Monday, 31 October 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: The Plot


I promised myself that for this year’s NaNo novel I would write something that’s 100% fun. No complex subplots, no political allegory, nothing pretentious. No highbrow – that’s my motto for this project. I just want to write 50,000 words of light-hearted fun. Fluff, really.

And I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m editing my current WIP (Reckless) and it’s HARD. I bloody hate editing with a passion. It’s dull, it’s never ending and it just reminds me over and over again that I’m just not good enough yet. Ugh. So I’m hoping that writing this little bit of fluff will be a nice way to spend the rest of my day, once my editing is done, of course.

The only issue I have is that, as I said in my first NaNo post, I only just decided to take part. As in, 10am on the 30th October I was convinced by some pals (via Twitter) to sign up again. And so, I did. I am so unorganised it’s ridiculous and all I can do at this point is jump in head first and hope for the best.


I’m spending a bit of time today trying to decide vaguely what the loose plot might be. I don’t even have characters…or an ending or beginning or anything. Just my trusty title (Under the Influence) and setting (university). So, to try and give me some ideas I’ve been looking through my own university pictures and brain storming things that happened to me and my house mates during our first year of uni that I might want to mention and dramatise.

I’m not going to lie, my time at university was not about studying – when I was a fresher, at least. When I got further into my course I did a lot of studying but during first year it was all about partying. My tutors would kill me for saying this but it really is important to get it out of your system, I think so at least. Go mad in your first year – go out, drink too much, walk home at 3am crying because that guy you like danced with someone else, Facebook stalk hot guys from your course and ‘accidentally on purpose’ rub up against them in the SU, maybe even *gasp* have a bit of sex, followed by an extremely awkward bus journey the next day when you realise that guy you were never meant to see again is actually on your course. Dooo it! Sorry for going off topic but, yes, that’s my advice for your first year of university. You don’t have to do the sex part but you will, it’s inevitable.

Oh, and make sure you get 40% or the party’s over.

Anyway, what I was meant to be writing about is the non-existent plot of my NaNo novel. I do have a nifty little list of things I want to include and I’m going to try and do a 20 point plot plan this afternoon. Ugh, and characters. I really need characters. I’m also going to make sure absolutely nothing from Fresh Meat ends up in it, not that I don’t love Fresh Meat but I need to make a conscious effort to write something entirely different.

How much do you plan your NaNo novel? Do you go in completely blind and wing it or do you at least have some structure in place? If you do have a plan do you make sure you stick to it or do you allow yourself some freedom? I think I’m going to settle on a rough plan and an ending but keep the rest open for whatever my (currently non-existent) characters decide is going to happen.

(This was my university. It is the best place in the entire world)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wanted: Beta Readers!

So as some of you probably know I finished writing my second novel over the summer. Go me.

The first novel I finished (The Seven Gates of Hell) is gathering dust under the bed, a la Dave Cousins but I will get it sorted one day, I'm sure. At this stage I just don't think I have the skills to do it justice. It's a YA horror and I'm really proud of it but it's definitely not ready to see the light of day yet.

But my second (Reckless) is coming along nicely and I'm in the process of getting it ready to pitch to agents. I'm terrified. It has a fair way to go but I'm cracking down on it now and it gets a little better every day.

Anyway, the reason for this blog post is to ask you for your help! I really need some beta readers to have a look at it and give me some feedback. I should say here that I don't know how other writers do the whole beta reader thing so I'm just making it up, to be frank. I have a few close friends and writer pals from uni that I'm going to ask to take a look but if any of you are interested I'd really appreciate your help.


For now I'll probably send a couple of extracts through, with a total word count of between 2000-5000 words, so nothing huge. It won't be massively time consuming but if things work out I may ask if I can send you longer pieces in the future.

So, yes, that's the deal. I'm looking for beta readers! Reckless is a contemporary YA standalone novel about two English girls spending a summer working as camp counsellors in an American summer camp. That's pretty much the gist.

If you think this might be something you'd like to do please sign up here and I'll get in touch if I think we might be a good match for each other. Obviously if any of you are writers I'm more than happy to return the favour - writing buddies ftw.

