I take ages at this stage of developing a character.  I'm not the type to choose a name on its meaning.  I'd never choose a name for a hero or heroine because it means brave or heroic.  That's a bit too OTT for me.  But the name does have to suit the character and I'll spend ages deciding on the right one.  Let's use Hannah from Inside the Broom Closet.  Hannah suited her right from the start.  It felt like a gentle name for a gentle, shy character.  There's no way I could change it now for something like Megan or Charlotte.  They don't sound right.  Hannah's definitely her name. 
Sometimes it helps me to look at the character's parents.  I tend to create parents who have a tradition to choosing their children's names.  Darren's parents in Lapse wanted their boys' names to start with the same letter.   Darren fitted the character quite well so the brothers ended up being called Dean and Dylan.  In Beast Inside Luca and Caleb's parents decided to name their firstborn twins after their paternal and maternal granddads.  It also meant their mother was continuing her family's tradition of naming their children after biblical names in regards to Caleb. 
For the second part of the question I don't think I could name a main character after someone who I know very well because its hard for me to not see that character as the person they share a name with.  It's a bit too weird for me.  Minor characters sure but definitely not main characters.  However, I'm fine with using surnames for any character.  A lot of my surnames come from my work place.  It doesn't mean that I'm basing my characters on that person, it's just I'll come across a surname that will have a nice ring to the character's name. 
How do you feel about naming characters after people who are close to you? 

17 Dec 2012

Christmassy Tales

I love Christmas tales as much as I love Horror fiction. It's magical and fantastical and can bring out the huge kid in me. There are stories that I have to read or watch when Christmas time comes along and these are my top five:

The Snow Queen
One of Andersen's best-beloved tales, The Snow Queen is a story about the strength and endurance of childhood friendship. Gerda searches for her playmate Kay–who was abducted by the Snow Queen and taken to her frozen palace.

The Snow Queen has been one of my favourite tales since I was a child. I've read different versions of it and watched different adaptations all my life and it continues to be a fun yet chilling favourite.  I used to watch on old BBC version from the 1970s.  That one always stuck in my head because their portrayal of the Snow Queen was absolutely creepy and terrifying.  She was just a black face with two wide eyes.  That used to scare the crap out of me! But I still loved it. ^^ 

The Nutcracker
Another favourite of mine. Again I've read different versions and seen different adaptations. My favourite has to be the 1990 animation with Kiefer Sutherland voicing the title character. I especially love the music from The Nutcracker Suite. Very Christmassy.

A Christmas Carol
Cruel miser Ebeneezer Scrooge has never met a shilling he doesn’t like...and hardly a man he does. And he hates Christmas most of all. When Scrooge is visited by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come, he learns eternal lessons of charity, kindness, and goodwill.

It's shameful but I have not even read A Christmas Carol yet I've probably seen almost every adaptation there is. Every Christmas I have to watch my three favourites: Scrooged, The Muppet Christmas Carol and I really enjoyed A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge. I love the story and I must get round to reading the book in 2013. Add that to my bookish goals!

Love Actually
One of my favourite Christmas films to watch when I'm wrapping presents or putting up the tree. All these different characters that come together or are connected to each other experiencing all sorts of dilemmas and life changing relationships.

The Snowman

The Snowman used to make me cry when I was a kid but it still remains a book and adaptation that I have to get out for Christmas, especially now that I work in a school. Got to educate the children on The Snowman! And this Christmas Channel 4 is revisiting The Snowman with a sequel! The Snowman and the Snowdog. Can't wait! =D

 Got any favourite Christmas tales/films? :)

12 Dec 2012

RTW - Books per year

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic is:
About how many books do you read in a year? Do you want to read more? Or, less?
This year has been quite different because it's the first time I've read loads in one year.  After university and the next stage of my education was over I could finally make my own choices in reading.  I had no exams, essays, and required reading to get through and could now focus on more writing and my own reading.  That's when I decided to start this blog, not just to help me keep track on NaNo but to keep track of my reading and really challenge myself. 
And I did with these reading challenges.
The book I'm reading now (Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor) marks the last book on the Off the Shelf Challenge and overall completes the two challenges I signed up for.  In total I've read 27 books this year which is the most I've ever done.  And we'll see if I'll have time for more after this book. 
I'd like to see if I can bump the total up to 50 for next year.  I started out with a small list for each challenge just to see how I'd do.  And I've managed it.  Some months were slow like August and November but in other months I managed to get through 3 or 4 books.  That's my monthly goal for next year.  So we'll see how I manage. :) But this blog has really helped me to keep on track of my reading.
How has 2012 been for you in terms of reading? :)

11 Dec 2012

TTT - Authors I've Been Introduced To

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, The Broke and The Bookish have asked us to name:

Top Ten Favourite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2012

1) Veronica Roth (Author of Divergent and Insurgent)
I read Divergent and Insurgent this year and loved both of them.  I loved the world that Roth created and can't wait for the final book next year. 

