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30 Apr 2013

Z is for Zombies!

This is my last post in the A-Z blogging challenge.  Thank you to everyone who has read and commented! It's been awesome and I've discovered some awesome new blogs from it! =D

I'm quite new to zombie fiction.  For ages I wouldn't touch anything zombie because I was terrified of them.  But I signed up to 2.8 hours later last year, loved it, and decided that maybe zombie fiction wasn't so bad.  In fact, don't I watch horror because I loved to be scared? That's the whole point.

They still creep me out and I always have a plan in the back of my head in case the zombie apocalypse happened (you have to be prepared for these things) but I enjoy watching them and now I'm slowly collecting a TBR pile of zombie fiction to read.

My top five zombie films?

1) Zombieland

This was actually the perfect zombie film for me to watch first because it was quite comical.  So the humour really calmed me down a bit.  And anything with Woody Harrelson in it is awesome.

 2) The Walking Dead

So after Zombieland it was time to go for the really serious stuff.  I caught an episode of The Walking Dead, found it interesting and decided to catch the first two seasons on BT Vision.  Fantastic.  The characters, their story arcs.  The writers take a group of people with different personalities, even some with more nastier traits and merged them together to create a group of survivors desperate to stay alive in a world completely taken over by the reanimated dead.  It's grim and the writers love to break your heart but it's awesome.

3) Dead Set

Dead Set was a British mini series where the zombie apocalypse breaks out and a group of Big Brother contestants and staff use the house as temporary shelter while the undead slowly surround the studio.  I guess the undead are fans of BB.  And yes, there is also Davina McCall as a zombie. Hilarious!

4) 28 Days Later

Another British zombie flick.  I think we really dig zombies in Britain.  There's some hidden meaning there.  I loved the zombie virus in this or rather the rage virus.  It's so easy to get infected.  A cut, a drop of blood, saliva etc and in seconds you're a raging animal with one prime instinct: kill.  I mean, the whole reason for the title is that in the 28 days since the virus began to spread the world is no more.   These zombies don't procrastinate.

5) Shaun of the Dead

More British zombies! Again, Shaun of the Dead is great for first timers who are a bit nervous of watching a serious zombie flick.  A team of unlikely heroes get together to find shelter and survival as they wake up to what should have been another slow day with the usual stops and jobs to go to but instead they wake up to slow zombies and the world taken over.  I guess this means the pub won't be open?

Anyone else a zombie fan? :)

29 Apr 2013

Y is for... Younger Self

Yesterday I was reading Phoebe North's post on YA Highway about the writing you did when you were younger. It got me thinking about all the cringe worthy stories I wrote.  The awful supernatural series that was nothing but drama and cliches.  The three little dolls who came to life at night called Molly, Polly, and Dolly.  That bloody puppy who kept getting lost and having different adventures.

I definitely wrote some right crap when I was younger.  Maybe I still do but I'm not published so I'll have to wait to find that out. ^^

So if I could give any advice to my younger writer self this would probably be it.

1) Flaw those characters!
2) Please stop describing every character's appearance as soon as they say something.
3) Go look up an author called Stephen King.  Also buy his book called On Writing. When you're 23 you're going to want to have wished you had these tips ages ago.
4) You're very afraid of killing your darlings at this point.  I know you love them but get some writer balls and do it. You're writing horror anyway.  It's a very unforgiving and merciless genre.

If you could give your younger writer self any advice what would it be?

27 Apr 2013

X is for... X-Men

I've always loved superheroes.  I think part of me would still love to gain those superpowers I wished and wished for as a kid.  X-Men has always been one of my favourites because I loved the idea of humanity evolving and gaining certain powers.

So I always think about what power I'd like if humanity suddenly gained powers.

And then the even sadder part of me thinks about what powers would my characters get?

For some reason I like to know random, trivial bits of information about my characters.  It's not like this would even make the planning notes let alone the actual WiP but whenever I'm taking a break from writing I always end up thinking about my characters and whether they would love this programme I'm watching or what takeaway they would get for the night.

If I use the characters from Lapse and Consequences these would be the superpowers if they got struck by lightning, exposed to radiation etc:

Darren: Definitely mediumship.  His biggest love in life other than journalism is ghost hunting so to be able to see and communicate with the dead would make his hobby ten times better.

Riley: Psychometry.  Riley loves ghost hunting just as much as Darren but she loves knowing a place's or ghost's history.  This power would help her get the past information she craves.

Chelsea: Maybe a flight power.  Whether it's the actually ability to fly or teleportation.  Then she can fly or teleport to all the fashion cities of the world and attend every fashion show without the need to pay for travel.  Perfecto.

Scott: Omniscience.  He may be able to get away with doing barely any revision and still pass exams with flying colours but there's always a possibility that he really will screw up if he continues being cocky like that. 

So if your character suddenly gained a superpower what would it be and why? =D

26 Apr 2013

W is for... Where in the World?

So I recently finished Anna and the French Kiss. *Sudden gasp* I know what you're thinking.  I'm reading a contemporary... romance? She who gags and groans at romance to begin with and would rather be reading about psycho killers and ghosts because she grew up a tad weird?

But *le sigh* I loved the book.  What I really loved was the Paris setting.  Stephanie Perkins brings Paris right into the room with you as you read about Anna's adventure in France.  You're right there outside the Notre Dame and walking up the Eiffel Tower with her.  I've been to Paris so reading this book reminded me of all the memories I have.  Remembering how Paris looked lit up at night as I toured the city on a batobus.  Walking down the Champ-de-Mars at all times during the day and seeing it full of families, friends, and couples having picnics.  Entertainers all around.  I think if anyone asked me what my favourite book is that involved travel I would have to say Anna and the French Kiss.  Seriously, I need to go back to Paris. 

And there are fictional fantasy worlds.  Just like I love a good realistic setting I also love a well thought out make-believe world.  While I haven't read the series (yet) I do love the known world in Game of Thrones by George RR Martin.  The different kingdoms, the known families and their crests and mottos.  I find it amusing that in Westeros the accents sound so similar to what Northern and Southern accents can sound like in England. 

