Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Lucky Thirteens Tweetchat!

I'm very excited to announce that the Lucky Thirteens, the fab group of debut authors which I'm part of, will be hosting monthly Tweetchats, with the first taking place this week!

Chats will be guided by a moderator and cover a range of topics, which you can see listed below. Most of the chats will take place at 8pm EST (which unfortunately for my non-night-owl self is 1am GMT), but there are also two Saturday chats scheduled for 3pm EST/8pm GMT which I'm hoping to take part in. 

If you want to come along and talk to us, all you have to do is follow the Luckies on Twitter or keep an eye on the hashtag #Lucky13s during the scheduled times. We look forward to seeing you there!  

The Lucky 13s Tweetchat Schedule and Topics:

Thursday January 24th: 
Meet the Luckies!
Thursday February 21st: The Boys and Girls We Lurrve: Love Interests and BFFs in our books
Thursday March 21st: Mostly Middle-Grade (Yay! MG!)
Thursday April 18th: Science! And Fiction! Science Fiction!!!: SF and the science in our fiction
May 18th (Saturday Chat, special 3PM EST Start)Worlds Apart: Wordbuilding and our Fictional Worlds
Thursday June 20th: Paranormally Yours: The Strange, Creepy and Otherworldly
Thursday July 18th: Cheers for Contemps: Contemporary Books
Thursday August 22nd: Kicking It Old School: Historicals
Thursday September 19th: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Antagonists and Protagonists
October 19th (Saturday Chat, special 3PM EST Start)Before “Once Upon a Time”: Character’s Backstories
Thursday November 21st: Ask Us Anything!
Thursday December 19th: Year in Review and What’s Up Next

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Stories Are Everywhere

I was a bit stuck for what to blog about this week, so I asked Twitter. Someone suggested blogging about not knowing what to blog about, but I couldn't think what to say (yeah, I'm hopeless!). Then someone else said, 'Why not blog about what inspires you?'

Hmmm. That got me thinking. I've blogged before about Eureka Moments – those times when an idea suddenly flashes into your head, bringing to life part (or all) of a story which previously, was lurking in the background, scuffing its feet and refusing to look at you.

But these moments are not the only thing which create my stories. If they were, I'd be doing a lot of hanging around, waiting for them to turn up. Instead, what I try to do is be open to those things in everyday life which might become the seeds of ideas.

I see and hear hundreds of things every day which could become part of my stories, often without even realising until the moment when I actually need them arrives. Quite often, photographs For example, while looking online for pictures of people who looked like my characters in ACID, I found this image:
Image source - rasmus ledin on Tumblr

As soon as I saw this photo a name came into my head – Myo. And Myo is now one of the main characters in my new novel, THE FEARLESS, which I'm currently editing. At first, I wasn't sure what his role was going to be, but there was something about this photo that told me he had a secret, and as soon as I realised that, I realised what this secret was, and where he'd fit in the story. Around the same time, I stumbled across a website about a place called Hashima Island in Japan (also known as Gunkanjima - 'Battleship Island' – and recently used to inspire a location in the latest James Bond film). The images on this site have been a major source of inspiration for one of the main locations in THE FEARLESS, which is set in a near-future, post-apocalyptic Britain. (The website where I found out about Hashima, gakuran.com, has some incredible photos of ruins and abandoned buildings, so if you're writing your own post-apoc and want inspiration, check it out!) 

Image source - mab-ken on Flickr (licensed for use under Creative Commons)
Music, too, can provide inspiration. The type of music depends on the type of book I'm writing, but certain pieces of music can make a scene spring into life inside my head, sometimes long before I'm ready to start writing it. This is one of the reasons I make soundtracks for my books which I listen to almost exclusively while I'm writing the various drafts (you can see the THE FEARLESS's soundtrack in this post here).

And what about other books? Some people don't read when they're writing to stop themselves being influenced by other people's work, or won't read anything in a similar genre to the book they're working on, but for me, this would be like stopping breathing. While I would never copy anything another author has done (that's called plagiarism, people, and it's a VERY BAD IDEA), seeing how other writers approach problems similar to ones I might be having in my own writing is incredibly useful, especially with a book like THE FEARLESS which is turning out to be quite complex (3 POVs at the moment, and multiple plotlines with a lot of backstory).

But inspiration doesn't have to come from anything so concrete. It can be sparked off by anything: a gesture, a word, a sound, the way the sun slants across the horizon, the sound of a dog barking being carried on the wind… any number of those tiny, fleeeting moments that set your senses tingling and make you want to reach for your pen (or laptop) and write.

Stories are everywhere. They're just waiting for us to find them.

Friday, 4 January 2013

The Quiet Librarian: A Split Worlds Tale by Emma Newman

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome Emma Newman to the blog. Emma, a talented author who I first met at BristolCon last year, when we were both on a panel discussing if YA was just for girls, has asked me to host one of her Split Worlds Tales. Being a library assistant, this one is particularly close to my heart, so without further ado, over to Emma!

In 2013 the marvellous Angry Robot books will be publishing three Split Worlds novels, the first is out in March and called "Between Two Thorns". This story is part of a crazy thing I decided to do before I got the book deal and was forging ahead with the project on my own: releasing a new story every week for a year and a day, hosted on a different site every time, all set in the Split Worlds. I wanted to give readers a taste of my kind of urban fantasy and have the opportunity to build in secrets and extra tit-bits for those people who, like me, love the tiny details. It's also been a major part of my world-building work alongside writing the novels.