2) Kody Keplinger (Author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare)
Another author that I started reading this year.  I don't usually go straight for contemporary but I wanted to get some more of the genre on my TBR pile and liked the sound of Keplinger's books.  While the last two I read didn't match up to The DUFF I admire how the author isn't afraid to write what she wants.

3) Marissa Meyer (Author of Cinder)
I snapped up Meyer's debut novel Cinder this year and loved it.  A mix of sci-fi, fantasy, and fairy tale which I loved and thought the combination worked really well.  Can't wait for Scarlet!

4) Gretchen McNeil (Author of Ten)
I read my first Gretchen McNeil book this Halloween.  Ten was a fantastic murder mystery/slasher novel.  Must get my hands on Possess!

5) Frank Beddor (Author of The Looking Glass Wars trilogy)
I came across The Looking Glass Wars in my local Waterstones and was intrigued by the unique spin on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Loved it! I've scooped up Seeing Redd and Arch Enemy and can tell this is going to be one of my favourite series.  Beddor became a favourite author immediately.

6) Kendare Blake (Author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Girl of Nightmares)
I finally picked up both of Blake's Anna books after hearing so many recommendations and I'm glad.  Finally, some awesome YA Horror!

7) Suzanne Collins (Author of The Hunger Games trilogy)
I was really late getting into The Hunger Games and read all three for the first time this year.  While I disappointed with Mockingjay, I still enjoyed the series.

8) Hannah Moskowitz (Author of Break, Zombie Tag, Invincible Summer, and Gone, Gone, Gone)
I read Break in January and liked Moskowitz's style, especially with her male lead.  Break was a chaotic novel where the lead character's life spirals out of control, something he seems completely unaware of until it's almost too late.  I'd like to see what other issues Moskowitz deals with in her other books.

9) Victoria Schwab (Author of The Near Witch)
The Near Witch came out in 2011 but I was introduced to Victoria Scwab's debut novel during August and bought it for my Halloween TBR.  It wasn't the spookiest book I read and wouldn't consider it pure horror but the folklore of the Near Witch was both fantastical and eerie.  It got me interested enough to keep going and plan to read Scwab's future books.

10) Ransom Riggs (Author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children)
I loved Riggs inclusion of photographs in the book.  I think it made the book seem like it could be real.  It helped add to any visuals I had of the novel when reading it.

10 Dec 2012

Keeping Up With The Writing

After reading Laura's recent blog post I'm definitely considering taking part in 100k in 100 days writing challenge for 2013.  It's organised by Sally Quilford who has challenged us to write 100k words in 100 days from 1st January 2013 until 10th April 2013.

After NaNo I'm definitely having a writing buzz.  I'm taking time off at the moment to study for my theory test and I hope to start editing Lapse during the holidays.  But I'd also like to stay in that habit of writing regularly and working on WiPs.  Just to help me keep up with writing.  I like to challenge myself so this one particularly interested me.  Taking breaks never works well for me.  I get out of habit easily.  I get used to resting and having the time to myself.  I take after my gran in this way: I like to keep busy and I like having projects to do. 