Any books where you've loved the real world or fantasy world setting?

25 Apr 2013

V is for Vampire...

Yeah, sorry, this vampire obsessed freak is going to ramble on about them. *blushes*.  But no, I'm not going to gush about the latest hot vampire.  I'm not even going to talk about those type of vampires.  The ones who use too much body glitter, like to attend high school and make blood drinking sexy for some insane reason.

I do write about vampires and have done so in the past.  But my interests lie in that folkloric vampire who was a menace.  Demonic.  Fear.  Not very attractive and more urban legends to scare the townsfolk. 

I bought this book a few years ago when I started plotting Beast Inside.  Vampires: A Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night by Dr Bob Curran.  The author was inspired to write this book after noticing what the vampire is like in modern culture, acknowledging how the idea of this creature has changed since the likes of Dracula, Carmilla and all the way to the present day with the Salvatore Brothers, Edward Cullen and Angel.

And in response to our modern day vamps we get a book that explores where the myths actually came from, looking at different lore and belief that involved vampiric-like creatures.  And that's what I love, more so than the supposedly handsome and alluring creature we get in modern culture.  Even if you don't like vampires this is a great book to have if you're looking for some monster inspiration.  And if you do like vampires, this is great for exploring different folklore.

Some of my favourites:

Assyrian Ekimmu

A type of ghost, meaning 'that which is snatched away', typically from a violent and untimely death.  The Assyrians believed their dead entered the House of Darkness, eternally shut away in darkness.  But there were some who didn't pass and as a result of being refused entry they became violent and hostile towards the living, even known to attack.  Some descriptions have the Ekimmu as walking corpses and there was also confusion to when the Ekimmu appeared but some accounts do have them as appearing only at night.  The Ekimmu took certain forms, the most vicious being the alu which again was a creature who had a violent or untimely death.  They were known to be thin, pale and had scabbed lips.  They also drank the blood of those who were dying.

Leanan Sidhe

A vampiric type of fairy.  Tales of these blood drinking fairies appeared in Irish folklore and also in the Western Isles of Scotland.  They were known to inhabit ruined fortresses and abandoned churches in the Scottish West where they attacked passers-by.

The Draugr

In Norse/Icelandic mythology the draugr was a term for the wandering and vicious walking dead.  They were recognised by their skin colour being death blue or corpse pale.  There was also a reek of decay and corruption from these creatures.  They were known to have immense strength and could increase the size of their bodies.  The draugr killed their victims by crushing them either eating them or drinking their blood.  In some cases a victim of a draugr was known to become one as well.

24 Apr 2013

U is for University

Recently the topic of a New Adult genre has been floating around a bit for quite a while.  The writers at NA alley created a whole blog dedicated to inspire NA writing and reading

I love the idea NA and one thing that made me supportive of the genre is university.  When I was a teen and slowly moving towards leaving home and living independently to further my studies I wish I could have had a few books focusing on a character moving to university.  I had no idea what to expect and thought most of my coming-of-life experiences had passed and I missed it completely because YA makes out like all your coming-of-age experiences are in high school.  But there were plenty of opportunities and even more at university. 

For some it is, for some it isn't.  But I think I really came into age when I went to university.  YA is good for first experiences but it's those times between 19 and 25 where most people discover who they really want to be, where they want to be, and who they want to commit to.  I know a lot of people who met their partner at uni.

I learnt to live by myself.  There were more chores to do, food shops to think about and do, budgets to live on, and learning to live with other people.  You were an adult who could start a relationship without dealing with curious parents for a while, who could go down to the local pub and have a pint with friends, vote, get to places yourself etc. You were creating your own rules to live by in your own, yet rented, homes.

And if uni isn't in a person's life they're still working towards finding out who they want to be.  In the UK teens can go from college into jobs and work their way up like that.  That's another coming-of-age experience.  Finding the career they want to do.  Teens can have dreams but I know from experience that a lot of of the jobs me and my friends all dreamt of doing didn't become the career most of us have today.  I knew wannabe surgeons, lawyers, and then there was me the wannabe journalist.  This changed to studying acting, being a freelance graphic designer, and other jobs completely different to their original dream.  I ended up going from: 'I would NEVER work in a primary school' to 'I love primary school'.  Seriously I never thought I would enjoy teaching and its completely pushed aside my dream to be a journalist.  In fact I really didn't like what I saw when I did a local newspaper placement at university.  It wasn't the job I thought it was.

So I'd love to see more NA.  More books where young adults are really starting to find themselves and going down a path that may or may not have been the one they wanted.  I think it's important for teens to be able to read about life after high school, to know what to expect, and read about stories that they could relate to as they take the next step into becoming independent adults. 

How do you feel about the NA genre?

23 Apr 2013

T is for Trying Out...

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week a bookish question is asked and participants are asked to list their top ten choices related to that question.

This week:
  Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like MORE/LESS Than I Did

 These are five books that I was sure I would like but actually wasn't keen on in the end.  Stardust (review here) wasn't the book I expected.  I found the ending a bit of a cop out with a lack of world building and plot development.  For Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (review here) it started out slightly comical but the main supernatural LI turned into a mopey dick who threatened to harm the FMC.  A threat she responded by claiming she had finally fallen in love with him and wanted to help him.  *Groan* 

For Hood and The Turn of the Screw I didn't finish these books which was a disappointment because they sounded great.  Hood was very slow in development.  I must have been on page 200 and the MC still wasn't near to becoming Robin Hood.  For The Turn of the Screw it was mainly the writing I had a problem with.  It didn't flow very well and was quite clunky and more like a stream of conscious type narrative.

As for The Madman's Daughter I was so excited to read a retelling of H.G.Well's The Island of Dr Moreau.  But for me it was more of a rehash of the same story with a couple of changes thrown in and too much focus on a love triangle. (Review here.)
 Contemporary is not my thing and if it's contemporary romance I'm definitely not interested.  But Kody Keplinger's The Duff (review here) really caught my eye because the book had a snarky MC who had imperfections, not just in character but, in her eyes, appearance.  And I like to read about a FMC who's not a skeleton for once.  I wasn't too sure of the romance but it kinda worked for Wesley and Bianca.  They had the right personalities to make them a perfect match for each other.