If you are going to sign up please have a read of the below first, it's where I get tough:

- I really do need some proper feedback so please, please only sign up if you're actually going to have the time for this. Like I said, I'm not sending massive extracts but I know feedback does take time and effort. Pleeeease don't sign up and then eventually reply telling me everything looks fine. Likewise, if you want to slate it go right on ahead but please be constructive - if something is shit please tell me why and what I can do to make it better.

- If you're already my friend I know this won't bother you but still - there is swearing and sex and drinking and all manner of debauchery in this one so if you're likely to be offended by any of that tasty goodness you probably won't be impressed.

- This should go without saying but by signing up I will need you to pinky swear that what I send you goes no further, okay? I mean it. If you share or steal my shit you will be immediately entered into a world of pain. And I will find out. Don't test me.

I'm not really a raging bitch, I've just never done this before so it's a bit scary.

NaNoWriMo 2011

The decision has been made. I will be taking part in NaNo this year, after swearing I wasn't going to. I was planning on editing my WIP alongside everybody taking part so I could cheerlead etc but I had PROMISED myself I wouldn't write something new. All was well.

Then Viv came along and tempted me and now I'm all signed up.

At this point all I have is a title that I randomly got from a song on the playlist I'm listening to. It's 'Under the Influence' by the way (from the similarly titled Taking Back Sunday song. Yay for Taking Back Sunday, you wily title masters). I know it's going to be set in a university - write what you know etc etc. I really don't know what's going to happen or who my characters are but I know alcohol, regret and absolutely nothing high brow will be involved.

I'm actually really excited. It's kind of nice to go into something after absolutely no planning whatsoever. I think I'm going to try and keep it unplanned. My first NaNo novel was from an idea that I'd had years ago and had always been in the back of my head so I already knew the characters and plot. This time - nada. DE NADA. Sorry.

Things here at Writing from the Tub will probably slow down over the next month and I may get even slower at responding to emails. I'll be blogging more about writing, I expect.

If any of you are taking part please add me on the NaNo website - my username is Tinklechacha and I think I'm going to need a lot of buddies to keep me motivated! Public failure is my worst nightmare so maybe this will stop me losing.

Meh, 1667 words a day. Totally do-able. Right? Maybe not when I add in editing my current WIP (I'm making a rule that I edit that for two hours before I write for NaNo every day), working, having a social life and a relationship. And blogging. Oh God.

I've done this twice, I can do it again. Yes I can, yes I can, yes I can. I am absolutely, 100%, NOT allowed anywhere near Memebase or the NaNo forums until I've done my editing AND writing every day. Please enforce this as best you can!

I'm also going to do my annual Winter tradition of trying to start running again. Okay, maybe I'll come home from work, do my two hours of editing straight away, then go for a run and do a bit of mental plotting for my NaNo writing. That sounds so perfect that I already know it's going to last a couple of days, max.

Wish me luck!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Review: The Dead Ways - Christopher Edge

Published: October 1st 2011, Catnip Publishing
Pages: 191 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book one
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from back cover of book): Ghostly apparitions on abandoned motorways

Corpses escaping from hospital morgues

Skeletons clawing their way out of the graves


The Dead Ways are opening


The government has a plan to clean up the environment - closing down motorways and returning the land to nature. But beneath the roads lie the Dead Ways, ancient lines of power sealing off this world from the next and imprisoning a long-forgotten evil. As the roads close, time is running out before chaos will be unleashed.


My review: Brilliant - a YA zombie book where zombies are evil and creepy and after nothing but brrrraaaaaaiiiinnnnnssss! This, I have been waiting for.

In a market that is becoming increasingly saturated with zombie stories (as zombies are the new vampires, did you get the memo? Yeah, I sure did...Enough already) I am definitely beginning to get sick of reading novel after novel about the zombie who still feels, who's still clinging onto his final shreds of humanity, who's still able to love etc etc, excuse me while I shake my head in despair. Does anyone else agree with me here?

Anyway, the long and short of it is that I was so excited to read The Dead Ways and be genuinely scared by zombies again. I can't remember the last time I read a YA zombie book that freaked me out so much - Christopher Edge is definitely up there with Charlie Higson for the creep factor.

