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25 Jul 2012

RTW - My Next Life...

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic:
If you could be reincarnated as any fictional character, which would it be?
I'd probably go for Alice in Alice in Wonderland.  In the classic tale she is an argumentative, curious child who is strong enough to question the nonsensical adult world and challenge authority.  And in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland I liked how he developed her character futher, keeping her as a young girl who questions what she sees in society and rebels against it and ponders about the strangest things.  She doesn't want to be married off to someone she barely knows.  She wants more than that.  When people comment of her strange thoughts and not being ladylike she stands up for herself and continues to be herself.  I actually think she's a good role model for young girls, encouraging them that they don't need to follow society's rules and conform if it feels ridiculous to them.

Tomorrow I'm off to Darlington and will be gone for a week so I won't be posting Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Might post on Wednesday if I get back home on time but we'll see.  So if you've just started your holidays have a great first week and I'll see you next Wednesday/Saturday!

24 Jul 2012

TTT - Vivid Worlds

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish today's Top Ten Tuesday asks us:

Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings In Books

I'm big on setting to begin.  It can be one of my most favourite aspect of the book because places inspire me and I love having a vivid idea of what the fictional town/country/world is like.  It's important for atmosphere and makes a fun little film in my head while I read.  So my top ten favourite worlds/settings are:

1) Chicago - Divergent and Insurgent (Veronica Roth)
I love the detail that has gone into this dystopian Chicago.  I was immediately in love with the idea of factions and the characteristics, symbols, and mottos that come with each one.  You can tell so much planning has gone into to creating this futuristic and corrupt city.  And there's still more to it! More mysteries, more questions.  All to be discovered in book three hopefully!

2) Discworld (Terry Pratchett)
You knew this one was making an appearance.  When I studied Terry Pratchett for my research report, I read about the folklore that he uses to create his own version of the actual world, elves, fairies, vampires, witches etc and that's my favourite part of his developed world.  How he's taken folklore from around the world, new and old and twisted them to create his own, comic spin on things.  But the characters are so real and the world is so detailed that it almost feels real and really makes an impression.  My go to author for world building.

3) Panem, The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)
A terrifying and oppressed world that makes Katniss a heroine you wouldn't want to swap places with.  It's a brutal country with a distinct social hierarchies from the poverty stricken District 12 to the fierce, wealthy and ambitious Districts 1, 2, and 4 and finally the Lady Gaga-esque, ridiculously rich and fashion conscious Capitol. 

4) Harry Potter (JK Rowling)
I'm not the biggest fan but I always did like the quirky and old fashioned world of witches and wizards with their love for fantastical sounding names and the rejection of modern technology.  If you have magic and owls, why need a telephone? The history of the witches and wizards, especially for the founders of Hogwarts are so rich and detailed.  I'm not surprised JK Rowling has taken a while to write the books and finish them.  Quality over quantity.
5) Jerusalem's Lot, 'Salem's Lot (Stephen King)
It starts off as your stereotypical Small Town.  Everyone knows each other, there's a dark past/urban legend surrounding the former owner of the Marsten House, and outsiders are treated with suspicion.  Every character had a story in the novel, each one from different parts of the town and different social ranks.  The town itself it's haunted by the Marsten house that overlooks everything and keeps bringing darkness to this close knit town.  Stephen King really brought out a community here and I loved the setting and changing atmosphere of the town as evil conquered more and more of it. 
6) New Beijing, Cinder (Marissa Meyer)
A fantastic futuristic setting with cyborgs and moon people, mentions of past wars and new social statuses.  I can't wait what else the future books in the series will show us about this sci-fi and technologically advanced Earth.
7) Wonderland, The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
Beddor brought a darker atmosphere to Wonderland while still keeping it's fun and nonsensical traits.  It was still the odd little world where imagination is a huge power to have and control.
8) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
The home in the time loop takes away the creepy, potential horror setting of the old children's home and brings a more fantastical Utopia and safe house for the children with the odd gifts.  It's immediately a safe haven that makes you feel at home and keeps paranormal wonders hidden away from the real world.
9) Narnia (CS Lewis)
A rich, never ending land with mystical beasts and wicked witches.  I've only read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and yet to read the rest but from what I read already it's a world that it's darker sides and can easily become a place of oppression and fear when placed into the wrong hands, mimicking the horror of the real world at the time. 
10) Wonderland, Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
A child-like world full of nonsense and eccentric beasts and characters that's fun to read.  That's for the children.  For the adults it's a crazy acid trip but still fun to read. 