I heard about love triangles and a FMC who finds out she's not so ordinary so I was wary about The Iron King.  I still say I'm not keen on Ash and his threatening-but-I-secretly-love-you ways.  There's another brooding lad who needs a good slap.  But I generally enjoyed the story.  I loved the world, the faeries, and I liked that it was always Megan's journey.  She chose to help her brother and find him and in the end it was up to her to face the antagonist.  Review to come.

I'm still reading Anna and the French Kiss but I'm about 200 pages in and I know I love it.  Like I said, contemporary romance isn't my style but this book just works.  There's more to romance.  Anna becoming independent, especially in a foreign country and trying to make it work there with friends and studying.  And I love, love, love Etienne St Clair.  He's this friendly, caring genuine guy who is such a breath of fresh air from the moody male LIs we get a lot in YA.  There's no act with him.  He's lovely, he treats people with respect and because of that he gets my respect and interest.

I came late into The Hunger Games, about the time the third book had come out, the first film was getting ready, and the fandom was huge.  So obviously with any popular fandom I heard a lot of negative things about the book.  But I still wanted to read it and I get why this was popular.  I will admit Collins still has a lot to improve in writing but the idea was brilliant and it got to my emotions a lot.  I cared for all these youths, even the careers.  Everyone was forced to take part and if this was the world you were brought up in, where you knew there could be a chance of you having to fight and survive you'd want to make sure you could handle yourself in the arena. Full review here.

I don't think I had any expectations of The Near Witch.  I'd read reviews, seen recommendations, and knew the basic plot but I didn't want to assume whether I would like it or not.  I think I was worried this mysterious stranger part would become the focus of the book too much but I went ahead and read it.  Victorian Schwab created this spooky fairy tale with an eerie yet fantastical village.  A place where even Nature is its own character.  It's not your typical horror but I read it for Halloween and I still think the haunting presence of the legendary Near Witch was enough to make the story creepy but not too creepy that non-horror fans would probably still enjoy.  Full review here

Are there any books that surprised you? :)

22 Apr 2013

S is for Slang...

One pet peeve of mine is how British characters may be portrayed as talking from some non-British authors.  I see a lot of slang that is a bit old-fashioned or stereotypical for British teens to speak like.  It's hard because slang constantly changes and there's no way anyone could travel around the whole of England to see how people in different county's speak and what different terms they may use.  But I thought I'd ask a few British blogger friends to share the sort of slang that they also hear just to show how different language can be in England and what kids today (or at the moment) speak like.  Coz we're down with the kids, yo!

This started after I was reading a YA book (not going to be naming) and the British character in the book said sausages were always called bangers in England.  To an extent that is true.  You can hear the term when someone is referring to the meal bangers and mash.   But the rest of the time Brits will refer to sausage as simply "sausage".   Honestly, if you try walking into a sandwich bar in England and ask for a banger and bacon butty (butty = sandwich) you're going to get some right odd looks. 

One thing to watch out for is that slang and terms change wherever you go in England.  When I was at school and dressing in rock band t-shirts and baggy jeans I would be called a grunger.  And when I was in Yorkshire, the term was mosher.  

Subcultures have changed a lot during the years in the UK.  From the mods and the rockers to chavs and goths.  While the term chav wasn't known until early 2000s Colin helped me out with what a chav to him may have been like in the 80s:

"What I think of as a chav in the 80s--I'm thinking of a guy in school who tried to look like Don Johnson (Miami Vice). had a nice watch, rings, tried to look expensive, but was a troll with the girls--didn't have an "expensive" attitude. We had "Duranies"--Duran Duran fan-girls who looked like the singers from Human League and gushed over Simon Le Bon...Of course, we didn't have the term "chav" back then... but as I understand it, the personality type's the same."

Nowadays the term chav is officially recognised in British language/slang and the idea of a chav now is a person who tends to go for more sportier appearances but they're not the US equivalent to jocks.  Tracksuit bottoms, sport brand attire, trainers.  Hairstyles are usually quite short, spiky and full of gel.  The chavs that I've known have a roughness to how they speak (example here which is Kelly from misfits).  For the girls, they also wear sporty gear with large hoop earrings.  Scrap their hair back in high ponytails.  Generally the stereotype has a bad reputation.  If you see anyone on the streets in England being ill-mannered, swearing a lot loudly, and causing trouble people do tend to think: oh, what a chav.  You usually hear them saying things like 'innit' (isn't it) or 'bruv' (brother) - both words are quite London/Southern slang.  They do this weird hand gesture that looks like a gun and go 'brap brap'.  Apparently it's to imitate a gun shot.  I just... I don't know why.  They've got a whole different language to themselves. But the idea of a chav has evolved a lot throughout the years to the stereotype and word we know now.  So have a look at what era your UK character is in.  Chavs haven't been around for very long and the term was only officially recognised in 2005, I think?

So you can see how quickly slang changes for teens in Britain.  Language easily becomes old-fashioned.  In my grandma's childhood (would have been the 30s) she said her and her friends used to call hiding 'getting hiddy' but you'll never hear that term used by a modern day teenager or even my aunts and uncle who were born between 1948 and 1958.

There's still a lot of slang out there that I've not heard off which may be to do with the region of England a person is in so be careful on where your British character is from in the UK.  These examples came from Cole, Laura, and Emma.

 "yo-lo' I don't even know what it means, but there we go." (from Laura). 
I looked YOLO up and apparently it's an acronym for You Only Live Once. I'm 23 and I didn't even know about this motto craze.  I haven't heard teens say this (yet) in Yorkshire so there's always that possibility it is slang that's typical in a different county.  Always remember that. 