That's one of things I liked so much about this one, the creep factor. There wasn't a lot of gore in The Dead Ways and I found the atmosphere and tension to be a whole lot scarier than any violence that I think other writers may have relied upon. Edge, however, relies upon solid story telling and good, old-fashioned brain eating villains but with a truly unique twist. Brilliant stuff!

This is one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to a whole host of readers, particularly reluctant boys. As I said, there isn't a whole lot of gore in the book (I didn't think so anyway but don't trust me and give it to your twelve year old to read, I have a high tolerance!) so I do think it would be suitable for younger readers, though be warned - it is very creepy.

I'm really excited about this series and can't wait for the next installment, especially after that ending!

First line: 'As the car sped through the busy London streets, its blacked-out windows glinting in the early summer sunshine, Scott knew that something wasn't right.'

Read if you liked…: The Dead - Charlie Higson

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 14/20 (B)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Favourite Covers: From the Side

So I know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers but I just can't help myself! My laptop is full of folders of pretty covers so I've decided to post a few of my favourites up - the theme for this post is...from the side!

Birthmarked - Caragh O'Brien

Entice - Carrie Jones

The Gathering - Kelley Armstrong

Everlasting - Alyson Noel

Unearthly - Cynthia Hand

Glimmerglass - Jenna Black

Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare

Burned - P.C. and Kristin Cast

The Iron Daughter - Julie Kagawa

*

So, that's it for this week - what do you think? Which is your favourite?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Fine Art of Truth or Dare - Melissa Jensen

Waiting on Wednesday was started by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and is a post detailing an upcoming book you can't wait to read.

My choice for this week is The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen.


Publication date: February 16th 2012

Summary (from Goodreads): Ella is nearly invisible at the Willing School, and that’s just fine by her. She’s got her friends— the fabulous Frankie and their sweet cohort Sadie. She’s got her art— and her idol, the unappreciated 19th-century painter Edward Willing.

Still, it’s hard being a nobody and having a crush on the biggest somebody in the school: Alex Bainbridge. Especially when he is your French tutor, and lessons have started becoming, well, certainly more interesting than French ever has been before.

But can the invisible girl actually end up with a happily ever after with the golden boy, when no one even knows they’re dating? And is Ella going to dare to be that girl?

*

So what about you guys? What are your picks for this week?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Pictures of the 'Hot Guy' poll. That is all.

Happy afternoon everybody. Basically, I had a shit day today so I thought pictures of pretty boys might cheer me up. Guess what? It has, no end.

This idea came about when I decided I need to make my male lead a bit sexier, a bit more... 'UP AGAINST THE WALL' style, you know? So I made a list of fictional characters who I reckon are pretty darn sexy so I could watch their respective sexiness and try to ascertain exactly what it is that makes them so attractive. Then I figured I'd get a second opinion and ask around on Twitter to see what you guys think. The results are below.

But before that I need to have a rant about my crappy day. Feel free to skip this, it won't be very interesting. Also, work pals, if you're reading this you're not the person who pissed me off.

Firstly, I said good morning to a co-worker (because it was a nice morning...and also because I'm not an absolute douche bag), who then proceeded to look right at me for a couple of seconds, then scuttle off and let a door slam in my face rather than say good morning to me. WTF? The door actually slammed in my face. I was quite tempted to grab him by the scruff of the neck and demand he return my greeting but we all know I'm a massive pushover so I just made my crumpets and bitched on Twitter.

Secondly, I got shouted at (REALLY shouted at) by a customer because I failed to refer to him as 'Sir' at all times. I wish I was joking. Go and fuck yourself. Sir.

Anyway, before this gets too long and off topic, Googling pictures of a semi-naked Rob Lowe has made me feel a lot happier.

Your choices:


Caleb Rivers - Pretty Little Liars (Taylor Blackburn) and Tim Riggins - Friday Night Lights (Taylor Kitsch) - SO SIMILAR LOOKING!


