Wednesday, 4 January 2017

2016 YA Character Book Tag

Hi guys! 

I am back. Sort of. Look, I swear I'm working on proper posts. Really. It's happening. Really. I’m most of the way through one post that’s all about how to begin a novel, so watch out for that one. Also, I have a lot of feelings about Rogue One, so a review involving a lot of emotions and flailing will be coming your way at some point.
But, since I promised to be back in December and it is now....January. *hides because I'm bad at deadlines*. 
Me, to be honest.
Whoops. Anyways, since I promised to be back, I decided I should get something up before I start all the stuff I have planned for this year. And I stumbled across this tag, over on Paper Fury, which is basically that I answer a bunch of questions about the characters in the books I've read in 2016. Which...I'm...pretty sure I remember the books I read this year. I....think....
Did I steal this tag? Yes. Yes, I did. I swear she said we could. Also, I’m late. But…we’re only a few days into 2017, consider it a slightly late wrap-up post.
So, this should be fun! On we go!

Hmmm, difficult, but I'm thinking Juniper from The Defectives by Burgandi RakoskaI haven't talked about this book yet, have I? Well, that's stupid, because this book is so good. It's about disabled superheroes, what's better than that? 

Nothing, basically, that's the answer I was going for. I'll do a better review later, but right now let me talk about Juniper. So, Juniper is the main protagonist and she begins the novel immediately after suffering an accident that left her paralysed. Over the course of the novel, she goes through a lot of...things as she learns to cope with her new disability and it's emotional and difficult and I empathise so much with it. Obviously, I'm not paralysed, so I can't empathise with that, but I do have a chronic illness and I'm a part-time wheelchair user so there are a lot of the stuff she goes through over the course of this novel that I heavily relate to. There were a lot of moments where I was left just sitting there thinking 'How did this author just see exactly how I feel?'. 
So, yes. Juniper. Most relatable.

I’m just going to go with Fleetfoot from the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. She’s really cute.

I’m going to go with Thorn from The Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan. He’s awesome and he’s an amputee who has a cool prosthetic that he also fights with. Also, he’s a sass-master.
Thorn, basically.

Blitz and Hearth from Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan. Okay, so I was slightly late reading this book, so sue me. But my point still stands. I love Blitz and Hearth. You cannot make me choose between them.

I did not expect to like Eadlyn from The Heir by Kiera Cass as much as I did. I kept hearing about how annoying she was, but I actually quite liked her. She was flawed, but I like flawed characters.

Jackaby from Jackaby by William Ritter is a beautiful sassmaster. I love him.

Lev from Unwind by Neal Shusterman. He is my morally grey grape son. I love him so much.

Probably Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles. She’s the actual worst.

Any of the parents from Unwind. I mean, seriously. They sell their kids to be literally taken apart on the operating table. That’s just disgusting. And in Lev’s case it’s even worse, because he was taught to believe that it was an honour. Ick.

Mo from Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is awesome. He’s a bookbinder and he loves books and he loves his daughter so much. I just…ugh. I love him a lot. He’s great.

I still ship Kady and Ezra with all of my heart.

Look, all I need in life is for Cress from The Lunar Chronicles to be happy. Literally. This is the only thing I need. Ideally with Captain Thorne.

I don’t actually tend to find characters boring, but if I had to choose.... Well, I’m going to break the rules here a bit and go for a classic. Most of the cast of Hard Times by Charles Dickens were fairly boring. I didn’t really dislike the book, but yeah, there wasn’t much investment with the characters.

Prince Cedric from The Marked Girl by Lindsey Klingele. He was super cool.

Anyone from Illuminae. I’ve talked before about the impressive amount of death in this book. And….yeah, it’s still pretty impressive.
The authors of Illuminae, basically.
Darrow from Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far, yes. He is the king of bad decisions.

Ingvar from The Brotherband Chronicles. My kind-hearted, short-sighted son. I like him a lot.

AIDAN from Illuminae. The sociopathic murderous computer. Yes, I love him. And I also empathise way too much with him.

