Monday, 31 January 2011

Being Married is Strange

It's strange because I don't actually feel any different.

Yes. Marriage is weird.

To anyone who's curious, the wedding day was fantastic! We had such a great time, and the actual ceremony was so much less formal and stiff than I'd imagined, so it was fantastic. And there was much silliness and laughing and confusion over what to do, which I guess is normal and just made things all the more memorable. It's also hilarious to watch my bridesmaids and me walking down the aisle on the video - we're all practically sprinting to get that walk over with.

Photos soon - right now, I need to catch up on a whole lot of work and even more sleep!

How were your weekends?

Monday, 24 January 2011

January's Book of the Month

As promised, my new blog feature: my book of the month! Some of you may remember my writing last month about my Book of the Year, and let me tell you, picking just one out of the dozens I read last year was hard.

This month's book, though, wasn't so hard to pick. Mostly because I haven't actually read much this month. Gasp. I know. Horrifying. It's been so crazy!

So here it is. January's Book of the Month is The Unidentified by Rae Mariz.

This futuristic novel had that thing all good futuristic books should have: it was weird, because it was set in a future we don't know, but it was also eerily familiar. The story's about a school, but it's not a school you or I would know. The day is spent playing games and working on crafts, the school is a testing area for big brands. It's all about being branded, having an identity - and, of course, the act of choosing not to be part of the big game. It's sort of a young adult dystopian but not on the usual grand scale of epic battles and mass executions.

I loved how original this was. It was weird to start off with, but you get pulled into the rhythm so fast. The characters were great, there was a kind of love triangle played through, and while I personally thought the ending kind of petered out (but that might feel different if there's a sequel), the rest of the novel more than made up for that.

On a related note, I miss reading...

What great books have you read recently?

Friday, 21 January 2011

The Significant Other Blogfest

That means, dear readers, that today I will be relinquishing control of my blog and handing it over to my fiance Steve (who will be my husband in a week - eek). This is for the Significant Other Blogfest, hosted by DL Hammons and Talli Roland, where the people who selflessly support writers tell us what it's like to deal with us. The trials, the tribulations. The hell. The (occasional?) joys. Do pop over to the blogfest link and check out the other entries!

Now, over to Steve.


I’ve now lived with an author for seven months, and have been romantically entangled with one for nearly two years. (The author in question being Sangu, by the way, not some other random person.)

The first thing that comes to my head is how wonderful it is to watch someone go about their craft and see how submersed they are in it, how they can’t be distracted by anything (unless the thing is consumable…) It’s not unusual for me to spend a couple of hours playing computer games or watching TV with Sangu tip-tip-tapping away next to me, completely oblivious. And it makes me extremely happy that she can now make a career out of something she loves so much.

I suppose that living with an author means that you have to accept certain things.

1)      Sometimes you will be less real than characters.

2)      Sometimes you will be a postman/tea-boy/waiter.

3)      Not speaking to your partner for several hours, without feeling ignored.

4)      Your partner may not do any writing for a month, and then not look up from their laptop for a week.

5)      Small quirks and foibles are Very Important Things.

It was a very eye-opening experience for someone who reads a lot of books (though nowhere near as many as Sangu does) to realize just how much effort, thought and time goes into a single sentence – let alone a book. It is a mad experience to have a conversation with Sangu about characters talking to her and not wonder if she’s clinically insane, or to hear the level of detail authors have stored in their heads about every character of every project they’ve ever worked on.

I have only actually watched Sangu finish one book during the two years we’ve been together, and that was the one that is soon to be published. It is quite amazing to watch a spark of an idea grow into a story, evolve over umpteen drafts, pick up an agent and finally a publisher.

I like to act like a normal reader when reading through Sangu’s work (i.e. not knowing anything about a book before I read each chapter on the laptop). This is one of the hardest parts of being with a writer – it’s so tempting to ask for spoilers the whole time! Especially when you really want to know what’s going to happen next (damn you, chapter-ending cliffhangers!) When you buy a completed book, you can read on till it’s done if you want to, but with a work-in-progress I sometimes have to wait weeks before reading the next page. This doesn’t even begin to describe the many projects she’s started and abandoned right after hooking me.

So, you know. It can be agony. But it's also amazing to be with a writer. And I wouldn't swap it for anything.

Monday, 17 January 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream

I had the most incredible dream last night. So incredible, I'm actually going to write one of those 'dream' blog posts. It was completely fantastical - for a start, I kept jumping characters, but spent most of my time as a shapeshifting girl/super-fierce wolf in love with a shapeshifting boy/super-fierce wolf. And we swam a lot. In a lake the size of an ocean. And had people coming after us because our super-fierce abilities were totally awesome. 

And, as usual, it doesn't sound half as amazing as it was when I was actually there. Dreams like that make me want to write. It was such a incredible story while I was living it - thrilling, and full of adventure and romance and random weirdness. It's the kind of thing that makes you think 'you can't beat this, I do not want to wake up!'