23 Jul 2012

Book Haul and Bargains

I've shown a couple of pictures over on twitter but I wanted to do a book haul post seeing as after today I have now gained some extra books and have a whole new TBR pile. 

It's a good thing I have a job. 

So the haul so far. (I say so far because I'm going to be buying more in the near future... I can't help myself) I've linked the titles to their goodreads page.

Excuse my cat's tail in this one... he wouldn't budge.

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor(bargain at £4.99)

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire

Extras by Scott Westerfeld (all 3 on offer, 3 for £5)

Tuck by Stephen R Lawhead (my bargain of the day at 99p!!!! =D)

The Works had a ton of books on sale or on offer so the book geek in me just had a field day.  Tuck, Extras, Specials, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Mirror Mirror and a book on ghosts all came up to £12.  If all that had been in Waterstones it would have probably cost me around £30 or more.  So while I felt bad about going on such a spending spree I felt a little better that my buys were from the Primark of book shops.

I do like to pop into The Works or any book stall at the city market and car boot sales.  The stalls are all second hand but when you can buy a book for £1.50 that's costing £7.99 at Waterstones it's worth it, especially if you're on a budget or, like me, trying to be good with your spending.  I've found books that have recently come out at a bargain price of £1.50 or come away with 5 to 10 books that all come up to about a fiver in total.

So next time you're at a car boot sale or market or if there's a charity book store nearby, pop in and give it a go.  You never know what you could find!

But I really have to be good after this haul.  I must be good...

22 Jul 2012

Zombie News to Novels #25

On Wednesday I'm taking part in 2.8 hours later.  It's a UK tour event where you take part in zombie chase, basically a LARP, and you're put into a group where you have to around the city you're taking part in moving from location to location to track down survivors and find the HQ.   Now and again zombies will be chasing after you and if you're caught you're marked.  At the end of the chase it's decided whether or not you're infected and you get covered in zombie make-up.  It sounds like a lot of fun and I hope to video some of it for the blog if videos are allowed. :)

So this weekend I've been tracking down zombie articles, videos, and pictures for a Zombie Special News to Novels. 

A drug-fuelled rampage led a man to attack several people and chase around a neighbour while growling like an animal - before he brutally killed and ate a dog.
Cops arrived at a home in Waco, Texas, on June 14 after a man called 911 to report a man living in his house that was 'going crazy.'
Police said that Michael Terron Daniel told his housemates that he was 'on a bad trip' after taking the synthetic drug K-2 and began attacking them.
The zombie survival 'Google Map' that will help you find food and guns after the undead apocalypse
It's well known horror film fact that when a zombie apocalypse arrives, those who want to see off the army of the undead need a variety of supplies to survive.
Nearby medical care, weapons and nutrition are the key concerns for anyone hoping to successfully avoid being feasted on by rampant zombie legions.
Now, should any remaining humans be overcome by confusion or panic during the zombie invasion, a unique world map has been created detailing all the key locations people need to survive.

British dealers are supplying America with the drug behind wave of horrific cannibal attacks feared to be 'zombie apocalypse'
The drug being blamed for a spate of cannibal attacks in the U.S. is entering the country from the UK.
Horrific assaults in which users of a substance known as 'bath salts' have eaten victims' flesh have given rise to speculation that America is in the throes of a 'zombie apocalypse'.
Getting hold of the drug via the internet can be shockingly easy, requiring just a few clicks of the mouse and no proof of age, a U.S. news channel discovered.

Guns, gas masks and war bunkers: The families who live in fear of the apocalypse
Post-apocalyptic worlds may exist on the big screen and in sci-fi novels, but that's where the similarities between a disaster-ravaged planet and daily life in America end.
Or so you may think.
A new TLC show introduces us to the families who live in fear of the apocalypse, convinced by the inevitability of the end of the world as they know it.

Centers for Disease Control issue official guidelines to prepare for the world being taken over by... zombies
The next time a decaying corpse approaches you in the street, you'll know what to do.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency, has posted guidance telling people what to do in a ‘zombie apocalypse’ - and they don’t advise shooting the walking dead.

A light-hearted blog post by the organisation said U.S. citizens should prepare an emergency kit and then look for a zombie-free refugee camp.

The Science of Zombies
Perhaps because they were easier to control and kill, zombies never acquired the cachet of their undead cousins, the vampires. This phenomenon extended to science: zombie research was considered a less glamorous field and consistently lagged behind vampire research in funding. Since development of the vaccine in 1911, the zombie threat has been greatly reduced. However, this should not make us complacent. Most experts believe that in today's world, a zombie outbreak is far more likely than a vampire outbreak

 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen

This one is random but I just love the idea:

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

18 Jul 2012

RTW - For Ideas and Inspiration

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic:

When you need creative inspiration, where do you go?