Magnus Chase from the appropriately named Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer. He really needs a nap. Even though he dies. Sorta.

I would read anything about the Pirates from The Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe. Which reminds me, I should get some of the other books.

Well, that’s it for today, guys. I’m going to try and get a post up every Wednesday, so we’ll see how that goes. Make sure to check out Paper Fury, her blog is awesome.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Scarf's Dreams

Here's another story I wrote for Square Pegs. I was given ten minutes to write a story from the perspective of an object I had with me. I chose my scarf. This is the unedited version.

A Scarf's Dreams

I'm a good scarf, I am. All white and cream and golden sequins, warmer than anything. At least, in my opinion.
I've been around a bit, wrapped around a few people's necks, been to a lot of places. Been on holiday to the New Forest (those donkeys, though). Been to Chester Zoo too. Got to say that those elephants were my favourite. They've got nice big necks and really long noses. Looks like they catch cold easily. I could keep them very warm, make sure they don't get sick. Someone should make a scarf for an elephant. I'm sure it would make them happy and keep them from getting ill. I worry about stuff like that, you see?
What does a scarf have to worry about, I hear you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked, 'cause no one ever seems to care what a scarf thinks. I'll tell you. I worry about a bunch of stuff. I worry about getting thrown away. Every time winter passes and I get put away for next year, I shiver and wait in dread for the day my owner'll get a new scarf and toss me away. Then winter comes and so do I, safe for another few months. I also worry about keeping my owner warm enough. I don't want them to get sick. Imagine if they got sick and died? Like in all those classic novels (yeah, that's right, I read). I'd have basically killed my owner by not keeping them warm enough. That's why it's so annoying when they forget me. This isn't a joke! Sickness is serious business. Putting aside how broken-up I'd be over losing my owner, I've got dreams of my own!
Yeah, scarfs have dreams too. I once knew a scarf who dreamed of fame. Or rather, of being owned by a famous person. Specifically the Queen. Very high ambitions, that one. But not me. No, my dream is simple.
I want to be an heirloom.
I want to be passed down from generation to generation, with lots of stories to tell. I want to have children look at me with wide eyes when they learn how old I am, how long I've been in their family. Can you imagine it? I'd be able to say to all those snooty scarfs (you know the ones, the ones all made of silk and all nice and shiny) yeah, you're real nice. Very shiny and silky. But are you a family heirloom? I think not.

See? Pretty simple dream really, I think. Not hard to be fulfilled. I've just got to avoid getting a hole. Or letting my owner get sick. 'Cause then they'd die and I wouldn't be an heirloom then, I'd just be that one scarf who let their owner die because they were bad at warmth.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The Bronze Statue

Hey guys!
Something that you probably don't know is that recently I've been attending a series of workshops about writing down in London run by Mainspring Arts. These are happening on various Saturdays over the course of a few months. Over the course of it, I'll write a separate short story and that'll be published in an anthology with the other writers attending. 
So yeah, pretty exciting stuff. 
This isn't really a blog-post, that won't be coming until December, but I wrote a bunch of stuff as part of these workshops and I thought I'd share one of the stories I've written. So here you go.