Only, of course, when you do wake up and try to think through the dream logically, it doesn't make for a very good story at all. Because very little makes sense. And stories have to make sense, unless you're writing The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and that's already been done, alas.

Such is the annoying thing about dreams-that-can't-be-stories, no matter how badly you want them to be. But one day, blog readers. One day I will have a dream that will be a story.

Do you have dreams you want to be stories? Have you ever made a good story out of a dream? (And if so, what is your secret?!)

Now, I'm off to have a nap...

Friday, 14 January 2011

The New Black

Fashion is probably the place for trends. For things that go in and out of style. One summer, I remember seeing everyone in flowered flip flops, and this winter, camel seems to be the new black. If you ever glance through a magazine like More! or Glamour, you'll see how some things are staples, classics. Others come and go in wild frenzies.

Books are also a world of trends. Vampires, for example. Word is, editors and agents are sick of vampires, after the recent upsurge in vampire fiction and manuscript submissions. Everyone wants in on what's making money. I mean, why not? We're writers desperately trying to make it. We'll take any edge we can get. If vampires are selling, why not write a vampire book? When you're poor and struggling and disheartened after a million rejections, the most tempting thing in the world is to write what's Big Now.

But does it work?

And more importantly, is it worth putting aside what you're passionate about just to write something that's huge right now?

I don't know, to be honest. I just know that for me, both those answers are no.

About five years ago, I remember chick lit - and yes, you still called it chick lit then - was huge. I mean, colossal. I used to read stories about seven-figure advances and multi-book deals for chick lit in all kinds of subgenres: adult, young adult, paranormal, erotic, urban, etc etc. And I remember, vividly, a conversation I had with my father round about then.

DAD: So what are you writing about these days?

ME: It's a story about a teenage girl. It's chick lit.

DAD: Oh, really? 

ME: Yep. It's huge right now, so I thought I'd jump in.

And surprise, surprise, it didn't work out. I can't write chick lit. I have enormous admiration for authors who can, but I suck at it. I never even finished the novel, but I had already sent out query letters because that was back before I knew better. And no one wanted to see it. I think it was obvious my heart wasn't in it, that I was trying too hard to copy the fashion of the time. I was seventeen, broke and wanted to prove to everyone that I could Make It. And I went about it the wrong way.

I've written several half-finished and completely finished stories since then. And while most of them have been stories I've loved, some have been half-hearted. One was a vampire story - no prizes for guessing why I wrote that. Another was something I forced out because I felt like I'd gone too long without writing anything new.

I'm sure it will come as no shock to anyone that the stories people liked the most were the ones I loved too.

I have a book deal now. WOVEN will be published. And the thing about WOVEN is that it's completely and absolutely mine. What I mean by that is simply that I didn't think about a market, a trend, a goal when I wrote it. I wrote it because it had to be written, because I loved the story and the characters, because I was so utterly passionate about it that it was unthinkable that I left it unfinished. Sure, I might be devastated now if WOVEN had never gotten anywhere, after all I put into it. But I would have always had that glow, that amazing sense of satisfaction, of knowing I finished something I loved.

I'm not going to say you should write what you know. Or that you should do your research properly. Or that you shouldn't mess with grammar. I think you can break all these rules and still make something magical. (In fact, sometimes grammar's just a pain in the you-know-what.)

But write what you're passionate about. It's not a rule, it's not a do-or-die kind of thing. It's just something that makes writing a million times more fun. And I think it's too easy for me - and maybe for a lot of us - to forget that.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

And in come the predictable New Year's Resolutions that will probably be defunct in two weeks flat

...but I'd very much like it if I could stick by my resolutions this year! Unlike previous years, where I've done the usual 'go to the gym' (ha!) and 'stop biting nails' (double ha!) route, I've tried to be a bit more realistic about my goals for this year.

1. Be a better and more attentive daughter, friend, fiancee. As a writer, it's so easy to get lost in your book's world and to forget that sometimes people in the Real World need you a whole lot more. So, here's to a better balance and a little less of my work-frantically-then-collapse-in-exhaustion-burnt-out Sherlock Holmes Syndrome!

2. Write a completely new novel. Finish its first draft. Not an unachievable goal, considering I have a year.

3. Make WOVEN the best it can be. I'd bleeding well better too, considering my editor expects the finished revisions by June.

4. Stop comparing myself to other people, whether in terms of writing, book deals, or how much or little cellulite they have (damn you, Kate Moss with your perfect legs). I'm me. It's time to stop holding myself up to other people's standards.

5. Stop biting nails. Sigh.

6. Eat better. Oven chips are rapidly becoming my 'easy to make' food. Slippery slope, that. 

7. Get laptop fixed. It's had an overheating problem for months now, but it's survived. Last week, clearly overexcited with all that Christmas eating, it just turned itself off and refused to come back on, leaving me without a whole lot of stuff I need. I am now stuck using Steve's laptop for things like blogging, and Steve's laptop is on its last legs too. Alas.

How did everyone's Christmas and New Year go? Have you made any resolutions? Do you think you'll stick to them?