My favourite place to go is Costa in my local Waterstones for general writing inspiration and motivation.  When I'm surrounded by books and I have a mocha and a small little table that will fit my netbook or notebook on I can write.  I see all these books around me and it reminds me what my goal is and inspires me to keep going and work on my current WiP. 

Places are a big inspiration for me creatively so if I'm going to York or a new place I'll keep a camera and notebook with me because no doubt the setting will inspire something for me.  When I learn to drive and get my own car I plan to travel around to places in Yorkshire for new ideas and new settings.  I'd like to repeatedly travel to places that inspired a WiP to begin with.  So York is always on my list of places to go in the holidays.  London inspired a project so I hope to go there in October.  Add Horsforth on the list for Beast Inside.  It's been ages since I was there but I hope to go back there when I start my studies again so I'll get to take more pictures and stay inspired to write Beast Inside

Where do you turn to for creative inspiration? Join us on YA Highway!

17 Jul 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Books for a Book

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish this week's Top Ten Tuesday wants us to:

Top Ten Books For People Who Like X Book

Now when I did the ten books for X author I did find it a struggle to name ten books just like it.  I had 7 and 3 had to be films.  This week I'm struggling again so I've chosen two books that I've read and liked and I'll recommend a few books that I think felt similar to and also add in books that I want to add to my TBR that sound similiar to my choices.
The Woman In Black
Set on the obligatory English moor, on an isolated causeway, the story's hero is Arthur Kipps, an up-and-coming young solicitor who has come north to attend the funeral and settle the estate of Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. The routine formalities he anticipates give way to a tumble of events and secrets more sinister and terrifying than any nightmare: the rocking chair in the nursery of the deserted Eel Marsh House, the eerie sound of pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most dreadfully, and for Kipps most tragically, the woman in black.

And the books that I think would have or do have the same chill factor are...

1) 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King (Read)

'Salem's Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in 'Salem's Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to 'Salem's Lot hoping to cast out his own devils... and found instead a new unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of 'Salem's Lot.

2) Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (TBR)

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, but now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

3) The Devouring by Simon Holt (TBR)

"When dark creeps in and eats the light,
Bury your fears on Sorry Night.
For in the winter's blackest hours,
Comes the feasting of the Vours,
No one can see it, the life they stole,
Your body's here but not your soul..."

THE VOURS: Evil, demonic beings that inhabit human bodies on Sorry Night, the darkest hours of the winter solstice.

When Reggie reads about the Vours in a mysterious old journal, she assumes they are just the musings of an anonymous lunatic. But when her little brother, Henry, begins to act strangely, it's clear that these creatures exist beyond a madwoman's imagination, and Reggie finds out what happens when fears come to life.

To save the people she loves, Reggie must learn to survive in a world of nightmares. Can she devour her own fears before they devour her?

The Devouring is an engrossing tale of terror that will have you wondering: what if your worst fears became your living nightmare?

4) Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough (TBR)

Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Auntie Ida is eccentric and rigid, and the girls are desperate to go back to London. But what they don't know is that their aunt's life was devastated the last time two young sisters were at Guerdon Hall, and she is determined to protect her nieces from an evil that has lain hidden for years. Along with Roger and Peter, two village boys, Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries -- before it's too late for little Mimi. Riveting and intensely atmospheric, this stunning debut will hold readers in its spell long after the last page is turned.

5) The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (TBR)

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen.
The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape her murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss' story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curios little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.

And some more awesome retellings of fairy tales, classics, and legendary characters:

1) Seeing Red by Frank Beddor (TBR)

Alyss of Wonderland's rules has only just begun, and already those who prefer chaos to peace are threatening to destroy everything worth imagining. Trailed by newly appointed royal bodyguard Homburg Molly, Alyss is doing her best to keep pace with the non-stop demands of being queen while attempting to evade Molly for a few private moments with Dodge.

Alyss' life is a challenging mix of duty, love and tough decisions, and then a series of phantom sightings set fire to an urban myth of Her Imperial Viciousness' return and have everyone...Seeing Redd.

Has Redd somehow freed herself and her chief assassin, The Cat, from the confides of the Heart Crystal? If not, then who has resurrected Redd's brutal foot soldiers the Glass Eyes and set them loose to attack Wonderland on all sides?

Battles rage, looking glasses explode, and the Alyssians once again unite to defend White Imagination in this fast-paced follow-up to the New York Times bestselling The Looking Glass Wars.

