Saturday, 31 July 2010

Has your heart melted yet?

I just had to share this with everyone, especially those of you who might not have seen this before. Imagine a baby. Imagine a mother finding a creative way to spend her maternity leave. Imagine amazing settings and photographs involving said baby, taken by said mother.

And you get this-

Adele Enersen has a blog with tons more of these amazing photos, so do click on the link, they're incredible! I chose this one, titled 'Bookworm', for obvious reasons. Well, and because it's just so darn cute!

Hope that made you laugh this weekend!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway!

I got myself a job interview today, which made me very happy. I mean, I have no idea if I stand a chance at actually getting the job, but an interview's a step up, so, yay!

And... today I hit a hundred blog followers! Yes, that's right, 100. (As I write this, I'm hoping one doesn't just vanish unexpectedly and destroy my day.) Now I know that many of you have far more than a hundred followers, but you must remember how excited you were when you hit your first hundred, right? Honestly, I never expected I would, so I am so happy and so grateful to all of you!

 So grateful, in fact, that I'm going to have a giveaway. I promised myself I'd do something if I ever hit that first hundred, so here it is. And, surprisingly enough, I'm going to give away a book!

Well, two, actually. I'll pick a name/entry out of a hat (or box, as I don't actually own a hat) and that lucky winner will get two books!

Here's a list of books, which cover a number of different genres-

Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter
The Tin Princess by Philip Pullman
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Beastly by Alex Flinn
The Dream Mistress by Jenny Diski
The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe

If you haven't heard of any of these, do look them up and see if it's something you'd like to read! If absolutely none of them sound appealing to you, or if you've - gasp - read them all, then, if you smile just right and give me cakes, I might be able to add on a couple books that aren't already on the list. 

Basically, as I'm sure you've figured out by now, the winner gets to pick two of the books in this list and I'll send them along to him/her. 

(Yes, you can enter no matter where in the world you live. You just need a postal address and I think we'll both have to cross our fingers and hope various postal services don't flake out on us!)

So, to be eligible to enter- 

1. You have to follow the blog
2. You have to leave a comment on this post, letting me know you want to enter 


1. You get +1 entry for following the blog and leaving a comment
2. +3 entries if you post/tweet/talk about the giveaway somewhere else and post the link here in the comments. And this accumulates, so if, say, you tweet about it and post it to your blog and let me know about both, then you get +6 entries.
3. +3 entries if you stick an announcement of some kind linking back to this post in your blog sidebar. 
(Sorry I haven't got a nice pretty picture-and-link for you to use, but I'm not very good with HTML. You could always do what I did and just add in the picture I've got, using the blogger Picture gadget to link back to the post.)


All comments/entries have to come in by Saturday, August 28th to be eligible. And for all the smarty pants out there (that means you, Steve), yes, of 2010. I'll announce the winner on Monday the 30th.

Apart from involving free books, this could also be a fun way for us to find new blogs and new followers!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I’m taking part in the Transworld Dan Brown Summer Reading Challenge!

I think the title says it all, really. 

Apart from the fact that no, I'm not going to be reading Dan Brown this summer. And no, I probably won't get to do my Challenge in a snazzy deck chair either, alas.

The name of the Reading Challenge is misleading - it's not just about one book or one author, there are other books up for review too!

Essentially, it works like this: you say you're interested and tell them which of the listed books you'd like to read and review; then they send you the first book; you read it, review it and send them the link; they send you the next book on your list, and so on.

To all the bookworms out there: isn't this just a brilliant, brilliant idea? The moment I heard about it, I dropped everything and bolted to their announcement. It tells you everything you need to know and it certainly got me excited. Reading for free and getting to tell people what I think? Erm, yes, please!

Here's the link to the announcement, for any and all who might be interested!

And the books I've chosen to read and review?

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
After You by Julie Buxbaum
Amberville by Tim Davys
Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I went through the list and eventually picked the four that sounded really good to me. Hooray! So keep an eye out for my reviews over the next few weeks. Ah, the joys of knowing I'll have some great summer reading to do.

