Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Just finished... Blood Red Road

Well, it was a bank holiday weekend - which meant Northern Ireland was pretty much doomed to torrential rain. Luckily I bought a few fab YA books and this was the first one I read.

I was really looking forward to Blood Red Road - not least because my agent Gillie also represents Moira Young! Gillie had talked about the book when I met her back in February - and now I can see why she was so excited about it.

It tells the story of Saba who lives in a post-apocalyptic desert with her pa, younger sister and twin brother Lugh. Lugh is Saba's great love - until he is taken by men in black cloaks who ride out of a storm searching for him. The book is about Saba's struggle to find him and the dangers she has to overcome on the way. It reminded me of The Stand and The Road but with a totally believable, kick-ass 18 year old heroine.

Saba is a fantastic character. She's properly hard-as-nails, not because she's a psycho but because she lives in a world where if she weakens for a second she's dead. Throw in some feisty female warriors called the Free Hawks and a very hot love interest (Jack) and you have the perfect ingredients for a scary, sexy YA thriller.

I totally recommend this book - if you like dystopian novels and strong female characters you'll love it!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Word count climbing...

The word count is steadily rising on the new book! I'm still being very secretive about the title and plot but for now I'm just going to call it The Adam Story.

I sent the first chapters off to Gillie and Bernie to read and got a really positive response, so very pleased about that! It's always hard when you start a new project and you think it's good – but you're not quite sure if the rest of the world will think so…

I haven't been great on the blogging front recently, mostly because I'm concentrating on writing the book! I've noticed a number of tweets and blog posts where writers have admitted that they find social media a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the internet is full of fantastic resources for writers. It still amazes me that with a few clicks on my keyboard I can find what time the sun sets in West Africa in January…!

Of course we've all been in that situation where we really meant to do some writing and somehow ended up frittering away two hours looking at shoes and holidays. I'm as great a sinner as anyone else but I've recently hit 30,000 words and I feel like I'm going strong.

So, no more distractions. I'm hoping to have most of the first draft complete by the end of June. It will be a tall order but it's also a shorter book than The Watchers. Any words of encouragement gratefully received!

Hope your own writing is going well!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Friday night treat!

So... the other night, for the first time in AGES I watched Dirty Dancing. I had totally forgotten how unbelievably sexy Patrick Swayze was in this film. The Murph was sent out of the living room so me, the cats and a box of chocolates could salivate over 'Johnny Castle' at our leisure.

I couldn't find an embeddable version of this scene (or at least one that hadn't been badly dubbed in French / German / Russian) so if you'd like to admire the scrumptiousness of every girl's favourite dance instructor you can find it here.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Getting from notebook to novel - #4

4. No man, woman or writer is an island - you can't do it alone. Find people who understand.

As the picture suggests writing can sometimes feel like a lonely business. Writing is like giving yourself a gift - the gift of that book you always wanted to read. But at times you can feel like you're lost at sea and desperately in need of an anchor.

That's why it's so important to find people who understand what you're trying to do. Family and friends are good if they're sympathetic and don't just think you're wasting your time or shirking the housework. I've had the good fortune to marry the angel Murph who always manages to say the right thing, just as I'm poised over the computer with a sledgehammer ...

But for people who *really* understand there's nobody better than other writers. I can't stress strongly enough what a difference it can make joining a writing group. Some of my writing heroes like Stephen King are dubious about the merits of creative writing groups. I can imagine how some can become cliquey or competitive or downright poisonous.

I was lucky enough to find the Flowerfield Writers - a group with an amazing tutor and a genuinely warm-hearted crew of aspiring writers. We're all at different places and writing different things but everyone there is kind and encouraging. It's the first place I ever shared anything I had written - only a year and a half ago - but that simple, decisive action of reading my work aloud is the springboard from which The Watchers, my agent and the new book have all flowed.

If you don't fancy a group, you MUST know someone who wants to write. I'm constantly amazed by how many people have that small and secret desire burning inside. Become a group of two or three people. Agree to encourage each other, praise what's good, offer constructive criticism and celebrate every success. Believe that you can get your story out there into the world.

Stephen King said that writing a book can feel like trying to cross the Atlantic in a bathtub. That's a long way to row but if you have a back up team offering tea, biscuits and words of encouragement that journey is going to feel a whole lot less bumpy. Find people who understand the beautiful madness of trying to write a book. You won't look back.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Very superstitious...

Okay... I'm basically a rational person but I will admit to the occasional bout of superstition and never more so than when writing.

Last night I was at my writing group and was trying to read bits of the new book. I think it is like *the greatest idea*!!!!!!!!! (Don't we all when we start something new...) Certainly I'm enjoying writing it - and I'm dying to read the first chapter to the group. It seems (to me) quite fresh and original and all that exciting stuff.

The problem is I have this bizarre, superstitious feeling about it. Don't ask me why. I will admit to wearing 'lucky socks' on a plane when I was a student. I occasionally spit at lone magpies. I have even been known to fling salt over my shoulder. Those are all for good reasons - landing safely, avoiding sorrow and keeping my optician in business.

Why will I not read my first chapter? Is it like when I read it the writing magic will somehow wear off? I don't know. But I've finally completed the first five chapters and going to send it to my two trusted readers - Bernie McGill and Gillie (my agent). Both will tell me if it's any good and will tell me if there are mental bits that aren't good at all. Maybe then the weird spell will wear off and I can stop reading random, disjointed extracts to the Flowerfield bunch. I can read them the first chapter and it will suddenly make sense!

I've gotta send it, for their sakes...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The joy of juicing!

Well, you'll be pleased to hear there was some writing done today. But... as well as writing... there was JUICING!!!

I'm something of a late convert to the whole juicing thing. It's fair to say that here in Ireland we're not exactly famous for healthy living... Think Father Jack in Father Ted or Dylan Moran in Black Books... But recently I read an interesting book about keeping the liver healthy and how important this is for good health. The author raved about fresh juice so I used the last wedding gift voucher to get a super-duper juicer which devours whole apples in seconds.

And really... wow. Just wow! I've bought 'freshly squeezed' juice before in a carton in the supermarket but juicing things at home is an actual revelation. When I juiced my first apple and took a hesitant sip of the (slightly murky) pink liquid - it was a mouthful of the essence of appley-ness. I moved on to red grapes. Unbelievable. Liquid grapeness. Fabuloso!

Anyway the juicer came with a free recipe book (Juice Master one) and I decided to branch out. So tonight I made something called Popeye Juice - 1 apple, 1 handful of spinach leaves, a quarter of a pineapple and an inch slice of lemon. It was so nice I made another glass for the Murph. He was recording an interview at the time so no doubt tomorrow radio listeners all over Ireland will pause and frown, wondering what the terrible snarling whine in the background is. But it was worth it! It was green juice! Try it and love it!

By the way, I'm not too proud to beg for recipes from experienced juicers...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Cooking vs. Writing

Tonight I was supposed to be writing - or at least that was the plan. Small child part of me wanted to sit down and tell a story. Grown up sensible me went food shopping and decided we needed a nutritious dinner for when we stagger in the door tomorrow evening.

And so... no story. Instead I am exhausted from chopping and frying and seasoning things but can now smell this wonderful beef and vegetable casserole simmering away in the kitchen. Going to have it tomorrow with mash, broccoli and baby spinach. Yum Yum!

There's still a bit of me wishes I had done some storytelling... but as we all know to our cost there are only so many hours in the day. Maybe tomorrow, once I've polished off the stew, I can start happy-tapping on the keyboard...

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