It's a nice 2013 writing resolution to have.  If I don't finish the rest of Inside the Broom Closet by the end of this month I'll use it as one of my projects and start the sequel as the next WiP for the challenge. :)

5 Dec 2012

RTW - The Editing Way

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:
For many, December is a post-NaNoWriMo revision haze! How do you approach editing/revising? Any tips or tricks or resources you can share?
I'm not diving into revisions straight away.  In preparation I'm writing up all notes I made during NaNo to write more detailed character and plot notes as well as adding in histories and popular culture I mentioned in that world.  That's all being written up neat and into a folder. 
I'll edit the way I began to edit for Beast Inside.  I go through each chapter separately for that day and make notes.  Things to add, cut out, grammar or spelling mistakes etc.  Then I'd write that chapter up again by hand with the edits.  It was a nice, organised process for me that I'll continue.  Although this time I may just type the edits up straight onto the computer.  My hand is so not used to writing tons anymore. 
I did also like to write up a summary of the new chapter, making notes of what I wanted to see happen.  Not just in events but things like any character development or relationship changes.  For example, I'll make a note of how I want to convey Scott feeling in the chapter after seeing more ghosts or how badly Chelsea is affected by almost getting attacked by one. 
I have been interested in trying out Scrivener for editing.  It seems like it organises things really well which definitely sounds like my kind of thing.  Does anyone use it or have tried it? :)

4 Dec 2012

TTT - Book list for Santa

Now that NaNo is over I can go back to doing TTT which I missed.  But a blogging break was needed.  To get into the Christmas mood this week's Top Ten Tuesday is:
Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

1) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the very few sets of books that should be read three times: in childhood, early adulthood, and late in life. In brief, four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. Richly told, populated with fascinating characters, perfectly realized in detail of world and pacing of plot, the story is infused throughout with the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope. This edition includes all seven volumes.

I've only read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  I'd love to have the whole collection to read.

2) Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I'm seeing assassin nun and thinking: AWESOME!

3) The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter



It's always been just Kate and her mom--and her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate's going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear that her mother won't live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerising. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld--and if she accepts his bargain, he'll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he's crazy--until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she'll become Henry's future bride and a goddess.


I'm in a real re-telling kind of mood at the moment.  This one sounded interesting.

4) Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an axe and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?

Fairy tale retelling.  Again, I'm interested.

5) Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?

Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive....

Not your typical beach read.

I enjoyed Break so I'd like to read more from Hannah Moskowitz.

6) Make-up (Trade Secrets of the Professionals) by Kit Spicer

I've flipped through this book at Waterstones and would love it! It gives you tips on the best way to applying make-up and you can find out which colours and what styles suit your facial features and colourings. 

7) The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight by Dave Myers, Si King

I love the Hairy Bikers.  They don't mess around with this fancy looking food other chefs faff about with.  They'll give you tips and recipes for making the perfect fry-up.  Proper and delicious food.  For this newest edition they give you recipes that you thought you'd have to give up if you're dieting.  It's not like your normal diet.  The Hairy Bikers give you tons of recipes that allow you to eat the food you love but advise you on how to make it healthier.  I have a goal to drop to a size 10 in 2013 so this book would be very much welcomed under the Christmas tree!

8) The Hairy Bikers' 12 Days of Christmas: Fabulous Festive Recipes to Feed Your Family and Friends by Dave Myers, Si King 

Christmas recipes from the Hairy Bikers? Yes, please! =D

9) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery....

Narrated by Death, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young foster girl living outside of Munich in Nazi Germany. Liesel scratches out a meagre existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever they are to be found.

With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, Liesel learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbours during bombing raids, as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

I've heard that Death is the narrator which got me intrigued immediately.

10)  The Divergent Series 2-Book Collection (Divergent, #1-2) by Veronica Roth

Contains the complete text of Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestsellers, Divergent and Insurgent, as well as fifty pages of bonus content including author interviews and Q&A, discussion questions, a faction quiz, faction manifestos, a playlist, and more.

I have these two on Kindle but they're books that I would love to have on my shelf as well.  It's one of those situations where the kindle version isn't good enough.  I need the paperback and this collection sounds amazing.  Books 1 and 2 together along with bonus content? On the Christmas list! :)

Tell The Broke and The Bookish what you'd love for Christmas :) 

3 Dec 2012

Inspirational Settings: Hotels

For my NaNo WiP the main haunted location is the South Lakeside Inn, an old Tudor mansion that was converted into a hotel around the Victorian times and was built on old Church grounds.  It looks onto Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District and it's just a twenty minute walk from the fictional market town of Keston.  In the winter it tends to be quite isolated from civilisation.  The A66 next to the hotel can get quite treacherous in bad winter weather.  Not many people are travelling and business can slow down.  Also, it's plagued by disturbed, violent spirits dating back to witch trials. 