The Bronze Statue

Annalise had not gone in to steal the bronze statue, not at all. In fact, she had gone to the ball with the express intention of donating to the charity in question. Run by the Count Broccio, a tall, imposing man with beady green eyes and grey-and-black hair, the ball had promised to be quite the event, with even the most reclusive of barons in attendance. The promise that the Count's statue, an artefact discovered in Peru by the Count's son would be on display had only added to the attraction, which had no doubt been the intention. Overall, it was certainly nothing that a high-society young woman like Annalise would want to miss.
She had strode inside the glittering ballroom, her black rhinestone dress swaying as she walked, ready to show off her charms and greet the Count himself. But then she caught sight of the statue in question and her fingers began to itch.
As a respectable young woman, of course, Annalise would never dream of stealing such a priceless artefact. As a retired thief, Annalise had already begun planning out how she would go about acquiring it within seconds of setting eyes on it.
It was truly a stunning specimen, eyes made of embedded emeralds, old markings etched into the sides, coming round in a spiral to the centre where a single ruby stood. Probably worth billions, Annalise estimated.
Not that that was important. She wasn't planning on selling it.
As she inched her way around the floor, pausing every now and then to send a smile to the young men around, she sorted through her options. The simple swipe-and-run perhaps?
But no. The guards at the doorways would catch her. Perhaps a switch? She'd used that one before when stealing an artwork in Venice.
Yet again, no. The room was lit only by candles. To put out the lights would be no small task and she would surely be noticed. And without darkness, a switch simply would not work.
Annalise paused as a young man stepped around her, one hand outstretched.
“May I have this dance?” he asked with a little too much eagerness.
Annalise took his hand with a brilliant smile. “You may.”
Across the dance-floor they moved, elegantly twisting in and out. No words were exchanged, but that was just fine with Annalise. She spun, bringing the young man closer and closer to the gorgeous statue in the centre.
He seemed almost dopey, his blonde hair flipping into his eyes as he moved, a bright smile on his face. His white gloves were smooth against her hands, far better than the sweatiness that Annalise had experienced before with many a dance partner.
Annalise glanced at the statue, then back at him.
Ah. Of course. A simple manoeuvrer, but one no less useful for all its simplicity.
With that thought, she turned her most stunning smile on the young man who seemed to melt underneath it. As the dance came to an end, he escorted her off the floor.
“May I have the honour of knowing your name, sir?” Annalise asked. “My name is Annalise.”
“My name is Warren, my lady,” said the young man, no less dopey now he was off the dance-floor than he had been on it.
Annalise crushed her feelings of satisfaction. It wasn't done yet. Any good thief knew not to crow too soon. She took his arm, flipping open her fan and fanning herself with it.
“Shall we adjourn to the refreshments table then, Warren?”
Warren's eyes went even brighter. “We shall, Annalise.”
With a silvery smile, Annalise led him to the table, taking a glass of punch for herself and watching him as he ate his fill.
“Do you come from far away?” Annalise asked, sipping at her punch. The bitterness of the alcohol slid down her throat with a burn. She grimaced, placing the punch back on the table.
“Not at all,” smiled Warren. “I come from fairly near here. I own an estate named Woodburn, perhaps you've heard of it.”
“Ah, yes, Woodburn,” said Annalise knowingly. She had not heard of it. “Stunning place.”
Warren nodded in agreement, eating a spring roll with one hand.
“I myself have travelled widely, though more recently I have settled within London,” said Annalise, taking her punch up once more and valiantly sipping at it.
Warren's eyes lit up looking rather like an overly excited puppy. “Indeed?” he asked in a vain attempt to hide his interest.
Annalise nodded. “Of particular interest to me are art galleries and museums,” she said. “I have travelled in order to see some of the most priceless artefacts around.”
Warren brightly smiled. “Perhaps you can tell me more,” he said eagerly. “I too have travelled. Perhaps we could exchange experiences.”
Annalise smiled back. “Perhaps we could. But first, might we adjourn to one of the smaller rooms? I feel rather faint, large crowds have never been my strong suit.” In order to emphasis just how faint she felt, she let herself fall against the table a little, just enough to make the extravagant wine-glasses wobble.
“Ah, yes, of course,” said Warren, quickly slipping his arm around her waist to help her. “Come.”
They made their way out of the main room (and away from that stunning statue) and into a beautifully furnished side-room, with walls made of mahogany panels, a rich-blue painted ceiling and a Turkish rug laid over pale wooden flooring.
Annalise allowed herself to drop onto one of the cosy velvet sofas and smiled at Warren. “Thank you,” she said.
Warren smiled back. “You're welcome,” he said, sitting beside her and taking her hand. “Are you feeling any better?”
Annalise made a face (elegantly of course) and sank back. “I feel awfully hot,” she said sadly. “Perhaps I'm running a temperature. Could you perhaps open a window?”
Warren hurried to do exactly that, pushing open a window then returning to her side. He frowned in concern at her, pulling off his lovely white gloves and dropping them on the floor. He reached out to check her temperature. “Your temperature seems fine,” he removed his hand, still frowning. “Shall I go call for a carriage?”
“If you would,” said Annalise thankfully.
She watched him leave the room, all signs of sickness dissipating as the door shut behind him. She leaned forward and picked up the gloves carefully. She glanced inside, catching sight of a label.
“Perfect,” she murmured, slipping them between the seat-cushions, then suffering a sudden relapse.
Warren hurried back inside within minutes, telling her that her carriage was waiting outside. Out she stepped into the cold night air, she alighted into her carriage and left.
Sort of.
After travelling for roughly five minutes, Annalise slipped out of the side of the carriage, gathering up her skirt and landing perfectly on her feet. She slipped back to the grounds and settled down in a bush to wait.
The party continued for hours more, near endless. But finally, as the dark started to lighten ever so slightly, carriages left and the house was left near-empty.
It was time.
Annalise pushed herself to her feet, slipping around the side of the house to where the window remained open. She pushed herself up onto her hands, raising her legs and slipping through with ease. She landed softly on the rug inside, kneeling and listening for talking on the other side.
She stood up and headed back to the couch, reaching between the couch cushions and pulling out the white gloves, pulling them on inside out and skimming the label. PROPERTY OF WARREN MCMOROUGH. It read in such untidy handwriting that it was actually unbearable. Annalise snickered. What sort of idiot would write in their gloves? Well, served him right.
Pushing open the door, she slipped through the halls to the now empty ballroom. The servants too had gone to bed, leaving the statue completely unguarded.
Annalise smirked to herself, waltzing forward and reaching out for the statue. She gripped it with both hands, lifting it up and making sure to touch all over the stand.
She stopped. Hefting the statue, Annalise frowned at it.
It was too light. She leaned forward, focusing on the ruby in the centre.
To the untrained eye, it would look exactly like a ruby, but to Annalise's definitely not-untrained eye it was very blatantly not.
She took a few steps back, staring in shock. Finally her eyes caught on a piece of white paper poking out from under the statue. She pulled it off carelessly, tearing open the envelope and scowling down at the message.
The paper crumpled in her hand. That handwriting was still unbearably messy. Add to that the 'my lady' on the end and it was unmistakable who'd written it.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Beautiful Books 2016: How's It Going?