Maverick Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Tom Kazansky (Val Kilmer) - Top Gun

Nathan Wuornos - Haven (Lucas Bryant)



Castiel and Dean Winchester - Supernatural (Misha Collins and Jensen Ackles)

Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard), Alcide Herveaux (Joe Manganiello) and Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) - True Blood

Fox Mulder - The X-Files (David Duchovny)

Dylan McKay - Beverly Hills 90210 (Luke Perry)

Gerry Kennedy - P.S. I Love You (Gerard Butler)

Dan Humphrey - Gossip Girl (Penn Badgley)

Damon Salvatore - The Vampire Diaries (Ian Somerhalder)

Jayne Cobb - Firefly (Adam Baldwin)

Matt Saracen - Friday Night Lights (Zach Gilford)




And my choices (+ Damon Salvatore and Caleb Rivers, fo sho):

Seth Cohen - The OC (Adam Brody)

Skip Burroughs - Class (Rob Lowe)

Freddie Mclair - Skins (Luke Pasqualino)


Chuck Bass - Gossip Girl (Ed Westwick)

Dean Youngblood - Youngblood (Rob Lowe - LOOK AT HIS PERFECT, PERFECT FACE)

Yes, I have a type. I'm very much about dark hair and good cheekbones. Basically, I'm just all about Rob Lowe.

So that was a fun social media poll that absolutely brightened up my otherwise crappy day. Thank you for playing everybody. I am off to watch 80s movies and Vampire Diaries for...research. That's what it is.

What I want to know is: Do you think anyone's missing? If so, let me know!

Review: Imaginary Girls - Nova Ren Suma

Published: June 14th 2011, Dutton
Pages: 346 pages, hardback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Purchased myself

Summary (from Goodreads): Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.

But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.

With palpable drama and delicious craft, Nova Ren Suma bursts onto the YA scene with the story that everyone will be talking about.


My review: Really, instead of actually trying to put into words how Imaginary Girls made me feel I should probably just post the following image and leave it at that:


However, I think I should probably explain myself.

Further down in this post I suggest you read Imaginary Girls if you enjoyed The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (and if you didn't enjoy it, why the hell not?) and I really did find the two books to be similar in tone and style, though not in content. There's something hazy and retro and a little bit creepy about the world Suma creates for her characters and I adored it. I just know if Imaginary Girls was made into a film it would be a hipster's dream, you know?

I keep writing paragraphs for this review and then deleting them. I can't quite get into words exactly what I want to say about this one. I did leave my breathless and now, a few days later, I still can't get the story straight in my head. Imaginary Girls will play with your mind and seep into your subconcious, especially Ruby. What a character. She's just...unreal. Part of me hated her but she's infectious and alluring and a little bit dangerous, such a brilliant creation.

For me, Chloe almost represents the reader, as she spends a lot of time watching, taking things in, quietly absorbing everything around her and I think her voice was excellently executed. The writing in Imaginary Girls is absolutely stella and it felt like every single sentence had been pored over and rewritten again and again until it was completely perfect. Because it is. Perfect, I mean. The prose reminded me a little of how Lauren DeStefano writers in Wither, which is high praise because, damn, that was some good writing.

I know I give the plot of Imaginary Girls 4/5 in the rating but, honestly, I don't really feel like I should comment on the plot as I still don't have much of a clue about what actually went on in the story. Once I hit the last forty or fifty pages I just sat back and accepted that I was completely at the mercy of Ruby and Olive and everybody and everything in Imaginary Girls.

And thus, my mind was blown. Obviously I'm not going to give anything away but the last few paragraphs are fantastic, so subtle but really powerful. Disorienting and beautiful, Imaginary Girls turned my mind upside down, I loved it.

First line: 'Ruby said I'd never drown - not in the deep ocean, not by shipwreck, not even by falling drunk into someone's bottomless backyard pool.'

Read if you liked…: The Virgin Suicides - Jeffrey Eugenides

Rating:
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 5/5
Total: 17/20 (A)

Monday, 24 October 2011

Cover Announcement: Keep Holding On - Susane Colasanti

So as you may (or may not) have seen the cover of Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti has just been released and is floating around the Interwebs.