A haunted hotel has been lurking around my mind since summer when I went to Derwentwater in the Lake District and I caught sight of this hotel:

Photo credit

The Lodore Falls Hotel & Spa was stunningly creepy from the outside.  Inside I'm sure it's glamorous but all I could see was a huge hotel that overlooked Derwentwater in a secluded spot.  The outside structure of it also made it look quite sinister, snug between the trees there and I bet it can be quite a chilling sight when it's winter and everything is misty and grey.  And all you can see is this hotel towering over the lake. 

I do think hotels can be creepy.  Maybe I've watched The Shining too much but there can be something too quiet and spooky about hotels. 

For the last week of August me and Pete took a trip to Crawley where we stayed in a hotel.  It was an impressive building apart from a couple of spooky aspects:

1) Very Shining-esque corridors

The corridors were very narrow and the carpet pattern reminded me of the hotel's decor in the film.  Very old-fashioned looking and so silent during the day and the night.  There are no windows so all you're relying on are the hall lights... which constantly flickered.  This is where watching Supernatural becomes a problem.  You see a flickering light and you expect a ghost to appear.  As you walked under they'd hiss as they flickered.  Very eerie. 

2) Victorian photographs
There's something chilling about Victorian photographs and I found these while I was at the hotel in Crawley.  The people in them don't smile and just stare back at you blankly.  Also I can't help but think of their post-mortem photography craze so I keep having these absurd theories that maybe one of them or all of them in the photo are dead.  You can't really tell with some of the post-mortem photos.  It sparked an image of a narrow corridor with a Victorian photo on every wall.  In each one there's a person or people just staring back at you as you walk down it.

All these little aspects and features sparked the creation of the haunted South Lakeside Inn.  Flickering lights, creepy Victorian people, and a building standing in a secluded spot.  I looked up some more hotels for pinterest and pinned quite a few images of hotels that were reported to be haunted.  They're here if you're interested. The Tudor-like buildings are the ones that inspired the outside appearance of the hotel.  I love that style! :)

Hotels are brilliant for inspiring your fictional setting.  Take a good look at the next hotel you stay in.  It might spark something!

Have buildings sparked fictional settings for your WiPs before? 

30 Nov 2012

NaNo Update 5: The End

It's the 30th and the last day of NaNoWriMo.  It's been great this year to share with some of my blogging friends (Shout out for Cole, Sara, Laura, Colin, Jaime, and Juliana!) who have all done amazing.  It was really motivating this year to share it with friends and see how everyone else was doing. :)

It was easier to write this year than 2011.  Last year was the first time I ever participated but I had started my job and was just getting used to early mornings and have little time to do anything so I was shattered when the 1st December came around.  This year I'm used to early morning and not enough free time at home.  But this year I started November in the half term holiday which meant I had 4 days of getting well ahead and writing as much as I could. 

Things I learnt:

Daily word count targets of at least 2000 words really helped me to keep me writing going.  I didn't try to push myself into writing tons each day like I did last year.  I wrote more at the weekends and if I could write an extra 1000 or 2000 words on a weekday I did.  But if I didn't I told myself to not get stressed over it.  2000 was my goal and it was always enough to stay on target.

I didn't plot in detail like I did last year.  I had a summary of what would happen and I just went from there.  It felt like the plot moved itself instead of me forcing it to go wherever I wanted it.  Scenes came to me as I wrote and they always fitted in nicely with the plot and events.  It definitely felt easier to write without a detailed plot that I had to follow.

Wrong MC.  There are still a lot of P.O.Vs from Scott who turned out to be a little passive and pushed away from the events that were happening. So I let Darren take the lead in some parts who was quite happy to move the plot and let his curiosity and impulsiveness lead all the characters back to the haunted hotel.  Something Scott would never have done.  But in the end Scott did willingly get involved and I'm liking the two male characters battling for MC status, especially when they're the complete opposite on some things. 

I'm taking it as a good sign if I can creep myself out when writing this WiP.  The hanging ghost scenes made me a little jumpy.  And then there were quite a lot of times when I would pause when writing and the word count would end in 666.  No lie.  =/

Will I NaNo again?

You bet! Camp NaNo and NaNo here I come! Is it too early to start planning what to write next year? I already miss NaNo. ^^

How did your NaNo experience go? Anyone new to it this year?