Hi guys! I'm back this month with another link-up. I know, I know, I swear I'll start writing proper blogposts again in December/January. Promise!
This one's kind of a sequel to last month's link-up. It's supposed to see how you're going with NaNoWriMo. So that's what I'm doing now. It was made by Further Up and Further In and Paper Fury. So head over there to grab the questions and so on. 
One thing I should mention is that I ended up changing the novel that I was writing for NaNoWriMo. I might write a second version of the last link-up answering the questions for this novel. Maybe. 
This novel is a sci-fi-ish story about teenagers in space. It's tons of fun. 
Anyways, here we go!

  • Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?: 

I'm not doing too badly. I'm ahead by a bit, so that's good. I like to try to stay at least one day ahead in NaNoWriMo, so I can conceivably skip a day without worrying. I'm up to 7584 words that I can count for NaNoWriMo, hoping to write more before I go to sleep. I actually have over 10000 words on the novel, but I started it before NaNo, so I can't count those yet. 

  • What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The first sentence of the whole novel is 'The ship was crashing. ' The first that I wrote for NaNoWriMo is 'The shuttle was big, big enough to fill the hanger.'

  • Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

I don't even know. I love them all. But probably Jeffrey Waldorf, my rich, pun-obsessed pilot. He's so much fun to write. 
Here's an example of him being fun.