The ones that I know and hear are 'mint' which means something good or amazing.  I showed an event to a friend once and they replied "Oh, wow that's mint!".  The same applies to the term 'sick'. Sick = good, awesome, excellent. "That's sick!"

In Yorkshire we have a habit of replacing anything and nothing with 'owt' and' nowt'.  Not something to say in an interview but for informal use you'll hear people in Yorkshire using those words. Eg, "I didn't say owt." and "there were nowt going on". Was and were usually get mixed up as well in my lovely area.  "I were saying that" "They was having a laugh." Also, mum is usually pronounced as 'mam' up North.  It's 'mum' down south.

Further up North (County Durham, Newcastle) I hear people putting 'like' at the end of a sentence.  I've heard it extend down here in Yorkshire but not as much as these counties further up.  Examples: "Where are you going, like?",  "Is this for pudding, like?" or "it's a bit late, like".  I haven't found any meaning to it, at the moment I'm guessing it's just a random emphasis on the end of a sentence.  Maybe if there's anyone from County Durham or Newcastle you'll have a better idea than me.

I could on for ages but this post is already long enough.  If you're not a British reader and have any questions about British slang - whether you want to know if we really use a certain word or the different terms and language in regions feel free to ask! And to any British readers, if you have more slang words to add to this new or old, come and list them in the comments! =D

Thanks to everyone who has helped already!

20 Apr 2013

R is for Rumpelstiltskin

Since I'm always so incredibly late on awesome TV shows and books I've finally discovered Once Upon A Time, a show where all the fairy tale characters you know and love are stuck in the real world through a curse.  They also have no memory of who they used to be.  But maybe that could change?

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One of my favourite characters has to be Rumpelstiltskin.  A very grey character who usually has his own interests at heart more than anybody else.  But he's more than the giggling, sneaky Dark One. 

Throughout the first season you get a peek at why he became this way.  The reason: protection.  Not for himself but for his son which quickly corrupted him but he always kept that love for his son.  It has always been the one thing that kept him slightly human and gives him vulnerability that you were sure he didn't have anymore.    Best episode to watch: Skin Deep.

You really don't know which side Rumpelstiltskin is on.  Really he's in a plan to benefit himself in some way but, in a questionable way, he helps although you can't help wonder what his ulterior motive is.  And whether it is good or bad.  Who knows? This character has learnt to keep things to himself.  A very clever trickster.

19 Apr 2013

Q is for Queen

One of my favourite events at school is World Book Week and for one day in that week we celebrate children's literature staff and children all dress up as fictional characters.  One slight problem is that it's a tad uncomfortable for teachers to properly dress up so we tend to choose characters that are easy to portray without having to go all the way.

This year I kept with Alice in Wonderland characters and went dressed at the Queen of Hearts.  Costume wise I stuck with red and black clothes, red top and black long skirt that looked quite Queen-like.  As for make-up so people had an idea of who I was dressed up as:

I found this fantastic headband with hearts around which I used as a crown and kept with red and black make-up.  Dramatic eyes, dramatic black eyebrows and these black branches with hearts on the end down my face.  I quite liked the claw effect it also gave. Very villain-y.  I love an excuse for fancy dress but there's no way I can get a proper costume when I'm working with young children so I tend to go for children's characters where I can use what I got to take part and still look like I've made an effort for a laugh.

I think it's mainly a UK/Ireland thing but does anyone else celebrate World Book Day or some other version of it? What children's character would you have gone for?

18 Apr 2013

P is for Purdy Covers

One thing that does attract me to a book is the cover.  I see an interesting cover, then read the blurb, maybe read the first chapter and that's usually my routine in deciding whether I want to buy the book.

So I can be quite fussy with covers.  I don't like black backgrounds with a single face or object on it, which I know is quite popular with paranormal romance.  And it's a shame because I used to read a lot of L.J Smith books when I was in my early teens and before they got republished with new covers I loved how they looked.

There were a few different cover versions floating around at the time when I started reading them:

 I thought these were quite interesting.  The first cover showed a lot of what the book was going to be about, mainly the setting.  The middle one which is another cover version partly showed the trilogy's antagonist but then there's these creepy looking teeth which hints at the darkness and danger throughout the books.  The third cover is from her series Night World.  This one stuck to models but they would try and show an aspect of the book.  This one for example shows a very angry vampire character which I can only guess is Maya.  But they made the models try and show the readers what the books were about rather than doing this:

Bit boring compared to the others.  Just a face.  What does that tell me?

So I need something exciting on the cover.  I want the book to tell me something about the plot or the character.  Anything. 

These are some of my favourite covers:

Do covers have an influence in what you look at in bookstores? Or do you try not to judge a book by its cover? :)

17 Apr 2013

O is for Ode I Love

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:  
April is National Poetry Month! Share your favorite poem(s) or poet.

I've never been much of a fan of poetry but I studied William Blake in Sixth Form and actually grew to like his poems in Songs of Innocence and Experience.  Once we learnt more about these poems I thought they were pretty good.  My favourite one is London from Experience.

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow. 
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear 

How the Chimney-sweepers cry
Every blackning Church appalls, 
And the hapless Soldiers sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls 

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlots curse
Blasts the new-born Infants tear 
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse 
It's the imagery I love the most.  The 'mind-forg'd manacles'.  Makes London sound like it's people are almost brainwashed to think alike.  It's a depressing image of London with the residents appearing miserable in their lives but I can't help but love the poem.

16 Apr 2013

N is for... Nasty

For The Broke and The Bookish blog's weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday's question is:

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What are your top ten villains/criminals/other nasties?

I wanted to dedicate this post to just one bookish nasty.  One character who got me so mad at them I
could have reached into that book and slap them into the next century but also got me worried about them (yet also thinking ha ha serves you right).

I've never been interested in Draco Malfoy as a fictional hottie.  A lot of you probably know by now that bad boys aren't my thing.  But I'm interested in Draco Malfoy as a writer and a reader.  He was by far an intriguing and complex character.

