Saturday 30 March 2013

A Very Special Saturday

About half an hour ago, I was just sitting down to eat lunch when there was a knock on the front door. I looked at hubby. Hubby looked at me. With a sigh, I got up to go and answer it, preparing a polite but firm 'no' to whoever it was trying to sell us a better deal for our gas and electric, or telling us why we should donate to XYZ charity, or… you get the idea.

But when I opened the door, it was the postman. He handed me an envelope with this written on the front:

And inside…?

(Apologies for blurriness - photo was taken with my phone!)
I decided I wanted to be a published author when I was 13. If you'd told my 13-year-old self, already starry-eyed with dreams of success as she scribbled her first novel, that it was going to take almost *cough*twenty*cough* years to achieve that dream, she'd probably have been horrified.

Luckily, she had no idea it was going to take that long, which is why she kept going, writing story after story, wondering if the next book was going to be The One, or the next…

And now, I'm sitting here holding my very first finished copy of my very first published novel, which is coming out from Random House in three weeks and five days.

So if you're a writer, spending every spare minute of your time dreaming up characters and plots; if your stories keep you awake at night; if you're wondering you'll ever get that 'yes' from an agent or publisher…

Keep going.

Because if I can do it, so can you.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

So, You Know That Secret Project I've Been Talking About…

Today, I get to tell you what it is! The fabulous Kate Ormand, author of forthcoming dystopian YA novel DARK DAYS, has helped me to set up a new group blog for UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA fiction. It's called Author Allsorts and we have an AMAZING group of authors on board who are going to be blogging about what they do and how (and why) they do it. I am so excited and honoured to be part of it!

The blog officially launches on Monday, 1st April, when we'll start introducing the Allsorts. There's also going to be a special book birthday celebration and a MEGA giveaway! So stay tuned!

You can follow the Allsorts on Twitter here, and like our Facebook page here.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday 25 March 2013

ACID Cover Scoop And A Spooktastic Trailer

It's exactly one month until ACID is out in the UK. ONE MONTH. Eep! So to celebrate, I'm over at the Lucky 13s, blogging about the book's cover. Check it out here!

And when you've read that, head over to ReadingTeen, where you can see the spooky trailer for US publisher sibling and fellow Lucky Kit Grindstaff's THE FLAME IN THE MIST (out from Delacorte on 9th April! (You could win a $30 gift card, too!)

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Good Causes, Exciting Schemes, Book Birthdays And More!

G-Dog was e x h a u s t e d after his stint at blogging last week, so he's let me have the blog back for a while. I thought I'd use this opportunity to tell you about some stuff I and other people have been doing!

ACID is out in 5 weeks and 2 days (not that I'm counting or anything. Ahem)!! And it's featured on DARK DAYS author Kate Ormand's blog today, as part of her 'Sneak Peek' feature. You can find out more here!

RUBY AND GRUB and BUTTERCUP MAGIC author Abi Burlingham would like to know if any picture book or middle grade authors can help Ystruth Primary School in Blaina, South Wales, build a library by donating one of their books. The school is in a very deprived area, where many children have never experienced a library visit, so the school want to set one up to encourage the pupils to read and fall in love with books. However, they have very few resources, and will struggle to do so on their own. Please go and read Abi's post about the project, and if you can help, get in touch with her!

Have you heard about the Patron of Reading scheme? This is another project that's been set up at a school in Wales, Esgob Morgan, by the headteacher Tim Redgrave and author Helena Pielichaty. Authors anywhere in the UK can sign up to be a Patron and have their details added to the school's website, and then schools can browse the list and get in touch with them to see if they'd be a good match. I signed up a while ago and am now talking to a school about becoming their Patron – which is very exciting! For more details about this amazing scheme, see the school's website. You can also tweet Tim at @timredgrave.

 There's been LOTS of book birthdays among the Lucky 13s this month. You can now grab yourself Mindee Arnett's THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, Tamera Will Wissinger's GONE FISHING, Sarah Skilton's BRUISED, Steven dos Santos's THE CULLING, Debra Driza's MILA 2.0 and Nicole McInne's BRIANNA ON THE BRINK. And Liz Coley's PRETTY GIRL-13 releases in the US today as well! Woo-hoo!

Please also check out Bridget Zinn's POISON, which released on the 12th March. Tragically, Bridget never got to see her book in print, as she died from cancer in 2011. I didn't know her personally, but I used to follow her blog, and like many other people, was shocked and saddened when she lost her fight against her illness. POISON looks like an amazing book, and deserves to do incredibly well!

Finally, I'm involved in a top secret project, along with lots of other AMAZING authors, which I'm hoping I'll be able to tell you about soon! But not yet. Shh.

See you next week (if G-Dog doesn't get here first!)!

Monday 11 March 2013

G-Dog Blogs: What It's REALLY Like When Your Human Is A Writer

Welcome to a brand new feature on the blog – G-Dog Blogs! I've decided to risk letting my houndy writing assistant take over on here from time to time, to tell you all about life from his point of view. Oh, and he'd love it if you left him a comment. Comments are like virtual biscuits. Over to you, G-Dog…

G-Dog. Psst. Wake up! *prods*

Hmm? Wha…? *Stretches and yawns* Hi, blog readers! Yep, my human has left me in charge of the blog. It's mine – allllllll mine… *Rubs paws together*

Oi, G-Dog, I'm watching you!

Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes. I thought I'd start with a post about what it's REALLY like when your human is a writer. With pictures.
There's a lot of waiting around.

'I'll just finish this chapter,' she'll say. 'I've just got to email my editor.' BO-ring. And when we DO finally go for a walk…
…she's STILL thinking about her work. Humph! Hello? Hello? I'm down here!
It's not all bad, though. At least there's always someone around to tell me how cute I am.
We always have lots of fun.
And if I do this face, I get biscuits. Yeah, life when your human is a writer isn't half bad, actually…

Friday 8 March 2013

My Favourite Childhood Books

Yesterday was World Book Day, and I was tagged by DEMON PARALLEL author Roy Gill to write a blog post about my favourite childhood books – his post is here. I didn't have time to do my own post yesterday (work! Edits! General rushing around-ness!), so I thought I'd do it today.

This is just a small selection of the books I loved when I was a kid. As you can see, it's a real mix of stuff – I would read just about anything I could get my hands on (and still do!).


Happy World Book Day plus one, lovely blog readers! What are your favourite childhood books?

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Guest Post by PRETTY GIRL THIRTEEN Author Liz Coley: How Writing is Like Learning the Game of Tennis

Today, I'm welcoming Liz Coley to the blog. Liz is a fellow Lucky 13 and author of YA mystery/thriller PRETTY GIRL THIRTEEN, which came out from Harper on 28th Feb in the UK, and will be published in the US by Katherine Tegen Books on 19th March under the title PRETTY GIRL-13. This is what it says on Amazon

A gripping, suspenseful debut that will haunt you long after you have turned the final page…

Angie Chapman is only 13 when she gets lost in the woods in the middle of the night.

The next thing she knows she’s returned home, scars around her wrists and ankles, physically exhausted. Her parents collapse into tears when they see her, but Angie doesn’t understand – until they tell her she has been missing, presumed dead, for three years.

Angie doesn’t remember anything from her missing years. But there are people who do – people who could tell Angie every terrifying detail, if only they weren’t locked inside her mind.

With help, Angie begins to unravel the darkest secrets of her own past.

But does she really want to know the truth?

Doesn't it sound amazing?! So without further ado, here's Liz with a guest post about how writing is like learning the game of tennis.

Photo © Liz Coley
My author bio claims that I play tennis to stay fit and humble. So far this indoor tennis season, my record is 4 wins and 4 losses. That’s the humbling part. And I can tell I’m getting more fit, because everything hurts.

Here’s what I know about learning to play tennis:

(1) You can learn the theory of the game by watching the best players, but you don’t improve your own game from the stands; the champs possess skills you can only dream of at this point.

(2) You can’t learn tennis all by yourself. You need to find a group of people--some may be more advanced and some may be less--who want to play with you. By putting your feet on the court, through trial and error together, you’ll make gradual improvements in coordination and stamina. Scores won’t matter—it’s all about the camaraderie, the coffee, and the lunches out.

(3) At some point, you’ll decide to make a greater investment in developing your skills and pay for lessons. One lesson, you’ll focus on ground strokes, another week on net play, another time on defensive lobs. A professional coach knows how to break the game down into component parts and direct your focus to improving the level of your play bit by bit.

(4) Finally, you will realize it’s time to put yourself out there where it really counts, face to face with competition. Skills matter. Scores matter. And even if you have a disappointing or even embarrassing match one week, you have to pull yourself up by your shoelaces and try again. You’ve made the commitment to play.

(5) Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a seemingly endless path upwards. Even the champions of the world have coaches. They practice constantly. And they always seek to improve strength, skills, and strategy.

Here’s the parallel in learning to play the game of authorship:

Observation: Read widely to pick up the nuances of language—grammar, vocabulary, and voice. By studying pace and conflict and turning points, figure out how plotting works. Read sometimes for pure pleasure, sometimes with a story-engineer’s eye. Good writers are good readers.

Participation: Develop a network of writing friends and critique partners. Some will be your mentors; some will be your mentees; some will be your exact equals in their progress down the road of craft development, representation, and publication. Whether you are helping or being helped, you are learning the craft and business together. Don’t forget the coffee and mutual support and treating to lunch. Writing does not have to be a solitary endeavor.

Education: Attend conferences and workshops as an investment of your time, talent, and treasure. Workshops tackle specific components of the craft and business of writing, allowing you to focus on improving one particular part of the package that is you. Becoming a professional requires mingling with others in your field, making connections, and learning not only from books on the craft, but from the best in person. If you aren’t confident enough to invest in yourself, who will be? Conferences and workshops are the one place where you have immediate access to the gatekeepers to traditional publishing—the agents and editors.

Competition: Tennis is more forgiving than publishing in that the competition is stratified: beginners compete against beginners, intermediates against intermediates, and grand slam champs against each other. Writers compete against the entire market for acceptance, although publishing houses range from the petite to the megalithic. One way or another, your work has to march onto the court and present itself, compete for the attention first of an agent, then a publisher, then the reading public. Don’t let the fear of losing prevent you from playing.

Completion: There is none. Throughout your life, you will evolve and improve as a writer.

You can check out Liz's website and blog here, connect with her on Twitter here and like her author page on Facebook here. Thank you for such a great guest post, Liz!