“Okay!” said Jeffrey, far too chipper for someone who’d been up since five in the morning (as he’d revealed to them on the journey here, not saying why). “Let’s go find our coordinator.”
Liam frowned at him. “Do you even know where we’re supposed to go?”
“Nope! Let’s go!”
He ran off, dragging Aron with him. Simon and Liam exchanged glances, following after at a more sedate pace. Once they reached the edge of the room, Liam stepped around him, letting Simon go against the wall. 
Jeffrey and Aron were way ahead, Aron scowling and snapping something at Jeffrey and Jeffrey clearly not listening. They made a sharp turn into one of the rooms. Simon and Liam hurried up, coming to a stop outside it as Jeffrey and Aron came back outside. 
“This way,” said Jeffrey. “We asked a guy.”
He headed off again, this time dragging Liam with him. Simon wondered if he’d been aiming for Aron, or if he wanted a change. 
“He asked the janitor,” said Aron dryly as they started after the two. 
“How does the janitor know?” asked Simon, frowning.
Aron just shrugged. “All-knowing janitor, apparently,” he said, clearly not actually caring about the janitor’s knowledge.

He's so much fun. 

  • What do you love about your novel so far?: 

The humour. I haven't really written a genuinely light-hearted and somewhat comedic story before and I'm having so much fun with it. 

  • Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?: 

Not that I can find right now. I tend to edit a bit as I go along, so any typos are normally corrected pretty quickly.

  • What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?: 

I'm not sure. I like writing the end, I guess, because that's where the climax is. So it's very exciting.

  • What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!:

I have a playlist of music on YouTube (unlisted) specifically for this novel that I listen to as I write. I also tend to have a cup of tea, but that's pretty much it. I normally write in the late afternoon/early evening.
  • How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

Bit of both. With this story, I've shown what I've written so far to my little sister, but that's as far as I've shared it. Except, of course, for the example above.

  • What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?: 

I find word-wars extremely useful. They get me writing and thinking about the story, even when I'm stuck. So yeah, that's helpful.

  • What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?: 

Well first, I like the advice about just sitting down and writing. Don't necessarily worry about all the plot details and stuff like that, just write. Sorting out that stuff is what editing is for. Give yourself permission to suck, as a lot of people like to say. 
Second, I cannot stress enough how helpful I find music when it comes to writing. Seriously. Stick some music on and I immediately find it easier to write. Give it a go. 
Third, don't worry about failing NaNoWriMo. You might not win this year, but even if you manage five thousand words in the month, that's still more words than you would've written otherwise. So don't stress. (She says, even though NaNoWriMo is the most stressful thing on the planet. Kinda.)

Monday, 10 October 2016

Beautiful Books 2016: Children of the Storm

Hey guys! I know there haven't been any posts for the last couple of months and, as I have quite a few busy months ahead, that probably won't change too much. I'll try and post at least something like this each month, but I can't make any promises. I'll start posting regularly again in December, at least that's the plan. 
Anyway, more importantly, today's post. So, as you might know, each month over on Paperfury and Further Up and Further In, they post the Beautiful People linkup. I've been doing it for a few months now (well, before my impromptu hiatus anyway). Because it's NaNoWriMo in November, this month they've done something a bit different. Beautiful Books. 
The idea is to answer the following list of questions about your WIP for November. I decided to go for one of my darker, more emotional stories to write for this, as I really want to just get it at least kickstarted. So I chose Children of the Storm.

  • What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?: 
    • It's really been the last few months that I've had this idea for. From what I can remember, I think it came from both watching The Man From Uncle and from reading stuff online about Tatooine from Star Wars. The original idea was far closer to The Man From Uncle than what I ultimately ended up with. 
  • Describe what your novel is about!:
    • I really need to get around to writing an actual summary for this. But here goes.
      • In a post-apocalyptic Britain, where nuclear war and famine have destroyed most of civilisation and vastly altered the climate, near anarchy rules. Warlords control most of the territory, enslaving many of the people around.
        Kianna Grey's brother, Ronan, was taken three years ago by the Controllers, a group of people dedicated to restoring order. When Kianna finally finds their main compound, all she finds is her brother gone once more, taken by the warlords, and his traumatised partner who calls herself Grace.
        The two break out of the compound and go to search for Ronan. But, with the Controllers on their tail, desperate to reclaim their soldier and new enemies all around, Kianna and Grace will have to push themselves to the limit to save him. 
  • What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like! 
    • Broken-down cities, torn-up countrysides, grey, an ever-present sense of loss, winds ripping apart buildings and chains around wrists. 
    • Storm imagery. All the storm imagery. Lots of storm imagery. 
    • Think The Last of Us meets The 100, with aspects of the Winter Soldier.