To start out with he's your typical playground bully.  A petty, snarky nasty who loved feeling superior and his villainy was limited to insults and mocking.  Pretty much the bully we all went to school with at some point.  But as the books continued, the characters grew up, and the tone became much darker Draco Malfoy was introduced to people who were a lot more dangerous than him.  All of a sudden he was being bullied by people who didn't threaten to shove his head down a toilet and flush it... they would kill him if he didn't do what he was told.

That's where his character took an interesting turn.  We already knew he was a bit of a coward.  But now he was justifiably terrified because these Death Eaters and Voldermort himself were murderers.  Draco was a total dick but he wasn't an evil person and all of a sudden he was being forced to do evil things.  There we started to see a new layer.  A young boy who did have a little bit of redemption in him.  After all he was hesitant to identify Harry when the trio was captured in Deathly Hallows.

Who is/are your favourite villain/s?

15 Apr 2013

M is for... More Than You Can Juggle...

It was a hard decision to make and I'm already feeling slightly guilty over it but today I did something that goes against my every character.

I'm not to going to complete a project.  At least for now.

This year I started out in a huge writing mode.  I began a 100k in 100 days challenge.  I didn't reach my target but this is what I got done:

1) X1 Finished first draft for Inside the Broom Closet.
2) 30K in round two/three of edits for Beast Inside.

And in my NaNo project I'm16k in. 

I was looking forward to having the first two weeks off in April so I could get a good head start.  What I didn't expect was getting a sinus infection for the first week that left me bedridden and having so much to do in the second week when we went up to the boyfriend's parent's home in Darlington.  It hasn't been a holiday where I've been able to relax and rest.  So naturally in this NaNo project I've been behind and trying to desperate catch up on my word count while also making sure I've got posts ready for this A-Z challenge.

Cue an insane amount of headaches.

I hope this post isn't sounding like a rant or a whine.  It isn't.  I do have a point to it.

I stopped my NaNo project, I'm resting, and I'm going to be very glad that I did it.  Because, honestly, I've pushed a lot of projects onto myself for the beginning of this year and the lesson to be learnt is... sometimes you really need to take a step back and rest.  Sometimes your body needs to chill out and rest so listen to it.  I love writing.  But if it's getting to a point where I'm getting headaches, losing sleep because of how much time I've spent looking at a bright screen, and struggling to juggle too many things at once it is so not worth it.  Rest.  Leave it for a while.  It's not quitting.  It's not giving up.  I'm just going to concentrate on the blogging challenge and properly take a break from everything writing and blogging in May. 

Seriously, don't stress yourself out with projects.  Have some 'you' time and don't feel guilty at all.

13 Apr 2013

L is for... Learning

This post was inspired by the differing opinions I've seen and heard about surrounding creative writing books.  I guess it's sort of a continuation topic from my Tuesday post but I was really interested in hearing overall opinions. 

I've had many writer friends in the past who do love to browse through a creative writing book, especially when they started out and pick up tips and advice on how to get started.  Learning how to create and develop characters, help with creating the voice of your character, finding a way to plot and pace the novel etc.

But I've known friends in the past who aren't as keen.  To them they want to write their own way and they see creative writing books as telling you what to do and how to write.  So they avoid and learn through their own experiences.

Neither opinion is right or wrong.  As a beginner I'm glad for these books because they've given me tips on how to get started, context on my chosen genre and market, and advice on how develop an aspect of my WiP that I think I'm weak on.  But after a while I do think there's only so much you can read and then you have to move away from the theory and start the practice yourself.   I don't refer to my creative writing books as much as I used to.

How do you feel about creative writing books? What's your best way of learning the craft? :)

12 Apr 2013

K is for Kendare Blake: Girl of Nightmares book review

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favour.

That Anna.  She's not an easy ghost to forget.  She'll make sure of it herself.  After the events of Anna Dressed in Blood Cas and his mother has settled in the town he moved to in the first book, even with plans of finishing high school there.  With his friends.  I know, *shock horror*, right? This is Cas we're talking about.  Cas Lowood who didn't intend on making any friends at all.

Our Cas has changed a lot from the loner ghost hunting hero.  He's attempting a semi-normal life, still with the odd ghost slaying but generally settling down in a town.  But there's one thing he can't stop thinking about.  Anna Korlov, the dead girl who is supposed to be gone.  Or is she? As she continues to appear poor Cas is left wondering if ghosts can truly come back or if he is losing his mind.  No-one else can see her and he's constantly told that ghosts cannot come back.  But something is going on.  His past continues to haunt him, questions are arising, and now he has to fix it.  For himself and for Anna's spirit.

Anna's murderous ways are long gone but she still haunts the pages in disturbing scenes that terrorise Cas whether he's at school, work or home.  Blake knows how to add the right amount of creepy ghost scenes that doesn't drown the whole novel, keeping the tension and snarky narration perfectly balanced.  My favourite scene has to be the creepy Blink-like ghosts. (Look up Weeping Angels if you're not familiar with Doctor Who)

My new favourite Scooby Gang still work wonders.  Carmel and Thomas get more development as they both chose their paths from the events of Anna.  Of them is torn, struggling in their new double life and makes some tough decisions.  But in the end it's the three of them.  All for one and one for all! 

A nice end to Anna and I'm satisfied for that to be it.  Although I will miss the gang.

11 Apr 2013

J is for Jörmungandr

Continuing with a Thursday folklore and legend theme, today's post in the A-Z Blogging Challenge
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brings us J for... Jörmungandr.

Or Jorji as I like to call him for short.

Jörmungandr is from Norse mythology, the middle child of Loki and giantess Angrboða.  Jörmungandr is said to be a sea serpent who was tossed into the ocean that surrounded Midgard (our world) by Odin.  Mythology says that the serpent grew so large he could surround the earth and grasp his own tail, becoming known as the Midgard Serpent or World Serpent.  Legend says when he lets go of his tail the world will end.

At Ragnarok Jö said to have his last meeting with his enemy Thor.  He'll come out of the ocean, poisoning the sky but will be killed by Thor who, in turn, will die after being poisoned by the serpent's venom. 