2) The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter (Read)

From familiar fairy tales and legends - Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast, vampires, werewolves - Angela Carter has created an absorbing collection of dark, sensual, fantastic stories.

3) Beastly by Alex Flinn (Read)

I am a beast.

A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.

You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.

Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

4) Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Read)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

5) Hood by Stephen R Lawhead (Reading)

Robin Hood

The Legend Begins Anew

For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Stephen R. Lawhead's latest work conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare yourself for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.

Let me know if you have any more recommendations for horror and retellings.  My TBR is always looking to grow!

16 Jul 2012

Can Nice Guys Come First?

This is one of those posts where I prove how much of a sheltered life I probably had.  Something I see a lot in YA books, programmes and films is a douche teenage guy who becomes the LI and the nice, well-mannered young girl who falls for him.

As a writer I see:

Potential conflict.
Character development.
Journeys and experiences to grow wise from.

As a reader:

Idiot girls falling for awful guys.
Shitty personality and thus unnattractive.
Bad, complicated relationships that can't be good for the girl's mental state.
Unnecessary, OTT drama.
The poor nice guy who is so much better being chucked to the side in favour of hot, bad boy.

I'm torn because I see why a writer chooses to add issues like this in.  Love triangles where there is a perfect, lovely and genuine guy yet the FMC can't stop thinking about or has started falling for the hotter guy who has proved time and time what a douche he is and makes the female feel bad and inferior about herself.  He causes her tears, a lot of private time spent analysing every signal, word, and look.  And with the nice guy, the girl feels better about herself.  She's happier, comfortable, and there's no drama.  Just the typical weak knees and shyness.  It's conflict and stirs things up.  It gives writer an opportunity for character development.

But is it getting too much now? Are bad boys glamorised?

I'm totally in love with Awkward right now where Jenna has become official with Jake, the attractive, pleasant guy who's been through one terrible relationship and Jenna herself knows that she feels better for herself now that she's with Jake.  He's not embarrassed to be seen with her, is honest and open and treats Jenna like his equal.  I'm glad she went for him.  But then there's still Matty.  The first guy she ever slept with but treat her like crap.  He wouldn't be seen with her in public, he would flirt and kiss other girls while Jenna just stood and watched in the background, unsure of how Matty felt and making her feel more like an outsider and not someone cool and popular.  But the love triangle continues and now Matty is purposely trying to sabotage Jake's relationship with Jenna.  He's following them everywhere, not giving Jake any free time with Jenna and inappropriately touching Jenna, even while Jake is around.  And on a site recently, I saw that the author of the post favoured Matty.  They admitted he was being a douche in this episode but he won the episode because he took his shirt off.  Really?

Jenna is still attracted to Matty.  And this, along with Jessica's Guide, I've been thinking about the bad boy LI all weekend and why books always make the girl end up with them or still pine for them.

Now, I must still be completely naive but in high school I grew up with quite a few relationships where both people truly liked or loved one another and went out for a few years.  Sure, there would have been fights but the couples I knew didn't have as much drama as I see in fiction.  They were public with their relationship and even if they didn't last after school they at least broke up knowing that had a good time together.  The bad relationships where the guy or girl was a douche and had nothing but arguments and constant drama didn't last long.

I've only had relationships where I liked the guy and the guy liked me and we weren't embarrassed or didn't try to make each other feel bad about themselves.  I've only ever dated the nice guys because from YA books I was taught that the bad guy isn't worth it.

Matty is Jake's best friend and he's prepared to not only ruin Jenna's happiness but his best friend's.  How can a guy like that still be attractive?

In Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, Lucius becomes an emotional, insulting and terrifying character who threatens to kill Jessica towards the end and hooks up with the girl he knows bullies her.  But she keeps following him and is determined to have him.  Do you seriously want someone who keeps saying he's going to kill or destroy you? And allowed the bitchy girl to throw insults at you?

Edward Cullen... stalking and again threatening that he could hurt Bella at any time.  Worth it or not?

Jace Wayland, Draco Malfoy Delos Redfern, Damon Salvatore... all these characters have had darker, nastier sides and are total poster boy pin ups for teenage girls. 

Is it time for the nice guys to start fighting back? The Riley Finns, Toby Tuckers, Jake Rosatis.  Is it possible for the book to still bring in readers and encourage them to keep going if the nice guy wins for once and shows the girl how he's so much better for her? Or do you like the whole bad boy thing and think YA needs the conflict, even if the relationship doesn't look too healthy or happy?