28 Nov 2012

RTW - Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:
Best Book of November
With NaNo I didn't get through tons of books.  I was quite slow and managed to finish three and have just started a new one which I doubt I'll finish by the end of November.  Those were:
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
And the best book for November...
A fantastic sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood that still leaves a few questions open that I hope the author will continue with in the future but manages to wrap up everything nicely so if Girl of Nightmares is the last Anna book it still finishes the story perfectly.
My favourite aspects:
1) The mix of characters.  Carmel, Thomas, and Cas were so different.  The Queen Bee, the unpopular Wallflower, and the Loner.  All differing personalities yet together they have formed such a close knit circle and have come to really care for one another and are also ready to stick by each other in dangerous times.  The best group of friends I've seen since the Scooby gang in Buffy.
2) The horror is still chilling.  There's a scene with ghosts in a forest who only seem to move once your back is turned.  Reminded me of the Weeping Angels so that had me hiding behind a cushion while I read it.  The Weeping Angels terrified me as statues but ghosts who move like this? *shudders*.
3) Jestine.  A fantastic addition to the character list.  She was feisty and brave and I'd love to see more of her journey.  She was an interesting little character and it would be great to see a Jestine spin off.
I'll be writing a proper review of this but for now this sums up why I loved this book.  Kendare Blake's got me hooked!
What was your favourite book of November? :)

26 Nov 2012

NaNo Update #4

Word Count: 50,124

Next Week's Target: Nothing.  I'm sleeping for a week! *collapses*

So I literally just finished writing and I've made it up to 50,124.  Short for a first draft but I was barely half way adding in extra scenes and stuff when I reached the 50k mark so I'm going to casually cruise through the rest and still add some more stuff in.  But I've achieved the target so adding in these little extra snippets and stuff can be a more chilled out process.

If I wasn't full of cold right now I'd be doing this:

I love this story.  The writing's a bit meh but I've enjoyed writing it and I've enjoyed writing about these characters.  I knew who they were from the beginning but there's been some little surprises in their personalities.  Worries as well.  But in the end I love this little group.  They're special to me.  When I was thirteen and started writing stories for me and my friends Scott, Chelsea, Darren and Riley were the characters I used back then.  There was also a character called Ashley who has now ended up in another WiP and Riley's twin Jessica who is more of a secondary character now but they were this small group of friends who saw the paranormal in their home town and faced it.  Very Spooksville meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The characters at the time were the same age as me but they faced dark stuff even then.  So for ten years I've known them like they were my own friends and writing this WiP was almost nostalgic.  I loved writing about these characters again and I loved it even more because I've taken ten years to properly get to know them and develop them. 

I was freaking out last week because I finished the draft and I had about 8000 more words to write before I hit 50k.  So I was just sitting there thinking: 'CRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!" but fortunately I have an amazing boyfriend who kept me inspired and gave me a great idea for a whole chapter that gave me quite a few thousand words.  So he's one of the reasons I made it today.  I would still be panicking over what to write without his suggestion.  And there was Marissa Meyer's pep talk as well.  Here's some advice she gave for this exact problem I had:

Dilemma #1: If you find yourself realizing that, 35,000 words in, you’ve just about hit the end of this story and are convinced you’ll never make it to 50K…

It sounds like your book needs a hearty injection of The Unexpected. So unexpected that not even you could have seen it coming. The trick to landing an excellently unexpected insertion is to not go with the first idea that pops into your head—too often, that is the domain of clich├ęs and the all-too-expected. Rather, try making a list of at least twenty things you would enjoy writing about right now. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with what you’ve written so far (you can always drop in some nice foreshadowing during revisions), and the whole point is that you’re about to insert something fun, unique, and exciting into this draft.

Maybe you’re being called toward eye patch-sporting pirates and buried treasure. Maybe you’re dying to write about a hitchhiker with aspirations of being the world’s greatest baseball player. Maybe your dystopic, plague-ridden society is bringing you down and you’d love to send your characters on a romp through a whimsical wonderland.

Make your list, choose what’s calling to you most, and drop it into the next chapter just as if you’d been planning it all along. Watch as your plot and characters scramble to make it work, and the words once more begin to pile up.

It helped me so much.  I started thinking of what I could add in randomly and just started adding in extra bits.  I had a whole new opening for the WiP which really helped in showing what the character's differing personalities were like and also showed much better voices for each one as well.  It was a nice, fun and chilled out scene before it jumped into the ghostly stuff and I love it.  It works as an opening. 