Maybe Jorji could be your next WiP antagonist. :)

10 Apr 2013

I is for... Invest

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: 

 The Veronica Mars Kickstarter success makes us wonder, what YA book would you raise $2 million to see a movie version of?

I would love to see a film version of The Lunar Chronicles.  Hands down that is one of my favourite YA series and I think it would be amazing to see on the big screen.  A cyborg Cinderella? Evil Lunar people? A dystopian world? It would transfer so well onto film.  Something that would interest both fairy tale and sci-fi fans.  I think there's already interest in a film adaptation but I don't think there has been any more news.  I'm hoping there would be.  I'd love to see Cinder, Kai, Scarlet, Thorne and Wolf come to life.  Although in my head I totally have Nathan Fillion for Captain Thorne but unfortunately he's a bit too old for the part now.  So they're going to have to search the Earth for an actor who would fit the part just as well.

I mean, wouldn't Nathan Fillion have been perfect, especially if he was ten or twenty years younger?

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*shakes donation box* Any donations then? We need this beauty of a series on the screen.

9 Apr 2013

H is for... Help

My book collection includes way too many fiction books, ones that I'm still getting through.  But there's also a non-fiction collection, books on creative writing, myth and legends, true crime that I buy for help.  Ideas, facts, knowledge.  Anything to help inspire me or give me more advice and tips on writing.

My favourites that have been proved extremely useful in writing:

1) Writing and Selling the YA Novel by KL Going

This is the go to book if you're just starting out on writing YA or just looking for some good tips.  KL
Going takes you through the market with chapters looking at plot, characters, teen voice etc.  A very handy starter book.

2) Description and Setting by Ron Rozelle

One of my weaknesses is description and setting in writing.  My first drafts are normally very dialogue heavy and this book helps me fill in the gaps when I'm editing.  If you can also get stuck on building the world around you or if you over-describe this is the book for you.

3) On Writing Horror by Mort Castle

Edited by Mort Castle On Writing Horror includes essays from horror writers that help you write horror novels and short stories.  Advice on avoiding horror cliches, developing horror concepts, plotting.  

4) Breathing Life into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon

This book focuses on developing characters, getting right into their subconscious and creating major and minor, not just to make them complex but to understand them as well, knowing what makes them act they way they do, think, speak, motivates etc.  Whether you're character driven or struggle in developing characters and getting into their head this the perfect book.

5) On Writing by Stephen King
I finally got around to reading this book earlier in the year and I loved it.  King's advice stems from
what's worked for him when writing.  Great pieces of advice to really help you in your writing and what to watch out for.  My favourite piece of advice was on adverbs and I did come to agree with him.  Why use 'walked slowly' or 'said curtly' when there could be a whole word for what verb you want to describe? Even if you're not a Stephen King fan this would appeal to all readers purely because of the advice.

6) Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid by Jan Harold Brunvand

The author collects urban legends in this book, perfect for anyone who fancies a spooky read.  But it's also perfect for writers who fancy taking their own spin on urban legends and using them to weave their own horror or thriller tale. 

7) The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures

The Element Encyclopedia series brings you A-Z of different topics ranging from spells to secret societies.  It's great just for browsing through and being introduced to different legendary creatures, great inspiration especially for fantasy writers.  The A-Z of magical creatures brings you well known creatures such as banshees, Robin Goodfellow and the Loch Ness Monster to legends that you may not have known about before. 

8) How to Write Short Stories by Sophie King

Writing short stories in Uni was one of the most hardest things I've had to do.  You think writing a 50,000 word novel is hard? Trying cramming it into 10,000 or even 2000.  I bought this book for my seminars where we had to write smaller pieces.  It doesn't just tell you how to write short stories, advising you on plots, characters, pacing etc but it shows you how to write for different genres, finding competitions and learning how to search for magazines taking on short stories.  I think short stories are a great exercise for writers and I'd always recommend trying them out.  And if you, I'd further recommend buying this book.

9)Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Lisa Tuttle

Genre writing books are always helpful, especially if you're starting out.  I bought this when I
decided to write snippets of a high fantasy novel for one of my uni writing projects.  Since I mainly wrote horror and I had to show my planning and commentary with the project I had no idea where to start with my world building.  And I knew I had to have a good sense of the world, even if I was only submitting so many words for the assessment.  The book starts out with listing different types of Sci-fi and Fantasy novels, your typical chapters on world building, language, structuring but it adds in chapters of writing in these genres for children, rewriting, short stories and advice from editors.

10) Children's Writers and Artists Yearbook

My copy is from 2007 so it may be a little out of date.  But if you're a YA and children's writer I think you definitely have to a copy of this at some point in your life.  It doesn't just include articles from authors but gives you listings of publishers and agents across the UK, listings of conferences and resources, book awards.  Advice on publishing and how to get an agent, being an illustrator, writing for teenage magazines, children's theatre, TV, film, and radio.  Make sure you have at least one copy of this book.  A new edition comes out every year.

Do you have any creative writing or non-fiction books that help you in your writing?

8 Apr 2013

G is for... Ghost

You can give me all the gore in the world.  The back from the dead serial killer with a mask.  But there is something in horror that will scare the crap out of me every time. 


Out all of the horror monsters out there ghosts terrify me.  More than clowns and ventriloquist dummies.  One reason why I'm writing about them at the moment.  I know what will scare me and I can use my fear and transfer it easily into my characters.

There's something unknown about ghosts.  Most of the time you can't see them and you're waiting for them to strike.  Walking around in that unlit house, wondering if the creaking upstairs is just an old floorboard or some restless spirit making its presence known.  Ghosts can appear and disappear like that.  You can't touch them.  But they can touch you.  And see you. 