I do wonder if maybe a book could be better by showing the girl moving on.  Date the douche because it's a life experience and teens make mistakes but maybe write so the FMC does find someone better in the end, like Jenna in Awkward and Emma in The Future of Us.  The nice guys she's been with have been dumped all in favour of this Cody guy she's obsessed with.  But she comes to her senses and I wonder if that's a better way of writing a story like this? There's redeeming the jerk character but I've seen too many jerks to know that some just can't change like that.

I'd love to hear other people's opinions of this.  How do you feel about the bad boy scenario? Time to push them aside or is it a fun bit of conflict to read? Or is there another way to write these relationships without making it look like you should always go for the dick in the end?

14 Jul 2012

News to Novels #24

A lot of my friends are graduating at the moment or leaving an important stage of their education.  A couple of my relatives and my colleague's daughter have finished college and will be leaving for university in September.  Pete's younger sister has finished high school and will be entering her college years while some of my friends have now completed their BA, Masters or PGCEs and are completely done with education.  July is always a big month because for me it has meant the end of something all my life.  The end of primary school and the transition to high school, the end of high school, the end of my first year, the end for my reception class as they wait to start Key Stage 1.

I went searching for a few graduation articles and hope these will be of some inspiration:

We don't need no graduation
It's that time of year when hearts race and palms grow sticky. With the A levels results out on Thursday, many a teenager is praying for the grades that will get them that coveted place at university. Yet, a significant minority have no intention of swanning off to college - even if they score top results. And far from 'dropping out', they're making a financially savvy choice.

Many young people don't want to start their working life owing money; the average student debt is £13,500, predicted to increase to £20,000 for students starting this September. What's more, recent research shows that the level of increased earnings that graduates could expect over a lifetime, as recompense for doing a degree, has fallen sharply.

Student collects degree at graduation ceremony... and then gets onstage proposal (and she says yes)
After four years of lectures, exams and essays, a graduation ceremony is a memorable event.  Yet for Sarah Cooper, from Marlboro, New Jersey, it will be particularly unforgettable - as it is also the moment she became engaged.  Her boyfriend of four years, fellow American University student Sam Miller, popped the question on stage after Sarah collected her degree.

'Oh, The Places You'll Go!' Dad's tear-jerking graduation gift to daughter is a book of messages from every one of her teachers... which took 13 YEARS to collect
For many teenagers, their high school graduation day is the opportunity to ask for a big, extravagant gift from their parents.  What Brenna Martin got was very different. It wasn't a car, a holiday or that piece of jewellery she had always wanted.  Instead, the senior got something much, much more special.

Brenna's father Bryan handed her the most 'moving, touching, nostalgic, and thoughtful' present she had ever had.  It was gift that was 13 years in the making which he'd managed to keep hidden the whole time.  The copy of Dr Seuss children's classic 'Oh, The Places You'll Go!' is adorned with a series of annotations.

Awe-inspiring courage of the boy paralysed in a car crash at 14 months old… but who fulfilled his dream to walk for his high
When Patrick Ivison was run over by a car aged just 14 months, his spinal cord was so badly injured that his parents were told he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  But he has never let his disability hold him back, becoming a champion surfer at the age of 13.  And this week, he made the most amazing breakthrough of all when he walked for the first time as he attended his high school graduation.

To anyone who has graduated this year, congratulations and best of luck on your next journey! =D

11 Jul 2012

RTW: Book Versus Film

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What movie have you seen that actually (gasp!) improved on the book?

I loved the film Stardust.  It was comical and whimsical with a fantastic choice of actors.  I adored Robert De Niro's drag queen/butch pirate and Michelle Pfeiffer's haggard then glamorous witch.  It was a brilliant story with character and relationship development, the right amount of drama, comedy, and tension.

I wanted to read the book because I wanted to discover more of Neil Gaiman's writing and I'm always interested when I find out a film is an adaptation of a book.  I like to read the book as well.  But when I read Stardust I was thoroughly disappointed in it.  Definitely not what I was expecting.  The full review of the book is here but these are a couple of things that I didn't like in the book and that the film did well in.

1) The thing I really didn't like in the book was how anti-climatic it was.  I didn't feel there was a satisfied ending or resolution with the main antagonist.  In the film, there's a resolution.  Tristran and Yvaine face the main antagonist instead of just wandering off on their journey.

2) The film knows its focus.  It has a journey for Tristan and he follows it.  The book did add more adventures for them but they were either very brief or just mentioned in the narration without being able to read about.  I thought Gaiman should have either cut it out and stuck to Tristran's (name is slightly different in the book) journey or built on it more. 