What are you reading this summer?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Blog Hop (Hi!) - and an Extract

I've just signed up to Tessa's new meet-and-greet blog hop, which I think is such a fantastic idea. If you click on the link, you'll get to Tessa's page, where she explains the rules and how to join in if you want to find new blogs and meet other writers!

New visitors, I'm not sure what to tell you about me. I have a Writing Projects page, which will tell you about the stuff I write and have written, and I guess the sidebar will tell you a bit about me - as for the rest, the blog's full of random surprises, so feel free to explore!

Before I discovered Tessa's blog hop, I was planning to post an extract from my completed ECHOES and I'm still going to do it below.

If you don't feel like reading on, don't bother, just skip to the bottom of the post, where I've linked the other blogs in the blog hop. But if you do feel like reading this, I hope you enjoy it. 


(Text from the novel removed. Sorry!)


As ever, any comments would be brilliant. And as for the blog hop, here is the list-

Monday, 26 July 2010

Creative Spaces (and yay! A new desk!)

To celebrate the fact that I have a desk in our new house, I thought this would be a good time to share my creative space with any and all who might be curious. I don't know about you, but space to work and write and fiddle is so important to me.

Do you feel the same way? Where and how do you work? I'm eager to hear stories about maps covering walls, notes scattered over coffee-stained desks, and more!

Case in point- I must have written about a thousand words of my novel in total in the four weeks since we moved in, all of which were written hunched over the coffee table. Then, this Saturday just gone past, after getting my new desk? Four and a half thousand words between 7 pm and about one in the morning. 4500. Yep, it looks starker with the numbers, doesn't it?

Desk, I could kiss you.

So here it is, my creative space-

Tucked into the corner of our living room, there it is. My desk, the chair, the lamp, oh, delight, delight, delight! Oh, and you can even see Steve in the mirror - I think he's out in the hallway fiddling with something.

 A look at my space today. Laptop, mug of stationery, a notepad, a notebook, a pen, and Post-Its! Trusty Post-Its! And my drink, today a glass of ice-cold green tea and raspberry-flavoured water.

Hey, don't mock it till you've tried it!

A closer look at my notes. The notepad's full of editing and other random notes. The notebook's a more organized attempt to detail plot threads, character, and other important details (like, for example, what an echo's Mark looks like).

Oh, and a peek inside my stationery drawer! What's that? Look, more Post-Its! And a pair of sunglasses my mother gave me two years ago, but I never wear them.

And that, dear readers, is a peek into the Creative World of Sangu. Happy Monday!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Routines and Rituals

Today's been such a lovely relaxing day. I slept in late, then went to lunch with Steve to The Whiffler, somehow managed to eat almost an entire mixed grill by myself (accompanied by Pimms and lemonade, of course), and then went into town for an ice cream and to buy a desk.

We've spent the last hour or so assembling said desk in the corner of our tiny living room, so that I can have a creative space to launch full-throttle into Book Worlds. I've been using the coffee table until this very moment, and it's a dreadful height to work at because I end up hunched over the laptop with a sore neck in about five minutes flat - not a good way to write novels (or blog posts), I promise.

Thinking about how difficult it is to write regularly (or work) without a desk made me think about other rituals and routines involved in my creativity. For instance, before I can settle down to writing fiction, I have to check my e-mails and make sure there's nothing new I don't know about.

Why? *shrugs* I have no idea.

I also have to skim over the last thing I wrote in the specific story/file, even on those occasions when I remember it perfectly. I have to read through it anyway - and often, I have to stop and tweak so that I can move on feeling good about what I've written thus far.

Often, I have to have music playing - whether instrumental or not. It helps pull me into the mood of the scene(s) I'm writing before I start writing them, which is why I usually create my book playlists before I've written much of each. The music helps with my outline, helps give me an idea of the moods and changes through the text, even if I don't know exactly how things will go or turn out. Other times, I have to have silence - but truthfully, when I'm really and truly absorbed in writing, there could be a baby screaming three feet behind me and I probably wouldn't notice.

Doesn't bode well for any kids I plan to have, does it? Ah, well. Cross that bridge when it comes and all that...

The point is, these are some of my silly little kinks, little things that help me work, rituals and routines I need to let my mind journey to all the brilliant, sparkly worlds I long to do justice to on paper. These are a few of the things I need to tell a story.