It takes a lot for a horror film to scare me.  I'm a pretty harsh critic.  But here's a few films that really got me hiding behind a cushion.  Or two.  Here's the list and my reasons why:

1) Grave Encounters

It's a low budget found footage film and didn't get great reviews but I loved it.  And it scared me.  Actually inspired my current WiP that's mainly set in a haunted former psychiatric hospital.  The terror of the disturbed spirits creeps up from moving wheelchairs and slamming doors to full on apparitions that chase you down the maze of corridors.  I loved the photographs that TV presenter/producer Lance Preston in the film, moving from hardly anything being there to ghostly hands at windows.  And the building itself was the most terrifying, becoming a prison where all exits completely disappeared.


2) Sinister

The supernatural villain barely makes an appearance so the tension is quite high as you wait for the next scare.  Add in some creepy ghost children who wander around the house unseen and you've got me behind the sofa.  You never know what's happening in the film, guessing theories and figuring the cases out until it's too late.  Especially for the main character.  Quite a few jumpy parts as well.

3) The Woman in Black

Took a few liberties, changing aspects of the novel but what never changed was the tension and eerie atmosphere.  Hardly showing herself the infamous Woman in Black lurked in the abandoned Eel Marsh House.  Her spirits clinging onto the bedroom of her dead son.  It's the scenes where Arthur Kipps is drawn to the strange thumping noises behind the closed door that increase as he gets nearer and the viewers are left to their imaginations: what will he see? who's making the noise? 


All three create that terror of the unknown.  What's going to happen next? When will it happen next? You're left like the poor suffering characters of that unbearable waiting, over analysing each sound in the house, thinking there's more to that shadow in the corner of your eye.  Feeling like with every step you take, someone or something is taking a step closer to you.  Unseen eyes watching you.

What scares you more in horror than anything else?

6 Apr 2013

F is for... friendship

The lone wolf kind of protagonist has never appealed to me.  I don't know why, maybe it's because the story centres around them and after a while they can get a little boring.  Especially in paranormal type books.  The protagonist, often female, is usually a loner.  Anti-social, unpopular with no friends except for the underdog sidekick who secretly pines for her.  And we're in their head constantly so if they turn into a character who navel gazes a lot and whines it puts me off.  I think when you're in a paranormal situation that also affects the town it's hard to keep things to yourself.  And that's when a group of friends come in that make it interesting, not just for the situation but for the protagonist.

One thing I've always been inspired by is that group of friends, whether they were close to begin with or learn to be close.  There are no frenemies which seem to be popular these days.  They genuinely like each other, care for each other and fight together.  They're bound by what they know of their oddly paranormal town.  I'd love to see more of it in YA. 

My favourite examples:

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy came into Sunnydale high with no intent to be the popular chick, although she missed her prom
queen days a lot.  She knew having friends meant they would be harmed and she couldn't save a town and look after people who didn't have her skills.  But she met Xander and Willow and straight away they promised to help her out, unable to turn their backs on what they had seen.  Seven seasons later and they're wandering down the corridors of their old high school, holding hands and wordlessly saying goodbye to each other in case this potential apocalypse was in deed their last.  Throughout those seasons they dealt with supernatural situations, loss, broken friendships, and being harassed at school.  They were all there for each other when a character took a turn for the worse.

 Cas, Carmel, and Thomas

Cas met Thomas and Carmel on his investigation into the infamous ghost Anna Dressed in Blood.  They were useful, had information but Cas never really intended to befriend them.  Think again, Cas.  Think again.  While he wasn't used to having friends Cas learnt that a couple of people having your back wasn't necessarily a bad thing.  The both of them were very brave teenagers who were ready to step in and assist Cas in preventing Anna to kill again.  Carmel lost friends but she still stuck.  I loved this trio.  In a way they reminded me of Buffy and her friends.

The Spooksville Gang (Christopher Pike)

This gang of pre-teens lived in an uber-creepy American town which might as well have been another Hellmouth.  One by one they met each other and discovered that there was more to their strange little town than a rumoured witch.  The two female characters argued like mad but all in all they cared for each other and when one of their group were in danger of being lost to them, whether dead or turned into some strange creature they were determined to get them back.

My projects generally tend to have quite a few main characters, usually a group of friends.  It's just what I love seeing: teenagers who care for each other rather than being at each others throats or just not getting on.  When you have that close knit group, interesting developments arise. :)

Has anything inspired your choice of characters?

5 Apr 2013

E is for... End of the World

How many films and books have been about the end of the world? Whether it's a zombie apocalypse, Mother Nature teaching a lesson, viruses, alien invasion... we've seen the world collapse and society die in a million and one ways.

Like found footage films I'm a sucker for end of the world type films.  I actually think it can be used for great character development.  Seeing people who probably would have never said 'hi' to each other on the street working together and I love it.  It's interesting to see how people will suddenly work together to survive.  You get the complete opposites working together.  Survivors in the most unlikely characters. 

And there's so much to get used to.  The end of the world can take you back to basics.  No technology, no way of contacting others, finding your own food.  If there are illnesses soon enough the medicine we use now will go out of date or we'd run out.  What happens then?  Maybe turning to more natural remedies for help and learning how to hunt for your own food.  But the question is: would you manage it? Could your characters survive?

4 Apr 2013

D is for Dybbuk Box

I learnt about this story from Paranormal Witness, a show that interviews people who have witnessed supernatural events, getting their side of the story and also uses actors and actresses to dramatise the events.  For the A-Z blogging challenge I thought it would be interesting to write a weekly post on something folkloric, for inspiration purposes. :)

In Jewish mythology a dybbuk is a ghost or spirit that can possess a living person.  The were previously known as '"ruchim" in early Biblical and Talmudic accounts and it means "spirit" in Hebrew.  Later on in the 16th century the term changed to "dybbuk", meaning "clinging spirit" in Yiddish. 
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The tale of the Dybbuk Box (not trying to sound like an Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode) haunted three people as it was passed around from one owner to the other.  The first buyer was Kevin Mannis who owned a small antique and furniture refinishing business in Portland, Oregon.  He came across the box, a wine cabinet, at an estate sale in 2001.  The sale was being held by the granddaughter of a recently deceased woman and told Mannis he had bought the Dybbuk Box.