I'm looking forward to getting into the editing with this WiP.  I know I've been working on Beast Inside for a year now but I'm starting to think it's not the novel I want to start out with.  I still worry over letting slip the word 'vampire' and having it immediately turned away.  Maybe it is time to let vampires rest even if mine are of the evil and creepy variety.  But I have this ghost WiP with the characters I wrote my first ever novel with and it feels like this is the one I want to try and get published first. :) I'll write up more about these characters another time.  I really want you to meet them properly! =D

We're in the last few days of NaNo.  How is it all going? Any pep talks you found incredibly helpful?

21 Nov 2012

RTW - Holiday Writing

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic is:
With Thanksgiving on the horizon we want to know how you balance hectic times like the holidays with your writing schedule.
We don't have Thanksgiving in England and the only holiday we have here in November is Bonfire Night.  Literally one night of standing around and watching fireworks in the sky and getting toasty warm by the bonfire that's lit up.  It's not a major holiday that people tend to take time off work or school for.  So there is still plenty of time to write and if I'm not going to a Bonfire event that night I'm just taking some time away from the computer to look outside.  There's a field outside my flat so usually people come and set off their own fireworks and I watch that through the window.  Whatever I do, I can always write on the day and I don't usually see family for it either. 
I don't think there's a lot of major holidays in my life and in the UK where I struggle to balance family with writing.  We have a lot of one day holidays that we don't take time off for and always spend it with family.  There's Pancake Day - for a non-religious person that's just a day of making our own pancakes.  I don't tend to celebrate St George's Day but again that's not a huge family celebration type holiday.  And then there's St Patrick's Day which I do celebrate (Proud Irish ancestry! =D) and that's just a night of drinking.  Again, families don't tend to get together.  No-one wants their parents to see how much alcohol they're having. And if anything, Halloween always gets me writing.  That day is pretty much... well, dead here in England.

I guess there's only Christmas time that requires family time and a lack of writing.  For me that's purely a holiday of spending time with family and watching Christmas TV.  I just give myself a little break.  Depending on where me and Pete are for Christmas I may take a notebook to scribble down notes or write by hand when there's a chance to just sit and chill out.  The same goes for New Year.  We'll have a family meal, again whether we're in Leeds or Darlington, but it's a chilled out day and night as we wait for the new year to roll in.  Although we're in Leeds this year for News Years and I think I may have been unwillingly volunteered to cook the traditional roast dinner. So maybe I won't get any chance to write that day. =/
Pete and I do actually have to go up to Darlington this weekend for his mum's graduation party.  It's not a holiday or anything but it does require spending time with family.  I'm on 42K at the moment with NaNo so I'm hoping I can get to 50k by this Friday.  If not I'm taking my netbook with me and I'll be able to fit in writing at night when we head to bed and in the morning.  There's also Sunday morning when his family go to Church and we usually have the house to ourselves.  I would write on the coach but I'm quite funny about writing when there's a stranger sitting next to me.  I don't like anyone seeing the first draft that I'm writing.  When it's edited that's fine but not the terrible first draft!
What are the holidays like for you? I'm especially interested in hearing how hectic Thanksgiving can be. :)

19 Nov 2012

NaNo Update #3

Word Count: 40.049

Next week's target: 50,000

Last week was a slow writing week.  I could tell I was starting to feel the exhaustion I felt last year when I hit 30k.  I had headaches every day and took hours to write just 2000 words.  Thursday I couldn't write at all because my head was seriously killing me and Friday I only cranked out another 1000.  Saturday was much better.  I rested in the morning and had a nap.  By the evening I had managed to write 4000 words which made up for the lack of writing. 

I'm glad I had that nap and I'm also glad that I just left it on Thursday to rest and again on Friday.  I really struggled to concentrate.  That was a sign telling me to rest.  I was well above the daily target anyway so I knew I could get away with a small rest and enjoy spending some time watching films and reading. 

On YA Highway's Carpool Lane I got a great email on rejuvenating exercises.  One Highwayer suggested to leave the computer and write by hand instead for the evening or day and when you're ready to go back to the computer you have to something to type up.  This was my favourite piece of advice because I'm prone to headaches when I've been working on the computer quite a lot each day.  It happened last year too.  This would give me the chance to keep writing without having a bright computer screen glaring at me and making my head worse.  If you haven't signed up for the Carpool Lane I really recommend it! Even if you're not officially doing NaNo or getting ready to write in a different month the advice and motivation you get is really helpful.