So what do you need? What are your routines and rituals?

Friday, 23 July 2010

List Day: This Week's Obsessions

1. Song 
'Collapsing Cities' by Get Cape Wear Cape Fly feat. Shy FX - I heard it on BBC's Radio One a couple evenings ago and I'm kind of in love with it now.

2. Books (Reading)
Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall and Maggie Stiefvater's Linger. I read the first one a few days ago and bawled my eyes out, and the second one is sitting right in front of me as I write this - and I am dying to pick it up and dive in.

3. Drink
Pimms and lemonade. Yikes. New addiction to surpass my love of ginger wine? I tried this for the first time yesterday and it wasn't quite love at first sight, but it rapidly grew on me. Perfect summer drink, topped with ice.

4. Book (Writing)
Book Two of my Echoes story. I swear scenes, characters, conversations run riot in my head at all hours of the day. I think they're getting especially worked up because I haven't been able to write much of it out in the last couple of days. This is, alas, because my OCD has returned and no font (for now) looks right. I dream of Vendetta Light, but it costs too much to buy.

5. Books I Really Want to Read But Can't Afford to Buy Right Now Because I'm Flat Stony Broke and No One is Hiring Me 
Keris Stainton's Della Says: OMG and Justin Cronin's The Passage. The latter's just been such a surprise 'blockbuster' and the former trickled my way courtesy of the lovely Talli Roland. I then read the blurb and excerpt and I was hooked. 

6. Goal
To get a freaking job. I've applied for a ridiculous number and gotten only one interview thus far, and then promptly failed to get that job. Oh, employers. Why do you hate me so?

Oh, and while I'm dreaming: I'm also kind of obsessed with getting agented and published. My manuscript is still out with an agent and I shall hopefully hear yay or nay soon. 

7. Food
Kind of craving a pizza this very minute. But also, I am totally obsessed with French Fancies right now. For those of you who are tragically unaware of the wonderfulness that is a French Fancy, it's a little cake that, quite frankly, I would die for.

But don't hold me to that, okay? 

So what are you obsessed with this week?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Shoes and Books: a Comparison

The wonderful Vix once mentioned she'd like to see me do a frivolous shoe post, and it got me thinking about my love for writing, my love of books, and my love of shoes. While the more high-brow types might look at fashion as something that's beneath them, whereas dusty pages of Homer and great classics are a more fruitful way to spend your time, I can't help but disagree. I think there are a lot of similarities between books and shoes - whether it's the books you write, or the ones you read.

Here's my take on it:

The High Heel vs. Chick Lit (ahem, sorry, I mean Women's Fiction)

This one's easy, right? Feel free to smack me upside the head and tell me I'm barking, but I reckon most of us might associate the glorious high-heeled shoe with this light, witty, girly genre. A genre that invariably involves at least one character strutting about in six-inch heels. On a personal level, I love wearing heels - five inches, tops, anything more is just plain torture from the moment the strap's buckled! - and I love chick lit/that type of women's fiction (also within reason. The predictable and tired love triangles don't really hold my attention for long anymore.)

The Trainer vs. the Trusty Comfort Book 

You wouldn't wear your trainers to an interview, to a book signing or to a party (well, you might, but I wouldn't) - but when you just want to be reliably comfy and you can't be bothered to think about how your feet feel, you fall back on the old trainer. Weather permitting. A hot alternative is the trusty flip flop or the really, really comfy pair of gorgeous summer sandals you love.

Like the trusty trainer, the comfy flip flop, or the soothing sandal, there's that comfort book or genre we all have. For some people it's a light holiday read (light romance, a funny travel book). For others, like me, it's a genre or a book that is always, always a pleasure to read, no matter how I feel. For me, this comfort book (tears aside) is The Time Traveler's Wife or any Georgette Heyer historical romance. However low I feel, these books cheer me right up (Heyer) or make me snuggle into a bit of gorgeously written escapism (Niffenegger).

The Shoe vs. Fantasy

Ah, and then there's the shoe. The Shoe (and heaven forbid you fail to capitalize it) is that pair of shoes that always, always makes you feel absolutely gorgeous. If you need a confidence boost, it's the shoe that takes you there; if you want to sparkle, it's the shoe that lights you up. It's the shoe you wear on that really special date, to that party where The Boy is going to be, to that job interview for the Dream Job... you get the idea.