When that box was taken back to Mannis's store the strange events began to happen.  His sales assistant was by herself and in charge of the store while he went away to run errands.  He got a call on his cell phone while he was out and it was the sales assistant who was absolutely terrified.  She claimed there was someone in the workshop and whoever had broken in had locked all exits so she couldn't get out.  On return Mannis found his sales assistant in his office, scared and sobbing.  Down in the basement where the box was being kept and there was a stench of cat urine and the lights didn't work.  He found the bulbs had all been broken, some shattered on the floor.  There was no intruder.  Unable to explain the events, the sales assistant left and never came back.

When Kevin Mannis opened the box up he found two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with a cord, a lock of dark brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with "Shalom", a small, golden wine goblet, a dried rose bud and a single candle holder with four octopus shaped legs.

The strange occurrences continued.   Mannis kept having a series of nightmares, haunted by an old hag that kept appearing and hurting him.  His mother suffered a stroke when it was presented to her as a birthday day.  In the end Mannis had enough of the box and sold it on ebay.

The next owner was Iosif Neitzke, a student.  When he received the box the strange events began straight away.  There were frequent electronic failure around the house from lights burning to computer failure.  Insect swarms kept appearing around the box and Neizke also started to fall ill with medical conditions such as a severe and sudden hair loss.  Eventually he put the box back on ebay where it was bought by Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine.  Haxton claimed he suffered and developed strange health conditions such as hives, coughing up blood and welts from head to toe.  His wife experienced blisters.  Like Neitzke and Mannis Haxton also experienced lights bulbs bursting and breaking as well as comouter failure.  Haxton took the box out of his office but kept it in the back of his truck where it would be parked at home in the evening. Haxton experienced the same nightmares as Mannis but it involved more hag-like women.  The last event Haxton witnessed happened when he was watching television with his son who noticed a flame-like mass in the living room.  After seeking advice from Rabbis Haxton managed to reseal the box and place it in a secret location.

It's a strange tale and one that inspired the film The Possession.  If you're interested in more information on the story here's a link to a website about the story. And there should be clips on youtube about the case. :)

3 Apr 2013

C is for Character Tour Guide

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:
 If you could visit any country with a fictional character as your guide, who would you pick and where would you go?

Actually I have two answers.  I may cheating a little bit with one because while he's fictional he's not actually from a book.  But here they are:
1) Cas Lowood from Anna Dressed in Blood

Now Cas is the last person who would take people on trips but if I was ever to go to America I'd be calling him up for a ghostly tour of America.  The guy goes where the ghosts are and that's definitely up my alley.  I won't say I'd be brave.  If I saw an angry ghost I'd probably do this:


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But it would be so interesting to check out haunted areas and see ghosts. =D

2) Indiana Jones

Come on, if you really want adventure and a good tour guide Indiana Jones is the ultimate traveller.  He'd take you to the mysterious locations on trails for hidden treasures and legendary items.  You'd get to explore places you probably never even heard of.  

But really... if this question extended to anywhere beyond Earth... throughout time...


Sign me up as your next companion Doctor! =D

2 Apr 2013

A-Z Blogging Challenge: B is for Bookish Boyfriends

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week a bookish question is asked and participants are asked to list their top ten choices related to that question.

This week:

Top Ten Five Characters I Would Crush On If I Were Also A Fictional Character

 The thing is I'm quite fussy over male fictional characters.  The ones who are supposed to be the attractive, poster boy one I never like.  I really go for the geeky, underdog male characters and sadly there aren't a lot of them in fiction.  I also have to do my little bit of cheating and go for male characters in TV/film as well.

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So I really have a list of five rather than ten:

1) Simon Lewis
Vampire or human I loved Simon Lewis.  He's a brave fighter with hardly any skills but when he found about the hidden demonic world around him he decided to stick by Clary and the verbally abusive Jace and try to help out when he could.  He was the geeky and loyal best friend whose love for Clary was doomed to be unrequited.  
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2) Ron Weasley
Hermione had the brains.  Harry had the destiny.  And poor Ron was constantly overshadowed by them both, poor and awkward but he was a committed, loyal friend who never gave up on Harry and always stuck by him to battle Voldemort.  His talents in chess helped Harry get through the chessboard in the first book.  There were a lot of people around Ron who had already done so well and while he had his skills he constantly felt they would go unnoticed because of his older brothers and his two best friends.
3) Nathan Caulfield
Nathan was my favourite boy and LI out of Kody Keplinger's novels.  The Duff had Wesley Rush who was a complete douche and play boy, someone who wasn't at all attractive.  Shut Out had Cash Sterling who was nicer than Wesley but still didn't capture my interests.  And then A Midsummer's Nightmare came out.  Ironically not my favourite but had my favourite male character: Nathan Caulfield.  Exactly what I love to see in a male character, especially a LI.  He was a geeky, friendly guy who was very close to his family and protective over his little sister.  He was used by the female protagonist Whitley and treated like dirt but he was still ready to forgive and help.  I thought he was a terrific character and someone I would definitely have a crush on if I was a fictional character.  He was just so genuine and there was nothing rude or bad mannered about him.  Just a really nice guy.  All I need.
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4) Puck
A comical best friend and protector to Meghan Chase the female protagonist of the Iron Fey series.  Known to her as Robbie Goodfell he is actually the fairy known as Robin Goodfellow, a mischievous troublemaker but a loyal friend who, although reluctantly, helps Meghan in the search to find her little brother.  He's the comical, breath of fresh air character that you need when things start getting too serious.  

5) Cas Lowood
Yeah, he may be prone to a lot of swearing but Cas is a brave ghost hunter who chose to do this.  Travelling around with his mother all the time Cas has never really had time for relationships, romantically or platonically.  But when he teams up with telepathic Thomas and Queen Bee Carmel to stop a murderous ghost nicknamed Anna Dressed in Blood he grows into a loyal friend who is worried about his friends dying or getting hurt but comes to accept them as allies, ones that could help as well.  Cas is always ready to face things, even when they start to get pretty terrifying for him.  

Who would you pick as a book crush?