Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Blogiversary Number Four

I've been blogging for four years now!  
Less often than I'd like these days because I always feel guilty whenever I'm not working on book number two. I'm rewriting the whole thing - slowly and painfully. Writing is soooo much harder now that I know real people will actually read all those words one day. 
Not that the same rule applies when I'm writing this blog - weirdly. (Maybe it's because no one ever goes on bloody Goodreads to complain about clichés or unlikeable characters in blogs!)  

Had a lovely time in Cardiff recently at a Chicken House Brunch for bloggers and booksellers. Barry always makes me read first - which is terrifying. I can't convince myself this is because I am a magnificent opening act. No, I suspect it is simply because I can be relied upon to talk and read at lightning-speed before leaving the spotlight at a run. All the other authors are then free to tell their life stories and overrun wildly. I can only dream of having that sort of confidence!

I was followed by Sam Hepburn (If You Were Me) and Linda Davies (Longbow Girl) and MG Leonard (Beetle Boy). Thanks to Jazz and Annie Everall for the photos. See how much Barry loves that longbow!

Afterwards I signed books for bloggers and librarians and even an entire school - Cowbridge Comprehensive in the Vale of Glamorgan! 

And then I wandered around Cardiff Castle for ages - because castles are awesome. This one has a motte, stocks and a trebuchet. More homes should have these things. Specifically my house should have them. Mostly the trebuchet... "Take that - you noisy builders working on the opposite roof and blaring out your nineties pop music!"

So - yeah - apart from trying to write eighteenth century dialogue to a background racket of Britney and Coolio, I've been busy with the run-up to Christmas and the school art club. I'm tempted to upload three adorable letters of  apology I received from the boys who were over-creative with the tubes of squeezy paint and the sequins..."I promise I won't be Badly behaved in art cllub any more, Mrs Maslin, my apologes ones agen."
But I won't - because it would be wrong. Instead, I'll post the page of the Metro which describes Darkmere as assured (I've never been assured!). It was brilliant to make it onto a couple of the Best YA Books of 2015 lists. Thank you to the Metro and the Guardian.

Now, bring on Christmas!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Things I love most about Autumn...

Coffee and cake. I love coffee and cake all year round, but coffee shops are especially nice when it's cold and rainy outside. One of my favourite chapters in the Night Circus is the one set in a coffee shop with the rain pouring down outside.

Autumn skies are the most magnificent. Although the one below clearly went wrong and had to be crossed out.

The Lit Fest has already been and gone - and I enjoyed it as much as always. My favourite events were seeing David Almond with the twelve-year-old; and seeing Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine with the nine-year-old. Lots of their school friends were at both events and we all learned a lot. Although we were only given iced buns at one of the events (up your game, David Almond!) 

After school Art Club has started again and we've been marbling, clay modelling and making Victorian-style silhouettes. Lots of mess, but good fun too.

Another Lit Fest event that I went to with an Art Club friend was a Paper Cutting workshop with Su Blackwell. We're both trying to find ways of incorporating something similar - but simpler - into the Art sessions. Look how beautiful her Book-cut sculptures are...

New books for longer, chilly evenings. I've discovered Frances Hardinge and love, love, love her dark and twisty stories. I've also found a wintry-looking Maggie Stiefvater series in the local charity shop - book bargain!

Autumn walks through the woods before the frost sets in and all the leaves fall down. Especially good fun if you happen to find a rope swing!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

At the Extravaganza!

I went to a fantastic author event at Waterstones in Nottingham last weekend. It was the UKYA Extravaganza - a huge room full of authors, reviewers and readers. And cake!

Nick Frost and UKYA's Bowen with cake!

The UKYA Extravaganza is an annual event masterminded by the wonderful Kerry Drewery and Emma Pass. It gives lots of YA writers the chance to talk about their books, meet YA readers, make new friends and catch up with old ones! 

I was on a panel with Mike Revell, Kerry Drewery and Lucy Coats - who were all brilliant! We talked about what we wrote - why we wrote it - and all the best and worse aspects of being published! I picked up all sorts of writing tips and useful advice. Of course I bought lots of shiny new YA books too...