Overall the film was best at telling a comic yet fantastical fairy tale, better than the book did.  So I'd honestly recommend the film more if you're interested in Stardust.  It differs greatly from the book which may or may not be why I wasn't so keen reading it but I think this is how the tale should have been told.

10 Jul 2012

TTT - Writing wisdom

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish and this week we're free to ramble on about any topic.  I've been through tons of ideas that weren't book or writing related but I thought that would be too random and out of place.  Instead I'm showing you...

Top Ten Quotes on Writing

On Goodreads I've discovered an awesome little feature where I can list my favourite quotes.  And I've found some awesome writing ones that can make me giggle but when I think about it, they're so true:

1) “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”  ― Toni Morrison  

Partly true.  I'm always inspired by something with a WiP but I know my horror ambition is in response to the lack of horror I see on YA shelves.  I know there have been a few ghost stories and zombie stories out there but I still think it's a genre that's been overshadowed, especially with werewolves and vampires.  They just seem to be romantic icons now and what I really want to read is a YA book where they're the bad guys.  Hence how Beast Inside came about.

2) “The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Yep.  Sometimes I look at the draft I'm writing and think: dear god, this crap is never going to be published.  This is my go to quote for NaNo.  There may be tons of things I'll hate during the first draft but it makes me feel better knowing that it's always going to be rubbish.

3) “People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don't like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy.”  ― Joss Whedon

I'm totally on the side of messing with your characters and not always giving a happy ending.  Reality doesn't give happy endings sometimes so I don't think books always should, especially in horror.  People get messed with so characters should experience the same things.  There does have to be some resolve but overall I honestly don't mind endings that aren't completely happy.

4) “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”― Maya Angelou

Just like the first quote a SNI can stay floating around in my head.  The ones that really get me all excited are unbearable to keep inside and sooner or later I need to start jotting down notes.

5) “Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”  ― Meg Cabot

I've always believed for a book to do the best it can you have to love it.  What's the point in writing it if isn't something you're passionate about? The first person to write for is yourself.

6) “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”  ― Robert Frost

Adding to quote five, if you don't have the passion and emotion for it, it's probably not going to do well.  A good book is one that gets you just as hooked as the author who wrote it.  When a character dies you cry for them because that author did too.

7) “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.”  ― Neil Gaiman

Can't have done this post without a Neil Gaiman quote. :) A lot of people think writing is easy.  It's just sitting on your arse and typing out a few words.  It's harder than that.  Sometimes you can end up staring at what should be the first chapter and thinking of that first line for hours.  The line to capture the reader's immediate attention.  How do you start the story off? Where's the best place to begin? Blank screen/paper... you're intimidating.

8) “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”― E.L. Doctorow

As a writer I have an excuse when I talk to the voices in my head.  They're only my characters and they're telling me things for the story.  Honestly... (Redrum... redrum...)

9) “By now, it is probably very late at night, and you have stayed up to read this book when you should have gone to sleep. If this is the case, then I commend you for falling into my trap. It is a writer's greatest pleasure to hear that someone was kept up until the unholy hours of the morning reading one of his books. It goes back to authors being terrible people who delight in the suffering of others. Plus, we get a kickback from the caffeine industry...”  ― Brandon Sanderson, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

A good book is also a tormenting bastard that will NOT let you rest.  That chapter just needs to be finished... well, I might as well finish this chapter now that I've started... oh but I'm SO close to the end... I've read a few books that have turned me into this lucozade guzzling, red eyed, exhausted zombie because I continued reading when I should have gone to bed and rested for work the next day. 

10) “Cram your head with characters and stories. Abuse your library privileges. Never stop looking at the world, and never stop reading to find out what sense other people have made of it. If people give you a hard time and tell you to get your nose out of a book, tell them you're working. Tell them it's research. Tell them to pipe down and leave you alone.”  ― Jennifer Weiner

At high school a few people knew I wrote.  Luckily I had supportive friends and family who always encouraged me and showed interest.  But I know anyone outside my circle of friends didn't think I was serious about it or that it was something to be serious about.  Some people aren't lucky.  Parents think their writer children should go out and focus on a "real" job or friends will just laugh and tell you to do something better with your time.  We've got authors like JK Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Stephenie Meyer and Stephen King who earn millions from their books and yet some people still don't think writing is serious or good enough to have as a full time job.  This quote is perfect for the writers who feel they don't have the support they should have.  Keep going.  Keep doing what you want to do.  Your parents and family are probably following or have followed their dreams so you should have that freedom to as well. 

What are your favourite writing quotes? :)

9 Jul 2012

So, That JuNo WiP...