What do you think? I think it's great - whoever handles her branding always does a brilliant job. You can always easily find a Susane Colasanti book on the shelf, which I think is so important. Really excited about reading this one when it's out next year!

So without further ado, here it is:


*

What do you think? Let me know!

Review: 15 Days Without a Head - Dave Cousins (Debut Author)

Published: 5th January 2012, Oxford University Press
Pages: 272 pages, paperback
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Meet Laurence, fifteen years old and six feet tall. Very soon, he'll dress up as his mum and inpersonate a dead man on the radio.

Meet Jay, his six year old brother. He looks like an angel but thinks he's a dog. He'll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way.

Today is Tuesday - and the next fifteen days will change the boys' lives forever...

My review: I remember feeling this way about a debut novel almost exactly this time last year; really, genuinely excited about the discovery of a huge new talent in the YA world. When I felt this way last year it was about Phil Earle's Being Billy and this around, it's Dave Cousins' 15 Days Without a Head, which is absolute magic.

I devoured this novel over a couple of days, grabbing a few minutes here and there to read whenever I got a chance; on the way home from the event in London where I was given my copy, when I arrived a work a few minutes early. Any time I had a little bit of spare time I buried my nose in Laurence and Jay's story, which I was utterly engrossed by.

The characters are what makes this such an exceptional book because they are just so real. Cousins uses so many tiny details to bring the boys to life and they're definitely two of my favourite characters of this year. I was absolutely rooting for them from the outset, which make the book so much more enjoyable than if I'd only had lukewarm feelings for them. Caring about the characters raises the stakes and makes the outcome of the novel so much more important and I was really hoping things worked out as well as possible for Jay and Laurence.

The time span of the book (taking away the epilogue) is relatively short but we see Laurence go on such a journey, turning from a relatively average fifteen year old into a responsible, mature young man who has definitely had far too much to deal with in his life. The way he looks after and protects Jay was so touching and I loved the moments that those two shared. Speaking of Jay...Thinking he's a dog? Loved it. I actually did the exact same thing when I was younger. Yes, I genuinely used to try and persuade my mum to feed me out of a dog bowl. That actually feels a lot more sinister now I've seen Audition.

But I digress.

Cousins is a truly powerful writer, managing to have me laughing out loud during one scene and crying during the next - I loved how the atmosphere in the story changed so quickly from happy to tragic, exactly how it does in real life. I think that's the main strength of this book, that it is so incredibly real. It stays realistic from beginning to end and I'm really pleased that the ending is realistic, rather than the Hollywood ending I know some writers would have gone for.

I really don't have anything negative to say about 15 Days Without a Head. I'm so excited to watch Dave Cousins' career pan out from now, as he's just what the MG/YA market needs right now; a fresh, exciting new voice who isn't afraid to tell it like it is. Also - bonus points for the brilliant reading he gave at the Oxford University Press event!

First line: 'The front door slams.'

Read if you liked…: Being Billy - Phil Earle

Rating:
Plot: 5/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 18/20 (A)

Note: This review will be reposted on the 2/1/12

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Cover Reveal: Until I Die - Amy Plum

So as you may have seen the cover of Until I Die by Amy Plum has just been released - if you head over to Amy's blog you can find details of how to win an ARC of the book, a lonnnng time before the release date. Get going!

What do you think of it? I like it, I'm not crazy about it and I don't think it would necessarily grab me in a book shop...but then again I'm not the target audience for the series so I wouldn't really go for any book with this kind of cover. However, I do think it fits in really well with the cover for Die for Me and branding is so important. Also, I think it holds up very nicely against covers for other books in the genre so it's all good.

So without further ado, here it is:


Thoughts? And for anyone who's read book one already - based on my post yesterday, should I give it a go or not?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Rantastic: An open letter to anybody thinking of writing, publishing or representing a YA zombie novel

Basically, I have to get this off my chest

This is a zombie:



Writers, editors, publishers, WHOEVER IS RESPONSIBLE - please stop trying to make us think of zombies like this:


And, I swear down, if you take zombies in this direction:


You will do this to me and every other horror fan in the world:


Enough.