By no means is it the most comfortable shoe you've got. In fact, it probably hurts your toes, or your calves, or - and this is for you, male readers - it makes your heel burst out into blisters the next day. Ouch. It could be a pair of heels, it could be studded gladiator sandals, it could be a shiny black formal pair that always gets you the job... regardless, it's still The Shoe, because it makes you feel like you could take on the world and win.

And isn't that just what the fantasy genre does? Whether you're fighting Dark Lords or fighting dystopian governments, doesn't the fantasy genre take us outside of ourselves, make us feel like we're somehow stronger, and don't we come out of it feeling like we could win any fight we fight? It could be an urban fantasy love story, it could be high fantasy with swords, it could be a space opera.

What's particularly interesting about this to me is that these are three types of shoes I always love, and always wear - and three types of books I simply can't resist. In fact, I even often write these types of books (though I haven't written women's fiction in ages).

And an example of a shoe I don't wear, and a genre I don't read much of?

The Punk Leather Boot vs. the Thriller

Spiky, high-risk, guaranteed adrenaline. I've never written an out-and-out thriller, and I've never worn an out-and-out leather boot. I don't think I ever will do either of those things, simply because they're not very me. But they might be very much like somebody else.

Sorry if I've put my beloved male readers off, but I hope I haven't, because I think this could work for you too. Do you have shoes that fit into your reading and writing habits? Clothes that suit your artistic or creative talents?

So how do fashion and reading/writing/art work together for you? And if they don't, fair enough. This is my map, but I'd love to hear about yours. What kinds of maps do you draw in your own habits?

And on an unrelated note, Elizabeth Mueller is hosting a blogfest about changes. She's having it in honour of my moving house, which I think is pretty darn amazing of her! So do go over and sign up if it's your kind of thing - imagine the possibilities of subjecting your characters to enormous changes!

Monday, 19 July 2010

A Writer's Treats

I don't particularly believe in punishing yourself if you don't manage to finish everything you'd hoped to do on a certain day. Writing is such a creative process that if you were to punish yourself every time you didn't write that thousand words you'd planned, or edit that chapter you'd hoped to finish by your birthday, or meet your self-imposed deadline - well, writing would stop being fun, wouldn't it?

But, fickle person that I am, I feel like I simply must reward myself when I do tick everything off that writing to-do list! The truth is, as creative a process as writing is, sometimes it's also just plain hard work.

When I hit one of those stumbling blocks, I promise myself some kind of treat. For example, when I was struggling with finishing my final-year dissertation in April, I promised myself that if I got it done before the Easter holidays were over, I'd treat myself to a (tiny) spending spree on Amazon.

And wouldn't you know it? The prospect of buying new books sent me straight into work, and I finished with time to spare. 

A little later, I promised myself that if I finished the first draft of TEA WITH DEATH, DESIRE AND RAGE by the end of May, I'd buy a new pair of shoes. Much as I longed for those shoes, I haven't yet finished that first draft, and so I haven't yet bought those shiny new shoes I want. Withholding a treat isn't exactly punishment; it's more like a sense of 'well, I haven't done the work I wanted, so I don't want to treat myself for not doing something'.

Then there are the small treats that I throw myself each day: cakes, watching a movie, and so on.

In the end, I always find that I'm more excited about actually completing that writing task than I am about the treat, but I won't deny that having a treat to look forward to really, really spurs me on most days.

So, with my new novel SECRETS WE KEEP (Book Two of my ECHOES story) waiting for me to start writing it properly, I've just got to think of something to treat myself with if I finish the first chapter today...

How do you reward yourself when you've ticked something big off your list?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Blogfest of Death

Today I'm participating in the fabulous Tessa's blogfest: Death Scenes! There are tons of entries in this fest, so do click on the link and check them out!

Killing characters can be incredibly hard (or delightful, depending on who the character is), so when Tessa announced this fest, I jumped at it - I have death scenes aplenty, hard as most of them have been to write.