So next week let's see if I can get this WiP finished.  It's a short draft and I do expect to finish once I get to 50,000.  But there's plenty cooking in my head for the editing process to add in. :)

How did the third week go for everyone? Is exhaustion starting to kick in too? What helpful advice have you come across? :)

14 Nov 2012

RTW - Writing Inspiration

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic is:
Tons of writers are in the midst of NaNoWriMo, trying to stay inspired as we reach the dreaded middle. Share your most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!
My inspiration changes with whatever book I'm writing.  For my NaNo project this year I tend to have my Pinterest board open for visual motivation and these two books nearby in case I want to check something out:
I mainly keep going back to the fiction that's inspired me to write this NaNo project in the past.  At the moment I have a lot of Supernatural as well as watching an old disney film Tower of Terror that involves a haunted hotel - my ghostly setting.
But there are a couple of non-fiction books on writing that generally keep me motivated about writing:
Breathing Life into your Characters: How To Give Your Characters Emotional and Psychological Depth by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.
This is a fantastic book for anyone who can be character-driven writers.  The blurb says that it will help you get into the head of your characters, knowing their thoughts, feelings, and overall psychology whether they are the protagonist or the villain.
There are chapters on helping you shape a characters back story and then moving on to knowing their motivations.  Conflicts and how characters might react differently to them.  Quite basic to start out with but the chapters go deeper into the mind of your characters.  Dysfunctional families, personality disorders, phobias, dialogue and body language. 
Nothing has helped me more than this book in creating characters.  There's just so much you don't tend to think of when writing your characters and this book give you loads to work with and think about, overall helping you develop that character in your head that's itching for a way out and a story.
Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L Going
My go-to book for writing YA.  I loved the presentation of the book with the chapters being linked to high school classes.  English: Writing Convincing Characters, Social Studies: Studying settings, Science: Experimenting with editing techniques and so on.  This book really helps me get inside the mind of a teenager.  I never thought it would happen so soon but at 23 I'm actually starting to forget what it was like to be a teenager and being emotional and confused with friendship drama being the biggest problem of my life and making silly choices and mistakes.  I loved the inclusion of a teen panel who answer questions in each chapter on YA reading and they give their opinions.  The answers show you just how different teenagers can be and what they look for in books.  At the end of each chapter there is also a little 'homework' to complete.  A little motivation and writing project to do and get you writing.  There's also help on what to do in the revising and querying stages.
Any writing books that have motivated you in the past?

12 Nov 2012

NaNo Update 2

Word Count: 25,029

Next week's target: 40,000

I could make it really easy and have a target of 30,000 by next Monday.  But if I keep to 2000 words a day like I have been doing I'll hit 30k by Wednesday.  40K is more of a challenge.  I've stuck to writing 2000 a day and with a bit more time at weekends I think I can make it.

The story is still flowing nicely and the plot is easily coming to me as I write.  What I did figure out this week was I have the wrong MC.  I won't bother to go back and switch things now.  I can wait until the editing.  But I'm switching when the time comes.

Originally I loved Scott as the MC.  A level-headed, sceptical character who has never believed in ghosts and simply humours Darren and Riley's obsession with ghosts and investigating them.  And then he comes across the haunted hotel and his whole perspective on ghosts and the afterlife completely changes.  He's gaining some curiosity but still he'd rather stay in the background.

That's where my problem lies.  It's out of character for him to suddenly start investigating ghosts.  As far as he's concerned seeing these ghosts for the first time scared the crap out of him and he'd like to keep away.  He's still quite passive.

As for Darren he's a leader.  He actively goes in search of ghosts with Riley and leads the plot.  What happens is a consequence of his decisions and the plot isn't moving him like it does with Scott.  Darren already believes in ghosts but this is the first time he's ever experienced something worthwhile that would be great for his blog.  He really acts impulsive and reckless as a result and this will lead to the climax where he puts all his friends in danger. 

So, sorry Scott but Darren may have to take your place as MC. 

How are your NaNo novels going? Any changes you've realised you'll have to make too?