I wanted to get a couple of book reviews before I wrote a sum up of JuNoWriMo.  Well, like NaNo I'm absolutely exhausted by it but I reached the target.  However, I did not finish it.  I am seriously still in the middle at 50K which has already got me deciding on what will need to be changed in the edits.

But overall how did it go?

It was nice to be writing something different.  I love Beast Inside but I was getting a little bit distracted and itching to focus on something new.  And I am actually quite glad of these writing months.  It's a good motivation for me.  I was planning on participating in August's Camp NaNo but I think I want to focus on finishing Inside the Broom Closet and editing Beast Inside otherwise I'm going to be pushing myself too muchThat and I want to enjoy my summer.  I want to take the time to get out and enjoy free time before work starts in September.  So I cancelled August but I will do November if these two WiPs are finished with. 

Any cons?

Not really.  I didn't find it hard to balance writing, blogging, and work like I did last year in November.  I think now that I was settled in and been working at the school for quite a few months I was better at sorting my time out.  I could easily get into a routine with work and blogging.  I have a posting schedule sorted out properly now so any days where I wasn't posting were just used for extra writing time.  In the mornings before work I got all my chores done so I didn't have to worry about them in the afternoon.
How has the WiP gone so far?

I like it.  I really do.  There's stuff to edit but this one has flowed a lot more naturally than BI.  While I've been writing plots and sub-plots have come to me and the story has taken different turns for the better and overall I'm pleased.  I'm pleased with the characters and their storylines.  I like where the story is heading.  Inside the Broom Closet is quite different from Beast Inside because it's been very character driven.  It's all about the characters, their histories, and how it is affecting their present.  In Beast Inside, it's more about the situation and the monsters that are surrounding the characters and how they deal with it and are ruined by it.  I love both WiPs and I like how different they seem to be in terms of focus.  It kind of makes me confident that I'm not just writing the same thing over and over again, which is something I worry about a lot. 

Also, the characters themselves have been easier to plan and develop since the WiP became more character driven.  I know them well while I'm still developing Caleb, Joshua, and Ricci from BI now and again.  But with Hannah, Brandon, Connor, Tess, and Ashley I knew them well from the start and since then they've developed even more along with the new plots.  I'm less critical about them and the WiP than I was with Beast Inside

This time around it's been a better draft and I'm more confident with this than Beast Inside.

It's just the ending I'm worried about.  I seem to have a never ending WiP here...

7 Jul 2012

News to Novels #23

This week's news to novels is a little sporty.  In the UK we're slowly preparing for the chaos of the Olympics and the Wimbledon final is tomorrow.  Murray (boo!) versus Federer (yay!) so we're all sport obsessed at the mo.  It's actually become a big year for us.  1) We have a tennis player from the UK in the Wimbledon final which is quite a new concept for us. I mean, British? And they could actually win? 2) The Olympics are due to start soon.  And 3) England reached the quarter finals in the Euro cup.  I'm being honest and serious here. The quarter finals is actually an achievement for us. 

So here are some sporty, inspirational stories for you. :)

GB basketball team ready for Olympics fight after long battle to get there
Great Britain captain Drew Sullivan believes the long fight his team faced to earn their place in the London Olympics will leave them battle-hardened to achieve their goals this summer.  Although the hosts are usually guaranteed a place in the Olympic basketball tournament, the British team did not exist when London was first awarded the Games, and after being formed at the start of 2006 they fought a five-year campaign to persuade world governing body FIBA to let them in - finally getting the nod last year.

Magic Murray makes history! Andy becomes first British man in Wimbledon final for 74 years after four set victory over Tsonga to set up final showdown with Federer
So, that is Bunny Austin put to bed after 74 years, now for the small matter of emulating Fred Perry by beating perhaps the finest player Wimbledon has ever seen.  It falls to Andy Murray — like 1936 champion Perry, something of an outsider from beyond British tennis’s natural heartlands — to win his first Grand Slam title against Roger Federer, a man who has won 16 of them.

The tracks of our years: How the lives of athletes have changed since the Games were last here in 1948
The London Olympics in 1948 were called The Austerity Games. Britain was still suffering from the effects of the Second World War; food, clothing and fuel were still rationed.   The Games’ organisers spent £761,688 (worth £77million today) compared to the £2.3bn budget of the 2012 committee Lord Coe chairs.  Neil Wilson asked two athletes who competed in 1948, 100m silver medallist Dorothy Manley, now 83, and 800m finalist John Parlett, 85, to compare their lives with those of two from today, triple jump world champion Phillips Idowu and former Commonwealth heptathlon champion and now 400m runner Kelly Sotherton.