After much pondering (cue hair-tearing and wailing), I finally settled on a scene from a novel I wrote about three years ago, a dystopian-historical fantasy called NO DREAMS IN WHITESHIRE. While it's been put on the back-burner indefinitely, I still have a soft spot for it and its characters, and there's a scene in the story that always gets to me.


Later, I had no memory of the race to the Cross house. Vague images lingered: the chair falling over as I sprang up—the pity in Trist’s ice-blue eyes because he had already guessed and accepted what we couldn’t face—the streetlamps flickering past, a gold blur, one by one racing by as we ran, footsteps echoing against the pavement, my heart a drum roaring in my ears, too fast to allow logic through, too fast to allow anything but the wild panic and a desperate, frantic denial: no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

The house was on fire when we arrived. There were people standing around, pale faces watching the Cross home burn. Flames shot from the windows, shattering glass. People moved aside when Laila and I ran up.

Frozen in horror, I could only watch the house for what felt like an eternity, long enough for Trist to catch up to us.

I felt his hand on my shoulder, but the instant Laila started running, I broke free and I ran too, ignoring the shouts and cries of protest.

“Jake!” Trist’s voice shouted, but it sounded like I was underwater and he far beyond me with everything else I knew. “Jake, no!”

I followed Laila into the house, ignoring the burning heat that prickled my skin. Indeed, I could feel nothing except the same panic, the same cold denial. No, no, no.

We found them in the burning kitchen. Them.

“No,” I croaked, “No.”

They lay close to one another, as if they had died fighting, died trying to protect each other from a crueller force. The wounds on their bodies told me they’d fought to the bitter end. Blood stained the floor, the smell of it mingling with smoke and fire. 

Uncle William had known it was coming, he had expected the attack. I saw it in my mind, what must have happened. He’d waited in the kitchen for death, having sent his daughter and errand boy away to save them. I heard the distant knock on the door.

“Hello, Will,” I heard my father’s voice, haunting, faint, “Fancy a drink?”

And the panic, Uncle William’s panic. I felt it, heard him. “Get out, James. Get out now. I can’t have you here, you can’t be here when they come—”

“Will, what—?”

“You have to get out!”

My father hadn’t expected the attack. He lay facedown, the gash in his back telling its own story. In the swirling flames, I could swear I heard Uncle William’s howl of pain.

James! No!

I imagined him turning to look into the eyes of his best friend’s killer, his murderer. Lady Death.

Would she have apologized? Was she sorry? He had been her friend, once.

The knife would have slashed. “Sleep soundly, Will.”

And then, silence.

“No,” I howled. “No, no, no!”

But denials were useless. I saw the truth. I saw reality on the floor before me.

They lay there, side by side. William Cross and James Quin. And the agony hit me fiercer than I could have imagined, a wave so crippling I was on my knees, struggling to live, to breathe, before the truth could fully sink in. No, no, no, no, no. Somewhere close by, I could hear Laila’s cries, the pleading of a child.

“Will! Will, wake up, wake up, please wake up! Uncle James!” Her voice broke. “Dad.”


Hers, mine. Gone, gone, both of them gone.

Fire crept through the edges of the kitchen, turning the walls black. Heat crept over my skin, fiery and prickly. The smoke was beginning to touch me, beginning to choke me. I knew, with the last shred of detached reason I possessed, that I would die, that Laila would die too, if we stayed here trying to clutch the fingers of phantoms.

I staggered upright, forcing myself to breathe, forcing the pain down where I could push it away for the time being. “Laila,” I said hoarsely, “Laila, we have to get out.”

She raised her eyes and looked at me, and in them I saw something wither and die and break. William Cross’s eyes. They looked as empty as his did. I knew, with stunning clarity, that if I left her now, if I let her, allowed it, she would stay here and lie with them, disappear to where they would be.

Pain sliced through me again, fiercer and colder and harsher. “No,” I snarled, “No. Not you, too. No! I won’t. I can’t.”

She didn’t move, boneless and lifeless, lying on the floor with her head nuzzling William and her hand clutching his, like a kitten curling up into its mother. Her eyes flickered closed. It had gotten to her already. She’d sucked the smoke in. I coughed, choked on a waft of it. I knew there was very little time left.