  • Introduce us to each of your characters!
    • Kianna Grey: A bright and cheerful girl of around fifteen years of age. Kianna has near limitless amounts of energy and is near impossible to keep still. She's also very friendly, once her trust has been gained and fiercely loyal to those she cares about. She loves nothing more than being with others and befriending them, making the three years she spent alone incredibly painful. 
    • Grace: A cybernetic, brainwashed super-soldier with incredible amounts of trauma, a truckload of issues and no brain-to-mouth filter. Incredibly sarcastic and incredibly blunt, Grace has absolutely no idea how to interact with other people outside of killing them and it is very, very obvious. Ferociously protective over the only friends she's ever had, Grace is willing to do anything to save Ronan and protect Kianna. 
    • Ronan Grey: A boy of around seventeen years of age, who barely appears in the book due to imprisonment yet still manages to have a personality. Somehow. Also a cybernetic, brainwashed super-soldier with more of a brain-to-mouth filter. As friendly as his sister, though with slightly less bouncing and hugging, Ronan has no trouble with finding allies. Both a lover of poetry and classical literature and a skilled fighter. Ronan taught Grace how to rebel against the Controllers, even giving her the name Grace rather than the number she was taught. A skilled mechanic, Ronan made a great many modifications to his cybernetic body-parts, as well as to Grace's. Can and will steal your marshmallows.
  • How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
    • Does all of the above count? Admittedly mostly the howling. 
  • What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
    • One of the main themes of the novel is about trauma and recovering from it. I'm really looking forward to that, as I feel it's not something that we talk about enough in books. Particularly not in this sort of book. There's also a lot of characters with various mental illnesses and it does get very rough at points. One character has several moments throughout the story of being acutely suicidal and another is dealing with the aftermath of rape. It's not pleasant to write or research, but I'm looking forward to dealing with it and really trying to tackle it in a way that's respectful. 
  • List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
    • Storms: As I mentioned in the aesthetic, storms are super important. Since the apocalypse happened, the climate went strange and now there are really huge, really dangerous storms that occur relatively frequently. It's not too bad if you're underground or in a completely stable shelter, but it's incredibly dangerous to be out in it. One of the cultural things about this world is the emphasis placed on surviving the storm. If you survive the storm with someone, then you're kind of best friends forever. 
    • Animals: Again, since the apocalypse, a lot of animals have mutated and changed both becoming more dangerous and, in some cases, more beautiful. 
    • Culture: As I briefly mentioned in the storm bit, there's actually a large cultural change that I'm hoping to explore. There are folk-tales and dances and stuff like that.
  • What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
    • Kianna
      • Goal: Is to save her brother from the warlords and from the Controllers. 
      • What gets in the way?: Am I allowed to say everything? Fine. The warlords are a particularly big obstacle, since they're so powerful and so are the Controllers. 
  • How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
    • Well, she's a lot stronger by the end. Grace has a good impact on her. She grows a lot more confident. She also finally forgives herself for losing Ronan, as Ronan was only taken because he was saving her. 
  • What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
    • The biggest themes are about trauma and recovery from trauma and about loss and grief and anger. Essentially it's just a ball of emotion, this one.
    • I think I want them to feel...kind of sad, but hopeful too? I mean, it's not going to have a super-happy ending, rather bittersweet really, but I think there'll be a hopeful aspect to it as well.