Britain's rhythmic gymnastics squad to learn Olympics fate this month
Great Britain's rhythmic gymnastics group will learn if their appeal over their exclusion from the Olympics has been successful in a hearing at the end of this month.  The group narrowly missed a benchmark qualifying score set by British Gymnastics at the London Prepares test event last month and were then told they had missed out on a place at the Games.

From golden child to gold in the Olympics: Nicole Cooke's rise to cycling glory
Bright, shiny and blue, her first bicycle was a dream come true for six-year- old Nicole Cooke.  Apart from one little thing.  'She got very angry with the stabilisers straight away and demanded we take them off,' her father recalled.  Yesterday the little girl who always wanted to ride faster pedalled her way to Britain's first gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.  In a battle of extraordinary drama that took place in a freezing downpour, Miss Cooke, 25, won the road cycling event in a magnificent sprint finish.  She let out a scream of joy she later joked could have been heard thousands of miles away in her Welsh village.
From 7/7 hell to the Olympics: Survivor who lost both her legs in tube blast to compete in the paralympics
A 7/7 survivor who lost her legs in one of the London tube blasts has defied the odds to represent Great Britain as a member of the volleyball team at the 2012 paralympics.  Martine Wright, 39, was on a Circle Line Tube train when al Qaeda-inspired fanatic Shehzad Tanweer detonated his bomb just outside Aldgate Station on July 7, 2005.  Martine was on her way to work as a marketing manager after a night out celebrating London winning its Olympic bid when she ended up sitting in the same carriage as Tanweer when he set off his bomb.  She was rescued from the tube carriage but placed into an induced coma for ten days while she underwent 12 operations to amputate her legs above the knee.

Girl, 17, born with one arm poised to throw javelin at London Paralympics thanks to special prosthetic that helps her to balance
When Hollie Arnold was born with just one arm, she never let it hold her back.  Now the determined teenager has been fitted with a special weighted prosthetic arm to allow her to fulfil her dream of throwing a javelin in the London 2012 Paralympics.  Hollie, 17, has spent years perfecting her javelin technique but was held back by having no right arm to provide crucial balance.  She has now been fitted with a specially weighted prosthetic arm by a company that provides limbs for injured soldiers and hopes to compete in the London Paralympics this summer.

Cyclist who became Paralympics champ after training crash now faces life in wheelchair after breaking his back in SECOND smash
He suffered terrible injuries to his back and legs after a car accident while out training with friends from a cycling club.  But Simon Richardson battled back to represent Britain at Beijing in the Paralympics where he won gold in a world record time.  Now the 45-year-old champion from Porthcawl faces another battle after he was injured in a second road accident this summer while out cycling near Bridgend, South Wales, which broke his back in two places.  The incident also left him with a double break to the pelvis and a broken breast bone as well as breathing out of one lung. Mr Richardson said the injuries could leave him spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

4 Jul 2012

RTW - Yearbook

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic:
What yearbook "most" category (also known as superlatives) would your character win?

I'll go for the characters of Inside the Broom Closet because high school is a big thing in their lives and the plot.  While on the political side of things they're afraid of being caught out as witches in high school they're going through their own personal hell with bullies, emotions, and personal issues.

Connor would win the loudest student or most talkative by far.  In every single one of his classes he is the student who will always put his hand up and has never ending opinions about every single thing.  He has answers, he has theories and he's quite confident to ramble on about them.  He doesn't really care if everyone else, even the teachers, are getting a little fed up with hearing his voice.

Brandon would be in competition, as always, with David for most likely to be successful or rich or maybe even the Prime Minister.  Brandon is an intelligent character who could really go far with his life if he really applied himself and is actually a match for David who wants everything.  He wants the Head Boy title, he wants that acceptance into Oxford, and he wants to be a successful lawyer.  He's not exactly keen on Brandon because he could easily get those things as well. 

Hannah would win the most shy, except she would probably like to see herself win a category that means she's well-liked, well-dressed, or maybe even the most confident.  But she'd probably be seen as shy which she won't respond to well.  She's an eccentric, reserved character who is really curling up in her shell at high school and would love to have a bit more confidence.

And Tess, after everything she's experiencing in high school, would love to stay as invisible as possible, not wanting to be voted for any category or even considered.  No photos in the yearbook. Nothing.  She's probably having the roughest time out of all the characters so she would like to stay unnoticed and just sail through college with no more attention, gossip, and taunting.  If there was a category for her that she wouldn't mind maybe she'd want to win the most girly or shopaholic.  She likes to shop, loves the idea of retail therapy, and loves sales.  I'd avoid her on Boxing Day.