Signing books is definitely one of the best things about being published!
The panels were made up of writers of gritty urban realism, social or emotional issues, historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, romance, paranormal and - everything really! YA fiction has no genre - just authors who all share a passionate enthusiasm for YA books. It was very inspiring. I came home feeling determined to write much more and much better!

With Lucy, Gem, Dani, Chelle and Andi.
I loved meeting so many friends from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook - and thanking them for all their encouragement and support. Writing is quite solitary, so it's lucky that the UKYA community is one of the friendliest - both on and off the internet!

I genuinely have no idea who to credit for most of these photos - there was a torrent on Twitter and I saved as many as I could, so I hope it's okay for me to post them. Thanks to Lucy Lapinski, UKYAX and - of course - Kevin and Michelle Toy - I love you all xx

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Links to articles and interviews...

Quick links post, because although I haven't written all that many pieces yet, I'm already struggling to keep track..

Top 10 literary castles and country houses in The Guardian

Should teen reads be clean? We Love This Book

Five-Four-Three-Two-One for Teens on Moon Lane

Letter To My Younger Self for Serendipity Reviews

Author Interview at Powered by Reading

Interview with the Gloucestershire Echo

Opinion piece in the Author responses series on Fluttering Butterflies

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Book Launch

My first book was published and launched on the same day.
It was a Thursday - August the 6th. The sun shone and it felt like a good day. I think the launch went well. Everyone said so. It's hard to be certain when it's all about you.

It was held in The Suffolk Anthology - a beautiful indie bookshop close to where I live. The owner, Helene Hewett, had ordered a whole box of Darkmeres and decorated the window with props. I spotted Doc Marten boots, an elaborate branched candlestick and a picnic hamper - along with plenty of other spooky books.

I spent the day making cupcakes with glittery icing and tiny Darkmere toppers, my husband ordered drinks and glasses, and the boys blew up about a hundred pink and blue balloons. It was really good fun.
Dwindling cake mountain (above) 
And (below) pink heart-shaped balloons that looked far too 
much like testicles to be hung from their points in the window!

My (slightly younger) brother and his wife sent me a little box full of Darkmere key-rings, clips and magnets which they'd had made. I was incredibly touched. Before I'd finished wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, the house began to fill up with cards and flowers too. My agent sent flowers; my favourite book reviewer sent more flowers, both my parents and a few of my friends gave me bunches too. There's something unbelievably luxurious about walking through room after room of fresh flowers - it's been wonderful!

There was a little rush of last minute cancellations - which made me panic that no one would turn up and eat all the cake and drink all the wine. So I was extra glad to see the friends and family who came. It wasn't too crowded, but there weren't too many empty spaces either. One of my friends, blogger Michelle Toy, drove miles to be there - and couldn't find the bookshop when she reached Cheltenham. She was late and flustered, but still found time to say Hi to everyone and rec books! Honestly, the whole day was full of moments that made me want to cry and hug people.

I signed a lot of books and everyone said very nice things. A few of my friends brought their children, who biffed each other with the testicle balloons. My dentist turned up with a bottle of champagne for me! I wore my highest, shiniest red shoes. My friend Sally took some photographs.Two German friends both demanded to know why they hadn't been approached to do the German translation...
Ich weiß es nicht!
I didn't make a proper speech - I thanked everyone incoherently and handed over to my (much younger) brother, who is an actor and had offered to take care of the reading for me. And yes - he does share my fondness for unnaturally-coloured hair. What of it?

Anyway, his offer turned out to be a good thing as Charlie reads incredibly well. He did an improvised intro and lots of impassioned dialogue with dramatic pauses and cliff-hanger ending. Lots of people complimented me on him. I heart brothers!

Now it's more than two weeks later. I haven't been busy and I've been meaning to type up my launch post every day since the 6th. Yet...I haven't.
I think the launch seems too much like a full-stop and I'm not quite ready for this whole book-thing to be over yet. I've been working towards being a published author for so long! And now it feels like the day after Christmas. I suppose the only solution is to stop looking at these photos and write another book...