I stooped, seized her. She lay limp in my arms, and I lifted her, held her, and staggered, through rage and pain and misery, away from the blood and the last echoes of my family. I took her outside, into the cold air, and there was Trist, his face white with fear for me. I stumbled in the street against him. Laila and I fell to the hard ground. She stirred weakly, face streaked with the soot and tears. I lay very still on the ground, and never wanted to get up again.


Any comments would be lovely!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Summer Lovin'

I don't think I'd do very well on Come Dine With Me, much as I like watching it. I've proven a very shoddy hostess today, as all my well-meaning plans to host my grand blog house-party fell to bits. So I'm going to have to save the party for another day. Never fear, we'll be cracking open the wine and clucking sympathetically at my 'this house is full of spiders' stories soon enough!

But for all you wine-lovers out there, I have to sneak this in: Stone's Ginger Wine. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I've never really liked wine, and until we moved into the house, I never drank it much. Now I drink the ginger wine pretty darn often, it's lovely!

I think the one of the reasons wine has grown on me is the summer. I mentioned our heatwave yesterday, which has been only a small part of this year's English summer. Yes, there's been sun. Gasp. There's been sun in England. There've been whole days when it didn't rain, I mean, can you imagine?

Irony aside, the summer's been gorgeous. I've actually been able to get great wear out of my summer sandals and sunglasses, I've been able to wear what I like - it's even been hot enough that I've stopped boasting that 'I'm Indian, I can take the heat'... erm, yeah. Apparently I can't take the heat all that much.

The downside? The summer hasn't done much good for my writing. When I'm not involved in house stuff, I'm looking for a job, so my writing time is limited already as it is. When I do have the time, it's too lovely outside to stay by a laptop much. More significantly, it's too warm to sit still for long, to concentrate on my story. Even when the story's begging to be written, I find I can't stay focused on it long. Any suggestions on how to fix this that doesn't involve expensive air conditioning?

How do you spend your summer weekends? What do you like best and least about the summer? How does it inspire you - or cut away at your inspiration?

Friday, 16 July 2010

I'm back! (nope, can't think of a fancy title)

Dear readers,

I feel obliged to say it again: I'm back! Look! Me! Online, on the blog, I have returned!

Yikes, I've been gone a ridiculously long time, haven't I? For me, that is. Weeks. An absolutely mad few weeks too, I might add. I moved to a house in Norwich, I did (most of) the million and one things you've got to do when you move house, we've settled in, I've started writing again when I've had spare time, we've explored the city, I've looked for and applied for tons of jobs, I've even had a job interview, and we've been up to Lancaster again for graduation and back.

  • Moving house
  • Getting my first post-university job interview, for a job as a supervisor and shakemaker at a milkshake shop (fun!)
  • Writing 1500 words of the second book in my ECHOES story, and finally getting its outline done 
  • We've had a ridiculously hot summer so far. I mean, we actually had a heatwave last weekend! (This is England. Heatwaves are about as common as people who don't like dogs.)
  • Erm, have I mentioned moving house? We have a house. Yay!

Yeah. Busy.

That said, I probably would have had time to blog plenty of times over the last few weeks... had we been possessed of that wonderful thing we call the internet. Sadly, we only got our internet set up in the house this Monday, so I've been pretty much stuck tweeting and checking emails from my phone (which gets somewhat exhausting on the ol' eyes after a while).

But here I am again, and I can't begin to describe how happy I am to be back in the blogosphere, and how much I'm looking forward to reading all my favourite blogs and talking to all of you again! I've managed to talk to a few of you over the last couple of weeks, which has been lovely, but it'll be so nice to read your blog posts again.

I was originally planning to tell you all about my time away in this post, but I've realized it would turn into a ridiculously long and unwieldy post. So if you happen to stop by over the weekend, I shall be throwing a


A blog party, that is, which will involve cheap wine, cookies, and lots of photos and grand tales about the new house! This was actually the brilliant Elizabeth Mueller's idea, and she's so incredibly sweet, she's soon going to be hosting her own 'celebration' of sorts on her blog too!

And now I'm off to read lots of blogs and then complete the glamorous task of, ahem, washing up.