This is the forty-fourth tale in the year and a day of weekly short stories set in The Split Worlds. If you would like me to read it to you instead, you can listen here. You can find links to all the other stories, and the new ones as they are released here. You can also sign up to get the stories delivered to your inbox, one per week for a year and a day.

The Quiet Librarian

They watched, both peeping out from behind open books, both holding their breath. The librarian moved closer to the trap, making Xavier's right leg bounce up and down with excitement.

"She's getting old," George whispered to him. "What if she has a heart attack?"

"Mundane medicine is very advanced, I'm given to understand. She'll be fine."

The librarian reached the space on the shelf and didn't appear to notice the tiny lines of formulae written towards the back of it, nor the box tucked away at the end of the symbols. She hefted up the huge encyclopaedia, her arms trembling with the effort, and slid it into place. As the book completed the criteria required for the formulae to take effect, dozens of bright yellow spiders ran out over the top of the books and down their spines, only inches from her face.

Her mouth curved downwards and she wheeled the trolley back to the main desk, leaving the spiders to find nooks and crannies to frighten future readers.

Xavier shook his head. "I was certain that would do it. Spiders worked perfectly before."

"That was in 1982," George said. "I remember it well; it was the only year in the eighties that I lost to you."

"Get ready to lose again," Xavier said. "I'm sure the next thing I have planned will do the trick."

"Don't be so certain." George pulled out his pocket watch. "We have two more hours before we're expected back in the Nether and this will be my tenth win in a row, I'm sure of it."

They abandoned their books and went their separate ways, hunting down locations to set up their next attempts as the librarian scanned in returned books and chatted with the locals.

George went up to the mezzanine floor and leaned on the railing, watching the activity at the main desk. He missed the solid thump of the old-fashioned date stampers. Now it was all barcodes and bright beeping sounds. Other than that, the library hadn't really changed over the last sixty years. There were new books, new posters on the walls and new bookshelves added for modern reference sections, but the fiction area was still as he remembered.

He'd already tried dropping a huge book, hoping the loud bang would elicit a response from the librarian. All it achieved was a crying baby and a stern glare in his direction. He'd mouthed 'sorry' and blushed, feeling childish.

He considered a simple formula to add water vapour to a section of air on the far side of library, to make her think there was a fire breaking out, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Making an old lady think a fire was starting in the library she'd worked in for most of her life just wasn't cricket. Perhaps he was going to lose this year.

"It's such a shame," a young mother's voice caught his attention. "I don't know what we'll do when it closes. You know how many books mine go through a week."

"They don't care about normal people," the librarian replied. "They're so rich they think everyone can just buy any books they want to read. I've written over twenty letters since they made the announcement and haven't even had a reply."

"We did all we could," the mother replied, picking up one of her children. "It was in the local paper, did you see it?"

"I did. The only good that's come out of it is that people have been talking to each other like they used to."

George went to the newspaper section as the mother and her children left. He found the latest copy and the headlines made the yearly challenge seem even more childish. The library was being closed down.

A movement drew his attention back towards the desk and he saw a large white rat scurry out from behind a bookcase. The librarian peered over the top of her glasses at the rodent.

"Well, really," she said and grabbed a cardboard box from under the desk. With the efficiency of a woman with better things to do, she caught the rat, taped the box shut and made some air holes in it. As she phoned the local pest control, George decided that there was no point keeping up the absurd bet with Xavier. The poor woman had been frightened in dozens of different ways over the years. They'd have to do something truly horrific to make her scream now and he simply wasn't prepared to do that anymore.

He leaned back and watched a small girl run through to the children's area, an older child close behind. An old man was hunched over a computer in the corner, typing slowly with one finger and occasionally grinning at the screen.

George put the newspaper back and went up to the desk. The librarian smiled at him. It was the first time he'd approached her rather than just conspiring to terrify her.

"I understand they're planning to close the library," he said. "I thought you should know that I'm about to go to the local council offices and give them one million of the Queen's pounds, with instructions that it be used to keep this establishment open for as long as possible and that you be employed here for as long as you wish."

Her mouth fell open. "Is this some sort of trick?"

"No madam, I can assure you this is a serious offer." He pulled out the Sorcerer's chequebook and showed her the name of the bank. It would be a simple matter to buy a bag of anthracite and create enough diamonds to replenish the account. "If you wish to accompany me to see it done with your own eyes, you are most welcome to do so."

Her cheeks flushed. "Isn't that the one the Queen banks with?"

He nodded and she reached over the desk to throw her arms about him and kiss him on the cheek. As he blushed, she explained what was happening to the other librarian, put on her coat and then squealed with unbridled joy.

He extended his arm to her, and as they strode out together, he permitted himself the briefest triumphant glance back at Xavier. He had won after all.

Thanks for hosting, Emma!
Thanks for asking me to host, Emma, and very best of luck with the Split Worlds novels - I can't wait to read them!

Between Two Thorns, the first Split Worlds novel, is available for preorder on Amazon now.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

ACID ARC Giveaway - The Winner!

I had 94 entries into my signed ACID ARC giveaway - wow! Writing all those names out on pieces of paper to put in a hat would've been a little time-consuming, so I thought I'd let random.org decide for me. Here goes…

And the winner is…

Number 70 - @mcrogerson! Congratulations!

A big thank you to everyone who entered, and happy 2013!