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Young Adult Literary Convention

 We were supposed to be going on holiday on the very last day of term - getting a head start and driving down to the coast in the morning sunshine...until my publicist told me that the last day of school was also the first day of YALC!
There was to be a Chicken House brunch and the chance to sign the first copies of my book at YALC - which is part of Comic Con.

Let me get this straight...' said my husband, ' want us to pop into Kensington in London on our way to Gara Rock in Devon?'
Well - yes - it seemed perfectly reasonable to me. Because YALC!

So there I am reading my book at the Chicken House Brunch, which was in the Betty Blythe Vintage Tearooms - they were very pretty but (on that day) VERY hot. I was as nervous as always, but also found I was really looking forward to seeing everyone. I love Barry, Jazz, Kes and Laura from Chicken House - they're worth any amount of nervousness! And there were a few bloggers who had said so many lovely things about Darkmere, I was desperate to thank them in person.

There I am with Lily, Chelle, Sally and Michelle - who are all (possibly) trying to wriggle out of yet another of my awkward hugs. It was also great to see the other Chicken House writers - Lisa Drakeford, Sam Hepburn, Lucy Inglis, Lucy Ivison and Tom Ellen who were reading from their books and answering Barry's questions.
I really didn't believe I'd be asked to sign anything. Even when people asked me to sign their copies of Darkmere, I still didn't believe them. I laughed, thinking they were joking - which left them standing in front of me, flapping their books in bemusement. I still can't believe it now - weeks later!

But there I am - signing! I think the first two I signed were for Morag and Lorna Haddow - who gave me my earliest ratings on Goodreads and who were both so glamorous and lovely I can't quite believe I didn't imagine them.
After the brunch, everyone headed off to YALC. Some of the bloggers had heard there was quite a queue building up already and scurried away early. I waited at the tearoom for Laura and Jazz to finish packing away all the complimentary books, bookmarks and tote bags they'd brought with them from the Chicken House HQ, then we did that stupendously cool thing of walking past the queue.
I have never jumped such a long queue in my life! And I tried not to enjoy it - I really did - but the queue went on forever - all along Blythe Road, around the corners of buildings - not just single file,but groups of three or four or more - teens with totes full of books, cosplayers, all the bloggers who'd been at the brunch - and we sauntered past them with our lanyards that said 'CREW'. Security men with walkie-talkies showed us into a sort of vast underground garage/hangar and into a room-sized, industrial lift, already filled with stacks of extra chairs for the talks and trolleys filled with gigantic glass jugs of ice for the cafe, and I felt more excited than ever. The second YALC was starting and I was going in ahead of the crowd.

I walked around this vast empty space before it filled up (that photo's only a third of the room!) - and my eyeballs started to ache with all the staring. I kept seeing writers and bloggers I recognised from the internet. The moment I reached the second floor, Christina Courtenay (who've I've mentioned a lot in past posts) wandered past me and I gushed embarrassingly about being inspired by her books. She glanced at Darkmere and told me she'd already read it. 'Oh, it's much better than mine,' she said casually. I think I stopped gushing and just gaped at her...

I bought the first 2015 YALC T-shirt to go on sale!
Then ticket-holders began to trickle in and I watched real people buying copies of my book - lots of copies in fact - they sold out! I signed and signed and signed! And I got to hug everyone who said kind things about my writing. The atmosphere was amazing. I was in a sort of trance of disbelief and happiness.
I wasn't there very long. I missed all the blogging and writing panels and the Harry Potter party and the Hunger Games quiz. And I didn't meet a lot of the bloggers and writers I would've liked to have said 'Hi' to...but it was still one of the best afternoons of my life. Ever.

I was still grinning all the way to Gara Rock. Even though the last few miles of our journey were along titchy, twisty country lanes in the pitch darkness. The headlights picked out weeds growing along the middle of the road, overhanging greenery brushed both sides of the car and we met no other traffic. Even when we arrived, the apartments and cottages all seemed deserted. It was creepy.
But we woke up to this...

                                      So...this is your gratuitous holiday snaps warning!

Hope you're all having an equally lovely summer. Next post will be from a published author!

 (I meant me...)